Chapter 1: Part 1
Part 1 is now finished, and part 2 is in work. Enjoy.
March 18, 2033
San Angeles, (11:55PM)
Helping Kayla into their apartment, Faith puts her bags at the door, and helps her out of her mud-soaked clothes. Acting overly protective she constantly holds her hand for support everywhere she goes. Amazed to have her walking around, after her lengthy period in a wheelchair, Faith can’t help but linger on her every movement. Walking with her to the shower, she hangs out on the toilet as Kayla washes out months of dirt and grime. Explaining the adventures her and Alicia have had since they left, makes Faith slightly jealous and concerned. Using half a bottle of shampoo and body wash, she eventually finishes her shower and steps into the arms of her beautiful warrior. The shared minty taste of their lips shed the days away, and Faith lifts the naked Kayla into her arms and carriers her to bed.
Morning comes, and Kayla is the first to rise. After spending an inordinate amount of time on the toilet, Kayla finds her old robes and throws it on to take the chill off the morning air. Noticing her belly sticking out, she can only shake her head and overlook her preceding tummy. Looking at the time, she is surprised Faith is awake, and gently wakes her protector.
“Hey, sleepyhead. You going to play hooky today or are you actually going to work.”
With a warm smile, Faith wipes the sleep out of her eyes and blinks furiously blinded by the morning’s light. She sits up in bed, and rubs Kayla’s back.
“Kayla, I took care of it last night after you fell asleep. I have about 6 weeks of leave saved up, and they let me take half of it all at once. So for the next 3 weeks, it’s just about you. I’ll still have to patrol, but you have a baby growing inside of you, and I need to be here for you. Lacey is making all the arrangements, and she’ll call me later today with your dates. Now, are you prepared to fill me in on who the father is?”
Kayla smiles and kisses Faith with an intense passion.
“It’s complicated, but this was a child given to me by no man. Do you remember the name of the slayer who was killed during the battle?”
Faith nods her head slowly.
“Yah, it was Katya. Why?”
Kayla slowly continues.
“Well, right before she died, she put her remaining essence and soul into my sword. It was the only way I could be resuscitated, and she knew that. That was supposed to be my fight, but you two did it in my place with my sword. My servant delivered the sword to me, and I was awoken to finish the fight here at the hospital.”
Confused, Faith just shakes her head, rationalizing the story seeping into her ears.
“That doesn’t explain your pregnancy.”
Kayla snickers noticing how difficult her story is to digest.
“Accepting her essence and soul came with a price.”
Kayla grabs Faith’s hand and rubs it over her swollen belly.
“I had to give her back her life that she sacrificed for me, so…I’m now carrying baby Katya as payment for the gift she gave me.”
Faith can’t fathom the complexities of the magic and falls back to her limited high school education.
“Sweetie…how in the world is that even possible? You need to have a…”
Kayla cuts her off.
“Baby, it’s called magic for a reason, a very old kind of magic. I lost my virginity in that damned mental ward, and I have never been with a man before or since. This baby inside of me is my payment for being alive and conscious right now. I stayed away so that no one could try and stop it, or abort it. Remember, it’s illegal to get pregnant without a permit here? Well, I figured it was best I stayed away until there was no way they could abort her, and here I am.”
Faith sighs, struggling to wrap her mind around magical conceptions and births.
“Girl, you have just opened my mind to something that I never imagined or could ever conceive of before. Spontaneous pregnancies…that sounds like it was straight out of the bible or something.”
Kayla laughs heavily before replying.
“Babe…I don’t know where to begin. This whole process is divine in nature. Only God could have truly have allowed the birth to occur, magic or not. He has like the final say in this kind of holy magic. If he didn’t want Katya born in me, I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. Don’t dwell on the specifics, just accept the facts. I’m pregnant with the previous slayer, and she will be born in a few months. And I don’t think she has any parents more suited to raise her.”
Kayla reaches over and hugs her slayer. Kissing and fondling each other, they lounge and play in bed until Lacey calls with Kayla’s hospital appointments late that afternoon.
After an afternoon of scans, sonograms, poking, and physical exams, Kayla sits in the office of Dr. Priscilla Jeffery fully dressed and waiting for all the test results. Faith, pacing back and forth, passes Tara who glares at her to sit down. Gritting her teeth, she finds the chair and plops into it beside Kayla. Less than a minute later the tall middle-aged blonde enters and looks at the trio.
“Typically I prefer to discuss the results with the husband and wife, but considering everyone’s credential I’ll make an exception.”
Kayla looks at her with mild animosity.
“Well considering there IS NO husband, Faith is my everything. Tara is my case adviser, so she’ll have to be briefed anyways, so it makes sense to have everyone here at the same time to hear what you say.”
With her humor drained, the doctor continues.
“Fine. The baby is in excellent health considering everything. She is entering her third trimester, and both of your blood works are good, except for some minor undernourishment for Kayla, it seems to have had no serious side-effects on the baby.”
Tara clears her throat to speak.
“Kayla was living off the land in the wastelands, until she was able to get back to the city. I have instituted a diet plan to get her back to full health, plus a regiment of prenatal vitamins. She’s lucky to even be alive.”
She hands her an electronic data tablet with the lengthy detailed diet she orchestrated during their long wait. Faith tries not to laugh at Tara’s speech, knowing too well how competent Kayla really is of defending herself. Unimpressed, the doctor hands it back to her and continues.
“When I find a mother who is unable to properly care for herself or the child, I normally order the separation of the two or hospitalize the mother until the baby is born. Fortunately for everyone here, that will not be necessary. It seems Kayla’s circumstances led to her being unable to provide for them at a level we prefer to see, so confinement isn’t necessary. With the diet plan, regular visits, and exercise, this baby will be born in good health. I’m assigning one of my young doctors to you, Dr. Sandra Kocher. She’ll keep me abreast of your progress. Do you have any questions?”
Kayla eyes her skeptically.
“Why the continued interest? Just hand me off to your doctor, and bid me farewell.”
Kayla watches her eyes drift momentarily around before she replies.
“I keep tabs on all my patients…I mean all patients in our department.”
Kayla hesitates before ending the discussion and stands to leave. Eyeing the doctor suspiciously, Kayla motions towards the door.
“Faith, I’m ready to go home.”
The trio rises and after Faith and Kayla have left Tara hesitates to stare intensely at the doctor.
“Do you have anything to tell me?”
The doctor only shrugs.
The smug sarcasm in the doctor’s voice tells Tara she has to call her department as soon as she gets free.
Kayla lounges on the couch in her favorite robe as Faith desperately tries to follow the recipe Tara provided. Refusing Kayla’s help, she toils on and is rewarded with a meal which is far more edible than she imagined. Sitting at their table, they spend the entire evening alone retelling every moment they missed from the past five months. Remembering the conversation from the previous night, Faith gets the courage up to ask about a trivial piece of information Kayla mentioned.
“Sweetie, you mentioned you had a servant last night? What’s up about that?”
Surprised with Faith’s memory, she nods and tries to put it into simple terms.
“Well, she’s a holy creature who chose to help me long ago. Like any willing aide, I don’t call upon her for trivial matters. I respect she’s been with me for a very long time, and she’s told me that in my absence she’s been keeping an eye on you. I knew you’d stay here, but she’d check in on you from time to time. She stole the sword from you that night, and brought it to me. I doubt I would have woken up if it weren’t for her.”
Faith can only shake her head, conceptualizing the story.
“Kayla just when I think I know everything about you, you rewrite the books.”
She can only nod, and keep her meager smile.
“Well, you asked. I never imagined we’d have that battle in a thousand years.”
Faith notices a weighty demeanor come over Kayla before she continues.
“Faith. That battle your friend...Buffy Summers…and the fight you and Katya fought was mine. Instead of being in prison, I was supposed to be at that fight and kill that demon. It was an ancient score, and it was my responsibility that I didn’t fulfill. Your friend and Katya died needlessly, and because of me. I’m sorry, I was selfish. I can’t make it up to Buffy, but I can at least make up for Katya’s death by giving birth to her.”
Faith thinks back and remembers Kayla turned herself in because of her, not the other way around.
“Listen you dummy! Your memory is becoming selective, because I remember you joining me in prison because of me, not the other way around. You weren’t at that fight because of me, and if I weren’t acting like the Queen of Chaos, you would never have had to turn yourself in with me. Second, you couldn’t be at the second fight because some psycho trained his eyes on you, and nearly killed ya. I think you need to cut yourself a break and start living your own life.”
Kayla can only shake her head.
“I…I wish it were that simple sweetie, but…”
Faith reaches over and squeezes Kayla’s hand.
“It is that simple. You have no idea how much you have taught me; and by forcing me to stay in one spot this long, I have learned a great deal more. Give yourself more credit. A year ago, you were in a wheelchair with a speech impediment, now look at you.”
Kayla nods and releases a slight stream of tears.
“It seems the master is becoming the student, I taught you too well.”
She reaches out and pulls Faith into a passion soaked kiss.
“The second reason I came back was being pregnant has made me horny as hell.”
Laughing the pair drift into the bedroom, leaving the dishes for later that night.
Tara screams in frustration as the video phone, or Fiber-op, cuts off. Willow cringes and comes out of their bedroom.
“I take it Rachel couldn’t get anything from that doctor either.”
Tara’s face is boiling in anger.
“NO! And she’s legally supposed to tell her everything regarding Kayla’s pregnancy. This B…”
Gives her a chiding expression, stopping Tara from finishing her word.
“That doctor is up to something and I’m not going to rest till I know what it is.”
Chapter 2: 2
March 29, 2033
San Angeles Police Department, (4:55PM)
Kayla walks through the door of the police training rooms with Faith toting a heavy gym bag in her hand. She scans the gym and sees 20 officers stretching and caring on, and surmises it was her target. As she reaches them Alicia’s familiar voices calls out to her and throws her arms around her.
“Kayla! I was wondering when you’d come back. My God! Has she actually grown more since I last saw you?”
Kayla hushes her and motions to drop the subject. The rapid growth of Katya wasn’t something either Faith or Kayla had misses over the past week. She walks to the head of the class and looks it over. Trying to hide her disappointment, she sees only six familiar faces. Faith comes up behind her and notices her remorse seeing very few of the original class remaining.
“Yah, we only have these original members who survived the battle. Every one of them that died didn’t go quietly or easily. They each made a difference thanks to you.”
Kayla nods, knowing the truth of Faith’s words. Losing over three-quarters of her class in one fight was difficult to swallow. Leading them in stretching, Kayla has Faith take her place among the class and they spend 15 minutes going through the slow katas before breaking up into individual teams led by the veterans and Faith. She’s genuinely impressed with the survivors having never given up on their training, and personally speaks to everyone one during the afternoon session. Alicia notices several times during the class, Kayla steps away to have a drink and down an energy bar. By the end of the class she comes to her side and hugs her.
“So, that little girl is sucking you dry?”
Kayla can only nod with perspiration pouring down her face.
“She’s doing what she was doing a couple of months ago?”
Kayla nods once again, and motions to keep quiet with her finger. As the class disperses, Alicia follows Faith and Kayla to the parking lot to their waiting minivan. Having returned the wheelchair van months ago, with Kayla’s return it took them only a day to get a replacement van to accommodate her capacity to walk. As Faith loads up their gear, Kayla reaches over and gives Alicia a long hug and has secures the only privacy they can get in the city by whispering into Alicia’s ear.
“Katya is growing very fast again. I think it’s because of a good diet, but she’s going to come earlier than nine months. She’s very much aware of her surroundings.”
As Kayla breaks the hug, she speaks normally to her good friend and protector for the previous five months.
“You should come by and have dinner with us some time. Faith is getting pretty good at not burning the food now.”
Sharing a laugh at Faith’s expense, Alicia nods and picks up the cues.
“Sure. How about Friday night? They still have me on desk and phone duty, so I’m not walking the beat just yet.”
Faith agrees and ushers the exhausted Kayla into the van. Getting her home, she finds an excuse to help her in the shower and they let dinner time slip by until late. As Kayla naps from their post shower bliss, Faith cooks furiously and has Tara’s dinner menu ready as Kayla stirs. After setting the table, she’s surprised to find Kayla munching on a fruit bar to get going after her nap. Shaking her head, she helps her sit and scolds herself. Despite seeing her walking effortlessly for over a week, she still finds herself drawn to help her move around as she was before she left. Kayla brushes it off knowing it’s a habit which she won’t easily dispel. Smiling, she makes small talk about the training class and commends Faith for her diligence. She listens how the first few weeks after the battle were the hardest for everyone, as they struggled to deal with their losses. Faith tells of two survivors who no longer train.
“Helena and Gregory never came back, but if you’re here now, maybe you can talk to them and see if they would be interested. They were really devastated with our losses, most were their oldest of friends. I think they only were into it because everyone else was. You know?”
Kayla nods as she enjoys the chicken and rice dinner Faith managed to put together perfectly.
“They were really adept too. I guess that’s why they survived. I’ll swing by their offices this week to say hi. Perhaps I can coax them back. It would be nice if they were there.”
Faith surprises Kayla with a trip to Willow and Tara’s for dessert, and they spend the evening reminiscing and discussing the developing baby. After Lacey measures Kayla’s belly and takes a few noninvasive scans, she nods that her hunches were confirmed.
“She’s growing 25 to 30 percent faster since you first got back. She was pretty much on track when you had your first appointment, but now…well she’s growing faster than a weed. What have you been doing differently?”
Kayla mulls it over, but only shakes her head.
“Eating? When we were out there, we only ate about twice a day. At first, she grew like this, very fast very noticeable. After the first month, I had a serious baby bump. After that, when the food became scarce, she slowed. When food was plentiful she’d grow super-fast; but when it was little, she barely grew, which I know now is normal growth. I’m going to have some crazy stretch marks from this!”
Lacey confirms the numbers with Tara’s computer before continuing.
“At this rate your due date has changed to almost a full month early, and that’s if she goes full term! If she increases that rate any further…well it could get seriously dangerous for you. Right now she’s stressing out your system and you’re taking in 150% more calories than you’re supposed to, and it’s not making a dent on replenishing your reserves. Your sugar levels drop furiously and you’re barely keeping up with her demands. If you get too weak, pop in some fruit immediately. Those energy bars are barely keeping her satiated. Right now her size and proportions are all normal, so it’s not like she’s getting fat inside of you, she’s just developing at an accelerated rate. Just do your best, that’s the only advice I can think of.”
Tara sits closer on the couch before speaking, grabbing Kayla’s full attention.
“Another thing, if your plate wasn’t full enough. They still have a law on the books making having a baby and not married illegal. Many things are still taking too long to change here, so have you two thought about tying the knot yet?”
The surprised expressions on both of them, tells everyone in the room volumes. Willow fights from laughing and continues where her wife left off at.
“We think they might try and take Katya as soon as she is born. And by law, they could.”
The anger and fear in Kayla’s eyes rush Tara to calm her immediately.
“Whoa! Whoa sweetie! That’s just can, not will…at least we hope not. This is why we are discussing this with you two right now. If you two are legally married, they have very little ground to stand on to take her. I’m just trying to eliminate the possibility of them pursuing that avenue, that’s all. Marriage, union, or whatever you call means you two are in an official stable relationship and can present a “proper environment” to raise a child according to the state and federal law. This was never an issue when you two went into the freezer, but now…well its complicated. Willow and I tied the knot right before they gave us full custody of Lacey.”
Willow nods dramatically and chimes in.
“And those were really crazy times too! All these social order laws were being pushed through on a daily basis, and we jumped in right away to give gay couples a voice in the process. There was talk we would be excluded from entire process, but money speaks louder than one’s sexual orientation. Mayor Cocteau fought vigorously against any LGBT involvement in government, but he had to buckle to pressure. In time his laws made intimacy illegal, but we resisted…at least under covers.”
Lacey and Faith roll their eyes in unison as Tara and Willow share a smile and hug. Kayla, still fuming over the idea of losing Katya to the state, shrugs off the cute moment in front of her.
“Listen, I won’t let them take her. I have no doubt she’ll be born with slayer powers, so they can’t raise her like Faith and I can.”
She sees the change in tone in the room from her words. Faith’s expression goes from tense, to concerned, to finally confusion with Kayla’s statement.
“Whoa! What? How is that even possible? When she died, didn’t another slayer come into her own right? I mean I’d love to raise a girl who could understand where her two moms were coming from, but a slayer too? How can you know that?”
Kayla glances over at the globe glowing at the dinner table. Exuding a green and red pulsing and undulating light like a small lava lamp, its persistent glow assures them their private conversation was still being kept a secret.
“I don’t just have her soul inside one of my eggs which is developing into a baby. I have Katya growing inside of me, who overwrote all my genetic information for hers. I’m basically a surrogate mother here. That’s why I didn’t need a man to get pregnant, it magically did it all for her, and she’s just borrowing my womb. For all intents and purposes, she’ll have no relation to me, other than I gave birth to her; not by blood or genetics. There is a chance she might share some minuscule genetic bonds, but basically this will be Katya to include who she was before she died…thus slayer!”
Lacey, who had been keeping quiet, exhales softly as she speaks.
“My god…three slayers running around! Evil thought it had it bad with two, but three now? What’s the chances of more?”
Willow shakes her head and hesitates before commenting.
“Alticia and a few later researchers once theorized, if we could discover the source of the slayer, we could release the restriction on just one slayer at a time. She never imagined or saw two slayers to say the last three at once. If there could be more than one, then one must ask how many can we have at once?”
Faith, blown away by the idea mutters her thoughts.
“An army of slayers…that would give us a fighting chance against all the evil of the world…we could make a difference. Couldn’t we?”
Kayla, unaware that Faith had directed her question more to her than anyone else, shakes off the memory of Alticia and her lengthy conversation regarding the origins of the slayer.
“You think I’m a tough bitch training you? Just imagine if I had to teach dozens of you at once.”
Faiths chuckles uncontrollably.
“I’d hate to be around you afterwards. Then again, I’d be good for stress relief.”
Dragging Kayla out of deep reflection, she smiles brightly and kisses Faith passionately. Taking her hand in hers, she returns to the dilemma still surrounding her.
“Let Faith and I discuss the ‘M’ word in private. I don’t want to pressure her to commit to something like this without her having some time to really think about it, and the consequences in her own rate and time. It’s a big step for us.”
Faith, wanting to step forward and announce to everyone “yes,” finds she’s hesitant to reply. Hearing Kayla’s words, she nods and agrees with her white-haired lover.
Chapter 3: 3
March, 31 2033
San Angeles Police Department, (1:25PM)
Kayla strolls into the motor division of the SAPD and eyes suddenly settle onto her. As a tough looking man eyes her and stands, Kayla prepares for trouble. She only takes two steps into the garage before a firm hand settles onto her shoulder and spins her around. Gregory Hoehler easily towered over Kayla at six foot two inches, but he seemed to see the strength in her small demeanor. Though he had never once seen her walk or fight before, his natural instincts told him to give her a wide berth. Having heard the rumors of her return, he was still hesitant to believe anything without seeing it first. As he gently nudged the strange white-haired woman around to face him, he was still genuinely surprised it was his old martial arts teacher standing before him. Instincts kick in and he bows respectfully, and Kayla returns the gesture. Taking her to his office, he makes a place for her to sit and gets filled in on her absence. Setting down her backpack of snacks, juice, and water, she fishes out her water bottle and an apple. Hearing her incredible journey, he can hardly imagine surviving out in the wilderness for so long. As she starts to try and not explain out her pregnancy, Helena Carter pushes open the glass door of the office and smiles seeing their old teacher. She can’t contain her surprise seeing her pregnant belly. Seeing no choice but to construct a plausible story, Kayla begins.
“Faith and I had been trying to keep it a secret before my coma, and when all hell broke loose, I guess I blacked out. I didn’t regain my wits until sometime later out in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately Alicia was there to protect me. I owe her so much.”
From behind her, a familiar heavy voice interjects as she finishes her story.
“That’s some story Ms. Meadows. Any chance you have time to talk with me this afternoon?”
Kayla turns slowly to find Officer John Spartan standing in the doorway wearing his typical sarcastic grin.
“Perhaps. I was here to try and twist the arms of my old students here to return to my class tomorrow. Any chance I can convince you to step up and try out for my next class? I heard that some of those things you fought used a lot of martial arts against you in your fight. I could teach you a bit to level the field the next time you run into someone like that, could save your life.”
He stops and seriously considers her offer after the past months of strangeness in the city after hours.
“How about we discuss it on the way to see Officer Huxley and me in my office?”
With a gentle smile, Kayla nods.
“Fair enough. So you two interested in coming back? I could use a pair of experienced assistants to help out with the large number of newbies I have. Faith and the others have their hands full. Apparently word has gotten out that I’m back and I’m supposed to have a boom in attendance tomorrow.”
Kayla watches as they glance back and forth to each other before replying. Gregory lets out a heavy draught of air.
“I guess we can see what we can do with all these kids you’re getting…seeing that you’re pregnant and all.”
Kayla smiles sarcastically and rises. Over-dramatizing her heavy belly, she makes her way out of the office with the “Demolition Man.” With the rolling eyes and chuckles resounding in her wake, she walks normally and bows to them. After thanking them, they take an elevator to the ground level offices. She decides to be the first break the stoic silence.
“I was serious about you joining my class officer. I can teach you and Officer Huxley quite a bit. You have all this pent up strength, but only military fighting skills to utilize it, quite poorly I might add. I could teach you Fu Jow Pai, Tiger Claw! It could really change your life if you let it. Lenina…I’d probably teach her crane.”
Shaking his head, John sighs dramatically.
“Ms. Meadows…how in the world could you have ever learned Tiger Claw and Crane style Kung Fu?”
Smiling, Kayla chides him.
“This girl has her secrets she’s not willing to share with anyone. You are not in the need to know department officer. Please, I’m serious! Come to my class and sit in for a few weeks. Really commit yourself to learning, and I can teach you and a few others some superior fighting techniques. Worst thing you will get out of it is soreness from stretching your body to limits you might of only have had since basic training. Tell me you weren’t pushed to your limits in the battle for the hospital?”
Wearing down from Kayla’s persistence, he nods in resignation.
“Yah…it was that bad here. Fine, I’ll give you two weeks.”
Kayla, seeing an opportunity, pushes back harder.
“No. Four! I need two weeks to prepare you for training, and then two of actual training. If after four weeks and you’re dissatisfied, I’ll never ask you again; but I need you to really try, not just show up!”
Shaking his head in disbelief, her agrees.
“You know that you’re impossibly insatiable until you get your way?”
Wearing a wide grin, Kayla proudly replies as the elevator doors open to the bustle and roar of the crowded police station.
“Yup! Faith tells me that every night.”
John suppresses his laugh having walked right into that remark.
Leaving the SAPD building, Kayla steps into the van as Faith pulls up to get her. After driving away, Faith can’t contain her displeasure for having to wait in the parking lot until she was done.
“Why again did you have me wait out here for three hours? I should have gone in and at least sat in during your debrief by John and Lenina.”
Kayla reaches over and squeezes Faith’s hand lovingly.
“Faith, sweetie, there are things which must be done by me alone. I can’t always have my beautiful woman of dynamite who has a quarter inch long fuse sitting in on discussions which can be misconstrued too easily. I love you! I would scour the Earth to find you if you were lost, but you have no tongue for diplomacy. I am a big girl who can fight her own fights, and they need to see that so that they don’t try and screw with me when you aren’t around. They reinstated by parole for six more months, but will not have me come in for them. They will be at my training sessions, so they will talk to me then.”
Faith, having gotten heated up by the parole extension, is surprised to learn of the new students.
“They? You got Officers Spartan and Huxley to come to your training sessions?”
Kayla, grinning proudly, nods in a long up and down motion.
“And I believe we will have a maxed out class tomorrow, so Greg and Helena will be there.”
Stunned in disbelief, Faith tries to swallow the turn of events. Kayla fishes out her last orange and juice box from her bag and shakes her own head in disbelief and looks to Faith holding the last items from her bag.
“I’m taking in over 4500 calories a day and it’s not making a dent on her demands. I’ve smeared enough coconut oil over my belly to make me dream that I’m a coconut tree, and I don’t think these stretch marks will ever go away! The only thing going for me is that most of the calories I’m taking in are low to normal fat levels. What I’d do for a Big Mac right now. I could down a couple of those babies and that would hook Katya up at least for a few hours. These stupid energy bars they have here are only 60 calories a pop! That only buys me ten or fifteen minutes with her! And if I’m working out, forget that! I have to stop after 15 minutes to gobble down fruit or some sort of sugar food just to finish!”
Grasping Faith’s hand, Kayla continues.
“Faith, honey? I don’t want you to freak out or take this the wrong way, but Katya is talking to me in my sleep.”
Faith gets wide-eyed and pulls over to park.
“What do you mean she’s talking to you?”
Kayla tries to calm her slayer by grasping her hand tighter.
“It’s not as bad as it sounds! Katya has a level of perception we don’t have as material creatures. She’s in danger from exterior forces, not us. This is why she’s trying to grow as fast as she can so she can get out and get away from here. She believes people are listening to us in our apartment, and she suspects everyone other than us. This city heavily utilized surveillance and subterfuge, and she feels others are taking too much interest in our little miracle growing inside of me. I’m passing around a story suggesting that I got pregnant right before I went into a coma so we could have a small addition to our family, but that’s still illegal under the current laws. She believes someone is going to try and take her using these laws, and she wants out of me.”
Faith can’t comprehend what Kayla is telling by any stretch of her imagination. She putters around mentally before finally replying.
“How is any of this possible? This is insane! You can’t have me believe that…”
She can’t finish her sentence. Not that Kayla interrupted her, but her own thoughts seem to counter the words spewing forth. She was a vampire slayer since the previous slayer Kendra died, and she fought and killed a super demon less than a year ago. The expression she now wore told Kayla she didn’t have to respond to Faith’s previous statement.
“Okay. She’s telling you she’s not safe, what can we do to calm her down?”
Kayla gives the look she’d been dreading from two nights prior. Faith looks out at the bustling city, oblivious to her dilemma. The concept of love and marriage was a concept no slayer truly ever had the luxury of embracing. She knew of no book which described a slayer living beyond her twenties, to say the least falling in love and raising a family. She realized death was a constant companion for a slayer, either dealing it out or eventually receiving it. By believing it was possible, likened to a fish simply believing he could simply will his fins into legs and magically develops lungs to breathe air. A concept of pure fantasy and daydreams, yet here was Faith grappling with the very dilemma every slayer dreamed of.
“Will it make that much of a difference if we did?”
Kayla can’t hide her frustration, and she slams her fist on the dash.
“Faith! This has nothing to do with Katya now! If you marry me, you must decide if you want to spend your entire life with me, not just for some other reason! I know you’re a slayer and you’re approaching the standard life expectancy. If some weird fluke of nature happens and you live to be a ripe and old age of 90, do you want to spend it with me? If Katya is born, that would make 3 slayers running around in this world, thereby increasing your chances for a longer life. When you were put into stasis, another slayer rose in your place. So when Katya died, another slayer rose in her place. Instead of some stranger training her after some day in which it becomes obvious she’s a slayer, we can train her from birth. I want to spend my life with the woman who is everything to me, and feels the same about me. I hope that’s you, because I’m banking on it right now. If not, then you better tell me now. I understand and know all about your background and who you were, but if you want to live that carefree for the rest of your life, then I won’t be a part of it. Katya and I need someone who’s willing to devote and risk everything to making a family life work, not running when the times get tough or confusing.”
Faith lays her head on the steering wheel, torn with flight and the pull of her heart strings. Tears stream form her eyes, as she can’t get her mouth to work right. Some darkness in her demands she says no and run for the hills, while the opposite shade reminds her that Kayla could be the one. Lifting her head up, her mouth formulates the word no, but instead blubbers incoherently.
Throwing her fists against the wheel, she fights the wolf inside of her demanding to head for the hills.
“I want…I need to say yes, but I’m afraid Kayla. You’re the first person I’ve ever admitted my weakness to.”
Kayla’s tears dribble down, unsure of what her lover will end up telling her.
“Faith, this is a decision you must make all on your own. What you say now you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life, good or bad.”
Trembling, Faith rests her head on the steering wheel far longer Kayla could ever imagine. The pair sit parked idly as people casually wander past ignorant of the lives dangling on the precipice of salvation and damnation.
Chapter 4: 4
April 3, 2033
San Angeles (8:27Am)
Their Sunday morning was explosively busy from the moment they woke. After staying up most of the night browsing wedding attire with Willow, Tara, and Lacey they were beat. Katya was driving Kayla’s needs for breakfast and they couldn’t sleep in as they’d like. Lacey, after taking some more measurements, was still dumbfounded by the accelerated growth the baby exhibited and insisted on daily checks whenever she could corral Kayla away from her mothers. With her next appointment due this week, Kayla wasn’t looking forward to additional prodding. With the last of the official marriage paperwork in stone, Faith would spend her last week off filing the licenses with the city. It took a favor from a city worker who owed Faith after she was attacked by a vampire, and not to mention the footwork to get four medical officers to sign off on their blood work in advance. It was made easier because both Kayla and Faith had their samples on file within the past year, but the usual 18 month waiting period had to be waived. Tara had a great deal to do with that process, as her name carried great weight within the city and health community. She never said how many favors she called in, but Kayla knew “thank you” wasn’t enough.
All during the process, Tara discovered the head of the Maternity Department had secretly and overtly tried to force every doctor and official to deny their request. With no private doctors to turn to, she had to file numerous official injunctions against Doctor Jeffery, who eventually withdrew her objections after pressure from the City Medical Board, which Tara had been directly involved with for half her career. The allies and contacts she gained expedited the execution of both her official and unofficial work in the Social Care Department for years. Despite being unofficially retired, she continued to speak and advise at least monthly. With the request for a speedy gay marriage easier to execute than a regular one, mostly due to the lack of prenatal lab work for the two of them, Tara could push the request through in one day, even on a Friday afternoon. Though she’d been filing the paperwork since the Monday prior, it wasn’t until she got the definitive word when she requested all the official signatures. With all the gears greased, it happened so fast, Doctor Jeffery didn’t have enough clout to slow down something which was preapproved. She had also learned that Police Chief Earle had gone to bat for the pair and it practically put the sinister Dr. Jeffery in her place when she claimed Kayla lacked the moral character to raise a child. In the end, her efforts had resulted in her loss of face and a bitterly bruised ego.
Meeting Willow for lunch, Tara crashes into her chair and exhales loudly.
“You’d think after all this time, they would find it common place for two women to request a marriage certificate, even here in San Angeles.”
Without replying, Willow orders a pair of coffees and squeezes her wife’s hand.
“Sweetie, this is still just 2033. We can’t expect miracles overnight. Heck! I still can’t practice magic in public…well at least without anyone stopping and gaping.”
Tara, staring at the ceiling in frustration, she pulls her head forward wearing a quizzical expression.
“That reminds me. Did you ever pay that fine for disturbing the peace with your ball of sunshine you did back in December?”
She shakes her head.
“Nope. Got it dismissed. The officer for some reason forgot all about the incident, and couldn’t testify against me.”
Tara puts on a seriously annoyed glare at her little redhead.
“Willow Rosenberg! You had better stop doing that! You know how karma can catch up with you for doing that. It’s just not right!”
Defensively Willow lowers her head in embarrassment.
“I restored it a month later, just as soon as I could. Besides, he was very rude to me for the entire thing! I should have let that slutty vamp bite him. I don’t know why you are so against that kind of magic.”
Tara sits upright in her chair, to bear down on her companion across from her.
“Willow! I mean it! No messing around with people’s memory for any reason! I don’t know why I feel so strongly about it. I just do! Why can’t you just leave that magic alone…for ME! I’m not going to ask you again, so you better listen to me. God! You can be as stubborn as Lacey!”
Willow, surprised, apologetically agrees and tries to steer the conversation towards anything else.
“I found a nice place to have the ceremony. It’s not far from Museum district.”
Tara, still fuming, tries to dismiss her anger and its source. Many things in her life defy reason, and she has become accustomed to moving with the tide like instinct, rather than conscious thought.
“Oh? I think I know the place. Wasn’t Kayla and Faith going to hold off on the ceremony until after Katya is born?”
“Yah, but I thought it would be nice to have them at least speak the words to make it official.”
Tara chews on the thought for a few minutes and sees the logic lubricating the gears in her wife’s head.
“Let’s talk to them and see how it goes over with them. I know Faith is still really nervous about all this. If you had asked me if she’d ever tie herself down when I met her ages ago, I would have absolutely disagreed.”
Willow reflects and nods strongly in agreement.
“Seeing Faith in the good guy role still blows my mind!”
Tara immediately throws in a reply without hesitation.
“I know! But it’s in a good way though!”
Willow continues to nod in agreement without replying.
“I wish I really knew more about Kayla though. I get the impression there’s a story there, but she really doesn’t want to reveal too much about herself.”
Willow finds the breath to sneak in a bit of knowledge she had uncovered.
“Her mother died when she was only 14 and she has no other family. Oh! And she’s super smart! I was able to access her SATs before she went into hiding, and she blew away my scores from back then. It’s just a shame she couldn’t go to college. She has great potential, and I was able to access her reeducation program from the back up database of the cryo-prison. She was to be a physical trainer, but her disability nullified that program. Now that she’s completely mobile, I guess she’s perfectly suited for the work she’s doing now. The program taught her massage techniques, yoga, acupressure, and basic nutrition.”
Tara absorbs Willow’s words.
“I never cared for that program either, messing with people by implanting training directly while they sleep. It was entirely unethical, I don’t care if it was legal or not. Cocteau was a maniacal little dictator. I can’t say I’m sorry he’s gone. If he had his way, we would have been kicked out of here long ago.”
Willow nods and is drawn to a long buried memory.
“He reminded me of Principle Snyder, from Sunnydale high school. I really disliked him. I don’t think he liked anyone at the school, and he didn’t care if we knew it. Very sad, I guess.”
Tara can think of nothing to follow her wife’s word’s, and the two meander back to discussing wedding clothes and locations until they make their way back to their apartment that afternoon.
Kayla had been looking forward to getting out onto the town that evening with Faith. Since she’d regained the use of her legs, she hadn’t been on a date with Faith or spent an evening out of their apartment. With Faith due to return to work in a few days, she twisted her arm to finally take her out. Hanging on her like a schoolgirl, Kayla loved the feel of Faith’s muscles and physique; not too much muscle and not much of anything else to get in their way. With Katya kicking her occasionally, she had become accustomed to mild pains and punches from the slayer inside of her, and she had to chide the infant to calm down far too often. Sitting in a booth with Faith, they held hands and sifted through the notes Willow and Tara sent them regarding wedding clothes. Faith, fearsome of wearing a dress or gown, settled on a traditional pant and jacket combination, while Kayla wanted to go all out on a dress after Katya was born. As they finish their quiet dinner, they find themselves muted with appreciation for each other’s company. Since Kayla had returned they had spent nearly every second in conversation or maniacal sex; and now they finally found that calmness of simply holding the other’s hand to be satiating enough. Kayla remembered this moment in the future as the moment which Faith had finally come to peace with getting married, while Faith would say it was the calm before the storm.
As they walked to the door, a sudden crash sent patrons scurrying out of the way of an old man stumbling towards them. Bloody and panting, he babbles incoherently and collapses before Faith’s feet. Instinctively, Faith drops and assesses his wounds and notices dozens of deep animal bites and gaping cuts covering him. As she screams for someone to call an ambulance, she grabs several cloth napkins to staunch the blood loss. Noticing he’s a Native American in his late years, Faith tries to calm him with no effect. Speaking in a bizarre language, people can’t understand anything he says, making communication impossible. A young man, not much younger than Faith, pushes through the crowd and desperately tries to get the man to calm down.
“Grandfather! Please calm down and speak English, we don’t understand Lakota! Who did this to you?”
Frantic and scared, he continues to scream in his native tongue, heightening the anxiety of the room. Trying to temper her slayer strength, she fights against accidentally hurting the frail old man. As she uses more and more of her strength, he suddenly becomes quiet and still. Anxiety screams through her expecting to discover he had expired, instead she’s shocked to see him staring in a combination of fear and joy. Following his eyes, she sees Kayla standing at his feet wearing a serene and calming expression.
Faith can’t look away either, but finds the strength to break her hypnotic glare. As she binds his wounds he finally resumes speaking calmly in his native tongue to Kayla. Faith’s heart skips a beat when Kayla replies in his language, and they talk continuously as he’s held to this world by Faith’s caring hands. Only after paramedics arrive, do they stop and Kayla leaves his side to join her in the washroom as she washes off the blood. Faith stares at her in a mixture of amazement, fear, and frustration. Kayla seems to read her properly and speaks before Faith gets any angrier.
“I bet you have a bunch of questions huh? I get you’re hurt a bit, but the reality of who and what I am is a bit complicated, as it is if you were to try and explain that you are a slayer. Are you there or are you just going to brood at me?”
Processing Kayla last words, Faith nods grudgingly.
“Yah. Let’s talk about it later, okay?”
With a heavy sigh, Kayla smiles and continues.
“You got it. He spoke of something called a Coku Mani, or a Skin-Walker. I’m not familiar with their legends but he claimed it had tried to kill him but he escaped. We need to get Willow and Tara involved in the research behind this thing. I feel this is only the beginning of our troubles.”
Chapter 5: 5
April 3, 2033
San Angeles (9:17pm)
Checking the privacy totem once more, Kayla nervously sits down and clutches at Faith’s hands, unable to find a starting place. With Willow and Tara sitting in the couch in front of her, she finds it difficult to look any of her new friends in their eyes. Taking a deep breath, Kayla squeezes Faith’s hands once more and begins.
“First off, I’m not like a slayer. Second, I’m not immortal. I am born and die just like the next person. My uniqueness comes about when I die and I’m reborn sometime later. At this time, I’m not at liberty to discuss the details, but my memory goes back a long time.”
Willow leans forward to speak.
“How long? Decades? Centuries?”
Tara studies Kayla’s face as she mulls over how to respond. Her response puts the two women back into their seats.
“I remember the night when Troy fell. The wind was blowing ever so slightly, and it was a clear sky with a new moon. And when the Sumerian civilization fell to the Akkadian Empire, I was on a small ship heading across the Atlantic Ocean to what we now call South America.”
Willow sees the glossy expression on Faith and Tara and momentarily leans into the conversation.
“Sumerians…that’s about 2200 BC, well over 4000 years ago.”
Kayla simply nods in approval and continues.
“I have spent the majority of my life disassociating and preventing any connection between the Child of Light and the fabled Vampire Slayer. Only once before have I teamed up with the Slayer a few thousand years ago in Kauai, when we killed a full demon. I joined the fight after it started; and together we lured him into the middle of an erupting volcano. We never exchanged names or conversed, but my help in that fight was never known or repeated. I fight the big fights that a meager half-demon and human slayer can’t win, and trust me I’ve stayed busy for all that time. I even know of demi-gods who walk the earth that try to avoid me. I don’t tolerate the presence of true evil, but there are some demons that learned that being evil 24/7 is not healthy.”
Turning to Faith, she cups the strong woman’s hands in hers and gathers her full attention.
“You are unique, Faith. I have never allowed myself to be made so vulnerable by love, and I have no regrets. With your love, I have been allowed for the first time since I have been born, to truly love unreservedly and not fear for your life. It’s simply...amazing.”
Faith numbly responds.
“So is your strength and abilities unique to your race or people?”
Kayla shakes her head as she replies.
“There are no others sweetie, just me. Just me for tens of thousands of years.”
Willow sits back up after digesting Kayla’s story.
“You arrived on the back of a motorcycle with a demon. Isn’t that against what you were just saying?”
Tara believes she knows that answer, but let’s Kayla explain in her own words.
“No. The majority of the creatures you call demons are only half-demons. Furthermore, those demons I do associate with recognize that I’m basically a sheriff. They screw up, I send them on to Hell. They play ball and help rather hinder human development, they don’t get sent to Hell. Kambadora, like the horned ones I rode into town with, are devoted to my cause. They want to create and build, rather than tear down and ruin. I arranged the first worker’s union between man and Kambadora over 5000 years ago. Without their knowledge, half of the structures man has been given credit for building would never have been possible. They have their ups and downs, and I occasionally have to shake up their leadership to put them back into line every few hundred years, but it’s not that bad. Really!”
Tara mulls over the breadth of her story and tries to think of questions which might stir up more questions.
“You’re having this baby now. This means you can only get pregnant by magical means?”
Kayla only takes a second to respond.
“No. I can get pregnant by any human or such. I have a human anatomy, and everything that comes with it.”
Kayla then spends a minute to consider revealing her largest, most private secret.
“I had a child a long time ago, Meliora. I was raped during an attack by the Spartans. It took four of them to hold me down, and when the first man was done, and the next bastard tried to take his turn, I got loose and slaughtered them all. I never held her responsible for what happened to me, and I loved her with all my heart. She went on and had six children of her own, and I attended her funeral when she died at the age of 54. After that, I perfected magic to inhibit pregnancy or to stop it as soon as the situation occurred. I never wanted to outlive my child again, but I know that will probably always happen. Katya will be different, as she’s not really mine and she’s a Vampire Slayer. Death is a job requirement it seems. I say that, but I’m quite aware if I raise her, I’ll love her nonetheless as I did Mel. Faith, I need to ensure you’re in this for the long haul. I don’t do anything half-ass; and if I actually say ‘I do’ I mean it! You’re the only one for me, and only Death can part us. It won’t be easy raising a Vampire Slayer from the moment she’s born, and it takes one to know one. So, after all this, are we still on for next week’s ceremony, or are we on-hold?”
Faith jumps out of her chair and paces the room. Digesting everything Kayla had fed her was far from easy. Clutching her head and staring at the ceiling, she scoops up a large draught of air before replying.
“Kay…I…I imagined you telling me a thousand different things tonight, and nothing came close to the truth. I always knew you were special, but I never even came close to what you just said. I get the long deception for who you really are. I’d have done the same, for the same reasons, so I have no problem with any of that. And I don’t mind the older/younger relationship thing either, but Damn! I only imagined a few years ahead of me, not thousands of years. That’s a lot girl! But you’re not a demon, and you’re not evil, so what’s a girl not to like about this? Yah, I think we’re still on for next Saturday afternoon. Every way I add it up, and math isn’t one of my strongest of skills, you’re still a keeper.”
The light finally gets to full brightness inside Willow’s head.
“Oh my GOD! You’re the same Child of Light that Demon feared back when Buffy was killed!”
Kayla smiles slightly seeing the brightness shooting out from her eyes.
“Yah, that would have been me. The demon you fought was a true demon, and you see why I don’t get involved in these minor battles the slayer gets into daily. Instead of being there, I was tucked away in prison with Faith keeping the gangs from taking advantage of her temporary weakness. When I’m truly at my weakest, there’s this horrible odor thing that I exude that drives away demons. They can’t stand coming any closer than half a mile. Humans can’t smell it, but dogs, cats and demons can. It’s a living hell to even come within 50 feet of me. That damn demon seed shut it off, so once it was gone, my system took forever to recover.”
Tara takes a sudden draught of air and smiles in the knowledge that the wedding is still on.
“So what kind of theme are you two going for?”
April 4, 2033
San Angeles (3:45am)
Sitting back in their chairs sipping at their cups of steaming tea, Willow and Tara point towards the table covered in open books. Willow is the first to finish sipping.
“There are just too many opinions on what exactly this skin walker is. Some say it’s just a shape-shifter like a werewolf, while others say it’s a clawed demonic killer that can take on whatever shape it wants.”
Tara continues without missing a beat.
“And even another, Navajo, says it’s an evil witch that can turn itself into any animal it wishes. All Indian legends have different names for this kind of thing, each subtly different than the next. We have no idea how to deal with it. This could be a demon, or this could be an ancient type of dark magic.”
Faith, returning from her patrol sits in the opposite couch alongside the sleeping Kayla. Slipping off her boots, she rubs her feet and lies back.
“So, you got nothing for me…right?”
Willow glances at Tara and shrugs.
Faith shakes her head and pushes a lock of Kayla’s hair off her nose.
“Well I found nothing out there. I got no leads, no attacks, or anything to go off of. I staked a pair of vamps fresh out of the ground, and I ran into a ghoul who was setting up shop in the cemetery. I told him to keep it clean, and not to draw any attention to his feedings, and I wouldn’t have to kick him out. In return he offered to keep an eye out for suspicious characters hanging out in his territory and would report back to me just after sundown if it sees anything funny.”
Faith outlines the edge of Kayla’s face and laughs to herself.
“I never imagined me cutting deals with monsters just to keep the peace…”
Willow interjects immediately as if she was reading her friend’s mind.
“Like Buffy did? She crossed the lines of good and evil to get the job done. That stupid Watcher’s Council was more a hindrance than help in those days. Heck Angel was able to enforce the peace for a while, but Buffy was the force behind it. I think this is something a Slayer does when they live longer than a couple of years. You sort the not so bad from the horribly evil, and force everyone to coexist. You need a buffer from the evil which evil does, and the smart demons learn to play ball in order to keep from starving or being killed.”
Tara sees a glimmer or image of an idea in her mind and quickly vocalizes it.
“Perhaps you should become what Kayla says she does. You be the Sheriff of San Angeles, and be seen as the keeper of the peace between humans and demons. Make yourself available to hear disputes and fix their problems in their world, so that it doesn’t affect the one up here. If you did, perhaps when trouble rolls into town, the underworld would be less hesitant to get involved because all of them would feel the repercussions of inaction. Maybe you should even see about getting a few of the strongest leaders of the demon world that live under the city to assume a deputy role and constructing laws for the rest to abide by?”
Faith fights from laughing hysterically.
“Now that’s crazy talk, even for you two!”
Kayla’s meek and sleepy voice slips into the conversation.
“No, it’s not crazy. I tried it several times in my existence, and it works about 45% of the time. The longest period I had total peace and unity lasted for a 189 years, until World War 2 came along in Europe and fouled everything up. The entire period of revolutions, both in Europe and the Americas was due to man, not demonic influence. I made sure of that. If you Faith, the famed Bad-Girl Vampire Slayer brokers the deal, I think you’ll have a better chance of it working. If I do it, they’ll obey out of fear, not sincerity.”
Willow steps up and extrapolates further.
“We have an unknown baddy who just moved into town. There’s no doubt it will piss off the demon locals and they will want it gone as much as we do. Maybe it’s just that simple?”
Faith can only shake her head, unsure of Willow’s logic.
“I don’t know Willow, it just seems too neat and tidy.”
Kayla reaches over and rubs Faith’s hand.
“Faith, sometimes it’s just that way. You’ll never know until you try, though. Demons are more diplomatic than you can believe, but they too are used to heroes like you just busting into their abodes and lairs and cracking skulls. They see you as a stereotypical good guy, and that’s what you normally do right? Try something completely different. It might throw them completely off.”
April 5, 2033
San Angeles (7:08pm)
Breathing heavily over the settling dust and the sound of mewing kittens, Faith picks up a knocked-over chair and sets it back under the poker table where it had once sat. Looking around the tussled room, she counts four unconscious demons and shakes her head. Grabbing the other chairs, she sets them back under the table and finds a spare in the corner of the room as kittens run amuck. Grabbing the biggest demon, she helps him into an upright position and lets him wake on his own. Groaning, he expects a thrashing and winces as Faith lets him go against the wall. Gingerly opening his good eye, he stares in amazement as Faith takes the chair, turns it around and straddles it to look at him. Faith shakes her head in disbelief. Her plan of talking had collapsed within 2 seconds of the door opening, and the demon threw the first punch. Reaching down to the floor, she scoops up a kitten as it passes under her and pets the innocent creature. The demon coughs up some blood and wipes his mouth of the evidence.
“What are you going to do now slayer, put the chair on my chest and crush me to death as I struggle to breathe?”
Faith rolls her eyes.
“As I was saying when I showed up, I just want to talk. Have you all seen anyone new walking around lately? I’ve heard of something called a skin-walker showing up topside and causing trouble, and I was wondering if you all had heard of it. That’s all!”
The demon shakes his head immediately and painfully adjusts his sitting position.
“Nah. We see lots of newbies at the store, but nothing like that. When one of those shows up, we stay clear of them, and they steer clear of us. They are bad news, lots of bad mojo, you know?”
Chuckling, Faith shakes her head and sneers.
“Actually no, I don’t know. I’ve never had the pleasure, or at least I don’t think I have. They’re shape-shifters, right? I doubt I’d have known I was talking to one.”
The demon nods his head.
“Yah, I guess you wouldn’t if it was only in passing, but they have a distinct smell: not animal and not human, something in between. It’s revolting. So, that’s it? Just wanted to ask about a skin-walker?”
Faith stays seated and shakes her head.
“Nope. I wanted to know who was in charge down here. I’m tired of coming down here cracking skulls and smashing up everything just to ask a simple question. I just ruined a perfectly good poker game for what? Just to ask you about a stinking skin-walker, come on? This is stupid. I heard you were up there on the demons to know list, and I had to beat you all up just to get some face time. Doesn’t this strike you as unnecessary? A complete waste of time and effort? I want…no. I’d like to set up some sort of council or representative I can go to, so I don’t have to beat down every door just to get information. I know the slayers in the past always beat you up for every piece of info they got from you all, but I want to change things. If we’re going to live around each other, we need rules and some common ground to talk. It would be nice if I could go to a few of you for stuff, and let you all live your lives down here in peace.”
Laughing the demon chuckles for a minute, realizes Faith’s sincerity, and stops abruptly.
“You’re serious. The peace never lasts, you know?”
Faith nods her head.
“I’m not laughing. Yah I heard that, but I also heard about the Brussels Accord, and it lasted until 1939. That was almost 200 years of peace between you and us. Yah, we’ll have our occasional demon or vampire who enjoys stirring up trouble, but we can work on that. The majority of you guys don’t feed on humans, and the ghouls and a few others are only interested in us until after we’ve been dead for a few days. I’ve already told them if they keep it quiet and discreet, I have no problems with that.”
The demon slowly stands and starts gathering kittens away from Faith as he thinks.
“Damn, you are serious about this. In those days, we self-governed. Are you going to allow that too?”
Faith, burying the grisly future of the kitten she was petting from her mind, puts it into the basket the horned demon holds.
“I don’t see a reason to say no. What you all do down here is your business until it affects me. Keep the noise down, and the landlord won’t have to come down here and crack skulls or evict you all. Right?”
“Well, they’ll like that. There are a lot of us that hated the war that erupted on the surface, and if you keep your word they’ll love not cringing every time you show your face down here.”
Faith scoops up one more kitten and places it into the basket as she talks.
“Same here. That way, when one of you sees me and takes off running, I won’t chase him down needlessly. Oh yah! You need to write down your laws you want to live under. If I don’t know that its bad form to sneeze before we speak, how in the heck are we going to get anywhere? You all have some weird rules, and I can only enforce what I know. Are you up to the task for temporarily acting as my go to person until you all formalize all this? That’s why I came here in the first place! I wanted to talk to one of the most influential demons down here, and I heard you were that demon.”
He scratches one his numerous green thorny spikes protruding from his face and arms.
“Yah….that would be me. I’ll see if they are interested in an accord like the Brussels one, and see how it rolls. Months have passed since that skirmish upstairs, so they might buy it being legit. Give me a few days to talk around the lairs, and I’ll see what I can stir up. Meet me at the cat market in three days just after sunset, and I’ll let you know how it’s coming along. In the meantime, I’ll put some feelers out for your skin-walker and see if it’s hiding out down here.”
After exchanging a handshake, they part and the demon finishes gathering the kittens and mulls over the turn of events.
Chapter 6: 6
April 6, 2033
San Angeles (2:01pm)
Sitting in the bull pen, Faith listens to a MDK report which occurred on the opposite side of town which she patrolled the previous night. The coroner believes it might have been a pack of rabid dogs, but Faith recognizes the claw and bite patterns were identical to the old Indian man’s. She pulls out her hip computer and begins looking into the victim’s background, hoping to find a clue why he was targeted. Mr. Jonathon Baxter, 74, once worked at the City’s Planning and Design Department and has been retired for 3 years this coming May. Using the main computer, asks the system to correlate the attack on Mr. Soaring Duck…she double checked the Indian man’s name twice, it found no records which said they ever crossed paths or offices. Mr. Duck was a recent resident to the city, brought here by his eldest son William. Even more interesting, his son had changed his name to Mallard, soon after he arrived to San Angeles. Shaking the comedy aside, Faith probes the son’s background as an economist, and the computer also fails to find any connection above 21 percent. The higher the percentage, the more likely a connection and Faith vaguely used this as a gauge, while other officers swore on it.
As she returns to patrolling the streets, a duty she actually found quite enjoyable, she would often spend her day conversing with all the shop owners of petty crime, unusual occurrences, and now the sudden lack of stray dogs and cats wandering the streets in her neighborhood. Though it was previously illegal to feed or care for strays, with the new city government relaxed the enforcement of petty laws designed to enforce total control over the populace’s daily lives. The city government was actually keeping up the policy of a police officer on every corner, though manning still wasn’t where they wanted it. Faith had a dozen blocks she was accountable for; fortunately only one area was out of her district. She had specifically requested the high incident area near and around the cemetery, and to everyone’s surprise, the violence and incident reports dramatically plummeted after the first month of her on the beat. Even she only reported the incidents which resulted in serious injury, which went from a dozen during her first week, to about once a month.
During her last parole meeting with Chief Earle, he said he was pushing through a Pardon Order for her and Officer Spartan for their previous crimes. Based on her age at the time and her performance during the past year, he believed it would be approved. Officer Spartan was also going to be pardoned, as the security system clearly recorded the criminal Simon Phoenix take full responsibility for the deaths which Officer Spartan was convicted of committing. The recording and his defense statements clearly prove his innocence, so it was just a formality of getting his conviction reversed. For Faith, it was a bit more complicated, but her youth, lack of proper upbringing, and now her performance in the department has warranted a careful reexamination of the facts. With Chief Earle and Mayor Friendly’s recommendations in her package, it had a superb chance of being approved. With both their deputy contracts set to expire in 6 months, the city was hand carrying them to the capitol for review and approval.
Faith found the previous year still surrealistic. Not only had she been released from prison, she was with her true love, and found people who she believed were her enemies, become her trusted friends. Even more incredible was the job which her hours were set in stone, so she could patrol late at night and still hold down a well-paying day job. Her position allowed her to use the resources of the city, while carrying out her Slayer duties without conflict. She heard that once her order came back, she’d be up for a promotion of some sort, but the Chief left out any particulars. She’d heard through the grapevine that the Chief was assembling a special response team, and he was interviewing most of the senior students from her martial arts class. The sounds of that seemed to conflict with her slayer patrols, so she hoped he wasn’t eyeing her for that job.
With thoughts rampaging through her head, Faith notices her shift would end long before she could make it back to the station. Making it back to her car, she reports in, confirms she’s under no duress making her report, and ends her shift in time to pick up a loaf of fresh bread to go with dinner. As she steps out of the elevator to her apartment, she immediately notices a faint pungent odor wafting through the hall. A mix between skunk, rotten meat, mace, urine, and vomit, the smell fortunately wasn’t incredibly strong. As she opens her apartment door, the intensity suddenly doubles and she fights the initial gag reflex. After a minute, her body seems to adjust, and she stops gagging. Sitting naked in the bath tub, Kayla is submerged to the neck. Crying, she levels her red eyes on her lover and begins sobbing once again.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen for another two months! Three to four weeks before I give birth, this happens, and I don’t know why it started this early. I’m sorry Faith!”
Faith, speechless instinctively goes to Kayla’s side and feels the full effect of the odor. Dipping her finger into the water, she brings it to her nose and nearly throws up as she takes a full sniff of her finger. Rushing to the sink, she spends 5 minutes washing it, but can’t get it off of her.
Kayla sobs, and apologizes further.
“Sweetie, this is all screwed up. I asked Tara or Willow to care for me now. They won’t smell it, and it won’t stick on them. It will pass after Katya is born, but until then I’m powerless to stop it.”
Flabbergasted, Faith can only nod and obey.
April 6, 2033
San Angeles (9:35pm)
After another lengthy examination, Lacey verifies her hunch. Faith, sitting nervously on the couch sipping at her coffee.
“Katya’s head has moved down. She’s got no more than 2 weeks and she’s the right weight, length, and position for birth. Unfortunately Kayla is lagging in her Braxton Hicks, and this could be a concern.”
Lacey notices the blank stare in Faith’s eyes and shakes her head.
“Kayla’s body should be practicing for having the baby by having mini contractions, basically. She’s not, or hasn’t been having enough. This baby is coming fast, and she’s going to have a rough time during the birth.”
Nodding Faith tries to visualize this, and is surprised that it is making sense to her on some deep level. As she dwells on the subject, she’s further surprised to have the weekly calendar of fetal development suddenly pop into her head.
“So she’s technically in the 33rd week of pregnancy and she’s not having her tiny contractions?”
Lacey, prepared to explain the cycle in greater detail, suddenly stops and nods.
“Uh…yah! That’s correct. And before you ask, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
When she starts her labor, we’ll need to rush her to the ER.”
Nodding, Faith thanks her for the update and heads out for nightly routine. Meandering through the cemetery with her list of fresh burials, she crisscrosses the four divisions checking off every name on her list. With the city relatively vampire free, she decides to interrogate the latest victim/vampire as she struggles to free herself of the grave. The city was trying to push for tougher burial requirements, secretly trying to contain any undead in their grave, and would necessitate an excavation crew to actually open the steel reinforced concrete cradle the coffin sat in. Unfortunately, the costs of this technique would increase burial costs 20%, so it was hard to push through the city council. With boredom threatening to overcome her, she reaches down and pulls the vampire free of her earthen grave.
She comes out coughing and rubbing her hands. Caked with dirt and her once manicured nails stripped of their polish, the young woman grips the new headstone next to her grave. As she gets her bearings she prepares to attack Faith who laughs and steps back.
“Hey! Catch your breath! I’m not going anywhere.”
Taken back she nods and sighs dramatically.
“Thanks. You’re a cop, right?”
Faith checks her surroundings for any additional risers, and nods to the woman.
“Yah. I patrol this area. You’re awfully young for a vampire. I mean I saw you only turned 19 two weeks ago.”
The woman nods yes.
“I guess I’ll be this young forever, but yes I think that shouldn’t hurt my chances for survival.”
“You know, eternal life isn’t all what it seems. I’ve been around since the 1990’s, and I can’t cope sometimes with the changes all around me.”
Surprised, the woman tries to dust herself off, but the dirt and grime stains resist all attempts to be brushed aside and sneakily begins stepping subtly towards Faith.
Faith palms her wooden stake and looks towards the faraway wall as if something was grabbing her attention. When the woman tries to pounce on Faith, she meets the face of the headstone Faith was standing in front of and a boot on the back of her neck. Faith shakes her head.
“Could have told you it wouldn’t work, but I figured you wouldn’t listen. Do you remember who sired you? You know who made you a vampire?”
The woman desperately tries to throw faith off of her, but she lacks the strength having just risen.
“NO! He was a well-dressed guy who obviously was well off. He came up behind me and convinced me he could arrange for me to keep my youth forever, and I jumped at it.”
Faith was losing her temper, and this guy was the cause of most of her late nights.
“Behind the Curley Q Club, off of Madison Street! He followed me out, and stayed behind me in the shadows.”
Before she can plead for her new life, Faith plunges the stake into her back, piercing her heart. The blast of dust into the air tells Faith the duty is done, and she meanders back to her rounds. She lingers near the Curley Q Club until 2 in the morning, until finally giving up on her patrol.
Getting an earful from Willow as she crashes onto the couch, she hears how horrible Kayla feels now that her body is “practicing” her contractions every hour. Worse, Tara will be up with her and she knows she’ll get more of the news when she sees her. Lying down, her head hits the pillow and she makes two long blinks before passing out.
April 8, 2033
San Angeles (7:45pm)
Descending into the underworld of San Angeles just at sunset, Faith passes numerous corridors and lethal niches which untold death lurks just our out of her sight. From a cave worm who sat coiled in the walls to a troll who stayed perpetually drunk, Faith kept on her path to the crowded Cat Market. As the name implies, the primary commodity sold were cats of varying ages, sizes and quantities. Imagining this is what the original purpose of the place was, it was apparent that it changed over time to encompass everything from shoes, clothes, slaves, and your occasional demon was available for purchase. Passing several beer and grilled cat stands, Faith begins walking the market checking out everyone’s wares. Due to her interest, eyes leveled on her suspiciously for being either the slayer or a cop. Fearful that she was the slayer, kept most from approaching her or objecting to her presence. After the first 20 minutes, several shops closed up only increasing the tension. Finally as she begins to tire of the stares and apprehension, her contact finally arrives.
“They’re scared shitless that you’re going to start shaking things up around here.”
Faith merely nods in agreement and motions towards the Doro Demon, a hairy single-horned monstrosity who wasn’t taking his eyes off of her.
“This guy is looking at me as if he wants to start something, and several of your people just closed up and left.”
Shaking his head, her contact motions towards the demon who unceremoniously drops his eyes.
“That’s his way of showing respect towards an equal. He’d growl at you or spit in front of your path if he didn’t think you were worthy of his respect. He can sense your strength and experience, and knows you’re here because you earned the right to walk here. You’re the one who fought that true demon last year, right?”
Faith nods subtly.
“Is it that obvious? All my scars and bruises healed ages ago.”
The demon beside her merely laughs.
“The Doro smell your strength and wisdom; I wish I had that ability! That’s why they never get invited to my poker game. They know when to hold them or fold them against an opponent. Bluffing is fairly pointless around them. They know whether you’re clever enough to pull off a bluff, and if you’re a shark. No fun at all. I know you’re not here to discuss the finer points of demon society, so let me get right to it. They are interested in your proposal. No, they would LOVE to erect a formal end to hostilities between us and humans. The last war hurt the majority of their businesses and a serious truce would be agreeable. What are your thoughts that I can take back to them.”
Comfortable with his directness, Faith takes out a notebook which Kayla and Willow had worked on until her contractions became unbearable. She hands it to the demon who is legitimately surprised.
“What do they call you?”
Opening up the book, and thumbing through the lengthy bullet points, he barely hears Faith and fumbles out his name.
“Gomik…Hurlbet Gomik. You can call me Hurl. Well I see you’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“I found someone who was at the original signing back when and I found an expert who will be sitting in on this signing as well.”
The demon stops abruptly and turns white.
“Huh…who could that be?”
Faith shakes her head.
“I’m not at liberty to say until she actually arrives. Until then, she’s the human representative to this accord, to discourage any foul play by either party.”
Faith notices a crowd of demons have stopped and crowded around them to listen in on their private conversation. Following Kayla’s suggestions, she raises her voice so everyone can hear her.
“I have made it clear I want peace and law in this town, and that includes everyone down here. If trouble crawls into town, it tends to rear its ugly head here first, and I can deal with it better down here, before it gets everyone all pissed off upstairs. Once the humans up there catch wind of your operations, you know things will get bad down here. Everyone’s lives will be disrupted, and all your businesses will be screwed up. I want our hostilities minimized, your businesses regulated by your ruling government, and a police force to ensure these laws are followed. Your people, enforcing your laws will have a better chance than having me coming around and cracking skulls whenever I see fit.”
The roar of applause and growls, gives Faith the impression it went over as they planned it out. As the crowd gets riled up, Hurl crosses his arms and smiles. He knew most demons were ready for an official peace, but he never imagined Faith getting his kind to openly welcome it. Nodding in appreciation, he draws Faith from the crowd and bows to her.
“Well played my distinguished counterpart. You have just won your first hurtle race by rallying the business sector. Now, you must win the support of the elders…that will not be as easy. It might take a bit longer to get them to sit down with you.”
Faith can only nod.
“When my person gets here, I’ll bring her here to begin talking to your elders. In the meantime, start swaying their vote. The majority of your people will now want a representative government, so you’re going to have your hands full. Thank you Hurl. I really think law and order is the best for everyone down here.”
He mulls it over and agrees.
“I too believe that. Let’s keep the communication lines open.”
Planning for the possibility, Faith hands him a cell phone.
“That’s to call me. If you find any trouble that you can’t handle comes into town, don’t hesitate to ask for help.”
Genuinely surprised, he takes it and smiles.
“Superb. And I still haven’t got a bead on your skin-walker. It’s been seen only twice, and no one could tell me where it was hiding down here. I’ll continue searching. Oh! And what about the smell in district…”
Faith stops him before he can finish.
“I know what you mean! I’m told it should dissipate soon, but I don’t have anything specific.”
Concerned he nods with some understanding.
“We had to evacuate that entire area. Well, as long as you’re aware of it. Good evening slayer.”
He bows dramatically before turning and disappearing into the crowd.
Faith arrives at the apartment after her patrol to find a note waiting for her. As she reads Tara’s frantic scribbling, her phone rings. Willow, abnormally stressed, yells at Faith to hurry to the hospital with the wedding rings.
Chapter 7: 7
April 8, 2033
San Angeles (9:56pm)
Bursting through the doors of the hospital, it takes Faith an eternity to find the maternity ward. After turning left when she should have gone right, she finds Willow waiting nervously in the lounge area alongside a soon-to-be father who seems as worried as greying redhead. Jumping out of her seat, she wants to scold Faith but restrains herself long enough to get Faith within earshot.
“Please tell me you got my note.”
Nodding, Faith scoops into her jacket pocket and produces a small black box. Opening up the spring-loaded hinged lid, it screams contemporary fashion as meager gold loops. With a heavy sigh, Willow relaxes and guides her into the prep area for Faith to change into ORs. After they are changed, a nurse comes and escorts them into a room with Kayla on a bed and three people standing around her in similar attire.
Rushing to the platinum blonde’s side, Faith reaches out and grasps Kayla’s shaking hand. Tired and fighting the pain of contractions, she releases a meager smile and immediately cringes from a strong pulse of pain.
The man seated at the door, stands as Faith passes and comes to the side which Faith takes and clears his throat.
“Let’s begin, shall we? I think our young bride will be a mother sooner than we think.”
A nurse standing on the opposite side nods her head as she counts the interval between contractions and a strategically placed optical sensor under the blankets.
Nervously, Faith holds Kayla’s hand as she puts the box with the rings into Tara’s outstretched hands. Faith doesn’t register the words the minister recites, or the cues to take the rings from Tara. For her, every second is remembered by the vice-like grip Kayla keeps, and the painful torque she applies. Starting at a mere minute apart, it slowly decreases to every 20 seconds by the time she’s asked to give her vows. Having practiced them religiously for the past week, she surprises everyone when she delivers them flawlessly. Kayla, numb to the spectacular event, finds the strength to recite hers, pausing only during the contractions. After a few seconds of putting on the rings, the minister recognizes the bride’s worsening state. With a proud nod, the minster asks the fateful question for each of them, and both Faith and Kayla manage agree to wed and kiss before the nurses push everyone but Faith out of the room as Katya decides the moment to be born.
Sitting in the waiting area, Willow and Tara hold hands as the bustle of nurses come in and out of the delivery room. Tara leans over to kiss Willow, only to catch a glimpse of a person hiding in the shadows. Ducking out of sight as Tara tries to identify them, only gets her more curious. Whispering she’ll be right back, she quickly goes towards the bathroom, but turns away out of site of the stranger. Slipping off her loud pumps, she rushes towards the corner to listen. Talking quietly on a cell phone, Dr. Jeffery clearly is unaware of Tara and speaks freely.
“Yah, she made it here on time. I don’t know! There is nothing I can legally do now. She is not going to be born a bastard child, and she’s protected by the law. NO! I had no idea that she was going to be born this early! The tests show she’s fully developed, so we can’t keep her here overnight. I’ll talk to the resident doctor to require us to keep her overnight in our care, but no promises. Fine.”
As she steps around the corner, Tara plants a fist into the doctor’s face, knocking her out cold. As the doctor crumples onto the floor, Tara looks left and right, and sees no onlookers. Holding her fist in pain, she peeks around the corner to where Willow sits and calmly calls out.
“Willow sweetie? Would you be a doll and come here quickly and give me a hand?”
Faith lies back in the recliner holding baby Katya as Kayla is taken to the operating room to stop up the numerous sources of bleeding which are life-threatening. In an hour, she is wheeled out and the new family is resting in a private recovery room. By 3 o’clock in the morning, Kayla finally gets to hold her baby as Faith looks over them proudly. Kayla, exhausted, constantly beams a smile with tears falling sporadically. With a light covering of red hair on her head, Katya rests in Kayla’s arm. Comfortable and content, she gives the impression that all is right in the world for a short while. It’s only now that Faith realizes the horrendous odor, which had plagued them for the past week, was finally gone. After spending a couple of hours chatting and enjoying the comfortable closeness between them, Faith excuses herself and departs to file the paperwork for her next 3 weeks of leave.
As she waits for the security guard to sign her out of the hospital, slowed by the computer system, Faith detects an unusual odor crossing her path as she stands at the security counter. She turns to see the back of a man in a doctor’s coat walking calmly towards the elevators. A deep sense of danger mixed with a putrid scent seems to arouse her curiosity and she leaves the station in pursuit. Palming her badge out of her pocket, she rushes to catch up only for the elevator doors to slam shut as she reaches them. Cursing under her breath, she hits the stairs and pulls out her computer. Verbally accessing hospital security system, she sees the 6th floor is selected and orders the elevator to stop at the 3rd floor. Ten seconds later, she stands at the door and orders it open. An average sized man, with no distinctive features stands angrily in the elevator. Faith, lacking any weapons, instinctively puts her hand out to calm him. Ordering to stand still, has no effect as he strides out towards Faith.
“HEY! I said stop!”
He casually glances left and right as he closes with Faith. Faith knew it was still an hour before shift change, so most of the halls were going to be devoid of staff or anyone. Not much taller than her, his body language was far too calm and rigid reminding her of a walking wall. When he swung at her, her reflexes had her duck and plant a kick to the inside of his leg to bring him down to one knee. As planned he went down but he only used his planted knee as a pivot point and swept her legs out from her. Instinctual fear took over and she defensively rolled several times to get some space between him and her. As she gets to her feet, he’s right on top of her and slaps her arms and chest with the backside of his hand. Angered, she starts to swing but notices blood dripping to the floor from her clothes.
Looking down, she sees dozens of open wounds pouring out blood like a picturesque stream. Stumbling backwards, she manages to parry and dodge his next dozen attacks and plants a roundhouse across his head, sending him spiraling backwards. Feeling the life draining away, she hears Kayla screaming in the back of her mind to either escape or end the fight. As he tries to stand, Faith knows she can’t win, but recognizes she dealt him a serious blow that had shaken his confidence to the core. With anger swelling in her heart, she decides to deliver a powerful series of offensive blows and force him to retreat. With a loud roar she swings and misses as he stands; and for the first time in possibly centuries it finds itself on the defense. Dodging, parrying, and every one of Faith’s powerful blows, he begins backing towards the stairs. Finally, with her strength failing Faith lands a full strength punch into his solar plexus sending him tumbling backwards into the stairwell, and down the flight of stairs. Faith remembers the sound of cracking bones as her fist penetrated two inches into his chest, and she stumbles down the stairs as the man turns around to glare at his pursuer. A ghastly face stares back at her, and she ends her chase as he bolts out the doors of the hospital. Calling his grotesque appearance ugly or demonic wouldn’t accurately describe the horridness. Collapsing onto the floor, she creates a huge wet splat sound as she loses consciousness.
Faith wakes to a figure glaring intently at her fluttering eyes. As she focuses, the fuzzy outline of her wife sitting in a hospital gown holding a baby finally becomes a crisp image. As she tries to lift her head up, pain surges through her chest and arms. Kayla shakes her head in disbelief.
“Even I wouldn’t have tried that. So was it our skin-walker?”
Faith gently shakes her head.
“Yah. He had this odor, not as bad as yours of course. He was fast, and I never once saw a weapon. Whatever he touched was cut by only his fingers gliding over me. I have no idea how I’m going to deal with him next time…other than to not let him touch me.”
Nodding Kayla repositions Katya into her gown and lets her latch to feed.
“They had to staple your wounds closed, even your slayer healing wasn’t enough. This guy leaves wounds which resist healing. It’s a miracle that the old man survived; he’s just two rooms down from you. You might have some scars from this battle. They gave you 4 pints of blood while they were working on you, and you better stay off your feet for a couple of days. I wouldn’t move those bandages either. If you were a regular human and I’d be a widow right now. They thought you were anemic or something, but after they cleaned the wounds, they were able to get the blood to clot normally. This thing is a bona-fide killer, no doubt there. Oh! Tara is checking me out this evening to stay with her. She feels the vibes aren’t good here, and she wants me to feel safe. Oh, and it’s in my file I don’t like hospitals, so they can’t say no.”
She smiles cutely and adjusts Katya underneath her gown. Faith nods, and spends the afternoon resting. Kayla spends every minute in the hospital in Faith’s room, until Tara signs her out just past six that night. As Kayla nestles down for the night she cuddles Katya and notices Tara’s bruised hand as she passes. After asking how she did hurt herself, Tara shrugs.
“Oh this? No idea.”
Chapter 8: 8
April 10, 2033
San Angeles (2:05pm)
Faith was surprised that they released her after all the work and attention they accomplished on her the morning prior. When they went in to check on her incisions, they were beyond stunned that there were no signs of any injuries or scars. Embedded in the dead scab material, stuck to the bandages, was every staple they used to close her up. After an hour of doctors and surgeons coming by and examining the wounds, they finally agreed to send her home without pain medications or an in-home nurse to visit. Feeling a little stiff from the wounds, she imagines taking it a little easy this week, was on the top of her agenda. Willow snuck away from Kayla just long enough to pick up Faith, and explained the baby’s extensive schedule of feedings and naps. Faith expertly hid her elation for playing the toddler’s parent, fearing that most people would give her too much attention for momentary call to motherhood.
Faith had no training or experience in this avenue; she couldn’t very well use her slayers skills or Kayla’s extensive combat training to solve any dilemmas the baby presented. She had mentally put off the planning stages of this motherhood, choosing to wing it versus plan anything out. As they pull into the parking lot of her apartment, Faith’s heart races as they get closer. Every step towards her apartment compounded the anxiety welling in her chest. Stepping through doorway, she’s immediately taken back by cleanliness of their apartment. It’s not like Kayla let the house get dirty or untidy, but the degree to which it seemed clean amazed her. The unspecific nature of the cleanliness amazed her. Tara, sitting on the couch, smiles warmly seeing the pair approach. She motions to stay quiet, and speaks in a light whisper.
“They just fell asleep. Here’s a schedule they’ve been following today. Every day it changes a little bit, but it’s been fairly consistent. Kayla has her normal appetite, but Katya is quite demanding. Kayla has only been able to pump twice, but she hopes that Katya will be satiated better in the next few weeks. If you have any questions or need help don’t hesitate to call.”
She hugs Faith as she leaves, whispers ‘congratulations,’ and takes Willow’s hand as they walk out the door.
Faith jumps into the shower as the pair sleep in her bed. Washing away the antiseptic and the clumps of peeling scar tissue, the soreness reminds her of her wounds and how close to death she came. Exiting, she dons a sports bra with matching shorts and slides into bed to watch her two girls sleep. Letting time drift into obscurity, she lays quietly absorbing every moment, sound, and smell. She could never imagine a “newborn” smell, but here she was soaking up every aspect. At that moment she imagined that so few slayers ever have this moment in their lives, and realized she was truly lucky. Kayla would tell her that she was blessed, but that would imply she had some religious bone in her body. Her proximity to the materialistic world didn’t allow her to equate a belief in the divine. Kayla scolded her too often for disbelieving in a divine creator and it was something Faith couldn’t readily accept.
Faith kept finding herself drawn into theological discussions around Kayla. Even when confronted with the good/evil dilemma, Faith couldn’t admit that there was a powerful force of good, when it was apparent that there were powerful singular forces of evil. Kayla had heard someone say that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing man he didn’t exist. This meant if people didn’t believe he existed, they were far less likely to believe that God exists. She didn’t want to dwell on the issue for only one reason alone. It meant she would have to confront her crimes in the future once again, and that fear kept her from siding with Kayla. Kayla tried to comfort her, but this thought burned at her soul.
As Faith dwells on her past, Katya begins to stir and searches out for Kayla. Faith gently unbuttons the covering on her left breast and positions Kayla so she could feed. As Faith rubs Katya’s back, Kayla’s eyes flutter open and smiles warmly at Faith.
“How long have you been here?”
Faith can’t contain her content and inner joy radiating from her eyes.
“Long enough. It seems my slayer healing kicked in. Thanks to their surgical work, it just finished up the rest. I’m still sore though. I’ll take it easy for a few days, promise.”
Kayla smiles, punches Faith’s shoulder with her finger and Faith grimaces. Though she didn’t hit any of the areas where faith had been wounded, Kayla’s strength was equal if not greater than hers.
“I’ll remember you said that when you go out patrolling. Speaking of patrolling, in a couple of weeks Katya should be okay taking the bottle, and maybe we can do some patrolling together.”
Faith, genuinely surprised, smiles at the prospect.
“Two of us walking the streets? What will evil do? They’ll go nuts out there! Might even leave town. Kind of like that idea.”
Kayla reaches out and rubs Faith’s arm.
“And that’s why I love you.”
As Katya gets her fill, she drifts back into a nap and Kayla lays her in Faith’s arms to sleep. The momentary panic then bliss washes across Faith visage, and Kayla fights from laughing. Faith carries her into the living room and she sits on the couch as the newborn sleeps in her arms. Kayla gets her shower done, and sits down next to Faith, who sits with an unusual expression of fear, happiness and bliss all in one holding Katya.
Faith perks up seeing Kayla, remembering a short conversation from before she left the hospital.
“Oh! Chief Earle extended his personal congratulations on our little girl’s birth, and Lenina wound up doing the leave paperwork for me. So now I have a week off for recovery and three weeks of paid post birth leave. Basically I only need to worry about you two for the next month.”
Kayla smiles and seems to record the thought.
“I’ll add them to my thank you list. Did you know some weird stuff went down that night of Katya’s birth? Aside from our hasty marriage, Katya’s early and fully developed birth, and your fight with the Skin-Walker, that Doctor Jeffery was attacked and knocked unconscious. Whoever did it tossed her in the dirty clothes bin and locked her in the utility room. Maintenance found her later the next morning when the staff couldn’t get in. They had to cut the lock off to get her out, and it took them all afternoon to do it. She says she never saw who did it, and they just smashed her phone and took her keys. They found them in her office. Weird huh?”
Faith nods, not knowing how to rationalize or explain the event. Kayla continues after a long pause.
“Did you ever figure out why it was in the hospital? The Skin-Walker. Did he give you any clues?”
Faith shakes her head. “Nah. It was on its way to the sixth floor, and I stopped him on the third.”
Kayla nods, and her eyes brightens as she remembers her visit to Faith’s room.
“OH! You were on the sixth floor.”
Faith looks at her in surprise.
“Really? I honestly don’t remember.”
Kayla thinks hard and nods.
“You were only a couple of rooms down from the old man…I bet he was there about the same time your Skin-Walker was going into the hospital!”
Standing, Faith carries Katya around the room with her as she scoops up her police phone and ties it with the Fiber-Op system in their apartment. In minutes, Officer Lenina Huxley fills the view screen listening to Faith’s story and theory after spending the first minute admiring Katya in Faith’s arms. Lenina nods in agreement, seeing the possible connection and the attacker’s probable destination. Saying she and Officer Spartan will take over the case while she recovers and returns to duty, she also accepts Kayla’s advice to brief medical staff that the wounds from the killer must be thoroughly cleaned in order to get them to heal right.
With the rush of emotion and exhilaration fading, Faith bids them good day and ends the call. As the pair settle down on the couch, Katya reawakens and they enter into a routine of care and attention for the three of them. With Faith’s improved cooking skills, they have little worry of starvation or food poisoning.
Faith awakens to the incessant ringing of a cell phone parked on her dresser. The silver and black model whose mate was given to the half-demon Gomik, screams for attention and wakens Faith at just an hour past 4 in the morning. Jumping up, she immediately silences it and takes the phone to the other room to answer. Twenty minutes later, she is striding into the Cat Market and sees three huge bruisers waiting for her. Not long ago, if they had given her that stare, it would have resulted in a bashing of heads against tables. They nod at her, and lead her silently to an elaborately constructed building, which once served as a bank before the big one. Almost immediately Faith recognizes the distinctive reworking and construction of reinforced walls and bars. Gomik stands from his desk off the side of the main entrance, and greets Faith with a strangely warm smile.
“Slayer! It’s a pleasure to see you! Come in!”
After exchanging handshakes, he proudly presents his new central office for her review. Faith can’t contain her awe.
“Damn Gomik! I’m impressed! You all did this? This is fucking fantastic!”
Nodding in appreciation he subtly motions for the bruisers who escorted her in, to line up alongside a dozen other demons. Ranging in size from Kayla’s height to almost eight feet tall, the demons seem to take pride in their numbers and jobs. Gomik points out a silver amulet each of them display on their chests.
“I had a silver smith design and make four dozen of these badges. We only have the first fifteen done, but they are wearing them pretty well. I handpicked these guys. I had to be certain they would be open for the job, and not abuse their authority. Crime amongst us has dropped considerably. Theft is down seriously, as are violent crimes…violent for us demons at least.”
A low chuckle roars through the ranks and Faith sees the humor as well. Faith contains her laughter so she can reply.
“You’ve exceeded what I thought you could accomplish in such a short of time, Gomik. This is truly awesome work, I’m proud of you and your people. It took weeks for them to pull their heads out of their asses upstairs. You did it, and more. This is cool!”
Gomik smiles and dismisses the line of demons and motions for Faith to follow him further into the jail.
“This isn’t the real reason I called you. Well, yah, I wanted to brag and show off a bit, but I have a guy in lock up who ran into your Skin-Walker.”
Confused, Faith looks at him.
“You locked him up?”
Nodding, Gomik explains.
“I locked him up for his own safety. He and the SW got into a financial disagreement, and the SW nearly killed him after he healed him up. I’m working on getting a true-sight spell erected on the entrance, so it will show him for who he truly is, in case he tries to come in here. Fortunately, he was immune to the SW’s anti-coagulation magic, but he still got cut up really bad. He said he had to deliver a message to you from him. I told him if it was some sorry-ass scare warning, I’d finish what the SW started, and he assured me it wasn’t. He’s a Triblon. Fantastic healers and nullifiers of curses, but their touch can also suck the life from a victim, so I suggest talking to him from a distance.”
Nodding Faith, gets about ten feet from the steel bars of the cell and waits. She is surprised that he doesn’t look worse. With blood-soaked rags covering him, he rouses when Gomik kicks the bars.
“Slayer? Yes, of course it is. The Skin-Walker tricked me into healing him through false payment, and for that he is cursed by all my people. We are the only ones who can heal him fast; no other has that ability aside from magic spells. You hurt him critically…he was near death. I know I have to tell you that, as he violated my trust and the trust of my people. He wanted me tell you that the next time you fight him, it will be personal…he has added you to his list, whatever that means.”
Gomik steers Faith away and whispers his personal insights.
“The Skin-Walkers are contract killers. They don’t kill for pleasure or to feed. The only reason this guy is stalking humans, is because he’s been paid to by his people. You find out why they want those people dead, you’ll be on the fast track to stopping your problems upstairs.”
With little fanfare, she thanks Gomik and meanders back to her apartment to make breakfast.
Chapter 9: 9
April 11, 2033
San Angeles (8:15am)
The smell of faux bacon rouses Kayla out of her bed. Scooping Katya into her arms, she deposits her in the rarely used cradle. After a quick stop in the bathroom, she slips on a robe and finds Faith working on breakfast in the kitchen. Impressed, she quietly comes up behind Faith and wraps her arms around her wife’s waist. Leaning her head on Faith’s back, Kayla purrs relishing for the simple closeness they exchange. Faith quickly breaks the hug to rescue the eggs from the stove and sets them off the heat. The crying from the bedroom makes Kayla head briskly to gather up Katya and Faith pauses as she contemplates how not a single word had resonated off the walls and it wasn’t a horrible thing. Faith snaps out of her daze in time to plate breakfast and set the table before Kayla returns with Katya hidden under her sleep shirt.
Faith waits for Kayla to sit and she is driven to gently push the chair up to the table keeping Katya content and comfortable. Setting Kayla’s plate in front of her, she sits to their right and waits for Kayla to begin before she picks up her fork. Kayla thanks her and sighs dramatically.
“It’s okay to talk. It’s the only way she’ll get used to noise. Do you want her waking up every time a mouse farts, or you stake a vamp?”
Laughing Faith chuckles out in response.
“A ‘mouse fart?’ Where did you hear that one?”
Kayla rolls her eyes.
“You get what I mean, right? She has to get used to noise and bumps in the night. If not, we’ll never get a single night’s rest.”
Changing the subject, Faith simply shakes her head before continuing.
“So, do you think she’ll continue to grow like she did inside of you?”
Kayla can only shrug.
“It’s anyone’s guess right now. This has never happened before, and I doubt it will ever happen again. I have given the go for Tara to chronicle everything that’s happened so far; minus names, of course. You never know when someone might need to know what happened here in a thousand years or so. So far Katya is growing normal now that she’s out of me, but there’s no telling. Have you looked into the old man who was attacked?”
Faith nods her head and leaves the table, only to return with a file folder. With a hand-scribbled name on the top, Kayla notices the name ‘Duck’ and represses a chuckle.
“There’s zilch on this guy, but his son…well there’s a story there. He’s survived the Cocteau administration, and was picked up by the Friendly administration. Apparently he’s an ‘astute’ manager and analyst. That’s the word everyone uses to describe him…whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
Shaking her head, Kayla finishes her breakfast as Katya finishes up underneath her shirt.
“What exactly does he do?”
“He’s in the city finance department. They’ve been under the microscope a lot lately. Cocteau was doing a lot of under-handed shit that we’re only uncovering just now. It seems he was giving a lot of bribes to defense contractors to give him exclusive access to the city’s computer network, and only now are we discovering he was dirty as they come. I’m forwarding Lena my notes this morning. I do my best brainstorming while I’m waiting for vamps to rise. This is crazy! I’m thinking like a cop, and I think I love it!”
As Kayla recovers from her hysterical laughter, she lovingly cuddles Katya and goes to the couch.
“Girl, you’re just refocused, no different than you were before. You’re intense and just can’t let stuff go now that you’ve had a serious infusion of success. Now as much as I love how you cradle us when I’m feeding her in bed, I’m stockpiling my milk now and I want you to start feeding Katya. She’ll really bond to you; and who knows, maybe we can start patrolling together in a few weeks.”
Faith pulls herself out of the conversation to imagine Kayla fighting side by side with her against demons and vampires. Shaking her head in disbelief, she returns her attention to Kayla who is lost in her head. Blinking her eyes, she searches out Faith and speaks.
“You need to look at this accountant or whatever he is. I think his grandfather was just a warning. I bet if you all grill him over, he’ll sing like a canary. This skin walker isn’t local, and I bet some heavy-hitter from out of town hired him. It’s what I would have done, at least.”
Faith grins as she slides up to Kayla.
“Wow, look at my girl thinking like one of the enemies.”
Kayla rolls her shoulder in a shrug; and in a bland expression continues.
“Skin Walkers are contract killers for the most part, it seems. Yah, there could be freelancers out there, but from everything we’ve seen, it sounds like he’s trying to fulfill a contract. Didn’t you say next time it would ‘be personal.’ I’m willing to bet money that someone wants to keep Mr. Mallard in line.”
Faith twists her mouth.
“I didn’t see it that way. I’ll make sure I include that to Lenina.”
Nodding, Kayla plays with Katya in her arms as she speaks.
“So how’s my class coming along without me? I want to get back to it as soon as the doctor gives me the okay.”
Faith scoops her data pad out from her backpack and hands it over.
“I’ve been keeping track of everyone. Some are coming along better than others, but Alicia is doing an awesome job leading the jujitsu group. Oh! John is doing great in the jujitsu class, though he doesn’t want to admit it. We got 60 officers in two classes, and the chief is more than pleased with what you have started. Cops are reporting that they are more confident in responding to fights and disturbances; and injuries involving officers is down 28%. The chief made sure I got his quarterly report to the Mayor, and it mentioned your name specifically.”
With a firm smile, Kayla notices Katya drifting into sleep, and lays her in Faith’s arms.
“Alicia learned Jujitsu very fast while we were on the road. She’ll get them through the first three degrees, but then will need help. By the way, I got an email from a law firm which used to handle my case way back. They are going to meet the mayor when he goes to the capitol. They are going to petition for full pardon or dismissal of my conviction. In the time I was out, they amassed enough witnesses and evidence to get a federal judge to overturn the prior conviction, and order a new trial, especially since I survived the destruction of the cryo-facility. The Feds turned it over to the state to decide if they want to do a retrial or pardon. They are hoping with the Mayor’s and Chief Erwin’s testimony, they will be more likely to do a full clemency versus pardon.”
Faith just stares at her, unsure how to respond. Smiling Kayla continues.
“It means that they are going to say the conviction never occurred versus just forgiving me for committing the crime. The latter wouldn’t clear my name, while a clemency would. It’s very important to me. I heard that because you were a minor at the time of your crime, they might pardon you and thereby wipe your felony conviction from your record. This will green-light your full membership as a cop, or whatever you call it.”
With better understanding, Faith nods.
“I get it. Do I need to know how you heard all this?”
Kayla shakes her head no.
“Probably not. My little helper out there is in everyone’s business. All it usually takes is the mentioning of my name, and it will zero in. You know how some witches and warlocks use small servants called imps?”
Kayla rolls her eyes seeing Faith aimlessly staring at her, and chuckles before continuing.
“Well, they do, and I use something similar. It’s…complicated.”
Faith reaches out and strokes Kayla’s nearby leg.
“When isn’t it ‘complicated’ with you?”
Chuckling, Faith leans back in the couch trying to make sense of the past year, and drifts into a light slumber with Katya napping in her arm.
Faith settles back into her couch cradling Katya as she drinks out of a bottle, while on the video screen Lenina and John pace around the nervous Mr. Mallard, unsure as to the reason he’s been summoned. Though she was technically on leave, she’d arranged to sit in on the questioning; and with the headset, she could listen in and interact without disturbing Katya or Kayla sleeping in the bedroom. With the passing around of the standard questions about work and findings, Faith could see the obvious frustration building. Mr. Mallard, tight-lipped and patient, was far too calm and collected for Faith, and she was thankful she wasn’t in that room. Calmly answering each of their questions without breaking a sweat, Faith gives up remaining silent and keys her mic to Lenina.
“Ask him if he loves his father? If he doesn’t talk, we won’t be able to protect him from this killer!”
Faith bites her tongue as Katya becomes agitated by Faith’s tone. Lenina flashes an annoyed glare at the camera and turns to the accountant.
“It’s apparent that they have targeted your father. And unless you help us understand why, I guess we’ll have to pull our officers at the hospital. Right Officer Spartan?”
John rolls his eyes at the camera and grins. He turns back to Mr. Mallard wearing his stone cold face.
“You’re absolutely correct Officer Huxley.”
John pulls out his data pad and acts like he’s sending a message to the hospital officers.
As they hoped, ‘Mr. Duck’ finally began to quack to the right tune. Pleading to them, Lenina and John sit down across from him and take notes as he spends the remainder of the day explaining the extraneous illegal activity of the late Dr. Cocteau. Hidden in years of secret accounting logs, the pair realized that their day had only just begun.
Chapter 10: 10
April 15, 2033
San Angeles (2:15pm)
Pushing the stroller into the gymnasium, Faith strides in alongside Kayla toting her baby/diaper bag over her shoulder. Faith, lugging the portable changing station the department bought for them, sets it up off the side of the platform Kayla would be standing upon during the practice sessions. In half an hour, Alicia is finished spreading out all the exercise mats with a number of other officers and everyone is sitting on the floor stretching. After an hour of stretching and going over what they have learned so far, Kayla breaks them up into pairs and have them spar until they have to leave. Faith, concentrating on the recent enlistees to the class with Alicia, spits her time between walking the rows of students while pushing Katya around in her stroller. As she corrects the sloppy form of a pair of recent academy graduates, she glances over to see Kayla spending all her time teaching the advanced students additional techniques.
Kayla demonstrates a complicated disarming move against an armed combatant, and she can see John and several others unimpressed. She breaks them up and goes through the group to see who’s far more advanced than she first believed. Setting them up to spar, she sees John progressed far beyond she first thought, incorporating his special forces training into what she had taught him. Watching him easily defeat Gregory and Helena simultaneously, Kayla stops them as they jump back up to reengage with him. Tossing aside her towel, she closes with him, and he seems reluctant to fight his instructor; Kayla breaks that barrier after she easily breaks a nearly unbreakable hold he had on her. As he executes precise moves as he was taught, he can’t hide his surprise as Kayla effortlessly shifts her weight avoiding each attack as if he intended to miss. When she repeats this pattern, she notes his building fury and finally chooses to connect as he lunges for an elbow strike. The speed which she spun around was beyond his comprehension and sent him face first onto the mats. Behind Helena, Lenina whispers into her ear.
“I’ve only seen that in the movies.”
John spends a minute lying there before he pushes himself up and to his feet to bow politely. Kayla returns the gesture and addresses the students.
“Size means nothing when you lose patience. His brutal strength should have meant he would wipe me across the floor twice. Sometimes you must have the greater resolve to wear down your foe, especially when they can out punch you blow for blow. I could have tried to out hit him, but I wanted to show you how patience was my greatest tool in his defeat. I knew I could avoid him just long enough to make him do what I wanted him to do. You will discover most of your brawls on the beat will resemble this exercise, except your opponent won’t have the amount of training as John did. John, you did an awesome job at keeping your temper in check, and all I was waiting for was for you to slip up just once, momentarily. Remember, this is not just a physical battle, your mind and spirit are also in the battle, and you must keep them in line at all times. Most fights are just one or two successful blows executed at the precise opportune moment. Right John?”
Grudgingly, John Spartan shakes his head in approval.
“Yah. The right punch here, the smashing of their heads into the wall there, but two or three is normal. Overall that’s about right.”
Kayla smiles and slaps his shoulder making sure they have no lingering emotions.
“In the class here, we are above the typical barroom brawler, thus we have to use more moves to defeat one another. This exercise demonstrates that I was clearly out classed, and these are the tactics I chose to use to defeat him. Another individual, I might choose to feign great weakness or inferiority just to get him into a vulnerable or compromising situation. You’ll learn this by raw experience, I can’t teach all of that. What I am training you for, is how to deal with it when you are thrust into brawl or aggressive situation. I’m giving you the training to react without thinking about reacting. This will hopefully keep you alive or conscious long enough to have your head assess the situation and determine your best course of action. Dodging and avoiding blows may not seem as effective as a straight forward attack, but it will keep you up and on your feet long enough to decide if you should call for back up, engage the foe, or simply bring the fight into a safer area free of innocents and sharp objects.”
A low chuckle carries through the group from Kayla’s emphasis of her last words. After getting them back into sparring, Kayla sneaks away to get Katya while Faith is engrossed with the newest trainees. Taking out a bottle from the bag, she picks her up and carries around the room while she reviews the seniors. Yelling corrections as she paces the floor, she almost jumps when Faith comes behind her to relive her of Katya. As the second shifters rush out to shower before starting their shift, Kayla makes sure she thanks each one for coming. As the first and third shift officers finish up, Kayla spends nearly an hour chit-chatting like old times. Katya turns out to be the life of the conversations, but Kayla takes it all in stride. As the last of the gear is stowed in the storage room, Faith has everything loaded into the van by the time John and Lenina meet up to discuss the investigation of Mr. Mallard. With Kayla sitting on a bleacher surrounded by various senior students, Faith quickly gets an update. John steps up before Lenina can speak.
“His story checks out. We had our accountants dive into his books, and verified the illegal crap Cocteau was doing. They’re trying to uncover who his outside contacts were, but I think it was the mob.”
Lenina nods and steps in.
“We of course have no evidence to support that theory, but it sounds reasonable after all we’ve learned of our dear departed patriarch.”
Faith fights from laughing in her face.
“Okay. So we have a mob directed hit on Mr. Mallard’s father to keep him quiet. How long is it until this…” Faith fights blurting out ‘skin-walker,’ and scrambles to find the best word in her inventory. “…assassin, decides to silence our only witness who’s singing like Elton John?”
John smirks loudly while the joke flies over Lenina’s head with meters of clearance.
“And that’s exactly what I told Chief. He doesn’t see it happening with him locked up in jail.”
Shaking her head, Faith sees this only going from bad to worse. In a whisper, she draws her partners in.
“How about I tell you this guy is a master impersonator. There’s no one he can’t look like and resemble including you, Lenia or me. The only flaw he has is B.O. He has a serious odor problem and it’s the only thing we got on him. It was disgusting, and you can’t miss it. Worse yet, he has some hand weapons which are coated with some kind of anti-coagulant. I think they are implants in his hands, so even though he might not look like he’s holding a weapon, he’s lethal.”
Lenina is flabbergasted and shakes her head.
“This is your same un-sub.”
John fights laughing and rubs the bridge of his nose.
“She’s been hitting the vintage TV shows…Criminal Minds I think she said.”
Faith shakes her head.
“Still no idea what that is, either before or after my time. Anyways, our killer can look like anyone he wants and we need some sort of way to know who’s real and not.”
Lenina is the first to speak up.
“Well, we can enforce scanning all IDs against their code-fix, and issue body armor to our people in sensitive areas. This way he won’t be able to cut them in critical areas of their bodies, and we might be able to incapacitate him.”
Impressed, John shakes his head.
“Not too bad Officer Huxley.”
John turns to Faith and continues.
“Don’t suppose you want to reveal to us how you know all this about our assassin? I mean, I get the B.O. but him being excellent at disguises?”
Faith rolls her eyes smiles nervously.
“Like any good cop, I have my private sources?”
Skeptically, John nods and excuses himself. After he leaves the gym, Faith turns to Lenina who’s stretching on a mat next to her.
“So how’s it working with Officer Spartan again? I mean after you two chilled out last year, how are things like working together again?”
Lenina shrugs dispassionately.
“Well…he’s seeing Maria in dispatch…he likes the large naturally endowed type. Anyways, we’re amicable and I kind of missed the energy we had. We may not be intimate anymore, but we definitely have that creative spark still.”
Faith stays quiet as Kayla sneaks up behind and places her hands on Lenina’s shoulders.
“Well, you can always join the all-girl team. I think I heard once I can get a free toaster oven with each new girl I bring over. I have plenty of testimonials, and you have all the prerequisites.”
With a heavy sigh, Lenina rolls her eyes and gets on her knees.
“I don’t think I’m ready to “switch” teams just yet, thank you. I have a few prospects still, so the well hasn’t dried up just yet.”
Laughing, Kayla helps Lenina up.
“Okay, but don’t wait until the last second. I know a few healthy and vivacious choices around town that could be snagged up if you wait too long, like Lieutenant Madeline Sparrow from the Air Patrol division? She’s a gorgeously tall blonde, great attributes, and a really great sense of humor. She’s in my class.”
Patting Kayla on her shoulder, she reassures her.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kayla couldn’t believe she was sitting at her favorite tea house, away from Katya. With Willow and Tara hawking over her protectively, she had no worries for Katya’s safety. Originally a fire-station, the technological improvements made the area of coverage for the department practically double in the past decade. With the need for fire response units dramatically cut, a shrewd entrepreneur bought the building and established the first tea house in the city: Taco Bell’s House of Tea. Every time the name rolled off her tongue, she had to fight from laughing hysterically. For two days now, she’d been able to afford a quiet moment of peace and reflection while Faith ran around town investigating the location of their murderous skin-walker. As she finished her cup, the hair on the back of her neck stiffened and a shiver of ice rolled down her back. As suddenly as it began, a loud woman loses her balance bumps into Kayla from behind. Kayla, in a blink of an eye, leaves her chair and prepares to engage the powerful demon who was complaining to the staff that she didn’t have to pay her tab. As if she were blinded by a thousand suns, she quickly pushes away from Kayla in horror to get her bearings. Wearing a slinky red and black dress, the golden-haired woman seems to have lost all her confidence seeing Kayla and stammers out her apologies. Unimpressed, Kayla slowly approaches her, and the blonde sees no escape without passing Kayla. Pressing her advantage, Kayla hisses out at her.
“Is there a problem Miss Glori…”
The woman interjects before Kayla can finish.
“It’s just Glory now. No! No, there’s no problem. I was just about to have my servant…I mean my aide come pay my bill.”
With an angry and desperate glare, she beckons a small man to step forward and pay the bill using the newly instituted cash system. Unable to comprehend her submissive stance, he obeys without question, and Glory seems to wait to be released by Kayla’s glare. When the tab is paid, Kayla simply nods and stops Glory as she passes. In a very low whisper she seethes at the tall imposing blonde.
“Demi-god or not, play nice. Everyone remains civil here. Don’t go the way Baal went.”
Nodding, Glory starts to leave, and Kayla grabs her upper arm and squeezes. Glory cringes in pain, and stops. Kayla speaks softly to her.
“I didn’t hear you.”
Immediately she blurts out.
“Yes! Yes, I heard you. I’ll follow the code.”
Releasing her arm, she lets the blonde slink away in a panic and sits back down to enjoy her tea. Passing Faith on her way from the table, she keeps walking and Kayla watches her catch a taxi. As Faith sits down, she can’t simply let what just happened go. As she asks, Kayla says only a few words and drops the topic.
“Sweetie, she’s someone you must never cross or get in her way. Promise me!”
In shock Faith nods.
“No problem. You got it! Why though?”
After taking two good sips from her cup she takes a deep breath and releases it.
“Faith, there are some things in the universe you’ll always struggle to defeat; and then there are a few beings like her which you have virtually no hope in ever defeating. She’s a special kind of evil; and despite all your strength and ingenuity, its best to turn the other cheek and walk away.”
Silence descends on the pair as she finishes her tea and they return to their apartment together with Kayla leaning on her shoulder.
Chapter 11: 11
April 16, 2033
San Angeles (8:35pm)
Doting nervously over Katya, Kayla does her fourth check on the baby bag for Willow and Tara despite Faith’s continuous objections. As she begins to inventory the bag for the fifth time, Faith pulls her up and away from the bag scolding her.
“It’s fine! Let’s go! The demon counsel won’t wait all night for us.”
With a deeply stressed sigh, Kayla let’s Faith steer her towards the door carrying Katya. After a brief walk, they arrive at Willow and Tara’s abode and unload the three bags of baby supplies. Entering Kayla tries to hide her reluctance to leave Katya with her sitters. With sweaty palms and beads forming across her brow, she reluctantly sets her in the crib in the bedroom. Behind her, she hears Alicia and Lacey enter, setting their belongings down, and join Kayla. As they hover over the newborn, Kayla knows her baby is in good hands. Refusing to speak, she excuses herself as Faith gives them a written schedule of feeding times and many erroneous particulars. Sitting on the couch, Kayla nervously tries to dismiss her anxiety and get into right mindset for the task down below.
With her head racing, Kayla is torn away from her thoughts with the bedroom door suddenly opening. Striding out carrying bright red robes on their arms, Willow and Tara set down their bags and robes. Placing the robes in the bags, they motion towards their wrists and walk towards the door. Almost immediately Faith appears at her feet, and Kayla resigns to leaving. Standing, she lets them lead her out and after half an hour walking the streets, they arrive at a nearby entrance to the lower city. Donning her long white robe, Kayla looks it over once, before leaping effortlessly down the open hole. Shaking their heads in annoyance, Tara and Willow take out their robes from the bags and stash the empties in a nearby bush. Shrugging, Faith laughs. As she turns to follow Kayla, a brown-robed man appears with two lesser monks following in his wake. After exchanging simple pleasantries with Willow and Tara, they look down into the open manhole. Faith wastes no more time joining Kayla and glides down the ladder. Taking their time climbing down, they find Faith and Kayla pacing around investigating the length of the tunnel. As Willow helps Tara down the last few rungs, the sound of heavy boots grab their attention, and they move quickly to intercept it. Though Faith is standing defiantly in the path, Tara shifts her to the left to let her greet the four bulky demons. Wearing boots weighing nearly twenty pounds apiece, they seem unencumbered by the metal footwear. Faith mumbles they are okay to Tara upon seeing their silver badges, and steps forward to greet them with an open hand.
“Gomik! It’s great to see you!”
Shaking his hand, along with his deputies, Faith introduces them to Tara and Willow, the three priests, and simply refers to Kayla as “Bukata” or “Anointed One.” Surprisingly, the demon officers bow dramatically to Kayla in respect and turn to escort them to the counsel hall. Walking briskly with Tara and Willow bringing up the rear behind Kayla, they spend another ten minutes walking through the lower city tunnels until exiting into the cat market. Faith has to hide her amazement when she sees hundreds of demons lined up along every wall to pay respect for the Child of Light. Though she imagines most just want to observe their version of the boogeyman, wondering if she really exists, Faith protectively eyes the crowd for any signs of trouble. With Tara and Willow more concerned with procedures and appearance, Faith wishes she could have more officers surrounding them as protection, but understands anymore might seem like weakness or fear to the surrounding demons.
Directed into the assembly hall, Faith finds the “Pentacallus” or the Counsel of Five standing as they enter. As the massive doors swing closed, Faith notices only Gomik remains inside with his officers standing guard outside. With the five taking their seats at the farthest end of the round room, Willow, Tara, and the three priests sit down facing the demons. Gomik takes his place behind the counsel, while Faith and Kayla takes seats at the extreme left and right, between the two arbitrating sides facing each other. As silence blankets the room, Kayla clears her throat and begins.
“In the year 1750, the demon counsel of Fen, and a committee of 135 separate human representatives came together in Brussels and established the longest peace accord between the demon realm and the human realm. For 189 years, this peaceful coexistence was maintained and enforced by both sides against various zealot elements from their respective realms. Aside from these wildcards, the peace stood as a standard which has yet been equaled. Tonight we do not have hundreds of different borders, governments, and religions to negotiate with. Instead, we have 10 respectable and powerful leaders who wish to create a standard which our brethren surrounding us might take notice with envy and awe. My purpose tonight is not to force or coerce any side into compliance. What you decide tonight must be done out of freewill and understanding so that enforcement is done willingly, not due to contract obligations. What you establish now will set precedence for future generations to abide by, not just those in the here and now. From my understanding, you have exchanged numerous proposals, and you believe you have finalized the accord. So, let’s hear the final version, vote on it, and sign your names to it.”
As the demonic speaker begins, Kayla takes notes through ought the reading, marking various sections for revision. Faith never imagined the process could be so mind-numbingly boring. The first two hours, devoted to simply reading the accord, was quickly replaced with fine-tuning the articulation of each point, and removing doubt from the wording. When they eventually addressed the law enforcement portion, Faith finally felt valued as both the demon counsel and priests actually pinged her with questions and her opinions. The best news from the conversation was the creation of a human enforcement division, capable of keeping the peace topside when Faith or another slayer was not present. Kayla lets the discussion continue until a sudden lull appears.
“In the past, the catholic church maintained an elite force of warriors and priests to counter significant demon and human zealot activity in the human realm. After World War 2, it was disbanded, but I’m sure this would be grounds to reactivate the unit.”
The eldest priest nods his head in agreement.
“I feel that is best as well. I will brief that to the pope when I see him next week. They may have similar units active already, and we will simply have them tasked to create one locally and such. It’s all within acceptable parameters of the accord.”
Content with his answer, Kayla sits back lets the negotiations continue unabated and tweaks the wording of obscure sections as they present themselves. As dawn looms closer, Kayla and Faith direct the signing of the individual sections by each representative. Mostly symbolic, the agreement that the wording was fair and acceptable to both sides was essential prior to the final version of the accord. After each of the 46 sections is signed, Kayla has Faith take digital pictures of the documents. With it complete and dawn looming on the horizon, Gomik goes to the doors and lets a small servant enter. Going to the center of the room, he bows ritualistically to all parties and waits to be addressed. Toma, the demon prince of High Town, speaks with his powerfully booming voice.
“You are charged with the writing of the accord with all the points included, leaving not one word out. When you finish, we will meet again, read it out, and make the accord official.”
A thundering gong rings in the cat market, signaling the end of the negotiations. Wearily, both sides exit and go their separate ways. Leading the human delegation back, Faith walks with Gomik and his deputies. Chatting about the crimes and disturbances on both sides, they agree that they have to meet more often than once a week to discuss current events. Finally as they reach the manhole, they decide on the cell phone was the best method to date. After shaking hands, the first priest exits the lower realm and the remaining men patiently wait their turn at the bottom.
As the second monk climbs, a man’s horrid scream breaks the atmosphere of the evening’s success. As the second monk is grabbed and effortlessly pulled out up and out of the tunnel, Kayla is the first to shove the last monk clear and shoves the rest out of way. As she tenses up she screams at Faith.
“Follow the plan! Tara, follow me!”
As Faith fights the instinct to follow her wife up the ladder, Willow grabs her arm and pulls her towards the preplanned escape route. With Gomik leading the way Willow wrangles the remaining priest along the twisting path. After three minutes, they suddenly stop as they are deposited in the remains of a fire station, empties long ago, it was suddenly filled with dozens of demons armed with makeshift weapons. As Faith’s temper begins to boil over against all demons, Gomik surprises her.
“Brother! What’s this about?”
A demon closely resembling Gomik shoves another bruiser aside to speak.
“You’re going to take your officers and walkaway little brother.”
Faith cannot miss the anger flashing across his face.
“I can’t do that bro. I gave my word nothing would happen to them while they are here.”
With a snarl he steps closer.
“I don’t give a fuck! You are little brother, and you will obey!”
Shaking his head Gromik subtly places his hand on his sword.
“Afraid not big brother…not this time. Not anymore. We want change and the old ways are out.”
As he stalks closer, he unsheathes his sword, a wide front heavy blade.
“Last chance. I won’t hesitate taking you down! I still got eight more brothers once you’re gone.”
Gomik shakes his head in disbelief.
“This is your last chance. Walkaway big brother and take your goons with you.”
It surprises no one as Gomik’s brother screams obscenities as he strikes. Faith slams two demons against each other hoping to overwhelm her, and Willow vaporizes three vampires with one of her globes. As she ducks a club designed to behead her, she magically rams a large cement block into the gut of her attacker followed by it rising abruptly knocking him out cold. Holding the block in the air, she eyes three demons charging the helpless priest and launches it. The first demon never saw it coming and his head cracked noticeably when it hit, while the one took the block into their chest and the other tripped on it as it fell to the floor. Taking the initiative, the only free demon cop scoops the priest up in his arm and bolts towards the exit, knocking clear numerous demons like a monstrous footballer. After he disappears down the hall, Willow turns to helping the team by hurling massive blocks at the demons while Faith and the remaining officers try to keep anyone from getting too close to her. And just as quickly as it began an eerie lull descends upon them. Gomik, bleeding profusely, lays his brother’s head to the ground. Having captured his dying breath in his ear, he respectfully covers the body and checks if any of his officers are still alive. Taking the badges off their bodies, he pockets them and staunches his blood loss.
Faith hobbles over to Willow who’s sporting a fresh purple patch on the left side of her face and bloody robes; overall, she seemed far better off than most in the room. After checking the bodies, Gomik points out the missing officer and priest, reminding Willow of their early escape. Scraping up their remaining strength, they continue down the path. After fifteen minutes, they exit the sewers to find Gomik’s surviving officer sitting next to the priest on a park bench sharing a six-pack of home brew. Both looking like they’ve been rolled over a few times, they wave towards them and reluctantly stand. The priest, thoroughly inebriated, warmly grabs the shoulder of the officer as he speaks.
“This man…err guy…is fantastic! He personally put down three of them while carrying me.”
Shaking their heads, they escort him to a police station. After a quick call, a police van gets him to his hotel and they are on the radio to discover the fate of Tara and Kayla. Holding Faith back from racing to the original exit point, Willow calls Lacey and confirms her suspicions. Saying farewell to Gomik, they get a lift to the hospital and are given Tara and Kayla’s room numbers.
Chapter 12: 12
April 17, 2033
San Angeles (05:15am)
As the second priest disappears up the ladder, pulled by a gargantuan hand, Kayla screams to follow the predetermined plan and leaps up and out of the manhole in one jump. Tara curses Kayla’s athleticism and begins to quickly climb up the rungs. Barely poking her nose out, she sees Kayla scrapping it out between a mammoth hairy troll and a clawed man. Dodging the lethal claws and the troll’s massive swinging hammer, she draws them further away from the downed and bleeding priests letting Tara sneak to their sides. Reaching the second priest first, she immediately notices the heavy flow of blood from his belly and chest and casts a purification spell over his wounds, before casting a wound-binding spell to stop the extreme blood loss. Instructing him to keep pressure on the wounds as long as he can, she leaves him to creep to the eldest monk’s side. Her heart sinks as she feels his cold stillness and lack of breathing. Shaking her head, she discerns dagger-like wounds from his lower abdomen to neck, confirming his cause of death.
Reaching over and shutting his eyes forever, she turns her attention to Kayla and mentally scrolls through her list of appropriate spells. Seeing Kayla horribly slashed from behind, she instinctively thrusts her energy forward, capturing the skin-walker as he swings towards Kayla’s neck. Snarling, his eyes turn to Tara and she sees him slowly turning his body towards her. Over 20 yards away, his march towards her is ridiculously slow and yet she has little choice but to freeze in place or risk breaking her hold on him. Freed of the murderous cutter, Kayla finally overpowers him and rips the hammer form his grip. Turning the tide, she proceeds to pummel him across the park, knocking him into and through trees, benches, and the Cocteau Memorial statue erected a month prior. As the troll finally lies still from passing through the bronze statue, Kayla turns as Tara screams in agony from the skin-walker slashing her arm and shoulder. With a trail of blood splashing onto the ground, she tries desperately to get clear of his vile claws and falls face-first onto the grass. As he hovers over her, gloating over her helplessness inability to defend herself against him, a chiding voice calls out from behind.
“Know what they say about little boys who play with knives?”
An indescribable anger boils under his skin hearing that goading insult. As he pauses to gloat over how the elder witch will soon be dead by his hands, he knows there is no way she can reach him in time to stop it from happening. The hammer, thrown to impact his abdomen, falls far higher on him than Kayla expected. Due to him crouched down to skewer Tara, he smugly turns to voice his thoughts; his eyes barely have time to focus on the troll hammer hurtling towards him. Decapitating the killer at the upper chest, it sends blood and body parts in every direction, drenching Tara at ground zero of the collision. Covered from head to toe in his blood, Tara cannot imagine a worse state for anyone to find her in. Kayla hobbles over to Tara and collapses at her feet. Fishing out her cell phone, Kayla makes the call to Lenina for help. As Tara loses consciousness, Kayla wearily joins the witch as the song of sirens descends down upon them.
Tara stirs feeling a warm hand brushing the hair from her face. With pain radiating from her left arm and shoulder, she groans as she tries to find a comfortable position. Willow resists bursting into tears seeing her aged partner conscious once more. With bandages on her upper arm and chest, she finds her hair freshly washed and the skin-walker’s blood gone. Tara’s eyes flutter open and she closes them knowing she’s finally safe. Using her good hand, she lightly squeezes Willow’s and opens her eyes once more. Seeing Willow’s blue and purple bruises on her cheek and face, she wants to cry. Stopping her, Willow calms her.
“It looks far worse than it is. I still have to see a dentist this week, and they say I might have to get implants; but I’m hoping I might be able to do something with magic before going that route. At least he didn’t break the bones around my eye, but it was close. I brought you some clothes; they said they had to trash everything you were wearing.”
Nodding, Tara notices the IV hanging beside her and asks the grim question.
“How much blood did I lose?”
Taken back, Willow tries to minimize her facial expression.
“Oh, not much actually, only 2 pints. Kayla lost over three times as much, and they said it was a miracle she was still alive when she got here. They started cleaning up her wounds in the ambulance so that by the time they got her in the OR they were able to just stitch her up. Also I heard that as fast as they were putting blood into her, it was draining out.”
Concerned, Tara asks the next obvious question.
“How come I wasn’t that bad off?”
Nodding, Willow sits down in the chair next to the bed and rests her feet.
“Well, that’s taken them all day to figure out, but it turns out it was the skin-walker. In his blood was the antidote for his poisonous claws, and you got covered from head to toe; and of course it got into your wounds, neutralizing the anti-coagulant. If it hadn’t, we might have lost you.”
Tara’s eyes dart around and she sees a majestic collection of flowers in a handmade vase. Smiling, she grimaces and represses the pain as she points towards the arrangement.
“Did you get me those?”
Shaking her head, Willow plucks the card off of the side table. Opening it up, she reads it aloud.
“To my Wiccan protector, savior and friend. May god hasten your recovery – Father Cornelius Magus. You really impressed the old statue. When we talked to him last time, he practically oozed with disdain against us witches. I guess he had to swallow his ancient pride to write this.”
Tara reaches over and rubs Willow’s arm.
“Sweetie, people have the capacity for great change. Don’t act surprised that even the most rigid can have their eyes opened up. I’m sure he did a great amount of soul searching while he was recuperating. We all have after that fight. I think our demon neighbors below are looking at us in a different light as well.”
Shrugging gruffly, Willow lays her head in Tara’s lap as the clock notes the passage of time on the wall. In the ward above, Faith hovers over Kayla’s unconscious form recovering from surgery. With doctors speaking encouragingly of her recovery, Faith silently broods over Kayla’s injuries. With the fear of raising Katya without Kayla, squeezes against her chest and she represses the burn in her eyes and throat. Dismissing the doctors, Faith whispers to Kayla as she did before, updating her on the day’s events. Telling how Katya was missing her, she continues by mentioning how Katya was feeding just fine, and the sooner she woke the sooner she could go home. With nothing left to say, Faith grasps Kayla’s hand and lays her head down on the bed beside her. With her face obscured in the sheets, she finally lowers her last barrier and lets the tears of anxiety flow.
Chapter 13: 13
April 18, 2033
Vatican City, Rome, Italy (7:00pm)
Exiting the Pope’s chambers, Dr. Edith McGovern motions for her staff of four to join her as she strides down the hall and ushered into a waiting room. As she finds a seat, a dusty blonde-haired woman in her thirties, joins her and quietly assumes a submissive posture. As the minutes pass, two of her companions linger behind her keeping an eye on the doorway and try to conceal the conspicuous bulges under their grey Canali jackets. As the anxiety reaches a crescendo, a door on the opposite side of the room opens and the assistant rises respectfully while Edith remains sitting. The aged professor refuses to give any fuel to the ego of the man who viewed her work as both trivial and asinine. With as much disdain and contempt he could muster, he spats out towards the doctor.
“His Holiness may have bought your story but you still haven’t convinced me! There still is no evidence that this great evil is on the move, and even less evidence that you can offer any significant solutions if it was. Moving the relic now only puts the asset in great jeopardy!”
Chiding the venomous counselor, she takes a deep draught of air before flashing a wicked smile. Her thick aristocratic British accent only buries the hatchet deeper.
“Funny thing Jim, it doesn’t matter what you think now. I’ll take whoever you feel must accompany us to the colonies, but his Holiness the Pope has issued the order. You must comply. I have three divisions escorting it from here to California, plus a dozen spooks to throw anyone following off our trail. If you want to send more men and equipment, I won’t stop you. Remember, if we bring too many to the party, we can’t keep it a secret for very long.”
A priest in ornate robes enters carrying a two foot long rectangular wooden case in his outstretched arms. Setting the case on the table before Edith, he pops the chrome latches and lifts the lid open. Edith represses the urge to explode into tears at the shear majesty of the red blade, radiating power and authority. James Crowley scoffs at the blade’s importance and value.
“I still don’t get why everyone is so gaga over this thing. Without the original handle, the axe head is useless.”
Shaking her head, Edith condemns his description of the ancient weapon.
“It is NOT an axe! It is a scythe. A very old and revered weapon from a time long forgotten.”
Transferring the blade to a waiting metal-lined shock-proof case, Edith delicately handles the exquisite object before setting it in the foam bed of the case. Reverently, she closes the lid and inhales sharply, having forgotten to breathe. Standing abruptly, she departs with her team, only to discover three dozen troops waiting outside to escort them to the airport. Shrugging, she lets the show of force continue to her waiting military transport. With an American flag painted proudly on the tail, James cannot believe she had established this many contacts to arrange an official U.S. military escort. Shaking his head, he starts to enter the plane but the soldiers bar his path. Contingents of female marines in heavy armor lower their weapons and release the safeties on their rifles. As he steps back in horror, Edith waves her hand and they allow him to pass. His instincts tell him more than his lips should say, so he bites his tongue instead. Taking a seat beside his troops as they board, he feels his safety improve. As his two dozen troops seat, the back ramp closes and the engines come to life as it taxies off the parking ramp and to the runway. Given high priority, the plane barely hesitates as it makes the turn at the end of the runway and goes to full power. The American soldiers that were at the ramp lower their face masks and a noticeable hiss escapes as their air supplies turn on. James eyes the forty or more soldiers siting across and around him are all on their personal air supplies, and he feels a trickle of fear wind around his neck. As the plane banks hard up and gets to altitude, James can’t deny the sense of danger he and his people are in. His breathing is labored and he rips off his seatbelt to find Edith. As he huffs angrily, he travels away from his troops who sit back casually, half of them napping for the long flight. Tripping over the last man, he expects his man to help him back to his feet, only to see the young man’s chest slack and unmoving. Horror hits him and he reaches for the emergency oxygen mask door. Pulling the mask taught, he desperately brings it to his face, only to find nothing flowing from the mask. Discarding it and pulling another, he realizes none of the masks are working. As he is blacking out, Edith casually walks towards the Watcher Counsel’s representative wearing a mask and toting an oxygen bottle under her arm. She seethes out, ensuring he hears her clearly.
“The Counsel will not sacrifice our daughters this time. The age of the Shadows has ended, and the age of the Guardians has begun.”
Slumping over unconscious, he is drug to a cargo container and thrown inside with his dying men. Most having turned a cold and sickly blue from the lack of oxygen, all their gear and belongings are thrown inside a different container and they are tossed into another like trash. Half-way over the Atlantic, they open the cargo ramp and eject the containers, discarding all the evidence. As the ramp seals tight, the air immediately resumes and is restored to safe limits. After uncovering the air pressure safety gages spread through ought the plane, the air crew gives the go ahead to go off oxygen. Relieved, the marines and officers pull off their masks and breathe deeply. Finding their seats, the women begin to laugh and relax as if the two dozen people they discarded were of no true value. Edith smiles warmly to each woman who passes her as they carouse around a small kitchenette installed in the center of the plane. Opening the door to the stairs leading up to the flight deck, she closes it firmly and joins her amazon crew and assistants. Having left her male guards in Rome, she surrounds herself with her female-only staff and smiles internally. With six loyal fighters escorting them across the pond, as the pilot put it, she estimated landing at Las Vegas International in six hours. Her assistant, Elya Pesaro, leans over and points to the case.
“Are you sure that we can get the blade to the Slayer in time? Do you think they’ll be able to figure it out without us explaining it?”
Nodding her head, Edith pats Elya’s hand reassuringly.
“They figured it out and took down the skin-walker I sent. They are ready. Faith has surrounded herself with a powerful Wiccan counsel, established a firm trust with the local city-gov, the demon counsel, and the local Catholic Dioses. Every report I have received has only affirmed my faith…in Faith. She is the one. I know the prophecy said it would have been a golden-haired slayer who would have set all the potentials free, but that Elder she is now married to, has screwed everything up. It’s not a bad thing that the creature is so attached to Faith, but she did disrupt how the final war was to have been fought. My contacts have assured me that the Elder is devoted to supporting Faith; and in the final battle against the Great Evil, she will be a true blessing. Relax, everything is going as I planned, if not better. Now you are sure they will get the scythe’s rod-handle?”
Nodding, Elya replies.
“Affirmative! My agent entered the area yesterday afternoon and is set to discuss the matter with the witches as soon as she can. The eldest witch, Tara Maclay-Rosenberg, is still in serious condition, but she should be released in the next few days. There’s no point in discussing the matter until both are present. The Elder, Kayla Meadows, is in far more serious condition. If it were Faith, we’d probably looking for another Slayer right now, but she is healing fast. My latest intel says she’s conscious, alert, and has even started walking around. They say most of her wounds have healed and they took her off antibiotics at her request. She wants to resume nursing her daughter ASAP.”
Edith shakes her head in disbelief, unable to make sense of the creature.
“Just keep an eye on her. You’ve been doing a fantastic job so far, so keep it up.”
Leaning back, Edith resigns to a nap. Absorbing all her inputs, she lets sleep overtake her, and bring rest to her ancient body.
Pushing Kayla out the front entrance in a wheelchair, Faith waits until they are seated and driving towards their apartment before breaking out in hysterical laughter. Faith pulls into the parking lot and gasps for air.
“When they removed your bandages and the staples fell out onto the floor, I swear everyone’s jaws followed! I wish you could have seen their faces.”
Kayla laughs as she replies.
“Well I very well couldn’t from my angle; I was face down with my ass hanging out! So that explains why I had to wait all afternoon for them to discharge me.”
Stretching as she steps out, Kayla reluctantly accepts Faith’s help by taking her overnight bag from her grip. Arriving at her apartment, she suppresses running at Willow holding Katya in her arms. Taking her into her arms, baby Katya explodes with a huge grin and joyous sounds having Kayla take a hold of her. Disappearing into her bedroom, Kayla begins undressing and changing into her shower robe. Talking continuously to Katya, she exits the bedroom and notices she interrupted an important conversation. Pushing aside the thought, Kayla plops onto the couch to put herself in the middle of the conversation between Willow and Faith. Rolling her eyes, Faith motions for Willow to continue.
“Well, they want to meet us all about 9pm. They claim to have found an ancient slayer artifact, and you should receive it. And here’s the cryptic part: they warned me that the Watcher’s Council was trying to take it back. Apparently they have been trying to keep it from getting to you for the past year. They are adamant that the council can no longer be trusted.”
As Faith mulls over the statement, Kayla sighs loudly drawing all eyes towards her.
“That council, if I’m not mistaken was once a force of good. It seems over time, they have become drunk with power. I don’t know firsthand, but I heard rumors of another organization working to protect the slayer. I have had dealings with them in the past…over three thousand years ago, and we have crossed paths. If this is them…which my gut tells me it is…they are extremely active for being extinct. Look, this is deep. I have very little knowledge of Slayers and the B.S. which revolves around them. Everything I know comes second or third-hand from demons and beings I befriend. Like I told you before, I rarely associated with your kind. I was fighting a war which would result in you getting splattered against the wall after the first hit. If I did, it would make all your enemies mine, and all my enemies yours…something a slayer could never take on. Proof in point: Buffy Summers. The best she could do was stall until I could get into the fight, and that costed her life, and nearly yours, Faith. I go up against demi-gods who get out of line, and full demons who slip into our world. I can be hurt, and some half-demons can get the drop on me, but for the most part I go toe to toe against their more powerful cousins more often than I care to mention. There are rules I have to live by, and I have to be careful not to become the monster I’m protecting the world against. There’s a lot of things which I can’t even get into about me, and I know it seems like a paradox, like how I can fight demi-gods, get my butt sliced up by a half-demon Skin-Walker. It’s complicated.”
Kayla nervously sighs before mustering the strength to continue.
“God, the oldest and original god of light and darkness, grants me his grace when he feels I need it, not when I want it. It’s that complicated. Look: You’re the first mortals that I’ve ever given this much info about me. The less you all know the better. When I say it’s bigger than you can ever imagine, I’m not exaggerating. Also, there’s a reason I gravitated to this part of the country. A great evil’s portal is located not far from here, and his minions are stored there. A slayer can hold them back for a while, but their true might lies in their numbers, not brawn. They are the minions of a god-like force, not these weak half-demons you fight like Skin-Walkers and vampires. When one gets loose into the world, I know. I’m drawn to them to search and destroy as fast as possible. While outside this world they are formless and just envelopes of evil roaming the abyssal plains. Once they enter our world, the great evil gives them shape, and they are massed to form armies. I fought one thousands of years ago which took the shape of a great bird. It was a pain to bring down. I’m telling you all this to prepare you for what might be coming around the corner. Various prophecies foretell of this and various outcomes can result. No future is guaranteed. Let’s keep this quiet and speak to this person…a woman right?”
Willow nods numbly and Faith interjects firmly.
“Well let’s meet her right away. I need answers, not more questions. God! How did Buffy do this crap so well?”
As Faith fumes off towards the bedroom, Kayla excuses herself with Katya in her arms and trails gingerly behind her wife.
Chapter 14: 14
The chapter has been updated. A few points were added to make the next chapter flow properly.
April 21, 2033
San Angeles (8:55pm)
Swaddled against Kayla’s chest, Katya naps comfortably as they sit outside the Great Crater Bar and Grill. With a mariachi band playing next door, Faith, Willow, and Tara sat outside on the patio admiring how the once repressive city was slowly regaining its southwest flair. Faith easily persuaded the waitress to give them a private corner. As drinks are served, they patiently wait until a young woman clad in a fashionable business suit arrives and the waitress points them out to her. Toting a long steel case, her firm serious expression matches her sharp and deliberate movements. With her dark auburn locks restrained by a tight ponytail, Faith notes her expensive watch and designer heels which scream for attention. The sharp cracks from her footfalls give her the impression of a military officer or Stormtrooper. With a forced smile, she acknowledges everyone at the table until she sees Kayla, and Faith sees a flicker of apprehension flash across her face. She clears her throat as she addresses Faith and Willow.
“I thought this would be a private meeting. I can reschedule again to a better time?” Willow squeezes Tara’s hand as she bites her tongue and Faith shakes her head.
“No. This is a good time and place. Have a seat, we’re safe here. This is…” She coldly nods to Kayla and Tara, and warmly shakes Faith’s and Willow’s hand.
“Yes, I’m quite familiar with Ms. Rosenberg’s work in witchcraft. It is an esteemed honor. My Name is Christine Carter, and I represent a private firm who wishes to remain anonymous while providing maximum support. Well, if this is the best we can do, I present you with one piece of the artifact.” Snapping the latches open on the metal case, she presents it to Faith. Reaching inside, Faith extracts a 37 inch long shaft made of wood and iron. The polished metal shaft felt unreal in her hand, like the sensation she got holding a poisonous snake. Running her fingers over the metal shaft, she discerns the small holes through the shaft spaced strategically for function and purpose. Toting it beside her, she is perplexed seeing a wooden stake mounted at the bottom end and gently sets it back in its resting place.
“It has had many names over the past three thousand years but it is simply referred to as the Slayer’s Scythe. Our firm has desperately been trying to regain the head piece; and if all goes well, we should have the blade here in two days.” Faith nods and examines the rod. Taken back by the extreme weight of the rod, she tentatively hands it to Kayla who examines it closely. Tara notes the way Christine cringes seeing Kayla handle the item, and logs it for later. Kayla clears her throat and glides her finger across the stake in the scythe.
“Do you know what kind of wood is this?” Christine shrugs.
“Our best experts are stumped. We know the wood should have rotted away thousands of years ago, but it is as if it was mounted there just recently. It has not dried out nor can be scratched without damaging the weapon. It’s some sort of ancient oak from a breed of tree now extinct. It’s as hard as iron, and has never needed to be polished or repaired. The entire weapon has never rusted or suffered from any kind of corrosion. We know the metal is from a meteorite, it has a distinct metallurgic signature. It is truly awesome...an item given to us by the gods themselves.” Kayla clears her throat.
“God himself.” Everyone pauses to stare at Kayla who has no discomfort saying what’s on her mind.
“This is a piece of a powerful holy item which only a god-like being could have produced. The simple act of me handling it without suffering any ill effects says much about whom and for whom it was made. Only a handful of beings could have produced this item, and it is truly a work of art.” Christine eyes her suspiciously before finally breaking the heavy silence left by Kayla’s words.
“None the less, it is a powerful artifact which should be made whole. We should have the head-piece soon, and I will contact you as soon as it arrives. If you will excuse me?” She stands and hurriedly exits the restaurant leaving the foursome staring numbly into their drinks.
Exiting the bedroom, Kayla gently shuts the door and tightens her robe.
“She’s finally asleep, definitely a night owl like all slayers. The wood is unique alright. I recognized it immediately when I touched it. It was crafted from a branch of the tree of life. It is the one thing which can kill, if not destroy, a pure demon if you hit him just right. If there was ever a weapon specifically made for a vampire slayer, then this is it. As I mentioned before, slayers and their business is one which I kept far away from, so I have no info on this thing. I heard rumors of a slayer super weapon, but it was myth as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t my business, so I never bothered to look into it. Sorry.” Willow clears her throat suddenly.
“Well, I’m just as stumped. Whoever crafted this weapon managed to keep it a secret from everyone, including us Wiccans. The Tree of Life? Are you sure?” Kayla nods as she rests her gaze on the weapon. Moving aside for Faith to sit as she returns from the shower, Kayla finally breaks her stare and lets her woman take her place in front of her.
“God has only allowed a few pieces to drift into the hands of man since creation. This is the first time I’ve actually seen one crafted into a weapon as this. Mythology from when I was young said the angel Michael had a curved sword crafted from the same tree to do battle against the great evil’s minions. Just brushing against this weapon destroyed evil’s forces. He later had a great sword crafted from star-iron, but he always kept that first wooden weapon tied on his back…just in case. Vampires have been around far too long, and have been a constant blight on humanity. I’ve had my run-ins with them, and they never get to talk about it unless they turn the other way and run really fast. Michael lent me that wooden sword when we were told to destroy Ubar. An ancient demon was hiding under the city, and God ordered everything cleansed. Demons aren’t just unstoppable fighting machines, but a formidable source of corruption to all living creatures. I can’t tell you how many half and nearly full demons were encamped in that area. We started the battle just before nightfall, and didn’t leave the valley until after midday the following day. In the old days, I was very busy. Nowadays, I deal with what life presents me. I don’t have to go far to find trouble.”
Tara fidgets nervously digesting Kayla’s story and finally inhales sharply before she exhales her own words forcibly.
“Seeing that we’re being so honest and forthcoming…I have to admit that I was doing some research about…about you. I feel bad about it now, but I had to know exactly what they knew about you and…make sure your story kind of checked out. You know?”
Faith raises her eyebrow at the witch, and Kayla could feel the tension building in Faith’s body. Clearing her throat, she lays her hand on Faith’s shoulder and replies.
“And what did you find out? It’s okay, it’s very sensible thing to do. So tell us what your prestigious Watcher’s Council has to say about me?”
Tara and Willow exchange looks nervously and Willow finally breaks the silence.
“Well, they said you were not truly human, and that you typically didn’t get involved in human affairs. You were a kind of supernatural creature who wasn’t truly evil but not someone who worked for the betterment of humanity either.” Kayla nods while chewing on their description.
“Well, that’s almost accurate because I am protecting humanity by not getting involved in your development, and preventing evil from destroying or enslaving the human race.”
Willow sighs loudly. “There’s more though. They…warned us to not get too close to you, and that we should try and get Katya away from you and to England. They felt Katya was best to be raised by a good watcher family.” Tara practically screams out before Faith could sit up.
“BUT we have no intention in doing that! They are crazy to try and do that, and even crazier to think that we would even follow an order like that. I would never take a child from her mother! You’re the best person to be Katya’s mother, and we would never intrude in that bond.” Willow stands to continue where Tara leaves off.
“We think that’s who was working behind the scenes to try and take Katya since day one. With that knowledge we have been able to predict some of the tactics they could try. Legally, they no longer have any way to take her, which leaves them illegal avenues. Tara and I have been trying to find some magic which could prevent them from just kidnapping her, but it’s not that easy.” Tara nods enthusiastically as she continues for them.
“We think we can make an alarm against anyone who approaches her with ill intent, but it’s not an easy form of magic to work. It’s easy to make them against evil, undead, or anything of that nature, but it’s not always effective against regular people.”
Kayla turns to Faith and says matter-of-factly, “That’s why humans should never have learned to play with magic.” She laughs to herself and continues. “This coming from the person who spent a few weeks learning how to do magic with Lacey, but magic is generally a bad idea. No offense to you all, it’s just my opinion. With that said, I remember hearing about an old type of family magic which protected the family. I wish I could tell you more, but like I said magic wasn’t my thing really. Yes I learned an anti-pregnancy spell, but that’s really nothing compared to what we are talking about here. Look into spells which protect the family and home, it might be there. That damn demon seed really screwed me up. It messed up my memory, messed up my system, and cut my connection with the universe. It put a mental fog over my mind which I really forgot who and what I was. It made it seem like my history was a delusional dream, a creation of my own imagination. When I find that S.O.B. demon, he’ll learn the definition of damnation. Well, with that said, thank you for coming clean. Next, what can I do to help?”
Willow and Tara look at each other stumped. Wanting to pry further about the demon and why he didn’t recognize her as the Child of Light, Tara decides to file it away for another day.
“Well…we really don’t know. When we can get something up and going, you’ll be the first to know.” Faith shrugs equally confounded. “This is all just too much for me to take in. I can’t say that this new group is such a bad thing. The Watcher’s Counsel hasn’t been much help lately; and if the new guys are supplying me with a better weapon, I won’t refuse the help.”
Kayla whispers privately into Faith’s ear as Willow and Tara discuss the magic options between them.
“Faith, be careful on what gifts you accept from strangers…sometimes the price is far more than it is ever worth.”
In a fifty-story office complex in north Las Vegas surrounded by three identical towers only forty stories high, Dr. Edith McGovern reviews the meeting her agent completed an hour prior. With the satellite uplink providing an efficient means of sending and receiving the video recording of the meeting, she enjoys a front-row seat to the entire event. Studying the expressions and subtle nuances the group gave, she takes mental notes on how well they received the weapon. With her trusted counsel seated alongside her, Edith preferred to view the entire event before allowing any conversation or opinions thrown around the table. As the meeting ends and her agent rises to depart, smiles knowingly. With the recording ending, the table immediately begins whispering between them, and Edith motions for the glasses to be filled and their meeting to begin officially. Starting with her right, she motions to begin. A scarred and muscular woman in her mid-forties takes a sip of her bottled water before speaking.
“Well that could have gone worse, but didn’t. That elder is a pain in the ass. She knows too damn much, if you ask me. Whenever she asked a question, it was like she already knew the answer.”
Edith laughs with a hearty chuckle. “Yah, I got that too Cynthia. She knows all too well that’s wood from the tree of life.” The room of nine women make tactical estimates of the meeting one after another, telling their opinions of how to counter anything the Elder suggests. The next to last lady seated after the redhead Delores, a short-haired chestnut officer fifteen years younger than everyone in the room shakes her head. “I admit I don’t have much experience in dealing with demi-gods, but I don’t get the negative vibes from her that you all do. Yes, she is a smart-ass. Yes, she knows a hell of a lot more than all of us combined, but I don’t see her as a threat as everyone else does.” As the room begins to turn on their youngest counselor, added to their rollcall just a year prior, Edith immediately silences the pack and allows Gloria Evers to continue with her thoughts. She notices the subtle tell of relief as she resumes.
“She’s a mother caring for an infant daughter; her wife is a powerful being in her own right, and when they stand together against the darkness nothing can defeat them. I’m jealous of them. If I had been lucky enough to have been called instead of Katya, I too would be dead now, so I’m not suicidal. I, like Colonel Benson beside you Edith, were potentials and just never got called upon. Any one of us could have been called and would more than likely be dead by now. What this elder brings to the table is an ultra-powerful skill-set which we can utilize to further our cause. We have effectively shut down the watchers counsel after thousands of years of interference, and this much feminine power is now focused to our cause. If we make her into our enemy, or worse, we become her enemy through our actions, you might as well hand this power back over to the watchers.”
Seeing her words strike discord with the rest of her counsel, Edith recognizes why she assigned her to her leadership team. Edith nods appreciatively and bows to her wisdom. “What do you suggest Gloria?” Recognizing she’s surrounded by a table of wolves, she swallows dryly before speaking. “First, we need to protect the Elder’s daughter. Yes, it would be best for her to be raised by a human family with the wisdom that she will become a slayer, but in this context, it would be best to let the Elder raise her and gain the knowledge and wisdom that she will instill in her. We don’t have anyone like that on our team, and we are in a severe disadvantage. Second, we need to have the Elder assist in unlocking the magic to empower all potentials, not just the one single slayer. If she does it, we have a greater chance of success than without. Lastly, we need to make sure it’s THEIR idea to unlock the power and not ours. If they catch wind that it was ours from day one, the jig is up and it won’t happen.
Edith nods approvingly and dismisses the counsel. As Gloria is the last to leave, Edith motions for her to stay. Beside Gloria, Danielle Gibbons whispers into Gloria’s ear as she passes. “She always said to speak your mind, but DAMN girl.” Shooting her best friend an annoying glare, she takes her seat and waits for the conference room doors to reseal.
Chapter 15: 15
April 21, 2033
Las Vegas, Nevada
“So what would you propose? Specifically.”
Nervously, Gloria thinks quickly before opening her mouth again. “Well, the Watcher’ Counsel probably isn’t through with trying to get Katya. We’ve disabled their power structure, but not destroyed them. They actually have many independent units that are ‘fire-and-forget’ weapons. If they activated a unit of that type, Katya is very much still in danger of abduction. We need to get our people in place and keep an eye out for them.”
As Gloria scrolls through the list of plans she has, she notices Edith taking notes and continues.
“Well, the magic involved with releasing the power of the slayer is difficult at best, if not downright impossible. They will need the books to research this spell, and I suggest it’s under the guise of understanding the weapon we’re giving them. We can simply tell them that we are giving them all of the source material so they can get a better idea on the origins of the weapon, and we simply leave numerous page markers around the pages on releasing the scythe’s power. It’s subtle but effective. Or better, leave evidence that we had page markers there and removed them before giving them the books. That sounds better.”
Laughing Edith nods her head in approval as she continues to scribble notes furiously.
“We need to do this all very fast, time is of the essence here. How many do you need to do this?”
Standing abruptly, Gloria laughs out nervously. “Whoa…I’m not a field operative. I don’t have experience in managing this from the ground.”
Edith nods stoically. “That’s true, but most of everyone here didn’t start out as field agents, you’re managers and overseers. I will get you experienced field agents to manage the details; you just need to get your feet wet. You’ll do fine. I have a couple on the top of my head who will be great teachers for you. Would say you’d need about two dozen troops, with about four experienced plainclothes operatives?”
Her turn to nod, Gloria numbly agrees and takes her new assignment in stride. With Edith’s approval, getting all the books and scrolls together was a breeze, and the troops were assembling as she was leaving the library. Escorted to the staging area, she places the books and scrolls in a secure room so she can get a bag together for the long mission ahead.
April 23, 2033
San Angeles (2:25pm)
Holding the handle of the red-bladed Scythe of the Slayer legend, Faith cannot ignore the power emanating from holding the rod in her hands. Like warm electricity flowing through her soul, she feels the positive vibrations surging into every cell of her body feeding her untold power and might, replenishing her after her long intense workout in the apartment complex’s gymnasium. Shaking her head, it does little to dissipate the emotional and physical strength surging through her. Snickering, Kayla calls to her from the kitchen.
“Stop holding that thing…you’ll go blind.”
Stumbling backwards from Kayla’s words, she shoots her an annoying glare, and sets it back in the closet, out of sight. Stripping out of her sweaty clothes, she tosses them into the dirty clothes bin and gets into the shower. With her mind buzzing with the possibilities of the new weapon, she is forced to do a reality check too often. Amazement was insufficient when describing how she felt most of the time when she reviewed her current life and situation from years ago. To imagining being in a stable committed relationship when compared to her teenage life, she would never have bet on it in a million years. Breaking her internal reflection, a hand appears from the side of shower curtain offering her phone to take. Fighting back the initial surprise, she shakes the excess water from her hands and takes the phone. Though her phone was entirely waterproof, she couldn’t fight her instincts to not get it wet. Confused, why Kayla felt it couldn’t wait, she looks into the unidentified number on the screen as if it would cave under her scrutinizing glare.
The young woman’s voice on the other end of the line is unrecognizable, but is incredibly pleasant and friendly.
Faith shakes her head with an annoying flash. “Yes, this is Mrs. Lehane.”
Faith loved that she could now emphasize her new official title. The woman apologizes for her mistake before continuing.
“We have the last part of the Scythe, and we are in route to your location. We have already passed through the city’s airport customs department and wish to deliver the headpiece ASAP. Where would you prefer to meet?”
Imagining a dozen places off the top of her head, she decides on a place which would only make an unscrupulous soul cringe and quiver hearing.
“Yah, meet me at the front of the SAPD station. We’ll use my office there.”
The lurch in the woman’s speech verifies Faith’s wisdom. “Um…okay. Its best that I don’t be seen giving you this item publically.”
Nodding, Faith shifts gears. “Okay, just meet me there, and we will exchange the item in the parking lot. That okay?”
Faith can feel the reluctance emanating from the young woman. “Sure, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
Faith hangs up on her without saying a word. Setting the phone down outside the shower, she quickly finishes and throws on her sweats, barely toweling off beforehand. Apologizing to Kayla for running out on her, she sprints down to the Rosenberg’s apartment and has Willow join her in the exchange. Arriving ten minutes late, she sees four small armored vehicles waiting patiently in the empty parking lot, except for the few privately owned vehicles of the division chiefs. Faith strides towards the vehicles and is surprised that only one of the vehicles opens a door invitingly. Peering inside is a young woman with light brown hair and barely in her thirties smile meekly and motions for the pair to join her. Shrugging, Faith enters followed by the elderly Willow. The door is closed softly behind her, letting the woman from on the phone begin.
“Thank you for meeting us out here. My employer wouldn’t appreciate me being recorded exchanging this item with you. There are many in the Watcher’s Counsel who simply refuse to allow you to not only posses the artifacts, but to combine them into the Slayer’s Scythe. This will prepare you for the fights which you were destined to have, and give you the necessary capabilities to win them. There’s rumors of power troll weapons, Demi-gods who are nearly invincible to man, and frankly stuff we don’t know what to make of. The counsel has fought us tooth and nail on this; and well, we don’t care anymore. Faith Lehane, we give you the headpiece of the Slayer’s Scythe. Use it wisely and not frivolously.”
Opening a sealed shockproof case approximately forty-eight inches long, Faith’s eyes widen seeing the brilliant red blade of an axe. Noticing the two red metal pins lying beside the blade, she remembers the two holes on the handle end to mount the blade. Nodding, Faith has Willow look it over before closing the case and latching it closed.
“Because it is so important, we felt we should provide you with all the research material over the weapon, not to mention a proper case to store the weapon once it is assembled. You’ll be the first slayer to hold the weapon in thousands of years. Use it wisely.”
Nodding and thanking them, Faith exits the vehicle and places the cases in her car. As the pair drives away, Faith ensures she’s not followed or observed. No words pass between them, and even the elevator ride up to their apartments is abnormally quiet.
While Willow gathers Tara from her nap, Faith goes into her apartment and recovers the handle. Kayla stands in eerie silence as Faith opens the case and she gets her first glimpses of the weapon. Shaking her head, she rubs Katya’s back as she feeds in a swaddle across her chest. Minutes later, the room is filled with their closest friends, and Faith gingerly inserts the blade into the handle section. A bizarre metal click erupts as the pieces suddenly align themselves into their proper position. Shrugging, Faith places the first pin into the hole and prepares to hammer it in place when the pin begins burrowing into place. A blast of light and sound like a symphonic orchestra tuning erupt from the weapon, and the noise slowly becomes a beautiful tone as the screw is fully seated. Staring at each other in amazement, even Katya stopped feeding and stares at the sight in joy. Faith picks up the last pin, and sets it in place causing another round of light and noise, even brighter and louder than before. Nearly deafening Willow and Tara, they pull themselves off the ground once the process was completed, and realize no one else was affected like they were. Even Katya is laughing and clapping from watching the scene, and Kayla has to take her to the kitchen so she will latch onto her again and resume feeding. Under her breath, Willow hears Kayla scold them annoyingly.
“All you slayers want to do is play with that thing.”
Willow peers over Faith’s shoulder and stares in awe. “I never imagined it would be so beautiful and scary-like at the same time.”
Faith cocks her head to one side trying to see it from Willow’s perspective and then nods in agreement.
“I bet it will scare the hell out of demons…one way or the other.”
Standing at Willow’s foreboding work table, Kayla hands the sleeping Katya to Lacey as she joins Faith sitting naked atop it. Taking her place between Faith’s legs, she sits facing her wife, slips off her robe, and tosses to Tara. Sitting as naked as her wife, she fights her nervousness and wraps her legs around Faith’s waist. Drawing herself tightly against Faith to hide their nakedness, Faith waits until Kayla is done moving around before she wraps her legs around and underneath Kayla the best she can. Snuggly intertwined, and with Kayla sitting comfortably on Faith’s legs, Kayla nods to Lacey who hands Katya back to them. As naked as her parents, she is carefully slid into Kayla’s arms and Lacey quickly steps back. Getting Katya settled comfortably in her arms, Kayla slowly leans into Faith and lays her head on her wife’s shoulder.
Nestling her face into Faith’s neck, she feels Faith lower her head onto her shoulder and Faith’s arm enclose her as Willow begins lighting the candles surrounding them. Just as the last candle is lit, Tara begins chanting and Willow joins in after the first read through. Time seems to grind slowly by as Kayla forgets her nakedness and the wonderful closeness to her family overwhelms her. For the first time in thousands of years she feels complete in the world. Her world of combat, evil, pain and suffering drifts far away in her mind. Deposited into a world free of evil and hatred, she lets tears of joy pour out of her. Holding Faith’s hand with Katya nestled tightly across her chest, they bask in their love and meander aimlessly across the world as the spell engulfs them.
Binding them together as a family, Faith cannot fathom any appropriate words to express what she sees. Looking to Kayla, she watches her naked wife walking beside her suddenly appear wearing a long thin green dress. Looking at her own nakedness, she’s surprised when she is suddenly clad in a soft tan cotton blouse and a dark skirt. Though barefoot, she feels nothing out of sorts and nearly jumps backwards seeing a red-haired child walking beside Kayla clutching her other hand. Smiling the child skips along gleefully as they walk and Faith cannot suppress the joy filling her heart. An eternity passes before Faith pulls her face from Kayla’s shoulder. Blinking she looks around the room to find Lacy extinguishing the candles and Tara coming to the side of the table to help the trio off. Surprised to find Kayla and Katya sleeping contently, she almost feels bad having to wake them.
After gently rousing Kayla, she waits until her wife is fully awake before moving. Blinking, Kayla shakes off the sleepiness and hands Katya back to Lacey before slipping off Faith’s lap. After donning her robe, she takes Katya back and redresses her. Still uneasy with her nudity in front of her friends, she tries to shake it off and hands Faith her robe as she is helped off the table. Off handedly she expresses her dislike for having to be naked for the ceremony and Willow absently replies as she collects the candles.
“Well if you weren’t, the spell could easily transfer to just your clothes and would be useless. You’d be surprised how many spells require you to be naked. Clothes simply get in the way sometimes, and you can’t have anything between you and the magic. Any spell which alters the body has a chance for failing if you are clothed, especially with leather. Trust me, I understand how inconvenient it may seem, but far too often they mess up spells. That’s why when I do most of my work, I’m naked as a jaybird under my robe. Clothes can actually affect the way the magic interacts with the world around you, and you get used to wearing the bare essentials…and being exposed to the elements.”
Unconvinced, Kayla lets Faith change first as she gets Katya ready to travel back to their apartment. After a few minutes, she exits the bathroom and lets Kayla change. As Tara returns from the bedroom changed, Faith gently rocks Katya in her carrier and asks Tara gingerly.
“So have you two made any headway on those books they gave you?”
Shaking her head, Tara finishes tidying up the table as Willow excuses herself to change.
“Not really, the books don’t have much on the scythe. I did, on the other hand, find quite a bit on the source of the slayer’s power. It’s an ancient magic going nearly back to the dawn of man, and the scythe seems to tap directly into this magical source. Willow and I have been searching for this source for quite some time and it seems they have inadvertently given us the key.”
Dropping to a whisper, Tara continues.
“Willow is really close to deciphering a spell to release the power of the slayers, but she’s still weeks away to figuring out the specifics. We discovered the previous owners were doing similar research, but tried to disguise the research. It took us a few days to figure it out, but it’s obvious we aren’t the first to pursue this line of thought. The only difference between them and us is that we have the scythe intact and they didn’t. Willow really believes that we can tap into this magic and let all those who could become slayers, become slayers. These books are the key to this spell, and now we are one more step closer. I’ll let you know when we are about done with the research.”
Exiting the bathroom, Kayla signals she’s ready to leave. After exchanging a quick round of hugs and thanks, the small family departs leaving the older family to break up and head separate ways to bed.
Chapter 16: 16
May 2, 2033
San Angeles (8:15pm)
Depositing the over-sized diaper bag into Lacey’s outstretched hand, Faith waits patiently for Kayla to slip Katya into Lacey’s waiting arms. With Willow and Tara waiting downstairs, Faith gently tries to hurry her wife along. Fighting her annoyance, she controls her breath and tries to smile and be cordial despite being acutely aware of the passage of time. With the last of the formalities accomplished, Faith rushes her wife to the elevator and the waiting car. Filled with notable priests and officials, Willow sat in the second row keeping the two seats beside her empty. Diving in, they fasten up, and sit back as Cardinal Montego drives them to the entrance to the “Underworld.” It was hardly an official title, but something the group wound up referring to over the past weeks leading to tonight. Without any speeding tickets, or accidents, the passenger van stops near the city park, and the hodge-podge of above ground representatives make their way towards the ladder.
Met by a dozen armed soldiers the Vatican provided out of courtesy, the cardinal verifies their credentials and identities before allowing them to escort them down. Kayla, having initially resisted wearing her white cloak, grudgingly accepted the formality as she exited the van. With Faith taking the lead with Willow and the cardinal, Kayla enjoyed the idea of her taking up the rear. Most of the serious trouble occurred at the rear, and she liked the idea that she had less importance in the negotiations. Most of her work would be finished by the time the night was over, allowing her to spend more time patrolling with Faith on her rounds. Though the peace accord was hardly guaranteed to succeed, it was a good start by all rights. If the peace could last at least a generation, it had a fair chance of lasting the long haul. Entering the Cat Market, Kayla felt a wave of uneasiness and tension wash over her, something she hadn’t felt in a very long time. Screams rebound off the walls up ahead, and the soldiers immediately surround the team in defense. As they insist to leave, Faith agrees with them and steps aside for them to return.
Cardinal Montego, taken back my Faith’s refusal to join them, steps aside as well infuriating the soldiers further. As they insist, Willow joins Faith’s side as Kayla reaches the front. Faith growls as the priests refuse to leave. Screaming at them to leave, the Cardinal orders the rest of them to go and he will remain behind as representative of the clergy. As the gaggle of priests and soldiers rush back out, Faith begins to yell at Kayla to go with them. Shaking her head she calmly motions to continue forward.
“Afraid not baby. This might be a bit up my alley today.”
Confused, Faith remembers to what Kayla hold told them before and grudgingly nods in agreement.
“Okay, but I can’t raise Katya on my own, got that?”
Nodding, Kayla rubs Faith’s arm and rushes forward through the market. After a minute, they find bodies of demons sliced and decapitated along their path. Shaking her head, Faith pushes on as they approach the entrance to the Pentacallus discovering the source of the bloodshed. Dressed in black robes and cloaks, thirty or more warriors lay siege to the few remaining demon guards and officers protecting the hallowed hall. As they march towards the carnage, Faith breaks rank and charges into the mass of attackers. Flying into the outer ranks, she begins swinging and kicking with wanton abandon. With too many opponents, she hardly knew where to begin. Though striking them with enough force which would break a normal person’s skull, the attackers merely shake off her blows and deliver an equally powerful retort. Deciding not to let them hit her again, she discovers the hooded men are hardly as blind as their eyeless faces imply. As with most half-demons who walk the earth, they possess the keen fighting skills seen in so many she had faced before. Nearly losing her head from a concrete-cracking blow, she crouches in time and springs upwards with a leg-powered punch sending the cloaked figure up to the twenty-foot tall ceiling. Striking his head, he tumbles back down to floor into a lifeless crumpled mass.
Momentarily congratulating herself, she beams a huge smile to Kayla only to see twelve of the cloaked men lying dead in her wake. Each headless and missing various limbs, Faith pauses in horror as her wife systematically plows into the lines dispatching the vile warriors as they try to slow her advance. In a lethal dance, she moves in forward then backwards, left to right, in an irregular fashion dispatching the diabolic evil opponents as they attempt to kill her. When Faith thinks Kayla has left a hole open in her defense, she systematically kills the foe who was duped into her ploy. At speeds Faith could not imagine, Kayla tirelessly swings and beheads or cuts in half one after another. Occasionally delivering a spinning kick to throw them off balance, it serves to put more space between them and her.
As she wants to go to Kayla’s side, Faith realizes the intent of slowing her wife’s advance. With only two guards remaining to protect the entrance of the Pentacallus, there was no way Kayla could reach their position in time. Whispering how Kayla was going to kill her later, she screams as she charges the lines in a full run. Reaching the first warrior, she surprises him as she catapults herself over him using his shoulders to push up higher to soar over the both lines of combatants. With ancient instincts guiding her, she tucks herself into a tight ball and spins over the arms and knives searching out to grab or stab her as she passes overhead. Almost an eternity later, she lands on her feet beside Gomik who’s taken back by her sudden arrival. As he tries to find words, another cloaked man lunges forward with his long blade only to have Faith intercept the thrust, turn the blade out of his grip and plunge it into his chest in a flurry of moves. Gomik, wearing a bewildered expression and covered in dozens of negligible wounds, only has time to nod in appreciation and resume the counter attack. After another five minutes, a bizarre wave passes over the attackers and they suddenly break ranks, and stride out the market, abandoning the fight and their injured altogether.
Panting, Faith looks over the carnage in disgust and is speechless. Aside from the groans and cries of the fallen, the survivors cannot find the words to describe their ordeal. With a numb sense of victory, Faith begins counting the dead and survivors with Gomik. As her eyes drift around, she watches Kayla dispassionately dispatch the wounded enemies using her sword. Plunging the blade into the skull, she notices the blade momentarily illuminates with a bright white glare as it sinks into it. Repeating it dozens of times, she finally meanders to her wife’s side as they help bind the wounds on a monstrous deputy. As Gomik gets a deputy to lay back, he suddenly stops Gomik to address Kayla.
“After watching you fight Child of Light, I’m glad all my childhood fears were justified. I don’t feel as silly now.”
Unable to repress the humor, Kayla chuckles softly and nods. Motioning for Faith to walk with her, she leads her Willow who sits alongside the cardinal. Sporting a serious belly wound, she breathes harshly from the pain. With her coat clutched tightly at her abdomen, the blood steadily saturates the article. Kneeling beside the cardinal, Kayla lays her hands upon his bloodied chest. Breathing raggedly, he barely notices her gentle touch where several of the vile assailants took turns stabbing him repeatedly. With blood filling his lungs and chest, he prays silently knowing his end is mere minutes away. Faith kneels to Willow and has her lay back, as the stomach and chest wounds were typically fatal without expert surgeons and facilities. Making her comfortable, she wishes she could get Tara here to be with her wife before she passes. Taking out her phone, she uselessly tries to dial her only for the call go immediately to voicemail. Suppressing a curse on the tip of her tongue, she bites it instead and soothes the meek woman as her face contorts in pain. Glancing to Kayla, she notices her help the cardinal into a sleeping position as he becomes deathly still wearing an extremely peaceful expression.
Rushing to Willow’s side, Kayla sighs roughly recognizing the severity of the wounds. Shaking her head, she hesitates to move until finally brushing the cheek of the aged witch. Rousing Willow out of her coming eternal sleep, her eyes flutter open and she tries to smile. Instead of the smile, her eyes erupt into rivers of tears sensing the pointlessness of ignoring the inevitable conclusion her choices brought her.
“Amy died in my arms with a similar wound I have. I think I even had the same look on my face that you have Faith. How’s that for irony?”
As Faith tries to compose an appropriate response, Kayla interjects.
“I can try and help you, but it may come with a hefty price. Not only are there no guarantees it will work, if it does, my help could change you; change you in ways that can never be reversed. It can permanently alter your personality, your beliefs, every fiber in your body, and more; but it may do very little. I cannot know for certain how it will change you, except that it will.”
Willow, fading from consciousness, shakes her head to repress the fogginess closing onto her.
“Is it better than death?”
Biting her lower lip, Kayla represses the tearful shakes of agony watching the woman who became her friend drift farther from her reach.
“Maybe. I cannot not say.”
Leaning down to Willow’s left ear, she whispers for twenty seconds, and finally sits upright. Willow takes a full minute to decide. As death approaches, she shakes off the darkness and weakly nods in agreement.
“I’ll take my chances. Do it.”
Pushing aside Willow’s hands clutching at her belly, she slips her left hand under the bloodied coat and places the other onto Willow’s forehead. As Kayla chants in a whisper, Faith watches the blood drain from Willow’s wound. As demons and guards aid the injured or dying, they seem oblivious to the growing white light surrounding the three women. Faith instinctively raises her hand to cover her eyes, only to realize the light doesn’t hurt or injure her eyes in any way. Growing, it fills the room until even the stone walls and floors radiate the pure light. With a sudden burst of light, Faith uselessly slams her eyes shut despite the light passing through her eyelids unhindered. A concussive wave passes through her, and she collapses backwards from the blow. Shaking off the effects, she blinks madly and finds the room returned to its previous darkened state. Shaking her head once more, she reaches over and check’s Willow’s vitals. With exhaustive relief, she feels a strong pulse from the sleeping woman. Looking around for Kayla, she fights the alarm from her absence, and stands abruptly. With another wave of relief upon seeing her help bind the wounds of fallen deputy demons; Kayla seems to sense her from across the room and turns to Faith. Flashing a warm grin at her wife, she resumes helping the injured demons.
After the demons recover their wits, a Catholic guard phones the delegates and has them return. In an hour, after the treaty is signed, Kayla motions for Faith to help the cardinal walk and Kayla scoops Willow into her arms. Walking out of the lower city, Kayla prayed the price Willow had to pay wouldn’t be too steep.
May 3, 2033
San Angeles (10:30am)
Faith exits the bathroom wiping the sleep from her eyes. Joining Kayla lying in bed feeding Katya, she sighs heavily as she feels blessed to have the meek woman in her life. Like a well-built house, Kayla was the stable foundation in her life and Katya was the bonus. Never imagining wanting to have children herself, she felt the small child was the next best thing without having to go through getting pregnant and giving birth to her. As her mind drifts, Kayla breaks the moment by shifting in the bed. Handing Katya to Faith, she tucks everything back under her shirt. Faith, having conquered the fearful shock of holding Katya, lovingly brings her to her shoulder and gently burps Katya. In seconds, Kayla slips a burp rag across Faith’s shoulder preparing for the worst.
As the pair make light conversation, Lacey rings the front door. With Faith absorbed in caring for Katya, Kayla throws on her robe and answers the door. Invited in immediately, she worriedly beckons for Kayla to answer questions. Shrugging, Kayla strides to the kitchen and begins lunch for them. After passing on the invitation to join them, Lacey tucks a crazed lock of hair behind her ear and growls out her questions.
“What did you do to mom!”
Giving her an incredulous glare, Kayla continues setting out the pans and drifts to the refrigerator gathering up an onion and head of lettuce.
“I healed her. If not, you and Tara would be arranging her funeral right now. You’re welcome.”
Angrily, Lacey strides into the kitchen as Faith wanders into the living room drawn by Lacey’s tone.
“Don’t give me that! She’s not the same person now. She doesn’t want to go through with the ceremony to release the power of the scythe, she is making arrangements to get rid of her conjuration and scrying furniture, and not to mention her magic books!”
Chopping and cutting the vegetables, Kayla stops abruptly and raises the knife like a pointer at Lacey as she speaks.
“Willow Rosenburg knew that there would be consequences for accepting my help. She spent an awfully long time considering it, and in the end CHOSE to go through with it. That’s why I healed her last. I knew that having the infusion of holy magic into her body could have serious ramifications. For the cardinal, it was nothing because he should already be blessed by God’s hand through his deeds. The worst he would experience was a closer relationship with the all mighty, closer than most in his shoes could ever dream of attaining. As I told your mother as she laid dying, that accepting God’s help comes with a price. You’re drawn to his side, because he personally touches you in a way no one else can understand, and it affects everyone differently. Like I said, consequences. It’s not a bad thing, but it changes your perspective.”
Seeing Kayla wield the knife towards her, she nervously keeps her distance to reply.
“Perspective? She’s abandoning her life’s work and the future of all the slayers! We need her to go through with this ceremony.”
Shrugging, Kayla returns to cutting the onion as she talks.
“I’ll talk to her, but it’s her choice on what she does; I’m not controlling her.”
Angrily, Lacey storms out of the apartment leaving Faith standing in the bedroom doorway holding Katya in her arms. Staring at Kayla in shock, she silently turns and returns to the bedroom to change.
May 3, 2033
Las Vegas, Nevada (2:35pm)
Storming into their main conference room, Edith McGovern throws down her tablet and screams at the assembled department heads.
“Who in the HELL authorized the destruction and wholesale slaughter of the Watcher’s Council last night? Especially after I said they were to be left alone! Our organization does not need that level of interest placed on us at this critical juncture!”
As accusations fly across the room, Gloria Evers finishes reading the intel report over the assault on the Watcher’s headquarters; she stands abruptly as she reads the descriptions of the attackers. “MA’AM!”
A horrid silence suffocates the room as all eyes turn onto Gloria. After Edith turns to Gloria with a stare which could snuff the life out of any soul she wished, Gloria swallows dryly before continuing.
“Two hours ago, I intercepted a Vatican after-action report over the signing of the San Angeles Accord. An unknown group matching the description of those who attacked the Watcher’s HQ, attempted to stop and unravel the signing. Thanks to Faith and her team, they were unsuccessful, with minimal human losses. The Demonic envoy took horrible losses but signed the accord afterwards. We have pictures of those involved, but no clues as to their identities or who’s leading them. I was still compiling my report for this afternoon. I’m sorry I didn’t notify you earlier.”
With the fires of her anger stifled, Edith sits down exhausted into her chair. With her mind buzzing with scenarios and contingencies, she silences the room by raising her hand subtly. As her eyes dart left in right as she thinks, she stands and begins barking orders.
“Mia! Lockdown Gamma1! Delores! Send out to all teams, at home and in the field, that our operations have been compromised. Expect unsanctioned attacks, murders, kidnappings, all without legal backing or warning. This new organization will be turning their sights onto us next, and I don’t want to be caught in shower when they come calling. Even this building, despite the hordes of defenses and troops protecting it, is an obvious target. We’ll go back to our roots, girls. We operate in small cells of no more than seventy-five and disappear into the woodwork. For us here, we will resort to teleconferences on secure networks and spread out to our areas of responsibility. There, you fortify your small facilities and expect trouble at every turn.”
Mia, the acting security chief, beckons Edith to reconsider her orders.
“We have more strength together as a whole, not in small cells! We need to fortify our teams here, not spread out.”
Edith shakes her head calmly. “Negative. This is one gigantic target; think the twin towers scenario. I know it sounds paranoid, but I think I know who this is now, and its best if we’re diffused. Arm yourselves to the teeth, but everyone should leave by different means and routes within the next two hours; the sooner the better. Dismissed.”
Seeing Gloria leaving, Edith snags the young woman’s arm and holds her tight.
“Not you. We’re going to San Angeles and set up shop. My plane will be ready in the hour, and we will have a full contingent onboard. I must warn the DOD that the Hell-Mouths are active again and that aerial bombardment is recommended. They will feed us satellite recon, but I want boots on the ground. This is how you get your feet wet Gloria. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Chapter 17: 17
May 3, 2033
San Angeles (3:10pm)
Leading Kayla into their bedroom, Tara is fearful to enter seeing Willow sitting Indian-style on the bed gazing at her feet. With tears streaming endlessly off her chin, Tara was incapable of helping her wife in her morale dilemma. After thanking Tara, Kayla moves to the foot of the bed and kneels. Silently gathering Willow’s attention, Willow’s sore and red eyes drift up and meet Kayla’s. Silence fills the expanse until finally Willow croaks out weakly.
“How do I face God after everything I’ve been doing my entire life. I’ve used and abused magic, I have done deeds for false gods and worshipped all kinds of spirits and beings in that time. How can he even give me his blessings after all that?”
Kayla nods in surprise and joins the aged witch on the bed. “I am not an expert on his will and decipherer of his actions. I am a force of nature set loose on this earth to make it safer for his creations to live, love, and grow closer to him. He chose to make you whole for a reason, that I can be certain of. There is nothing he does that is without purpose. It took me several lives before I made sense of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the scattering of his chosen people.”
With renewed tears, Willow gasps and begins to bawl uncontrollably. “And I abandoned the wisdom of my parents by pursuing witchcraft…”
Kayla, with a meek grin, grasps Willow’s hands to calm her. “Listen, I didn’t say Jews were the sole path to his wisdom either. They are just his ‘chosen’ people, but even his favorites must suffer now and then. We’re all just human in the end, and we are forced to learn from our mistakes while on this earth. The Jews kind of stopped listening to him and well, crap happens sometimes. I can say in your case, he could have chosen to not heal you, and trust me that happens. No matter how much I want the person to live, it’s up to the big guy whether he wants to you to continue to live with my aid or not; I’m just a vessel for his works. Sometimes, all I can do is remove the suffering, easing their way to death. For his reasons alone, he chose not only to help you, but to FULLY heal you. Please realize that is extremely rare. He’s only done that without any ill effects on me a handful of times in the past. One time was to help a priest who was near death in the middle of a jungle in the Amazon. I laid my hands on the nearly dead man and it was awe-inspiring feeling God pour his might and majesty through me into that tired and broken man. Afterwards, I heard God tell me to leave him where he laid and move on. In those days, that’s how he was. Obey and do not question. He doesn’t speak to me as much like he did in the old days; then again, I am given better insight and instincts which guide me.”
Kayla pauses to wipe the tears from her face and continues. “If he didn’t think you had a purpose in the here and now, I wouldn’t have been able to heal you. Not just anyone can pull off this spell; you are blessed in the way you can work magic. You have a natural talent channeling these arcane forces, something I do not possess, nor wish to. I’m his servant, and I’m allowed to do some minor stuff, and to work with witches like you. If at any point he told me to stop helping you, I would do so without any hesitation. It sounds like many innocents will be saved and liberated if you go through with it, so take that for what it’s worth. I’m not saying to turn the other cheek to his calling, but you are needed to do some special work here and now; and perhaps after you complete your duties, you can begin to see how you can serve him better. If you wish, I will try and help you.”
Willow nods approvingly as she tries clear away the tears. “Yes, I think that would be a good idea.”
Kayla smiles and stands. Turning towards the door, she walks away and stops as Willow addresses her.
“Who was the other person you healed fully?”
Kayla stops at the door’s threshold but doesn’t turn around as she speaks. “I was sent into the desert by his command. I walked for two weeks until I found a man nearly dead from dehydration. I laid hands on him and was told to let him be and walk away. As I reached civilization he whispered that the man was tested and passed.”
Willow nods silently then asks once more. “Do you think that’s why you went thru what you did at the state hospital? He was testing you?”
Kayla Shrugs. “Only he can say, and I haven’t heard from him since before I turned myself in with Faith.”
As Kayla disappears, Willow finds the strength to leave the bedroom and resume her studies.
Sitting around Willow and Tara’s apartment, Faith talks on the fiber-op with Cardinal Montego. As the discussion approaches and uncomfortable lull, he asks all in sight.
“Have any of you heard of the Harbingers of Death, or just Bringers?”
As everyone shakes their heads negatively, Kayla sighs loudly.
“I have. They are exclusive to one evil entity and no one else, and it doesn’t ‘loan’ them out. They are its elite foot soldiers, and honestly I haven’t seen any for thousands of years, not including the previous night of course.”
The cardinal nods in agreement and continues. “The entity she’s referring to is simply called the First. It is the first original evil that ever existed.”
Kayla resumes speaking during his long pause. “It’s rumored that it whispered its corruption into Lucifer’s ear night and day, and we all know how that turned out. It has a way of getting under your skin and corrupting the best of us. It exploits your weaknesses and twists you inside-out. Those it cannot convert, it slaughters; and before you ask, I have never addressed its minions head on like we did the other night. It was usually just one or two and the forces it converted to its cause. It’s changing tactics; it’s using full frontal attacks now.”
The cardinal numbly agrees. “All we know is that they are on the move. Their failure to prevent the accord is a minor setback at best. Last night, as we battled them outside the demon’s market, they executed an attack on the Watcher’s Council and destroyed them.”
Willow speaks up in a confused tone. “Um…they destroyed their headquarters?”
The cardinal shakes his head negatively. “No, the entire Watchers Council is gone. Hundreds of coordinated strikes have nearly eliminated every watcher and the potential they were monitoring around the globe. The current slayer living in Yugoslavia was also killed.”
An agonizing pause fills the void before he continues. “They did vile and unspeakable things to her before they finally ended her life after six and a half hours.”
Everyone cannot miss how the cardinal is visibly hurt by their actions. Gathering his strength, he finally continues.
“Fortunately, we still have a backup organization who will act in the Watcher’s place, but it will take some time to get them up and running. They too are under attack from the Harbingers, but they were not targeted initially like the Watcher’s Council. They are inbound to San Angeles and will set up a temporary headquarters there. Gloria Evers will be your contact, so she should be in touch with you soon. If there’s nothing else, I need to brief His Holiness on the events transpiring. Be careful everyone.”
With a grim nod, Faith turns off the connection and puts her arm around Kayla who is cradling Katya in her lap.
May 3, 2033
San Angeles (6:00pm)
With the last of the mobile base’s equipment set up, Gloria reports into Edith locked in her bedroom. Listening to the door before she knocks, she hears her conversing and hesitates knocking. Waiting a minute, she knocks sharply and waits patiently. Opening the door with reddened eyes, she breathes raggedly and waits for Gloria to speak first. Nervously, Gloria begins.
“The base is fully operational and ready. I was planning to meet with Ms. Lehane and her team tonight and brief her on the situation, not that we have much more news to report. We were able to rescue about five dozen potentials before their watchers were killed, but I’m not sure how much longer we can keep them alive. For every one of those demons we kill, we lose over two dozen of ours. They are simply wearing us down.”
With a grim nod, Edith mentions that Gloria should take a small contingent along in case they try to attack her on the way and returns to her room alone talking to the walls. Gloria shrugs and exits the controlled area taking eight of her guards with her. Unsure if even eight were enough, she sees little point in taking more. After phoning Faith, she tells her driver to go to a restaurant and wait as she confers with the Slayer. Striding into the dive, she is affronted to find Kayla with her baby sitting in a booth. Though she has a tall class of milk in front of her, the surrounding patrons are liberally intoxicated. Noticing Tara and Faith motioning to join them, she quickly sits and with her bodyguard standing over her shoulder.
“I thought a more private location would have been preferred?”
Faith only shrugs and laughs. Tara doesn’t hesitate to speak for everyone.
“This is actually a great place. We have a private booth away from onlookers, the music isn’t loud in this section, and we can sit down and enjoy our last drinks until all hell breaks loose; sure beats sitting around cowering in B’s place waiting for the end to come like in the old days.”
Kayla nods approvingly as Katya naps beside her in a carrier.
“We have so little time I imagine. We’ll need to strike before they can organize, it’s about the only way to do this. Have you found the Hellmouth which they are opening?”
Gloria nods and extracts satellite and reconnaissance photos and presents them to Faith; Faith steals a side glance at Kayla who was biting her tongue at their guest’s behavior.
“Our best estimates put them at several thousand…in excess of forty-five hundred at last count. The great evil is somehow keeping them from wandering too far, guarding the entrance and keeping us from doing close recon. We’ve fire-bombed the site several times and had mixed results. The president is authorizing the dropping of a fuel-air bomb before we attack. It’s cleaner than a nuke and will soften them up a bit before we advance.”
Faith shakes her head as she listens. “Why? I mean, why are they building up and not sending out raiding parties to soften us up too?”
Striding into Cat Market, Faith is surprised to find most vendors gone and their shops closed as she passes. Arriving at the newly renovated police station, she smiles warmly seeing Gomik approach in a relaxed posture. After shaking his massive hand, she begins before he can ask her purpose.
“I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I got a big question! Are there a lot of ways in and out of the city above through the sewers down here?”
Gomik lets out a bone-rattling laugh as he replies. “Of course, there are! There are the three major passes going North, South, and East, plus dozens of minor routes too small and numerous for me to specify. Right now, this is becoming a ghost town and you won’t have anyone here except us and some key leadership who don’t want to surrender their council seat. Word is out, I’m sorry. Everyone knows this is going to be ground zero for one of the greatest battles in the past three thousand years. There are going to be magical barriers in place, houses sealed up like tombs, and everything that can be dismantled or stolen has been secreted away already.”
Disappointed, Faith shakes her head and looks to her feet in dread. “Why haven’t you joined them?”
Gomik laughs. “That’s easy! I’m not a quitter. All these slags run for the hills as soon as it sprinkles with a little bit of trouble in the air!”
Taken back by her friend’s enthusiasm, Faith chuckles as she continues. “Don’t suppose there’s any way you can seal up some of these routes?”
Gomik thinks for a minute. “The Eastern pass I can. It’s got a fantastic barrier which can be magically locked and entirely unbreakable once locked, but the other two not so much. You’d have to collapse the tunnels. As for the smaller ones, there are just too many to cover, but they are all tight fits; only one can pass at a time and you cannot move very fast through them.”
Faith nods as she thinks. “Don’t suppose you got anyone who can show me?”
Gomik bows his head. “Yup, me! Let’s go.”
Along the route, Gomik would point out key junctions which splintered off to various exits we imagined ways to block or control the flow. Taking several hours to cover the worst areas and block up any entrances which could help, Faith warn him to stay clear of the main exits except for the East road. Telling him to lock it up before nightfall, she explains she’s going to see if they can seal the other entrances using explosives. With an understanding nod, he sees her off and rallies his remaining deputies to secure the important sections of the underground city.
May 4, 2033
San Angeles (8:00am)
Answering the urgent knocking at her door, Gloria shakes off her sleepy haze and opens it. Standing outside with a grim and nearly hysterical expression, Sergeant Jamie Tyson tries to maintain her calm professional demeanor which was just inches from collapsing. Not waiting any longer than she has to, she nearly explodes as she speaks.
“Ma’am! We’ve been trying to reach Commander McGovern but she’s not answering her phone nor our knocks at her door. NORAD is screaming for her consent to execute the strikes on the lower city entrances and well, frankly, I’m concerned.”
With a firm nod, Gloria rushes to the door to the cabin and knocks as she screams for her leader to respond. Giving her five seconds, she looks around the corridor. Eyeing an emergency rescue kit built into the wall, she tears off the cover and extracts a fire-axe. Putting it into the sergeant’s hands she orders firmly, “Get in there!”
Gloria is amazed how quickly the young sergeant was able to dismantle the door and toss it uselessly aside. Not waiting for the room to be secured, Gloria leaps inside to find the room and bed empty, and rips open the bathroom door. The sight of her beloved mentor and leader lying crumpled in the shower in a pool of blood punches her in the gut, making her momentarily tremble in horror. As she tries to imagine how anyone could have snuck into the facility and executed their leader, she ceases the line of thought as she eyes a survival knife lying beside Edith’s open right hand. Finding Edith clad in only her nightgown, Gloria can see similar cut marks on Edith’s inner thighs and her left arm. Feeling the wave of distress and sadness emanating from their leader, she politely closes the door and orders the room secured. Finding Edith’s phone ringing incessantly, she scoops it off the bed, and answers it.
“This is acting Commander Gloria Evers. Yes, I’m in charge! Edith? She was just found dead in her room. It appears to be suicide, but we will have to execute an investigation before an official report is filed. In the meantime, I authorize the strikes to seal up the lower city and tell the Air Force to be ready to bomb after sunset at the site. We will be ready here and will aid the local forces in the city’s defense while our strike teams attempt to close the Hellmouth. JUST funnel them towards the city. We can’t afford to let any go off in any direction. If it moves out of the area, destroy it. I’m sorry, but we need to stick to the plan as best as we can until it seems that the enemy has insider knowledge. What then? I’ll just have to wing it, I guess. Wait, just how exact are your missile guidance systems?”
Leaping out of the bedroom, she rushes to the command center and resumes speaking in a whisper over the phone.
May 4, 2033
San Angeles (11:30am)
Faith stands at the corner of the street looking up in amazement. In the past hour, she had counted three military transports come and go, only to stop and see another plane coming in to land once more. Lacking the United States emblem, none of them had any national markings save a string of numbers towards the tails. She did notice the half dozen unusual fighter planes which did strafing runs along the outskirts of the city and released numerous small bombs. Imagining they were sealing up as many of the small entrances to the lower city as they could, it did little to comfort her. Knowing that the monsters massing at the Hellmouth would still find their way in or over the massive walls of the city, she would still have a horrible fight on her hands. Kayla could offer no reassurances to their fate stating the monsters were full demons, and would be faster, stronger and more durable than any vampire she had faced in the past.
Worse, she mentioned there was no idea as to what kind of demon the great evil would summon. The demon that they had faced the previously was quite unique and would unlikely be used again. Explaining how much it took to make one, it would be a waste of energy for him to make an army of them, as it could make ten to a hundred times more other demons which could reap more chaos and destruction. Adding that in a war like they faced, numbers were extremely important, it seemed to make sense that it would summon simple foot soldiers who could overwhelm another’s defenses through sheer numbers. Numbers were something the city lacked in defenses, a fact which bore down on faith, greatly diminishing her chances of success. Hoping the planes were dropping means for bolstering their strength, she could only sit at the corner and wait. As she sits grimly, a police car pulls up and parks. Exiting, Officer Spartan comes around sits beside Faith. Letting several minutes pass before speaking, he finally breaks the silence.
“Lenina said you wanted us to do a favor for you tonight. Care to say why you won’t be able to do it yourself?”
Raggedly, Faith inhales and exhales sharply before speaking. “Actually, I can. Kayla and I are going to be leading the military troops to face off against those monsters. Kayla will be following me, but we have to ensure those things take the bait and engage us completely. Then we can unleash our secret weapon, and there’s a really small chance we’ll survive. When Kayla speaks in those terms, I realize the odds are total shit. I need you to get our friend Lacey and our baby to the Hospital as soon as Kayla is done. They are going to the disaster shelter to wait it out. If we don’t make it back, Lacey will have full custody of Katya. We have already made the arrangements with the lawyers.”
For once since she’d known John Spartan, she saw total devastation in the Demolition Man’s eyes. As he searches for any words which would matter, Faith stands and shakes his hand before speaking.
“Thanks for not kicking my ass the first day we met in Lenina’s office.”
Chuckling, he hardily shakes her hand and fights back his tears. “You too.”
Letting a teary chuckle escape, she replies, “I still have anger issues, but Kayla has really helped to show me the way to deal with it. I won’t promise I won’t throw a chair through a window now and then, but it’ll be a rare event. Promise!”
As they share a jovial laugh, Faith breaks the handshake and strides to her apartment to spend the remainder of the day with her wife and child. Finding Kayla cloistered in the bedroom, she smiles inwardly seeing her playing with Katya. Speaking like she would any adult, Faith realizes she never did baby talk with her, and spoke like she completely understood every word she said. Leaving her jacket and boots by the door, she slides onto the bed boxing Katya between them. As the afternoon creeps over them and Katya slips into her nap, they spend the rest of the day making love. Though Kayla would not say, Faith knew she was making love like it was her last days on Earth.
Faith momentarily forgot where and when she was, until she heard Katya cooing from the other side of Kayla. Spooning Kayla’s back, she peers over and sees the small child smiling. Kayla sits up, wipes a dribbling of her milk off Katya’s chin, takes her into arms and lays her across her bare chest. After burping her, she sets her back down against her as Faith returns from the bathroom. The serene expression they share moves her to secretly take their picture on her phone camera. The pair, naked and oblivious to Faith, seem to ignore the coming storm only a few miles away. Though Kayla typically shirked away from the camera, she remains in place as Faith captures the moment. Driven by instinct, Faith comes around to the bed with Katya and takes several more pictures of the girls, fearing something she couldn’t voice. Later she noted it was the look in Kayla’s eyes; but she reminds herself, it was something she didn’t recognize until later when she stared endlessly at the digital pictures.
Chapter 18: 18
This is the final chapter to Part 1 of the story. Part 2 is already in work full time.
May 4, 2033
San Angeles (6:50pm)
With sunset less than half an hour prior, Faith joins the massed troops outside of the city. Counting nearly five hundred soldiers, she shakes her head at the sheer number brought to bear against the Hellmouth. It takes her only a few minutes to find Gloria Evers standing with the three ranking officers leading the military troops. Oddly, she was impressed with their choice of weaponry ranging from axes, swords, crossbows, and a few daring women were armed with long bows. With every person in high-collared armor, Faith felt out of place in her leather jacket and police-issue pants and boots. Gloria looks her over in concern and offers to get a set to her, but Faith only shakes her head, dismissing the offer.
“Sorry, but no. It would cramp my style. Besides, Kayla lent me her sword until she can make it back here with the scythe.”
Gloria peers around Faith’s back and notices the Japanese-style sword tied across her back and shrugs. Faith resumes speaking.
“She said she had prayed about it, and no objection was ever voiced, so we’ll have to see. Oh! They were about to start the ritual as I left, so when...”
A beep from Gloria’s phone makes her check it and she nods to the officers around her. In unison, four sharp blows from whistles make everyone go to the ground and hide their faces. Faith is grabbed by Gloria and she pulls her with her to the ground tells her to cover her face. As she tries to ask, an unimaginable explosion shakes her to the core and a vile wind whips across the area. Faith feels like the very air is sucked out of her chest, before a second wave returns and blasts them with heat and dirt. After a minute, she is able to crane her head up and see a mushroom cloud of debris rising into the air from the site of Sunnydale High School. As panic rises, Gloria puts her hand on her arm reassuringly.
“It was a type of fuel-air bomb. You have no idea what it took to get that plane into the air just to drop that thing! We’re hoping we took out a large number in the process. Before they dropped it, there were at least four thousand of them on the ground. Now, we’re hoping the odds are evened up a bit. We’re going to take the personnel carriers near the site and deploy from there.”
Seeing the troops rapidly load up, Gloria leads her to an armored carrier and she lets them drive her back to where all her problems started decades ago. As they near ground zero, many fires still rage, but the roads are fortunately navigable. Where a large high school once stood, a massive crater sits nearly ten feet deep. As Gloria mentions it should have been deeper the Hellmouth splits open sending a constant stream of monsters out to engage the troops. Scrambling to disembark, the soldiers have little time to form ranks or organize themselves before the first monsters reach them. Gruesome pale monsters, eerily similar to a vampire, engage the troops who utilized a useless energy rifle and shrug off the electrical blasts. Their armor, designed to prevent an enemy from accessing their necks and vital areas in close-combat are as effective as the rifles. With the strength of a dozens of vampires, they tear the armor free and rip the throats out of the screaming soldiers. Faith, jumping clear of her vehicle strikes the first vampire before her and is surprised it doesn’t react as negatively as previous vampires. From her experiences against the full demon she fought, she doesn’t let it strike her in response, knowing full well what it might be able to do.
Unsheathing Kayla’s sword, she notices every demon around her stop fighting and turn towards her in unison and charge her. Abandoning their previous victims, they blindly charge her screaming, with several discovering their fatal mistake. Faith’s eyes widen momentarily seeing their reaction to her wife’s sword and has to constantly stay moving and slicing along her path. Gloria, scoops out her cell phone and prepares to hit speed-dial on a number seeing Faith becoming a magnet for the super-vampire hoard. Judging the rate the monsters leaving the Hellmouth, she notices after several minutes it has remained steady. Faith, having cleanly dispatched the fifteenth vampires that reached her, takes a moment to glance at Gloria and gives her a single nod. Gloria hits the call button and yells “go” into it over the din of battle. Closing the line, she prepares a second number and closes the phone as a vampire throws itself at her after killing the soldiers guarding her.
At the San Angeles airport, Willow Rosenberg sees the nod from the armored soldier by the door, and begins forcing the energy to flow through the Scythe. Though they had been trying to coerce it for the past hour, it had resisted the call, set down by its creators so long ago. As she petitions the lesser-gods to aid in her favor, she almost instantly feels their push back. With a tremble in her voice she squeaks out to the room.
“They…won’t do it…they won’t release it because of me. I…I can feel it just behind the door, but…”
Cut off, she is unable to stop the tears flowing down her cheeks with her failure. In anger, Kayla rises and steps over the rows of rows of candles, colored sand and magical symbols decorating the floor. Placing her feet in the middle, she locates the runes which denote the various gods they are petitioning and puts a foot on one then finds Hecate’s and slams her foot down in it. Her eyes roll back in to her head as slaps her hands firmly together in front of her face. The massive shock reverberates through the three witches and they feel the surge of power flowing through them. As Willow stands before the various beings unwilling to break the seal made eons prior, a brilliant white entity steps out of her chest and grows from a small butterfly, to a massive nine-foot-tall being. With six wings similar to a hummingbird’s and four arms, it stands in front of Willow and begins screaming at the assembled gods. Though Willow doesn’t understand a word spoken, she feels so small as the being condemns and admonishes the deities resisting her. The shame and fear the beings exude, begins to overwhelm Willow and she fights lowering her gaze. As the being turns towards her, she sees Kayla’s loving and compassionate smile pierces her heart. In an instant, Kayla disappears and a tidal wave of brilliant energy impacts her.
The room, once dark and foreboding, is immediately filled light emanating from Willow. Holding the scythe at arm’s length, she releases a silent scream as the wave explodes across the void of time and space. The wave momentarily passes through every being on the planet and continues infinitely into space. Kayla carefully steps out of the circle as the three women collapse backwards with light emanating from their eyes and mouths. As the light fades, Kayla kneels down to Willow and kisses her forehead. Willow shudders as a glimpse of the future passes into her, but she is unable to move or speak. As the tears slowly trickle down the sides of her face, she continues to try to break the after effects of the spell but is powerless. Grasping the scythe in her hand, Kayla whispers to the woman.
“It has been written, so it must be done. At least he’s talking to me again, and it won’t be forever.”
Lifting the scythe out of her hands, she strides away leaving the women paralyzed on the floor in ethereal bliss. As Cardinal Montego rises from kneeling on the concrete floor, he bows cordially. Kayla pats his arm and leads him out to the waiting flyer. Armed to the teeth with rockets and cannons, a pair of door gunners bow respectfully as they approach. Before jumping inside, Kayla yells to the cardinal.
“Help her find the way but walk slowly and gently with her. What she did tonight is paled by what she can do harnessing the power of God. HE showed me that much, at least. This is only the beginning for Willow Rosenberg. I’ve opened the door, but you must show her the way.”
Nodding grimly, he yells out his reply. “I will endeavor to accomplish this task. Go with God.”
Kayla pauses and smiles. Rushing back, she hugs him once. “And with you cardinal.”
Running back to the flyer, she replies further but is lost in the whine of the engines coming to life. As she buckles into her seat the door gunner, a burly man in a crisp army uniform, asks what she said. Laughing, Kayla replies, “I said, let’s go get my sword back!”
It was like a heavy shudder as a wave of energy passed through the chaos of battle. Every woman momentarily jumped as the power of the slayer filled them and the demon hordes saw the effects instantly. Enraged they surge onwards but are frustrated that the easy kills were suddenly a hundred-times more difficult to slaughter. And as their ranks were slowly being pushed back, the demons were suddenly on the defense and losing ground despite their superiority of numbers. Faith could hardly believe how much of a difference the release of the power had on their cause. Women who were struggling to keep from being killed moments prior, were keeping pace with Faith’s systematic assault on the demonic lines. Though she had thought Kayla’s sword had a lot to do with it, the shift in the tides of battles made her rethink that assumption.
In minutes, they had retaken their lost ground and were back to where they parked the troop carriers. Passing them, they finally are heading towards the Hellmouth. Though it was still half a mile away, the distance didn’t seem as far any more. A loud scream overhead, makes everyone momentarily look up in time to see a gunboat unleash its fury upon the demonic lines. Strafing the lines, it makes the demons roar in anger and several attempt to leap upon it as it passes. Each round that hits, makes the demon explode violently, making a significant difference in the battle. Swerving away, it hovers over the troop carriers and a lone figure leaps atop the abandoned vehicle. With the fire of battle surging through her, the figure charges at full speed towards the line, and leaps over the women to land behind the demon Faith is fighting.
Faith was taken back by the suddenness of the impact and steps back reflexively as the demon was cut in half down the middle just before exploding in a cloud of dust. Executing a wide arc attack, Kayla manages to force the surrounding demons back as she clears the area around her. Any demon who failed to heed the swirling dance, never lived to learn from his mistake. Stopping abruptly, she steps backwards to Faith’s side grinning profusely. Laughing she yells to her wife, “Trade yah!”
Shaking off the awe filling her eyes, she nods and tosses Kayla’s sword to her as Kayla tosses the scythe. Catching the weapons, they turn to the lines of demons who had regained their courage and resume their charge. All at once, the line of women scream in defiance and are inspired to double their efforts. Though their numbers were reducing, the numbers of vampires are decreasing dramatically from the charge of soldiers and the wall of fire coming from their flanks. Scores of gunships surround the crater of the Hellmouth and maintain a steady stream of destruction funneling the demons towards the berserk soldiers. Faith had lost track of the time she was fighting alongside her wife. As the spearhead of the formation, they were finally in sight of the portal to Hell, while the bulk of their forces were still twice the distance away.
As Faith fights, she watches in dismay as the stream of vampires appears unrelenting with two or three vampires leaping out of the hole at a time. With her mind contemplating alternatives, their surroundings erupt in a brilliant light from far above. Immediately, the demons scream out in agony as the light brightens and the area is bright as day. As the demon hordes explode into dust from the daylight, Kayla grins and takes a moment to breathe. Faith shakes her head in confusion and exclaims: “And that’s it!”
Noticing the change in Kayla’s expression, her face becomes slack.
“No. Right now it’s making a horde of flying demons to counter our air support, so I have to end this once and for all. I’m sorry honey, there’s no other way.”
Throwing herself at Faith, she attacks her with the most passionate kiss of Faith’s life. Lasting nearly twenty seconds, she doesn’t register a soldier taking the scythe from her hand freeing her up to hold Kayla. When Kayla breaks the kiss, she staggers backwards, stunned by the raw emotion her wife exuded. With the world spinning, she collapses into Gloria’s arms as she watches Kayla turn with teary eyes and leaps into the Hellmouth with her sword raised high. A massive shudder rocks the earth around them as Kayla lands inside, and the massive globe of daylight hovering in the air shifts, angling its beams into the chasms below. As if on cue, an eerie chorus erupts deafening everyone on the ground. An instant later, a shaft of light screams down from the clouds and spears the opening of the Hellmouth. Immediately, the ground shakes and rocks as an earthquake, not unlike the great one which changed the shape of California decades prior, begins tearing apart the very ground they stand. Like a torrential waterfall of light, it flows into the vile orifice filling every crevice in divine light. Faith, screaming her wife’s name, tries to uselessly resist being carried away by Gloria but is overcome by unconsciousness as all her strength and energy was stolen.
Faith jerks awake and is barely able to be slowed by the military nurses who try to quickly remove the IV from her arm. Growling, she begins to yell to get someone in charge, only to see Gloria and Tara rushing around the corner to calm her. Gloria reaches Faith first and begins, though not quite knowing where to begin.
“Miss…Faith! Please calm down, it’s all over! We won! The Hellmouth has been destroyed in California, so we can breathe a heavy sigh of relief finally.”
Tara wants to continue where the woman stops, but knows Faith is not interested in their success in battle. With heavy eyes reddened by a lengthy night of crying, she goes to the slayer’s side and wraps her arm around her. As Faith starts to ask about Kayla, she sees the tears resume down on Tara’s face and collapses backwards against the bed screaming in agony.
May 5, 2033
San Angeles (10:20am)
Delivered to her vacant apartment, Faith refuses to accept company to stay with her. Taking a long shower to diffuse the torrents of tears she still had inside of her, she finally leaves the water only to lay on her empty bed for the remainder of the afternoon. When the afternoon threatened to become night, a knock at the door finally roused her from her catatonia. Answering it with bloodshot eyes and a slack expression, she is tempted to refuse entry for Willow. The distant cry of a child snaps her attention forward as she recognizes Katya’s unique wail, making her heart ache hearing. Without thinking, she rushes out of her apartment and scoops the baby from Lacie’s grasp. Almost immediately, she begins to calm and stifle her tears once in Faith’s hands. Lacie, having spent hours crying herself, breathes raggedly having finally got Katya to calm down.
“I’m sorry Faith! She has been crying non-stop since last night, and I didn’t know what to do anymore. The doctors say she’s physically fine, but it was as if she knew what happened last night.”
As the three usher Faith back into her apartment, they are relieved Katya will let Faith feed her a bottle. Clutching Faith’s shirt with an iron-grip, she downs the bottle with a fevered passion. Faith stares down at the small red-haired baby, her sole-remaining link to her deceased wife, and holds her close to her chest. She painfully asks if there was a body, but Tara raggedly shakes her head negatively.
“Nothing made it out of there. Once the beam of light ended, the Hellmouth simply crumbled and the entire area collapsed upon itself and disappeared into the Earth. They said they flew over the area with thermal cameras and saw nothing alive. They’ve now got a five-hundred-foot-deep crater that’s slowly expanding out towards to what used to be Los Angeles and the sea. They think in a few months the ocean will fill the void; and all the open faults and ravines from the previous great quake will be filled with sea water as well. Basically, the area from Los Angeles to Sunnydale will be a memory, hundreds of feet underwater.”
With renewed tears, Faith nods grimly as Katya falls asleep in her arms. Rising, Faith caries her to the bedroom and sets her in the crib before changing once more. With excessive weight on her shoulders, she morosely speaks to the trio.
“I hate to ask this of you, but can one of you just stay here and watch Katya for an hour? I need to check in downstairs with our demon-residents. It would be a good idea for them to see that I’m still around.”
Willow nods approvingly and rubs Lacie’s shoulders. “I got it. You and Tara get back and sleep. I’ll be along in a few.”
Faith stops to hug Willow as she passes and disappears down the hall. Tara watches Lacie shuffle off exhausted and she whispers to her wife.
“Do you think Faith will stick around? I mean this is a big change, and technically they’ve got a world-full of Vampire Slayers running around.”
Willow can only shrug. “No telling, but I hope so. I think she’s changed a lot since we have come to know her, and she might? Only God knows now.”
Tara holds her stare at Willow noticing the subtle difference in her once Wiccan wife. As she turns to sit on the couch, she shrugs off the book bag on her shoulder and rummages through it. Tara nods grimly and returns to her apartment, with storm clouds of change slipping in over the horizon. After Tara leaves, Willow removes three books and sets them out around her. Emblazoned on the cover of a study book, the title “Biblical Beginnings Workbook” is a companion to the book beside it. Alongside a bible, the book conceals a leathery bookmark tucked away and Willow grabs the main book and resumes reading the first chapter. With a drive unseen since her youth, she dives into the study, yearning for the enlightenment it can provide. After Faith returns she asked how Faith was doing. With her typical coldness, having gotten time to raise her walls of protection around her broken heart, replies that she isn’t well. Continuing distantly, she mentions that someone needs her to stay focused in the here and now, and she will try and be that person Kayla always was.
Willow asks meekly, “A mom to Katya?”
Faith inhales sharply fighting back renewed tears. “Well, that and a beacon. A beacon of strength and hope for everyone around us, not just to those closest to us. There’s no way I can be half as good of a parent to Katya as Kayla would have been, but I’ll be one hundred percent of a mother to her child.”
After sharing a hug, Willow gathers all her books and departs leaving Faith to start a new life. Abandoning her life as singular vampire slayer, the hundreds or thousands of women walking the Earth were more than adequate to keep her grounded. With a steady job, a good place to live, friends and coworkers to fill her free time, she realized her job as parent outweighed all her previous thoughts of importance.
End of Part 1
Chapter 19: 19
Beginning of Part 2
Eight Years Later.
May 5, 2041 (Sunday)
San Angeles (10:20am)
Releasing a blood-curling roar, Faith’s voice is lost as her team mimics her as they charge out onto the field. As they assume their respect positions across the green grass, Faith paces expectantly as she watches each of her girls go face to face with the opposing team. Clad in their blue and pink uniforms, the opposing team of seven and eight-year-olds were visibly shaken after only a minute on the field, setting the stage for the coming game. With her team dressed in a dramatic scheme of black and yellow, Faith made sure her two injured girls were fully dressed for each game, to remind the team they were only down, and not out. Team work was the key element Faith brought to the once full-time losing team. With no one wanting to take the helm, Faith took up the reigns; and for the past three years they had risen to the top junior team in the city. Though their skill level was only slightly above average, the level of comradery her girls displayed was unlike anything seen for their age group. Unsurprising, they had scored four goals within the first quarter, she had to remind herself to tell them not to humiliate them excessively. With many on the team from the original losing team, they understood the concept of keeping the game fun.
As they stop the game for a half-time break, Faith brings the team in and around their downed players. Tearing into the cooler, they extract their water bottles and wait patiently as Faith ensures everyone is with her before she begins. In surprise, a grinning redhead pops under her left arm and hugs her. Returning the embrace, she begins.
“Great work! We got them down by six now, but I was hoping we wouldn’t get there until after halftime. Tammy! What did we roll on the die before we began?”
Sheepishly, a black girl with long straight locks tied high in a pony tail shakes her head.
“Sorry! We rolled a four, but I got caught up in the moment and those two last goals were too easy not to take!”
Faith shakes her head. “Look, we have a plan and we stick to it. We rolled a four, and we can only win by four. The reason we come out here and play is not just to win, but to show our domination of the game. If we lose a point, it’s because we choose to lose it. Do I have to remind you all what it’s like to be completely destroyed out here?”
As the girls all shake their heads in painful humiliation, Faith puts her arm over the small blonde girl beside her. Teresa Longfellow was one of the original members of the team who saw so many of her friends quit the sport year after year as their team was publicly humiliated week after week on the field. With a renewed sense of purpose, Faith resumes.
“Okay, so what are we going to do about this? Tammy, you’re team captain for this game, so what’s your plan?”
The black girl nods and rushes to think. “Um…a number eight?”
Faith watches how the team considers the decision and nods approvingly. “And you will do it, but not to hurt her, even by accident. Remember, real accidents can happen out here when you’re trying to do it right! Give her a real obvious shove with a good show of anger. Tripping them can backfire like it did Lucy here, though I still think that girl intended to hurt her like they did. We’ll really show them defeat when we play them again in six weeks! Now! Who’s going to lose their cool next?”
As everyone glances around the circle, the redhead under Faith’s arm speaks. “I’ll do it mom. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’ll screw up and let them score.”
Hugging her proudly, Faith resumes. “Thank you. Now we have to practice our containment procedures, so this is the game we’ll play unless they somehow make us switch tactics. A huge pizza dinner this week if you all pull it off!”
Screaming out three loud cheers, they turn and run back onto the field and start the last half of their game. Faith momentarily reflects how far she had brought the team over the previous years. Though she had only five years of experience playing on the city’s team, when Katya expressed her desire to join a team, the only one available to join was the infamous Yellow Jackets. It became instantly apparent no one of any notable skills wanted to be a part of the team, and Faith quit her position to take the reins. Though her police and slayer duties made night games difficult, she never imagined completely turning the team around within two years. Though the first year was the roughest, she helped the coaches until the couple got fed up and left before the final game. Faith was strapped to lead them without any preparation, but their defeat was hardly a humiliating affair as previous games. Investing countless hours with the coach from the city’s professional team, she grinned knowing the girls only needed someone to take their team as seriously as they did. Though they lost their first two years, every season their ranking climbed dramatically spurring them on in practice and in the games.
As the crowds roar with a mixture of groans and cries, Faith nods as she sees Tammy getting a penalty flag for her shove of a shorter Hispanic girl on the opposing team during her run to the goal. With little surprise, the girl makes the penalty kick but is genuinely surprised how Tammy stops the little girl as she passes and shakes her hand as she apologizes. With the game back into full speed, the opposing team makes no further goals as they keep them a respectable distance from their goal. As she is about to call a time-out to remind them that they have to let them make one more point, she sees them punch through their line and make a run to the goal. If Faith didn’t know her girls, she would have thought it was a successful feint on the opposing team’s part. As the girl approaches Katya Faith sees Katya become drowsy and unbalanced, and nearly stumbles as the girl feints the ball passed her feet into the goal. As the opposing team screams in victory, Faith is screaming for a timeout as Katya falls to her knees.
Reaching her daughter in seconds, she recognizes the seriousness of her condition and helps her off the field. After switching her out, with a girl with a short chestnut bob-haircut, the game resumes while she looks over her daughter. As she has her lay back on the bench, Lacie is by her head taking readings. Taking a bottle of water, Katya inhales sharply as the tears roll down her cheeks.
“I’m…I’m okay. Something weird came over me all of the sudden and it took me by surprise, that’s all. I’m fine now.”
Lacie guides her back to a sitting position and orders her to drink an orange juice, to help her feel better.”
Nodding, she takes it and sees the worried expression on Faith.
“Really mom, I’m fine now! Well, at least they scored a point, right?”
Faith rises and tussles Katya’s hair. The remainder of the game goes as planned, with the opposing team steadfastly held back from making a goal. Though she almost got angry when Tammy moved forward to score, she breathes a sigh of relief as they are able to stop her by kicking the ball away and back across the lines. As the time expires and they teams respectfully shake and congratulate each for a good game played, Katya seems to have fully recovered and goes out to shake. As they leave the school stadium, Faith turns away from the city and heads to the outlying memorial cemetery. Reserved for the soldiers lost in the previous demon war, most didn’t have remains or were cremated after their death. After purchasing two bouquets of fake flowers from the front, the flowers were endlessly recycled through cleaning and reselling. Though the cost was only two dollars for a standard bunch, the cost covered the recovery and cleaning and they decorated the headstone for a week guaranteed.
Walking out to the tenth headstone on the sixteenth row, they stop and kneel beside a small marble headstone. Only half the size of a standard headstone, the marker had plenty of room for a name and a few words. Faith leans forward and wipes the old cut grass from the face revealing the inscribed words.
“Kayla Dawn Meadows. June 25, 1977 – May 4, 2033. Sensei, Warrior, Wife, Mother. Gave her life so that we may live.”
Laying her hand across the face of the writing, Faith drops her head as she fights the old tears from resurfacing. With a deep breath, she discovers none are there to fight off, and she sits back in reflection. To her surprise, Katya also is staring coldly at the headstone unable to shed a single tear. As the event mulls between them, Faith finally asks her daughter what happened during the game. With a confused shrug, Katya tries to find the words.
“Well, you know that time when you couldn’t pick me up right after school when I was in first grade, and I thought you forgot all about me?”
With a half-grin on her face, Faith nods as she remembers how she got held up at a crime scene, and the school didn’t notify Katya she was running late. Katya continues seeing the look on her mother’s face.
“Well, the moment I saw you running up to me, jumping out of your police car, it felt like that. All of the sudden I had all those feelings and stuff hit me, and I didn’t know what to do.”
Concerned, Faith nods subtly and tries to work more out of her. “Were you thinking about that time or did something remind you of that?”
Shaking her head, Katya breathes deeply and exhales before replying. “No. Just all of a sudden, BOOM! I felt all of that and I just froze. Isn’t that crazy?”
Faith, looks over the headstone once more and asks gingerly, “And right now? What are you thinking?”
Without a single tear forming, she shrugs blandly. “Nothing. I don’t feel anything looking at mom’s headstone. It’s just a piece of rock planted in the ground with writing on it. Does this mean I don’t love her anymore?”
Like a spear through her heart, she grabs Katya and hugs her tightly. “No sweetie, it’s just a phase we go through.”
More intensely than she planned, she holds her daughter and realizes she has no tears to shed either.
May 6, 2041
San Angeles Police Department (3:50pm)
Striding into the gym after changing, Faith hugs and shakes hands with numerous officers until arriving at the practice area. Having moved from one corner to another over the past years, Faith always preferred where it originally was, but knew it was completely a construct of her own imagination. As she sighs, she sees Devon Thomas, a detective on her MDK Investigation Squad, come tumbling off the mats and land roughly on his chest groaning. Shaking her head, she hurries to the area to find a meek woman coming off the ground. As the officers are chuckling and helping him up, Alecia bumps Faith with her shoulder jovially.
“That’s one of our newest federal transfer officers. She requested to come here for her first assignment. She’s really good, how about you try her out?”
With an incredulous expression, she sees the young woman toss Dennis Keeler, one of their experienced officers from their classes, off the matts and crash beside Devon. With her experienced officers running thin, Faith nods, and imagines she might be a recent slayer. Pulling off her sweat shirt, she strides onto the matt and is surprised when the woman is bowing to her in respect. Doing the same, she barely is erect when the girl screams out in attack, Faith passes over her as she flies to where she was and lands on her feet in time to see the girl charging back at her. Sticking to specific karate and taekwondo attacks, she seems to be testing Faith rather than fighting her. At slayer speeds, Faith feels the blows would have critically injured any of her regular officers but will barely leave bruises on her. Looking at her face, Faith cannot mistake the sense of familiarity with the chestnut-haired teen. Wearing head and eye protection, the girl’s face is too obscured for her to really discern her lines and curves and can only see her clear green eyes like Alicia’s staring back at her. Nearly her same height, she undoubtedly has the strength of a slayer and isn’t afraid of anyone. As she decides to mix it up and end the fight, the girl takes a hit to her chest as she pulled a head blow to Faith. Rolling backwards she seems to growl fighting back the pain and walks it off. Apologetic, Faith tries to get her to shake, but the girl is rubbing her chest too much. In a low voice, she squawks a meek and rough reply.
“It’s okay. I should have followed through, rather than pulled my punch.”
Shaking Faith’s hand, she pauses to listen to the loud speaker, making her nod and continue. “Sorry, that’s for me.”
As she jogs away to the changing area, Faith can only shake her head. “Who is this Officer Greenwich?”
Alecia breaks away from her place beside the mats and replies.
“A new recruit from Montana or something. She has an associates in law enforcement and is working on her bachelor’s degree. She passed all the federal law enforcement courses before she was eighteen because she graduated high school early. The city grabbed her up because she was one of the few who requested to come here and is trained by the feds. We’re just running her through all our local stuff now, and it seems she has a black belt in Jujitsu already.”
With residual regret for hitting her in the chest, she knew she should have broken bones with the blow, and she only shook it off. Replaying the fight in her head, she can almost see it playing out in front of her eyes once more. As she gets her students organized by their skill levels, she can’t shake some thought brewing in the back of her head. As they become still and wait for Faith to address them, she murmurs under her breath, “She knows more than just Jujitsu.”
As Katya clears the dinner table, Faith drags out her study guides and books and sets them out across the cleaned table. Coming from the bathroom, a tall dirty blonde hugs Katya while thanking her for clearing the dishes for her. As Katya begins loading the dishes into the washer, Faith sighs loudly as she resumes from where she left off the previous day of study.
“Madeline! Please remind me why I’m frying my brains over this degree?”
Chuckling, the woman leans over and kisses Faith passionately. “Because if you don’t they won’t promote you to Lieutenant. Do you want to stay Sergeant all your life? Everyone knows this is the only thing keeping you from moving up the food chain. Heck! You should be running the entire violent crimes division, not just the MDK investigation squad. The chief WANTS to promote you, but he can’t until you get a degree. You just have this last course and you’ll get your associates. You don’t need your Bachelor’s degree until you want to compete for captain, and that’s only because everyone you’d be going against has theirs. Getting your GED was a nightmare compared to this! This is the stuff you live and breathe every day, not algebra and history.”
Katya yells from her bedroom: “So why do I have to do this then?”
In unison, Faith and Madeline yell towards her room: “Because they said so!”
Laughing together, they dive back into the work, as Faith takes notes for her final paper she’ll have to write. As the hours tick by, they finish the assignment and meander into the bedroom. With Katya fast asleep, they crash into each other’s arms, practically tearing their clothes off. Lifting Madeline off the floor, she tosses her up to scoop her in her arms as she falls making Madeline yelp in surprise as she falls into the small brunette’s grasp. Embarrassed, she stifles her laughter as Faith lays her atop the sheets and flings her panties into the clothes basket. Stopping Madeline, she insists removing them for her and climbs atop her. Taking a moment to nibble at her lover’s petite breasts, she finally nuzzles her way down across the long woman’s chest and stomach to finally find her golden treasures hidden under the black G-string. Another hour is lost until they finally succumb to sleep.
Passing Madeline as she leaves the bathroom wrapped in only a towel, Faith strains to steal a kiss from the six-foot-tall blonde. Laughing once more, they kiss again as Katya chides from the living room.
“Hey, I have to be at school in less than an hour! Enough you two! Breakfast is wrapped up on the table.”
Snickering between them, the blonde rushes into the bedroom to change as Faith continues to the bathroom. As the bedroom door closes, Faith backs out of the bathroom and goes to Katya’s as the young girl is slipping on her shoes. Sitting down beside her on the bed, she asks in a low voice.
“Are you okay with Madeline and I coupling up now? I know you told us how you felt before, so is that changing?”
Shrugging indifferently, Katya finishes with her left shoe and begins donning her right as she replies.
“Yah, I guess.”
Nodding, she lays her arm around Katya’s shoulders and pulls her into a hug and kisses the top of her head. Rising abruptly, she strides into the bedroom with Madeleine to change. With her tall lover zipping up her police-issue flight-suit, she quickly finds her pants and shirt and begins dressing. With a sense of purpose, Madeline is stepping into her boots only to have Faith slow her rapid dressing for another heated kiss before speaking.
“Hey, I think I need to take Katya to school myself today.”
Madeline pauses noticeably and sighs. “Ah.”
Before she can think too far into it, Faith continues. “Something happened this weekend, and I think its still got her in a knot. The fifteen minutes to school might be enough for me to pry some of it loose, and if not, me and her will have to take a sick day tomorrow.”
Seeing the momentary relief on Madeline’s face, she squeezes Faith’s knee and kisses her again in understanding. “That’s probably a good idea.”
Changing, they leave the bedroom taking their lunch and breakfast bags and fly out of their apartment going separate directions, surprising Katya. Faith reads her daughter’s reaction and leads her to their personal car. Though they typically shared a ride with Madeline, the personal conveyance was used extensively on the weekends by the trio. As they are pulling out of their parking space, Katya decides to be the one to break the silence.
“I should have known you wouldn’t let it go.”
Faith can only shrug innocently as she buzzes through the multi-story car park. “Let what go sweetie?”
With a weighty sigh, Katya shakes her head and continues. “The whole Madeline and you thing. Yes! Yes, I am not as angry about it anymore. For as long as I can remember, all your boyfriends and girlfriends seemed like they were just trying to replace mom. They all seemed like good people, but they weren’t mom! I even felt that way about Madeline, if not more, like all of the others combined! After yesterday though, it seems different now. And before you ask, I don’t know why! I just feel like I’m betraying mom and I don’t understand any of it!”
Pulling off the side of the road and parking, Faith’s heart is ripping apart seeing Katya begin crying uncontrollably. As she collapses in her arms, she holds her daughter through the deep spasms of tears. As the start of school is only minutes away, Faith calls the school and says that Katya is too sick to go before turning back home. After changing, they hunker down on the couch together and spend the remainder of the day watching old movies and eating previously contraband sweet and salty snacks. Spending hours chatting, Faith lets Katya vent her thoughts and emotions, while gingerly releasing her own. Discovering how much they run parallel, they end the day by sneaking off to the theatre together.
As Faith changes into her leather pants and t-shirt, Katya lets Willow in and helps her with her study books. Toting them to the kitchen, Katya sets them down and fetches her own from her room. As Faith exits her bedroom, she sees them opening their bibles and reviewing the previous week’s work before jumping into the new material. Faith can only shake her head.
“I don’t know how you two can spend hours doing homework, especially when you hate doing homework Katya.”
Laughing, Katya chides, “That’s because it’s not technically graded. We compare our interpretations of scripture and listen to the provided videos to see how we compared from the intent. Besides, Natalie and her mom are running late so we were just wasting time. No luck on finding that head vampire yet?”
Shaking her head, she takes out her police-issue jacket and slips three long wooden stakes inside the inner pockets.
“No! This is really starting to wear me down too! At first it was just one or two vamps running amuck, and now there’s a gang of them. This head cheese is behind it all, but I haven’t the foggiest who he is. He’s definitely six-foot-one, good build, Caucasian, light brown hair, size eleven shoe, hates wool and synthetics, and likes reading Shakespeare. Aside from that, I don’t know anything useful about him. I think he holds down a day job somehow but doing what I have no clue! I even ran it through the police systems, but it was of no help. Though…I still have a few leads to follow up on. It gave me eighty-four suspects to interview, and I’ve only been able to eliminate nine of them. I’m keeping tabs on twenty-three possible guys, and slowly going down my list. Hurl said he picked up a vamp who started up some trouble last night and is holding him for me to question.”
Willow shake her head laughing. “Demons arresting vampires; who would have thought.”
Faith chuckles hearing Willow. “Tell me about it. He said he was an out-of-towner, and was looking for fresh meat, and bit off more than he could chew down in the Cat Market. He got pissed off that no humans were for sale, insulted the merchants, and got into a fight with a deputy whose parents were the ones he insulted. They beat him to within inches of his life and then threw him into a cell for me to workover when I get there.”
Katya nods. “Well, don’t have too much fun! Natalie’s mom is bringing her famous lemon cake tonight, so don’t be late! I can’t promise that I’ll be able to save you a piece.”
Kissing her daughter’s head and hugging Willow, Faith rushes out the door and heads straight to the Cat Market.
Chapter 20: 20
Striding through the doors of the jail, Faith shakes hands and greets the numerous half-demon officers who rise and joke with her. Taking a minute to look over the improved jail cells, she inquires on how busy it had been in the past month and is surprised how at ease she is around the various demonic deputies. Momentarily forgetting where she is, she can almost imagine she’s up at the police station with her officers. As she listens to them joke and carry-on, Hurl arrives and greets faith.
“Sorry about that! Had to break up a knife-fight in the cat market. Konker demons can get really pissy about price negotiations. A box of Seal-Point Siamese kittens is like a gold chest for us. It got a little too sticky, and blades were drawn…it just got ugly. Come on, let’s go see our vampire.”
Heading to a back part of the jail, Hurl arrives at a cell and kicks the door, making the resident jerk from his sleep. Covered in bruises and blackened eyes, there weren’t many places left for Faith to strike that hadn’t already been hit.
“Jesus Hurl! Your boys didn’t leave me much to work with here. He’s already a bloody pulp, what do you expect me to do now? Use harsh language?”
With Sheriff Gomik chuckling, he stops when he realizes Faith was being serious. “Sorry. He really pissed off my boys.”
Faith shakes her head. “The best thing I could do for him now is to stake him and put him out of his misery.”
Hurl laughs as he replies. “The punk pulled a knife on one of my deputies, so that’s fine by us.”
Shaking her head, she has Hurl give her a minute to talk to him in private. With the huge demon grunting in dissatisfaction, he reluctantly leaves, and Faith pulls up a chair in front of the cell.
“Don’t suppose you want to tell me who you were going to meet up with topside?”
The vampire, with a bloody mop of blonde hair and 80’s retro clothes, shakes his head no and continues staring off to the other end of the cell. Faith waits a few minutes before rising.
“Fine, don’t talk. I’ll just tell him to send you out the front door in the morning. Vampires are one of the few demons no one wants around here. You prey on the living up top and you start trouble down here. You just pissed everyone off today; and if you don’t want to talk to me, I have no reason to spare you. There’s a nice abandoned gas station about two hours down the road that has four good walls and a decent roof to shield you from the sun. If you help me, I’ll make sure that you get a two-hour head start on sunrise. If not, they’ll just toss you out just before lunch. Nothing can get you return rights here; you pissed them off too much for that to happen.”
Faith can sense his apprehension for talking, unsure if for who she was or the consequences for speaking at all. As she rises, she turns from the cell and prepares to put the chair back. From behind her he nearly shrieks out to her.
“Fine! I was going to meet up with another vampire here, but I don’t know his name! I was just told to get here!”
Setting the chair down where she stands she puts her hands on her hips and waits for him to continue. When he doesn’t, she exhales loudly.
“Well you didn’t walk all the way here! How did you get here? Who sent you?”
Shaking his head, he reluctantly continues, making Faith sit cordially as he explains.
“I got here via the Orient Express. Another demon set everything up, I was told to just be at the right places at the right times, and it would get me here.”
Faith shakes her head in disbelief. “Oh, give me a break! Everyone knows that’s total BULL! That was shut down decades ago!”
Shaking his head in denial he continues pleading for his life. “NO! It’s true! The guy who operated it long ago, is back in business and has been running it up and along the west coast for nearly six years now I hear! He’s this big shot demon, but no one knows what he is. Not quite Vampire but not quite any demon anyone has ever seen before! They said there’s no place you can’t go that he can’t get to you, and frankly, it’s got everyone impressed and scared shitless! They also say if you talk, there’s no where he can’t get to you.”
Faith chuckles and rubs her eyes laughing. “Great you demons got another boogieman running around. Sounds like a regular Skinwalker to me.” Rising, she sets the chair back where Hurl had it, and prepares to leave.
“Hey! Enough of this bull crap! Names!”
Resuming his pleading tone, he rushes to the bars and screams back, “I got none! We were to meet up at this bar...Taffies, just after sundown. That’s the popular demon bar in town, I hear.”
Taken back, Faith tries to conceal her surprise with the revelation, which he cannot mistake. “Is that good enough not to stake me?”
Nodding subtly, Faith kicks the main door and Hurl steps through. “He’s singing your tune yet…or at least one good enough to warrant an extension of his miserable life?”
Faster than the vampire imagined possible, Faith rushed to the cell and grabs his neck through the bars. Bringing him into the metal, his head’s impact rattles the bars and he is unable to scream out with Faith’s tight grip.
“I better not see you anywhere near this town ever again. You’re on the banned list, so if anyone sees you down here or up top, your life is forfeit. We have an understanding?”
With a painful nod, he agrees and is thrust back to his cot. Faith dusts her hands off and leads Hurl out with her. Closing the main access door behind her with a heavy clang, Hurl shrugs. “I’d heard a half-ass rumor about Taffies, but nothing confirmed.”
Taken back momentarily, Faith looks at him incredulously. “And you didn’t mention it?”
He can only shrug. “It was a crappy source. A friend’s cousin’s girlfriend’s besty, who’s seeing a Konker overheard him say that his sister’s besty knew a demon who could appear nearly human and sometimes hung out at a demon-friendly place up top called Taffies. Like I said, total shit source, so I didn’t waste your time with that kind of half-ass rumor.”
Faith shakes her head trying to clear the fog he created. “Okay, but next time let me know so I can at least check it out. I’ve run out good clues, and I’ll take crap over nothing.”
Chuckling, he agrees and walks her out.
Strolling through the door at a quarter past ten, Faith groans seeing a slice of cake wrapped up on the dinner table. Cursing under her breath, she peeks into Katya’s room to find her reading the latest Captain Atomica novel in bed. With the end of the last super hero franchise war, an amalgam universe resulted with the best of the two major franchises were merged into a single company. Though the comics still flowed off the presses, a single company ruled over the entire market, stifling all independent writers and artists. With an illegal underground press pushing out regular titles despite the oppression, there were rumors that congress might force the powerful Amalga Press out of business, rescind the prior court’s rulings and reinstate the anti-monopoly laws. Going to her room, she finds Madeline wrapped up in her own electronic novel. Deidra Walker was a popular romance novelist to endure the tides of conservatism in the city and was responsible for the considerable pushback the Cocteau administration received for their attempts at censorship in literature. With his demise, so did all of his policies in regard to books and movies.
Faith quickly changes into her sleep pants and a sports bra and kisses Madeline before going back to see Katya. Jumping onto her bed, Katya rolls her eyes at her mother and sets down her graphic novel. Faith swipes the book out of her hands and opens up the front cover. Skimming through the front pages she stops at the list of characters found in the book.
“So, who’s this big clawed guy? Is he the villain?”
Katya groans. “No mom he’s one of the heroes. His name is Wolverine and has these metal claws and skeleton. He heals faster than we do but is this kick-butt warrior like us.”
Faith nods while grinning. “I know the big guy in black is Batman, but who is the brunette with claws? Is that this Wolverine’s wife or something?”
Laughing Katya stops her. “No mom. That’s Shadowcat, Katherine Pryde. She was experimented on when she was my age and now she has the same powers as Wolverine plus can pass through anything. They call it phasing, and the metal she has in her body and claws is different than Wolverine’s and might be stronger than his. They haven’t revealed everything about her yet, that’s why I bought this one. She’s a real hero, unlike Batman and Wolverine. Her and Captain Atomica work together to fight crime. Batman and Wolverine fight crime but have no problems using any means at their disposal. In this issue, they are being forced to work together to stop the League of Super Villains from bringing a super alien’s armada to Earth to enslave it.”
Faith shakes her head browsing the large book and stares intently at the captain. “She looks a lot like Superman to me.”
Katya snickers. “That’s because they come from the same planet and are cousins. She took up the cheesy name after saving the world from a nuclear powerplant that was melting down; besides, I think she reminds me of Madeline more than anyone.”
Nodding in agreement, Faith sets the book down and looks deeply into Katya’s eyes. “I was wondering how you felt if I were to consider tying the knot one more time…with Madeline. She’s a fantastic person, loves the heck out of you, and makes me really happy. With everything we’ve been through, she has tried the hardest to be a part of our lives. She has endured every screwed-up relationship I’ve been in since your mom died and has been the only one who has survived my bull crap, from patrolling, sports, late shifts, and everything the police department has thrown at us. I can’t marry anyone unless I have your blessings though. It’s a package deal; in order to marry me, they have to earn your respect first and foremost. So, what do you think? I know a lot has happened this week, so I was almost afraid to ask.”
Katya freezes up momentarily. When she reminds herself to breathe, she inhales roughly and squeaks out her blessing. “I don’t know what mom would say, despite you saying her and I were talking too each other while I was in the womb. I would like to think that she would say that you need to move on eventually if she didn’t return, though I don’t feel like she would have. In my heart I know she’s coming back but that might be when I’m your age, and it would be cruel to have you live the next thirty or more years alone.”
Faith sits back defensively. “Hey! I haven’t hit thirty yet! Don’t make me sound like an old woman!”
Sharing a laugh, Katya continues. “Sorry! You know what I mean! I know Madeline is great for you and would be a great mom to me. So, yes! I don’t have a problem with you marrying Madeline. When are you going to pop the question?”
Faith shrugs nervously. “I don’t know. I still have to buy a ring, so maybe you and I can sneak off after school tomorrow and we can go shopping?”
Katya nods in agreement. After hugging, Faith slips back into bed with Madeline processing the day’s tumultuous events. Despite her assurances to Katya, couldn’t fight the sense of betrayal she had for remarrying. I the end she reminded herself that Katya needed a stable family environment more than her own feelings against discarding Kayla’s memory. As Madeline dozed in her arms and Katya was fast asleep in her own bed, Faith explodes in tears restrained enough to not wake her future wife.
May 23, 2041
San Angeles Police Department (3:10pm)
Striding into the gym, Faith chats to numerous officers as she makes her way to the training mats. With only half an hour to pick up Katya, she knew she only had a few minutes to spare with Alicia. The redhead, talking endlessly to a young Mitchell Fokker, a recent recruit, barely notices Faith stopping to give her new recruits advice on fighting stances and breaking holds. As she finishes, Alecia meanders to Faith’s side and listens intently to the aged vampire slayer.
“When I first started, it was rare to run into anyone who would even speak up against us, now there are those who want to start fights and engage with us on that level. It’s still rare, but it happens more often now that alcohol is in use within the city. Illicit drugs are making a comeback, so we have an old element and problem returning to our city. In response, we train the officers on how to politely deal with an irrational subject, in a manner which does not put the officer in jeopardy and preserves the nature of our police force and city. Though we issue glow-rods, we have the street sergeants carry firearms who are trained in the use of military-grade weapons to include rifles and pistols. Before I got transferred to the MDK Division, it was standard practice for me to carry a ten or fifteen-round pistol on my belt. I never had to shoot it, but it is a scary image for someone who is about to commit a violent crime.”
Another recruit arrives and asks her question over Alecia’s shoulder.
“What was your dispersion ratio of street officers to armed sergeants back then?”
Without looking, mostly because she wanted to do some stretching before she began her class, Faith replies as if she’s still talking to the recruit in front of her.
“Well, that changed twice while I was a street sergeant. Initially I had to cover three dozen officers over a seven-square-mile area on foot. As we got more seasoned officers, it went down to one sergeant per district which was around a two-square-mile block of area. We just had more people that were competent in using weapons, and the first four years on the beat were the roughest. I’ve only been working MDKs for three years.”
The same young girls voice asks another question making Faith shiver from some distant familiarity; not in the question but in the tonal quality it possessed. Turning abruptly, she sees Officer Greenwich smiling warmly with her pixie-cut chestnut hair reminding Faith instantly of Kayla, forcing her to turn away in embarrassment halfway through her question. Stumbling through her memory, she tries to playback what she asked before puttering out a response.
“Um, what were our crime stats like? Well, in those early days, we didn’t report anything that didn’t result in damage to people or property. We resolved hundreds of issues without having to put it into a report. Some stuff just wasn’t worth writing down and our turnovers from shift to shift were usually seamless. We knew our beats, the people who lived there, and they knew us. We were practically on a first name basis. We spent time getting to know the kids who walked the streets and recognized the troublemakers as they were growing up. My wife, um before she died, would tell me that our city acted like a small town with the officers on the corner approach. The people knew who the cops were on and off duty, when they saw you they smiled and greeted you fondly, and you got invited into their homes for a cup of coffee or a fruit drink. They wanted you to hang out and be a part of their lives. It’s the only thing I miss about my promotion to MDK. That foundation is what allows me to really make a difference out there, especially when I have to investigate inside my old areas. That relationship, that all officers establish, paves the way for us to effectively investigate crime. I regularly talk to the street cops for their perspective on suspects. They know their areas better than we do, and this helps to prepare them for advancement into the specialty divisions, while helping us to recognize the kind of officer who we want to advance into those specialty divisions. That’s how I got my job, and it works. I still walk the beat on my off time, it helps for people to get used to seeing me. They recognize my face, rather than the badge.”
Nodding with a cute knowing smile, the recruit turns keeping her eyes on Faith all during her turn, making Faith’s heart race as she sees Kayla’s brilliant green eyes in hers. Before she can speak, Alicia quickly brings the class’s attention to her as she starts the class. Though the class proceeds with any remarkable accidents in the sparring portion, Faith’s attention is significantly damaged as her gaze keeps drifting back to the young recruit. Gnawing at her stomach she barely touches her dinner before slipping out to patrol. Meeting Alecia at Gonzo’s Bar and Grill, one of many steak and beer dives popping up in the city, they sit and sip at their beers. Listening to Faith sound out her thoughts, she nods silently as Faith continues.
“Look, Officer Greenwich has Kayla’s eyes, smile, and is the right height. Definitely has her moves and speed, but the nose is wrong. Is it possible that she could be a reincarnated version of her?”
Alecia shakes her head. “I don’t see how. Morgan, is eighteen, nearly nineteen. Kayla died eight years ago. I think you just need to let it go and move on. Besides, I thought you are about to marry Madeline?”
Growling in frustration, Faith nods. “I was…I mean I AM. Argh! Listen to me, I sound nuts now! I just know that she is TOO much like Kayla to be a coincidence. That I know because it’s what I do every day!”
Looking out the far windows, Faith sees night has taken a firm hold and mentally runs through her evening’s task list. As she finishes her beer in one last gulp before it gets warm, while downing the last of the chips and salsa sitting on the table. Alecia grimly inquires on Faiths evening ahead and Faith nonchalantly replies.
“Going to hit Taffies again. My gut tells me there’s something there, but I haven’t seen jack. Yah, I dusted a vamp there once, but I’ve done that in lots of places. This time, I’m going to check around the place before going in. I’ve known plenty of places that more stuff went on outside before it went in. Maybe they are using this place as a point of reference rather than a hangout. Like: no one knows of the place next door to Taffies, so they just say ‘let’s meet at Taffies’ and they never once go inside it. I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here. This vampire gang is my number one problem in the city, and they need to be shut down.”
Alecia can only nod agreement as Faith excuses herself to use the bathroom before striding out the door.
Faith spent nearly an hour scouring the streets around Taffies before finally venturing within. The standard rabble were once again spread out, and she was surprised not find a single demon or vampire sitting around. Several times in the past few weeks she had discovered several Pellion demons sitting enjoying the music and drinks. The succubus-like demons would recognize her almost instantly and become incredibly polite upon her arrival. Sitting down with them, she spends ten minutes getting to know them and asking if they saw any other demons, and usually they would happily identify any vampires prowling the area. As rivals for both territory and prey, they would only psychically drain a victim, and never to the point of death. Often the victim was left with a sense of euphoria and orgasmic pleasure afterwards, making them willingly return week after week. For the demons, there was no point in killing their victims, as they had willing subjects to sustain them, unlike vampires. Stating they only arrived two hours prior, they say they’ve seen nothing since they arrived.
At nearly the same moment, a tall blonde in a slinky dress enters and heads straight to the bar. Everyone at Faith’s table reacts instantly, including Faith. Slipping out of the chair, she is at the far side of the room when the vampire notices the table of demons and growls subtly towards them in challenge. Seeing she’s outnumbered, she finishes her drink and heads to the lady’s room. Entering a door which leads to the bathrooms and the emergency exit, she acts like she uses the toilet before abruptly leaving, only to find Faith blocking the doorway of the bathroom. Nearly as tall as Madeline, the blonde’s bright golden locks would have made her future wife jealous.
“So, what brings you here? Meeting anyone by chance?”
Without an ounce of fear, the woman replies sneering. “Why yes, I am actually. OH! There they are.”
As Faith turns sharply, she is struck across the back of the head by a glow rod, completely disabling her. As her world spins uncontrollably, she hears another woman order everyone out to the alley by saying, “Not in my bar! Outside, everyone!”
Faith, gripped by the horror of immobility, stares wide-eyed as she is carried face-up out the back of the bar and into a cargo van. As the van jerks forward, they waste no time tearing her jacket and boots off, and depositing them in the van. Searching her over for weapons, they laugh at the three wooden stakes and lay them atop the clothes. Getting her shirt off, they leave her in her underwear and roll her onto her stomach. After her arms and legs are bound, they delight in fondling her helpless form. She never imagined being taken prisoner, nor had this ever come close to happening, or she might have taken steps to preventing it. The wrist and ankle shackles were obviously made of metal, amplifying her dread of hopeless state. With each of her limbs attached to a long pole running behind her back, it spread her arms out wide and her legs splayed horrible wide. Knowing the earliest she could hope to shake off the effects of the glow-rod was fifteen minutes, the drive to the hideout was less than five, confirming her earlier suspicions. Taffies was but the general location, with the lair close by on foot. Hearing a warehouse door screech open outside, the van is driven inside and recloses as they pass. Teetering on the edge of despair, tears threaten to explode as she realizes she’s going to leave Katya an orphan with Alecia. Though Alecia was a superb woman and foster parent to Katya when Faith wasn’t around, Katya’s connection was nothing like that to her and Madeline. As the van doors are wrenched open the laughing and carrying on by the vampires helps her to lock the tears up behind her iron-gated will.
Drug out feet-first, she lands with a painful thud making her head ache and her world spin momentarily. A tall man in his early forties, dressed like many of the corporate officers running around the city, shakes his head looking at Faith.
“I said check her over for concealed weapons and such, not have a perv-fest in the back of the van!”
The vampires shrug indifferently while laughing. The man can only shake his head as he returns his full attention to Faith. Anger beams out from Faith’s eyes finally seeing the head vampire she’d been hunting for nearly ten years. Stopping at Faith’s feet, he squats down to speak.
“I see that look which could burn holes through steel. Right now, I imagine, you are calculating your method of escaping your bonds and ripping my head clean off. Newsflash! It isn’t going to happen missy. Those shackles were stolen from the Watcher’s detainment facility and were designed to hold Slayers like yourself. I heard you are familiar with those huh? No need to answer, that momentary flash of fear was the only confirmation I needed. I’m not going to torture you, I’m not going to parade you around for weeks before my minions tare you apart; nor am I going to violate your body in some perverted or sadistic fashion. I’m going to take one small drink of your blood, then let all my minions drink you dry. They may do other things to you while that is happening, but none of them will involve taking your shackles off at any time. All I can guarantee is that you will die cold, alone, and in the most heinous of ways. The demon council will regret ever making that charter with your kind, and we will rule this city once more.”
Standing, he motions to lift faith up to her feet and she’s cruelly brought to a standing position. Shivering in terror, she feels him push her hair aside from left and plunge his fangs into her neck. Tears explode as she feels him grasp her tightly to control her struggles as he feeds. Taking three good gulps of her blood, he stops and licks her neck, sealing up the wounds slightly. Not enough to stop all the bleeding, it is enough to keep her life-fluid from draining uselessly to the ground. Handing her to a shorter vampire beside him, he revels in strength and power of the Slayer’s unique blood. As they crowd around her, their leader steps back to watch the spectacle unfold.
“Feed my children! Leave not one drop behind!”
Hoisting Faith in to the air, every vampire finds an artery. Holding until everyone is in place, Faith is shocked to see the blonde vampire from earlier slip between her spread legs and closely position herself into her crotch. Eyeing the strong pulsing artery in her right thigh, she too waits while other vampires take up position along her legs, arms and neck. Their leader snickers watching his brood position themselves on their kill.
“On three, feed deeply. One…two…three!”
Through Faith’s teary view, could barely discern her surroundings and an ominous black shape falling towards her from the ceiling above. With a teary blink, she imagines Kayla meeting her at heaven’s gate to take her through. Out of nowhere a memory struck her and reverberates in her mind. In Kayla’s sweet voice it fills her with false hope.
“If I were dead, and you still were fighting for your life, I would come back from the darkness, back from the very pits of hell, to fight at your side.”
Tears explode from her eyes and she screams out in agony as she feels at least eight distinct sets of fangs plunge into her veins and begin drinking deeply. The one at her throat ripped most of the skin apart, while one at the inside of her right arm hit the mark so quickly it didn’t seem to hurt as much as the others. Worse, the woman between her legs, was the most painful, as it struck at her inner self image, developed from her years with Kayla and life as a mother to Katya. She didn’t understand the whys, but she knew she’d take those thoughts with her to the other side, whichever side she found herself at.
With an explosion of light, Faith feels a massive surge of life bathe her, making her pain feel distant and disconnected from her consciousness. Even as she impacts the ground, the momentary pain is washed away by the sudden infusion of life around her. Succumbing to the embrace of sleep, she feels safe and content that heaven is one step away and feels Kayla just feet away. As the remaining vampires explode into dust from the brilliant light of creation, the glowing woman walks to the cargo van. Retrieving Faith’s jacket from the van, the small woman activates the built-in radio and whispers a choked response into the mic, obscuring her voice.
“Ten-twenty-four. Code ten-twenty-four.”
Almost instantly the radio receives the message and begins its automatic cry for help and transmits its location. Returning to Faith’s side, she lays Faith’s jacket over her as she kneels in her blood, leaking gratuitously in all directions. Though the sirens were several minutes away, she knew Faith wouldn’t make it. Grasping her hand, she chokes out a cry seeing the vampire slayer at death’s door. Calling up to the heavens above she pleads.
“Please! I beg you! Just stop the bleeding! She just needs a few more minutes!”
As if hearing her, a surge of energy flows into her and she directs it to Faith’s open wounds. Providing enough strength to stem the flow of blood, it also replaces several pints giving her the extra time she desperately needed. Hearing a distant voice in her head, the woman nods and sets Faith’s hand across her stomach. Leaving in a sprint, she exits the building as the police and ambulance arrive at the back of the building. Busting through the locked doors, they find Faith unconscious and barely clinging to life.
Chapter 21: 21
May 27, 2041
San Angeles Police Department (7:40pm)
Groggily Faith stirs, and pain racks her body in countless places as she tries to move her arms and legs. Feeling bandages attached to at least eight different locations across her body, the wounds they covered felt like they were still in the healing stages. With a throbbing headache, she decides to remain still and drift back into sleep. When her eyes fluttered open once more, she saw darkness had driven away the light and a warm presence was near. Without thinking, she calls out, “Kayla?”
The shape stirs at her feet and lifts her head up. The red-headed visage of Katya beams a warm smile seeing her mother awake.
“Sorry mom, it’s just me. Were you dreaming about her?”
Faith shakes her head, without any pain assaulting her.
“No. Right before I was drained by the vampire gang, I would have sworn I heard her speaking to me. I guess that’s crazy talk for you.”
Shrugging, Katya moves to the head of the bed and pours a small tumbler of water for Faith to sip on.
“Not so crazy. Who killed all the vampires? Alecia found evidence of at least six vampires who got dusted.”
Taken back Faith only shakes her head. “I don’t know, I was lunchmeat at the time. Whoever did it, I guess didn’t stick around and talk, huh?”
Katya replies negatively. “No such luck. They found the keys to your restraints in the van and EMS was on the scene. They didn’t think you’d make it to the hospital, but you did and you’ve been out for nearly three days. When they changed your bandages today, the scabs came off. You don’t have a scar or anything to show for your near-death experience.”
Throwing herself against Faith, she begins crying as all her remaining strength was gone and she was finally able to let down her defenses. As Katya sobs in relief, Madeline and Willow enter hearing Katya’s cries from outside. The relief in Madeline’s eyes tells volumes on the stress she bore. Sensing some sort of resolve in her stare, Faith hugs Katya tightly, unwilling to address the thoughts running through Madeline’s mind.
Arriving home from the hospital the next afternoon, Faith quickly goes to her room, only to discover the closets and chests of drawers devoid of Madeline’s clothes and belongings. The bitter sting is difficult for her to manage, especially when she sees the engagement ring siting on top of the dresser. Her near-death experience was just one of dozens Madeline had endured over the past four years, and Faith knew all too well the stress she endured along with Katya. Unfortunately for Katya, she was getting a taste of things to come versus Madeline. For Madeline, she wrongly assumed the danger was no different than what all police officers faced every day. There were countless couples who were both police officers and survived the stress and worry which each of them faced. Yet as Faith remembers staring into her future wife’s eyes and she saw a person too scared and terrified to deal with the pain any longer. It was one thing to die in the line of duty on the police force, but to be torn to shreds by a crazed monster one week to the next, finally had pushed her over the edge.
Shaking her head, she slides the ring in the empty top drawer and closes it coldly. Katya watches her from the doorway, knowing that the blow would only harden Faith further against love. As Faith sits distantly on the edge of the bed, Katya comes around to her side and leans up against her in a tight hug. Returning the tight embrace, they sit for another hour not speaking a word until Katya rises and goes to the kitchen to start dinner. With minimal strength to continue, she is surprised that she’s able to feed herself, let alone eat. With the rest of the week off to recuperate, she drowns herself in Katya’s life, knowing she’s as hurt by Madeleine’s departure as she was. Though too strong to admit it, Faith realizes her daughter had picked up some of her own bad habits. Her quiet isolation and losing herself in hours of physical training were all the tells Faith needed. Running together in the evenings, they were too engrossed in the trail to talk, which was fine for both of them. Afterwards, while they sat down and ate only the whir of the air conditioning system filled their ears.
Dressed out on the practice mats at the gym, Faith leads the stretching portion of the session, as it was all she was allowed to do for the rest of the week. Though most of her strength had returned, it was evident that it would be several more days until she was at one hundred percent. Dodging several attempts to ‘talk about it’ to her friends, Faith pushed on with the stretching, and insisted she was doing fine. Fine hardly explained the emotions which were slapping at her every waking moment. Nor was fine comforting Katya appropriately as she had lost a person that had been a part of her life since she was four. Neither of them could comprehend Madeline’s decision to abandon them after the past two years of solid commitment, and a few days of rest were unlikely to see any improvement.
As they break up to begin training, Faith steps off the mats to grab a drink and Alecia joins her as Helena Carter and Gregory Hoehler lead the two halves of experience in the class. With everyone’s attention diverted, Faith stares deeply at the new recruits. With her eyes resting on Morgan Greenwich, she studies her precision movement through the katas, seeing no errors or mistakes. Her mind drifts away and she superimposes Kayla’s form over Megan’s and sees no differences. Nearly identical in height and weight to Kayla, the officer only had a pixie cut, chestnut brown hair throwing off her resemblance to her deceased wife. As the class suddenly stops to pair up, Faith shakes as Megan spins around to catch Faith’s intense stare. With Kayla’s grin, she turns around laughing and joins with Helena to demonstrate a difficult hold breaking maneuver.
As Alecia starts to speak, Faith cuts her off.
“Call me insane, but that’s Kayla.” Alecia shakes her head in denial. Robotically she begins to explain the facts and how it wasn’t possible, only to have Faith silence her once more. “I don’t care! I know what I know, and my gut tells me that woman is somehow my deceased wife, or someone related to her. All this is too much. I’m going to grab Katya and take in a movie. I need to get my head out of this world for a few hours.”
After sharing a glance with Megan across the room, Faith grabs her bag and leaves. Convincing Katya to escape with her to the movies was far easier than it should have. With an essay and a ton of math homework to tackle, she gladly went with Faith to the latest romantic comedy blazing its way through the early summer releases. Though the most recent comic-based movie was set to topple all the previous records, Faith was happy not to have a bunch of screaming and weapons-fire rattle her momentary calm. Clutching Katya around the shoulders, they share in the emotional turmoil the drama artificially creates, allowing them both to release the real built-up emotions laying just under the surface. After nearly two hours of heart-wrenching drama, they leave easier than they arrived, having depleted the suppressed tears of their real lives.
Exiting the Mayor Friendly’s office at half-past eight at night, Captain Zachary Lamb is surprised to see Chief Earle waiting around the corner. Wearing the body language of someone carrying Atlas’s burden, he motions to follow him to the stairwell. Closing it behind them, he motions for his oldest friend and most senior police officer to sit beside him on the stairs. Unwilling to speak first, he waits for the police chief to begin.
“We go back so time now, don’t we? If I’m not mistaken, it will be nearly twenty years now, come October. In all that time, I never doubted that we were at least fellow officers who had each other’s backs. We both survived the chaos of the collapse of civilization and forged order out of the pit of despair and destruction of our fallen city; not just once, but twice now. As the Chief of Police, I like to believe I have the need to know in all police matters that the Mayor and senior staff are privy to.”
As Captain Lamb begins to speak, the chief firmly silences him by extending his finger.
“When I found the encrypted files, you were regularly sending to the mayor, I was not upset but hurt. You had files going back at least eight years, and not once was I ever aware that you were briefing him on matters inside my house. Though I have no idea of their contents, these files showed that you were working behind my back. How would you feel if you were suddenly thrust in my position with my discovery? Anger, pain, distrust? All of this was running through my head, and yet, I retained my calm and sought you out.”
As his head buzzes, Zachary nods and finally begins. “I think I’d want a good explanation before I laid my judgement on our previous relationship. I can’t do that, though, the Governor himself has sworn me to silence on this matter. I will tell you I was given this post only eight years ago, and that security is extremely important. Beyond that, I cannot speak a word.”
With the chief’s slack facial expression, Zachary rests his hand on his old friend’s shoulder as he rises.
“Do you understand what plausible deniability means? Well, if the Chief of Police can honestly say that he has no idea about the issues a stray reporter might bring to light, insulates you and your position. Now I’m only the violent-crimes captain, so who would believe a little nobody like me would head up a secret division in the police department, especially one which you can honestly say doesn’t exist? It has nothing to do with trust or faith in you running the police department, and everything about the weight of your position. The woes and concerns regarding a special unit of police officers I bare, are a relief to your duties and responsibilities. It is weight I was chosen to carry, and it is not an easy one to bare. I cannot tell you anything about what I know but know that I do this so that you don’t have to. I treasure and value our friendship, and its an honor for me to share the load you carry every day. This matter is one heavy load that you would have to bare along with everything else you do, and its not fair for you to carry it all; so, I’m doing my part.”
The chief stares up at his captain as he walks down the stairs. In a burst of insight, he exclaims: “This has to do about Officer Lehane too, right? All the bizarre and strange stuff that happens around her?”
With a grim and cold expression, Captain Lamb does his best not to confirm his old friend’s hunch. Turning coldly, he resumes walking down the stairs.
“See you in the morning Chief.”
Chief Earle sits on the stairs for half an hour before rising and exiting. From what he wasn’t told, countless questions were unofficially answered and created countless more in the process. Though his friendship wasn’t destroyed, it was severely tarnished and would take a lot of time to heal.
Strolling into the Cat market, Faith finds the usual riffraff lurking out of sight of their deputies. Surprising one notable thief, she smacks the back of his head making him drop the stolen knife he had scooped up from the nearby table. As the merchant screams out his anger to the demon, Faith yanks him off the ground and hands him to the arriving officer. Thanking the demonic deputy, she dusts her hands clean and resumes her patrol. By the end of the hour, she meanders to the under-city police headquarters and checks in. Counting six various suspects at twelve desks, she cannot deny her awe at the level of organization her demonic counterparts achieved. As she waits at the front, Hurl rises from his rear office and strolls out grinning warmly.
“I heard you nearly got killed last week. You’re looking awfully well for nearly dead.”
Faith shrugs innocently. “Well you know, some exaggeration happened but it was a tough fight.”
Chuckling, Hurl continues. “That’s true. Just yesterday the entire city was saying that I was on death’s door after I took on that drunken gang of trolls. Yah, I was beaten to within inches of my life, but four of them are food for cave worms now. Thanks to a Triblon, I’m walking around breathing on my own. Glad I took your witch’s advice and hired him on as an official medic for our police department. He gets regular coin and we get priority healing.”
Nodding, Faith lets him lead her to his office and doesn’t think much when he closes the door behind them. Offering her the luxury of his couch, he finds his seat behind a huge wooden desk and resumes in a quieter toner.
“How’s things up top?”
Faith only shrugs. “Seen better. Probably going to see an improvement with these vampires gone now.”
Hurl nods as he contemplates how to word his next sentence.
“Yah. I heard you dusted the big cheese and left a vacuum of power in the two surviving vampires.”
Faith shifts uncomfortably in her seat. “I hadn’t heard that. Actually, I don’t remember much of that night. I was taken out early in the fight and wasn’t sure how or when it ended; to tell you the truth, got my ass handed to me.”
Hurl nods solemnly. “I heard that too. Seeing that we’re being so honest with each other, I’ll tell you something I heard if you give me an honest answer?” Seeing Faith’s worried expression become intense and sincere, he continues.
“I got feelers on lots of stuff that goes on above us, and this past month, I had one of them come to me with some bull crap that I didn’t believe. I figured if it were true you’d already told me, or you had a reason not to tell me.”
Faith doesn’t need her special senses to detect his concern and worry as he fishes into the lowest drawer of his desk. Setting a small box on top of his desk, he slowly spins it in his hands as he continues.
“Ever hear of a Maradan Gem? There are only nine on the earth, and they are nearly priceless if you know its not a fake. Well, a colleague of mine acquired one years ago, and he told me that they glow only in the presence of the Child of Light. Now, with that vague reference, I took it with a grain of salt, because I’m not one who entertains these kind of rumors, as you know.”
Faith cannot restrain the chuckle that escapes her making her bob in her seat as she recalls the same line which nearly got her killed the weekend prior. Hurl continues once more.
“Anyways, he said it was confirmed legitimate when she was here in the city, and it extinguished the evening that she died at the Hellmouth. Now here’s the unbelievable element to his story. A few months later, it exploded in light and became a feint glimmer. Ever since it has not extinguished, and he brought it to me yesterday.”
Opening the box, he spins the box as he is opening it and Faith is bathed in a brilliant pulsing green light, nearly blinding her in the darkness. As her jaw hangs slack, Hurl chuckles to himself and resumes seeing Faith’s expression.
“Well either you’ve never seen or heard of a glowing rock, or this is news to you too.”
Faith nods absently. “When did it get this bright?”
Hurl only shrugs his massive shoulders like a massive tidal wave crashing down.
“He’s not sure. He stopped checking it a few months ago, and finally got around to check on it a couple of days ago.”
Faith tentatively stares into the brilliant gem and closes the lid.
“Do you know how it’s supposed to work?”
Hurl shrugs once more.
“He said it flashes faster and brighter as she gets closer. I’ve seen it do it from the time I’ve had it, but its more active during the day than at night. Its like she passes over us now and then, but never gets brighter than it is now. My guess is that she’s in the city now.”
Faith stares at the small ornate box and struggles to catch her breath. As if her heart was going to explode in her chest, she wills herself to breathe and forms the question. As if reading her mind, Hurls laughs as he interrupts her.
“Yes! You can borrow it, but you have to bring it back intact. I can’t afford to replace it if it gets lost or damaged.”
Flabbergasted, Faith nods in approval and jams it into her jacket pocket. Rising, Faith lets him walk her out of the undercity dumbfounded by the revelation. She has no idea how long she wandered the city streets and suddenly finds herself at the police dorms near midnight. Scared to know the truth while too stubborn to let it go, she extracts the box and splits it open tentatively. The brilliant pulsing glow blinds her and she closes the lid. Cracking it open once more, she notices the pulsing had increased dramatically since she left Hurl’s office and she closes it up and stuffs it back in her pocket. Arriving back at her apartment, she finds Katya fast asleep and she retreats to her room. As she sits in her underwear on the edge of the bed, she cracks the box open once more to discover the pulsing had decreased considerably and was nearly the same rate as it was in Hurl’s office, or a tad bit faster. With mixed tears of pain and joy, she closes it up and tucks it under her pillow as she falls asleep.
May 31, 2041 (7:40pm)
Barely arriving on time for the Friday afternoon class, Faith strides to the mats finding the class finishing their stretches with Alecia leading them once more. Faith scans the crowd and cannot see Morgan anywhere. As she stretches and works out the kinks, the class moves into practicing and Faith obeys the doctor’s orders to take it easy. Fortunately, as a detective, she rarely had to chase down suspects or violent types on duty. Often, guilt made the suspects surrender when the evidence was presented to them. Additionally, they usually had four to six officers on the scene who were more than happy to wrestle or control the more violent suspects they encountered.
Not wanting to waste too much time stretching, she decides to skip the remainder of her gym time to spend it with Katya who was just getting out of school. Rushing home, she is just leaving the shower when Katya and Willow arrive and are equally surprised seeing Faith clad in only a towel rushing into her room to change. Excusing herself, Willow leaves to return home and Katya puts her books away and changes into her house clothes. Though not much different than her workout attire, the slim shorts and sports tops was a common theme for both her and Faith after hours. Though Madeline hadn’t been very fond of it, Faith never voiced any objections and was often dressed the same. As Faith exits her bedroom, she is surprised to find Katya waiting patiently on the couch reading her school book. The Pathways to Advanced Algebra was one of three subjects Katya was rocketing ahead in her studies, as most of her classmates were struggling with multiplication and division. Though she didn’t understand how come she instinctively comprehended so many advanced concepts of math, chemistry, and science, she also recognized the importance of not looking a gift horse in the mouth either.
Faith leaps over the back of the couch and lands beside Katya making her laugh. Tossing the book aside, she leans back into Faith’s lap and stares up into her mother’s tired-eyes. Though the tears had ended, and the redness had been dispelled, Katya could see the underlying pain she restrained. As she starts to ask about her mother’s inner turmoil, Faith beats her to the punch by speaking first.
“I’m going to patrol tonight, and I might be back late. Don’t worry, I’ll try to call every couple of hours. My strength and reflexes are back up, and I need to track down these last two vamps. If I stake them quickly, we might be vampire-free for a few months. Do you want me to see if Willow or Tara can stay the night or you go and hang out with them?”
Katya shakes her head. “Nah, I have a bunch of homework to finish for next week, and we both know I won’t get anything done Sunday. We have another practice tomorrow and a game Sunday, so I need to get all this junk done tonight.”
Smirking, Faith nods and ruffles Katya’s hair as she rises to start dinner. Making a quick stir-fry, she serves it on a bed of brown rice, and spends her early evening watching Katya do school work. After letting Willow and Tara know what she was up to, the pair says they will check up on Katya periodically and Faith promises to notify them when she gets home for the night. Leaving Katya locked up tight, Faith buzzes out of the apartment wearing a special protective necklace and a pair wooden stakes in her jacket. Though they weren’t as nice as the ones she lost the previous week, they were her backup set and knew she had to commission a dozen more Saturday afternoon. Driving her vehicle to the city center, she liked to have a ride home after a long night of patrolling.
Even better, she could return to her vehicle for snacks, water and bandages if the need arose. Additionally, she liked a safe place to make calls and relax as her patrolling often kept her out to nearly sunrise on the worst of days. For her, this night was starting to be one of those long unforgiving occasions until she saw one of her suspects sneaking after a pair of young teens. Just as he was about to pounce, she intercepted him and spent five minutes fighting and six more questioning him before jabbing him with her oak backup. Finding his identification, she meanders to his apartment to discover the nesting site of another two vampires, one of which was unknown to her. A young blonde teen barely of high school age and just recently risen, was dispatched far too easy as she blindly charged Faith. The last vampire spent fifteen minutes begging to be let go, promising to leave town. Shaking her head, she spends another ten minutes entertaining his delusional aspirations of freedom, and milks him for the remaining vampires. Insisting he and Barry, the vampire she had staked earlier were the last now, discovers he had tortured a mother and daughter. The daughter, the vampire she had staked when she entered, was made a vampire just so that she could kill her own mother.
Disgusted, Faith starts to show him the door only to stake him as he reaches for the door handle. With a horrible crime scene on her hands, she calls Milo Benson, one of the night duty MDK detectives on her team and tells him of her discovery. With hours of reports and interviews ahead, she calls Katya and hunkers down outside the door. Having become accustomed to Faith’s discoveries past her duty hours, Milo takes the gruesome scene in stride and puts out a call to keep a look out for the person on the lease and the missing daughter. Though Faith knew no one would be found, she would log that report in the morning after she’d has the chance to get some rest. The reports to Captain Lamb were easy when she could tell the story as is, and not omit references to vampires or staking them. By the time her report would cross the chief’s desk, she would rarely recognize it, having only the bare facts she submitted.
Declining the ride back to her apartment, she meanders back to her car just past two in the morning and drives back. As she drives mindlessly, she can’t believe her eyes when she finds herself parked in front of the Police barracks. Originally built to house the dozens of new recruits just after the fall of the Cocteau regime, the barracks were eventually expanded to house the ever-increasing numbers of recruits and single young officers joining the department. Though she never stayed in them, she had visited many recruits and the accommodations were nothing to scoff at. With the only accommodation she found annoying was the sharing of bathrooms between two rooms, all she talked to had little problems with the arrangement. With a dedicated bedroom and separate living area, they only had a small fast-cooker, similar to a microwave, in each room. Fortunately, a full community kitchen was on each floor of the two-story building and was used fairly often.
Reaching into her glovebox, she extracts the small wooden box and cracks it open. Blinded by the brilliantly fast pulsing green light, she closes the box and leaves the car. Unsure what was driving her, she finds herself in front of a plain metal door with the name “Greenwich” mounted on a placard beside the doorbell switch. With her hands shaking, she opens the small box and sees it blinking so fast it barely registers as pulsing at all. Inundated with emotion, Faith can’t find the strength to push the button and gently closes the lid on the box. She has no idea how long she stood in front of the door, until a soft voice to her right gently slaps her out of her paralysis.
“Do you want to go for a ride? Privacy isn’t something we get in here. The walls are too thin, despite being fire-proof.”
Turning as she jumps in shock, Faith sees Officer Greenwich staring at her with waves of love and adoration blasting from her. With tears falling from her eyes, she motions to go down the stairs to Faith’s car. Saying nothing between them, Faith realizes she drove to her apartment without any consideration. Leaving the car, she leads her to her apartment and sits in the lofty couch. The minutes tick by as they stare silently at their hands and feet. Unsure where to begin, Faith opens her mouth, only to find the words escape her.
Chapter 22: Revelations
June 1, 2041
Katya woke with an incessant buzzing in her head, which compelled her to rise more than anything. As she sits up in bed, the emotions that assaulted her during her game weeks prior suddenly return making her find her robe and leave her room. Methodically scanning the room, she is surprised to find Faith sleeping atop the couch in her black and yellow bike shorts and matching top. As she starts to wake her, the door to the bedroom opens and she begins trembling as the emotions assail her. Sporting a short crop of light-brown hair, she cannot stop as she flings herself into the sleepy young woman’s arms.
Accepting her embrace she holds the crying child in her arms even as Faith groggily rises from the couch and stares in amazement. Wiping the stray tears as they cascade from her cheeks, Faith sits back against the arm of the couch to watch the pair. Minutes drift by until Faith breaks them up.
“Okay Katya. Let her have a seat and you two can talk. I don’t think she’s had a chance to do much else except wake up.”
Apologizing, Katya excuses herself and lets Morgan retreat to the bathroom while Faith starts breakfast. From the moment Morgan leaves the bathroom, Katya is at her side talking endlessly about herself and asking where she has been. As Faith tries to temper her daughter, Morgan motions to let her continue. After Katya releases a deluge of questions, Morgan sighs loudly and begins.
“Well, first I just arrived in town only a few weeks ago, and this is where I will be living now. As to how long I’ve been back on this world, about seven and half years really. Floating around the universe with an angel leading you, even if it’s just for a few moments, is still weird. And before either of you ask, this arrangement is not the norm. I was offered total rebirth or take one which was not being used any longer. Morgan had been in a car accident and had passed on to the other side, yet her body lived on artificially. I was given the opportunity to continue where she had left off at and she was considered brain dead. She was so badly mangled that they had no idea what they were going to see when they removed the bandages. Well, their daughter had a similar resemblance to me, but after I took over, my healing finished up the work and filled in the blanks the damage had left. All the scars faded in a few months and now there’s no signs I…err…she was ever mangled beyond recognition.”
As Faith plates breakfast, she resumes. “I didn’t want to rush into your lives. I had nosed around and discovered you were engaged to Officer Sparrow, so I thought it was best to stay on the sidelines. And because this is a small police department, it didn’t take long for the news of your breakup to worm its way into my little ears.”
Faith groans. “To say we were shocked is an understatement. Katya and I cried for days.”
With a firm nod, Morgan reaches out and rubs both their hands as she continues.
“I am going to continue to refer to myself as Morgan. Kayla is long gone now, and its best I don’t try and fill her shoes. No one is going to understand all this, so let’s just start out dating, and let the magic of courtship happen. I’ve changed a bit since I left, and I picked up some new and annoying habits. Let’s not jump into living together right away, okay? It’ll raise some eyebrows and alarms in the majority of your friends and coworkers.”
Seeing the disappointment in Katya’s eyes, she reaches out and hugs her daughter.
“This is the best way to go from here. How about I worm myself into an assistant coach position on your team and you let your mom and I drift closer once more? I’m not planning on going anywhere, and we will be able to hang out. Remember, no one can know! I’ll get with the Rosenburg’s and fill them in, it’s going to be hard to keep them out of the loop.”
Despite the pain in Katya’s eyes, she nods and agrees.
Walking into the undercity police station, Faith eyes Hurl who waves her over as he yells over the din.
“Hey Slayer! Was my guy right or what?”
Shooting him her best poker face of denial, she shakes her head negatively and lets him lead her into his office as she hands him the box. Closing the door behind her, she continues in a low voice as he checks the condition of the glowing stone.
“Here’s the deal bud: your guy was dead on, she’s back. Now I bring a request from her lips: keep this low key. She can get more done and be more effective as long as the demon world doubts her return. Only the ones in a real position to know won’t be fooled, but she is going to be hanging around this town for some time. She just asks to keep up the charade for as long as she can keep it going. She took out the vampire nest a few weeks ago for me, and now we have some stability.”
Hurl only nods before speaking.
“Yah, vampires never believed in the peace treaty. They see you humans as food, and nothing can change that. I can say the merchants and elders have been extremely happy with the accord, so if she wants to keep up the charades, I’m game.”
Reaching out, Faith shakes his huge hand and sits back in her chair.
“Now, anything new stalking the night you’ve caught wind of lately?”
Shaking his head, he replies. “Nah. Had a pair of vamps show up two nights ago and then left town last night. They said their contact was dead and I mentioned their kind was no longer welcome above or below. I referred them to San Diego or Vegas, and they wisely took a transport south. Now that you mention it, I had a solid rumor that the Orient Express was coming here irregularly. Know much about that?”
Faith shakes her head like Hurl did. “Nope. That vampire from earlier was the first time I’d heard of it.”
Seeing the apprehension in his eyes, she continues. “Hey if you know more, don’t hold back on me now.”
Begrudgingly he nods. “Well, its only rumors, you know? I heard from a weak source that the demon running it lived here before and was neck deep in local operations. You know I hate speaking two-bit gossip, but there was something about the way she told me which made me think this was more than just rumor.”
Faith inhales and lets the air out roughly before replying. “What aren’t you telling me? This is really bugging you.”
Rising, he paces behind his desk as he forms his thoughts. “You know a part of me really likes the peace and calmness she brings to the place, but I cannot deny the inner demonic core of who I am wants her dead. Worse, I’m not alone in this. Most of us in a position of authority and power are struggling with this moral dilemma. She’s a demon killer; a true agent of goodness placed on this world to kill all of my kind. It bothers me that I am working to keep a peace she established. A part of me wants to upend everything she helped make and institute our type of order. Yet, another part of me demoralizes me and keeps me in place. I don’t get it.”
Faith nods as calmly as she can. Inspired, she rises and goes to Hurl.
“Hurl, I see what’s wrong here. You’ve forgotten many things, but the first is that you aren’t a full demon, you are a half-demon on this world. Like it or not, part of you is contaminated by humanity and it tweaks your moral compass to our favor sometimes. The true demons don’t suffer from this and she seeks them out and destroys them. Second, you forget that you and your people established that accord; she had no hand in its writing exactly for this reason. She wanted no part of it, and only showed up to keep it fair and well, you remember the party crashers. Eight years ago, some of you got to see a full demonic vampire and it bore only a vague resemblance to the half vampires we see running around today.”
With Faith’s words, Hurl nods reluctantly and sighs. “Yah, it was a pain in the ass to kill. It didn’t’ care we were demons too and just killed everything in sight.”
Laughing, Faith replies. “That’s probably why no one cares for vampires down here. I still feel sorry about that too. We tried our damnedest to keep them from here; but we were so out-numbered, that a few snuck through our containment.”
Hurl lays his hand atop Faith’s shoulder. “Don’t think anything of it. It was a wakeup call to these assholes. They think they can just stick their heads in the sand to these things and it won’t affect them. I hear what you’re saying, slayer. This peace is something WE made, not her; and it’s for our benefit, not hers.”
Faith shrugs. “I wouldn’t say she doesn’t benefit from the peace and order, but its something you decided to put in place and she only officiated the whole thing. Aren’t the majority of your people really happy with the arrangements?”
Chuckling, he sits back down. “Yah, they love it. The fear was something we had come accustomed to living under; and now with that fear gone, I guess we’re freed up to worry about other things.”
Nodding Faith checks the time and heads towards the door. “Exactly. Look, the vampire problems aren’t gone for good. We still have them running around out there, and they want in here where all the food is at. Money buys a lot, and your people have to be vigilant for their corruption. They can still screw things up for us, and we will address the problems as they arise.”
Hurl nods. “Oh! I found all the demons who were in the bar when they kidnapped you! I worked them over with help of my deputies and I think they are legit. They didn’t know jack about what was going down, but I still gave them total hell! They should have known something was amiss, even if they didn’t know the particulars. Too many of these whiney-asses think they can get out jail free if they remain blind to what others do around here. I didn’t want to let them skate out of this unscathed, if you know what I mean?”
Faith has her turn in nodding in agreement. “Yah. Thanks for looking into it.”
With another firm handshake they part ways and Faith walks the undercity for half an hour before returning to the top. Laughing she recalls the psychology and English classes class she took to get her degree and chuckles remembering how she used them. Thinking back, realizing she used numerous words that weren’t in her vocabulary six years ago, she can only laugh and return home to Katya’s imminent soccer practice.
Delivering Katya to the Rosenberg’s home, Willow sequesters Morgan in a corner to whisper before returning to the living room. With the family sitting around the Child of Light, she reveals her past eight years as Morgan Greenwich. No one wants to interrupt her bizarre tale and only when she was finished did Lacey interrupt with the first round of questions.
“So, you remember everything, have all the powers from before, and this god just let you come back from the dead?”
Faith restrains her laugh seeing Katya and Willow roll their eyes in unison. Morgan shakes her head and keeps her tone calm and pleasant as she replies.
“Not a god, but THE God; the original God of light and darkness. He allowed me to return to the Earth and resume my work here in San Angeles. He told me I could resume my life with all of you, and this is SO rare! I believe great evil isn’t done in these parts, so I’m still needed.”
Faith slips into the conversation by speaking abruptly. “Exactly why she’ll be patrolling with me. Hopefully she’ll be able to sniff out this hidden evil.”
Morgan nods and continues. “Its not uncommon for great evil to stay out of sight for decades like a spider. It has babies and sends them out to do her works while remaining safe and comfortable behind layers of insidious webs. I see these webs as lies, deceit, illusions, and sometimes cornerstones to nearby good works. With its webs, it can pull those cornerstones free and make the entire structure collapse. We need to find these webs and unravel its control.”
Turning to Faith she continues. “I want to start looking where you were abducted from: Taffies. I find it awfully strange they got the drop on you and snuck you out without anyone raising an alarm. Might be a coincidence, but it sounds like a good place to start.”
Reluctantly, Faith nods in approval. “The owner is still registered as Victor Eiglestraum, but he left town years ago and left his niece Darlene Eiders in charge. He’s still paying city taxes but resides up north in Seattle. I asked about him years ago, soon after he disappeared, and the manager said he had some urgent family business he had to attend to. Then, around three years ago, Darlene came into the picture. I’ve never heard of any complaints or disturbances from around the bar. They are a really quiet lot, in terms of a neighborhood bar.”
With a firm nod, Morgan shrugs finally. “Like I said, it’s a place to start. We eliminate all the usual suspects then move onto the strange and unusual.”
Nodding firmly to Morgan, Faith leads her out into the night as Lacey shakes her head in disbelief. As she tries to rally her parents to resist believing Morgan’s story Willow interrupts her, ending the debate.
“Lacey, it’s her! She knew stuff only Kayla would have known.”
Looking at her mother incredulously, she demands to know how she can make the claim. With a reluctant breath Willow recants her private conversation when she arrived.
“I had asked her to tell me what she said after we talked when releasing the power of the slayer. Only she would have known that. Also, I asked her to tell me what I had seen while we were connected, and she was also correct. My connection was strong with her, and she never intended to reveal what God had told her. I heard her thoughts and what he revealed to her, and I tell you that she is Kayla. No matter how unbelievable of a journey, it is still the truth.”
Unsatisfied with her mother’s answer, she storms off leaving Willow and Tara to care for Katya once more.
Strolling into Taffies, the pair find seats open in front of the bar and make their way towards them. Eyeing a half-succubus sitting with three Pellion demons, two of the Pellion demons recognize Faith and wave to her nervously. With a mild head nod, Faith continues to the bar and sits alongside Morgan. After ordering a couple of cokes, another recent addition to the list of legal city imports, she isn’t surprised when one of the Pellion demons comes to her left side nearly groveling.
“Forgive us slayer. We had no idea that a plot against your life was in works under our noses! If we had, we would have disrupted their attempts. We have no ill-will towards you or the peace.”
Faith silences her with the subtle raising of her hand.
“Its fine. I understand. The ones who did it knew you’d get involved and made sure you didn’t see it go down. I already talked to Hurl and told him you probably weren’t involved.”
As her groveling increases, Faith stops her again to speak.
“This is why you all must do your part to keep the peace. You can’t rely on just Hurl and I to do it all! Its every one of you trying to keep the peace alive, when others have no interest in the accord. I don’t blame you or any of the bystanders at the bar that night, but you knew something was up, somehow, and you should have raised the alarm; if not with me, with Hurl. Got it?”
Dismissing her with the wave of her hand, Faith takes a sip of her drink and looks over to see Morgan staring intently at her. With a reluctant sigh, Faith shakes her head.
“Those two were in the bar that night but said they didn’t notice a thing when Hurl questioned them. He nearly executed them but decided to hold until after he talked to me on the phone. A part of me is a little bitter that they didn’t do anything to stop it, but I realize that they didn’t see a damn thing to do anything about. Right now, I’m interested in throttling the manager. SHE did know something was up, and I’m fairly certain she was the person I heard tell them to take me out the back.”
Nodding with Faith’s words, Morgan whispers to her companion.
“There is something here…something vile is rooted here. There is a scent of evil that is old, and it makes the entire place reek. This is exactly what I was talking about earlier: webs. This is a junction point of evil; not cursed but maliciously vile and putrid. Great works of evil come out of this place, so we need to shut it down by killing the spider. Its nest is definitely nearby if not on the premises.”
Faith looks around amazed by Morgan’s revelation.
“How come you didn’t detect this stuff long ago, when you were here as Kayla?”
With frustration lining her voice, Morgan looks around as she replies.
“I was still not right after coming out of the freezer, and that demon seed screwed me up! It’s taken me years to become attuned to who I was before, and now all this is second nature. This place…I remember feeling this way when Michael and I went into the catacombs at Ubar. This isn’t as strong of a vibe as it was there, but it has the same stench: endless layers of corruption and wickedness piled into one place.”
Faith downs her soda and looks around once more. Counting six demons relaxing through the establishment, two of which aren’t trying to conceal their unique features. Though seven human patrons sit in various locations through ought the bar, it is apparent they are unphased by the demonic appearances. Leaving the bar after discovering the manager was off for the night, they patrol the streets and cemeteries until midnight as Morgan tells Faith of her life for the past eight years. Stopping in at the three cemeteries occupied by ghouls, Faith introduces Morgan as a slayer to Geoff and the other ghouls and tells them she too is going to be patrolling the area. Acting as friendly as ghouls can be, they take the additional slayer on the beat positively and say they haven’t seen anything out of sorts in weeks. Expressing the lack of vampires rising from their territories, Faith reminds Morgan the borders of each of the local ghouls, and how they have went to war with each other in the past over “feeding grounds.” Faith struggles to keep her composure seeing Morgan act as if it the first time she had the information and ends their trip earlier than intended. Heading back to her apartment, Faith fixes some tea as they kick off their shoes and spend the remainder of the night chatting. Though they had rekindled their love, Morgan insists returning to her dorm room to maintain appearances.
Watching the police officers leave his bar, Michael Durst motions to his human bartender Michelle to watch the area as he goes to make a call. The youthful brunette was only a handful of years younger than his forty-two, but somehow looked only in her early twenties. Told she was okay by his boss, he realizes it isn’t his concern and inserts a crystal card from the desk into the video-phone and waits for the image of Darlene Eiders to fill his screen. Wearing her hair loosely against her shoulders, she nods to speak.
“They’re gone now. The slayer is looking pretty healthy for supposedly dead. Worse, she has backup with her now. I ran her ID, and she didn’t drink, she’s just a kid. A brand-new recruit from up north, one Morgan Greenwich. We won’t get another opportunity like we did last week for a long time.”
With a firm nod, she speaks to her manager.
“I’ll call Mr. Eiglestraum and see what he says. He may want to comeback and let me head up to Seattle to take his place until this blows over. This slayer is a dangerous element that we need to fix fast and dirty. I’ll let you know how that goes.”
As she disconnects the line, Michelle shoots away from the side office door and resumes her duties leaving Michael oblivious to her eavesdropping. With a calm blank expression, she continues minding the bar and maintains her normal behavior for the remainder of her shift. Leaving after the bar closed and tidied up, she walks her usual route home. Unsure if she was being followed, she ducks through two cemeteries until finally stopping in at Geoff’s crypt.
Chapter 23: The Monster Within
June 2, 2041
Striding into Hurl’s office, she waits as a deputy knocks on the door before letting her in. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, he begins.
“I hated to call you so early in the day, but I had a hot potato of sorts drop in my lap from a contact. She was adamant that it was solid, not a rumor.”
Faith shrugs and finds a seat as he continues.
“She said that you were going to be killed by a demon who runs Taffies. The current manager, Darlene, is actually a demon of sorts and is trying to get rid of you. She has a human manager that runs the place, but she and an out-of-town demon run the joint. His name is…”
Faith interrupts. “…Eigerstraum? Yah, I met him a long time ago, but I didn’t know he was a demon.”
Hurl nods as he adjusts himself in his seat. “Apparently, he’s some old type of demon; not sure what that is supposed to mean, though. Here’s the deal: my contact, at great personal risk, is sure he is some sort of face-changer, or something. I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but she didn’t say shape-shifter. I was hoping you could make some sense of this, because I’m at a loss. And if things couldn’t get any more confusing, Darlene is leaving town in the next day or so, and your Eigerstraum is taking her place to oversee your untimely demise. Things are going to get hairy up top.”
Shaking her head, Faith mulls over the news. Hurl rises to show her out as he talks.
“I’ll begin keeping a really good eye out for any newbies and those who seem to only be passing through. I’m not sure if this is relevant, but another contact said last night the Orient Express isn’t due for another three weeks, so we have time to concentrate on this Darlene and her boss.”
Frustrated, Faith exhales sharply. “When it rains it pours right? Thanks again. Call me if you get anything more.”
Hurl nods in response. “No prob. My contact is trying to protect their hide from the fallout, when this all goes down, and wants to help us as much as possible. They are going to get caught in the middle, it seems. Heck this amount of support from a demon is practically asking you to come into their home, crash on their couch, and have a beer with them. I’m impressed!”
Unable to contain her laughter, Faith pauses to chuckle before continuing.
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind.”
As she goes to open the door, Hurl stops it from opening and whispers.
“Look. I didn’t tell you this…” He pauses as he wrestles with continuing. “…but the elders are afraid of this demon. They don’t like him, but they are afraid of what he can do to them. I was actually told to not help you; because if he kills you, there would be serious repercussions for helping you.”
Opening the door abruptly, he speaks louder than usual.
“But you know what I think about those kinds of rumors!”
His forced laugh makes her momentarily shiver. Nodding as she walks away, Faith walks the remainder of her Sunday night reevaluating all her plans.
Spending most her day investigating a double murder of a young couple, she couldn’t help but search for a demonic element to the grizzly scene. With the young woman found hacked to death on her kitchen floor, it seemed to have a bizarre feel to it. As she scours the scene she can find nothing which hints at anything beyond what she sees. The husband, having had a history of violent domestic abuse charges, was recently fired from his job and vented his rage on the only person he could take it out against. Though he hung himself after killing her, Faith wanted to find some distinct element which would call her to investigate an other-worldly tie. After skipping lunch to ransack the crime scene for evidence, she is surprised to suddenly find Morgan standing over her as she reviews the residence’s access logs. With only Officer Kenya Dunn in the apartment, she seems to disappear when Morgan arrives.
“Nasty scene huh?”
Faith nods grimly. “Whoever did it must have been able to bypass all the security systems, because I can’t find anything or anyway they came and went. I imagine they could have got them to let him in first, but that might mean he can shapeshift or knew the couple.”
Morgan nods affirmingly and takes a ragged breath before replying.
“Or this is merely the result of a disturbed individual, with a history of mental health issues, who finally broke under pressure. Faith, I don’t feel anything supernatural here. I don’t feel any demonic lines of influence, and definitely no underlying elements of corruption tainting the area. This seems like just the workings of evil men, nothing else. I know it’s hard to rationalize this as just the work of man, but baby, this is what it is. I’m sorry.”
Coming around to face Faith, Morgan stoops down to sit on her heels and stares up into the brunette’s tear-soaked face. Cupping her hands, she continues.
“Sweetie, this is bothering you because you have a soul which sees the divine beauty in life. The idea that someone would lack this one trait must make you think they are a monster of some sort. This may surprise you, but even Hitler was just a very disturbed man. He was under no demonic possession or had any evil influences which made him be who he was. He did employ a great number of demons and evil creatures, but they gathered around him as a result of his influence, not due to theirs. I…”
Morgan checks the room and sees Officer Dunn outside talking to the neighbors. With a deep sigh, she tries to continue. “I met him in 1938 at a dinner in Stuttgart. He had a demon enforcer, and I made sure I could touch him. I saw only a twisted childhood and poor decisions as an adult surrounding him. He did have demonic influences in the here and now, but not in his rise to power. Demons feast of the folly of evil men, and they don’t have to do much to encourage or exploit it. Your suspect was just not right in the head, and he took another person with him when he self-destructed. It’s sad, unjust, and disgusts me, but it is the nature of humans. The potential of great good and evil exists in everyone. This is something even you must realize and understand.”
Morgan’s final words send a chill up her spine and she grimly nods in understanding. The distorted face of the mayor’s assistant as she buried her stake in his heart suddenly flashes across her eyes and all the memories assault her senses as if it just happened yesterday. Raggedly, she inhales and exhales getting control of her emotions. With a firmer nod than before she rises and begins to wrap up her investigation. After releasing it to the city cleaners, a team of specialized crime-scene cleaners, Faith walks Morgan to her car.
Offhandedly, she says, “They wait until the night crew comes in, the public doesn’t need to see them cleaning up all that during the day. Besides, the captain and I arranged a small contract where as some ghouls do the work. They get paid coin and keep the trash as long as they properly dispose of the waste afterwards. I watched them clean up once. They were in seventh-heaven walking around all the blood and mayhem. They obey the laws and codes associated with it, and it’s a win-win for everyone. By the way, how did you get here?”
Morgan grins. “Alecia. She called me and dropped me off. She figured I needed to talk to you. You know, if I hadn’t of came back, I would love to have seen you two shack-up. You both are dynamic companions and would have complimented each other’s strengths and weaknesses…but don’t let her know I said that. It will only embarrass her.”
Faith pauses as she looks at Morgan incredulously. “Really? I never saw her in that light before.”
Nodding, Morgan continues. “Yup, that’s how it is sometimes. That which is most obvious cannot be seen because its too close to your face.”
Laughing, Faith starts the car and heads to the station and Morgan continues. “Okay, if tides were turned tomorrow and you don’t survive, who would be a good candidate for me after a lengthy mourning period?”
Faith shakes her head. “Ouch! Let me think. Well I’d like to say Lacey, but you both are incompatible together. Juanita Gomez down in the armory isn’t a bad catch. A little too muscular for my tastes now, but she is gay and did flirt with me a few times before Madeline swooped me off my feet. I guess I’m still too biased to say though…I still see Kayla in you and can’t see anyone taking my place.”
Patting Faith’s arm, she replies. “It’s okay, it wasn’t a fair thing to say. Like I mentioned earlier, I came back here with new bad habits. I’ll eventually get them under control.”
Nodding in agreement, Faith decides to stop at Taffies once more, but finds its locked tight. With a sign on the door stating they were closed for inventorying, it also said they would be open the next day. Going around back, even the rear door is locked, making Faith suspicious. After doing a code fix, it says she is in the bar and every time she called, no one answered.
With her anger boiling under the surface, Faith returns to the station to submit a warrant for the manager’s arrest. Keeping a close eye on her fix, Faith couldn’t help but suspect she was only minutes from leaving town. With a warrant in hand, she leaves the station with three additional officers to execute the entry. Though Faith could easily kick the door down herself, she didn’t like advertising her slayer strength, and let department policy ride it out. Morgan, having little to do on her beat, was snagged by Faith to ride along to show her how to execute a warrant, something extremely rare still in the city. As they are ten minutes from the bar, Darlene Eiders’ code fix suddenly disappears. Taken back, Faith smashes at the screen as if it would magically relent and resume displaying her location. Scanning the people on the street, Faith doesn’t see her on the main streets as they arrive, and finds the bar still locked tight. Keeping an officer at the front door, she leads them to the rear and has them enter from there. In seconds, the hydraulic ram is set up and destroys the door frame and the door is set aside as they rush into the establishment. Unlike years prior, they lack the weaponry of previous ages, and calmly stroll in and execute their search. Frustrated, they discover the bar empty after checking every room.
As the attention shifts to the search for evidence, Morgan calmly disappears into the store room. Moving to the rear of the small room, she discovers a false wall next to the racks of kegs. Grinning, she pushes a bottle into the rack and a noticeable click resonates around her. From over her shoulder she yells to Faith.
“Officer Lehane! I got something.”
In a minute, Faith ducks her head inside and is flabbergasted that they missed the hidden door. With the keg rack mounted to the wall, it effortlessly slides forward and a secret hallway going down stairs is revealed. Leading Morgan, Faith rushes down the steps and cannot fight the familiarity of the passage. With Detective Thomas Deacon following Morgan, he switches on his heavy flashlight and everyone gasps at the sight. With a level of opulence unseen from the upper floor, the room is superbly decorated in fine animal hides, works of art, a queen-size bed, eighty-inch flat-screen, two recliners parked in front of the TV, several cabinets, and a minibar. Detective Deacon is the first to break the silence.
“This is better than my place.”
Searching methodically, their frustrations continue to build as they discover a full kitchen, shower and bath. Morgan spends ten minutes meandering around the back wall until she finally grins proudly. Finding the trigger on the trim of the wall, she pushes the button and shakes her head as the fumes of the undercity waft inside the room. Pulling the wall section forward, she peers into the darkness. Unsurprising, there’s no one in sight and they relock the door. As Detective Deacon rummages through the cabinets, Morgan leans up against Faith.
“This is exactly what I was looking for. This is a proper den for a major demonic force. The art is OLD, probably fourteenth century. Everything about this place reeks big bad guy, down to the vile tendrils of corruption sewn into the walls. This is it. He is going to be SO pissed that we violated his sanctum. Do you really want to piss him off further?”
Grinning, she takes the pillow from the bed and throws it in the recliner. With a gigantic grin, she sits down atop it and leans back enjoying the comfort. As Thomas follows suit, Faith leaps atop the bed and leans backwards. Her jaw drops open as she relaxes into the mattress.
“I’ve never been on a softer bed in my life! It’s like I’m sleeping on air.”
Thomas rises as he laughs and checks out the minibar. Whistling through his teeth, he exclaims, “He’s got imported beers in the fridge…from Germany!”
As he starts to reach for one, Morgan clears her throat.
“Um…evidence? Technically they aren’t illegal anymore, they only dropped off the contraband list a few weeks ago.”
Remembering his place, he stops from opening it and nods.
“Right. I’m going to go get an evidence kit and call this in.”
Setting the beer back in the fridge, he disappears up the stairs leaving Faith and Morgan.
Waiting until she hears him leave the stairs, she grins as she stands and takes the pillow with her to the bathroom. After a minute, she returns and throws the pillow back at faith. With an evil grin, she walks around the rooms touching everything with her two fingers. From the recliners to the tapestries and rugs, touches every non-contraband item which would be left behind. Faith’s jaw flaps loosely watching Morgan go around the room caressing everything and goes to the fridge in the kitchen. Watching her touch various items from milk to strawberries, she makes sure she touches every appliance and fixture. When the sound of voices bounces down from the stairwell, she quickly returns to the bathroom to wash her hands. Sitting down beside Faith as Thomas returns with a large shock-proof case, he sets it down in the middle of the room and extracts a portable scanner. Whispering to Faith, Morgan can’t repress her grin.
“THAT will get him pissed off. I just marked all this as my property, and he will want vengeance. You’re not going to find this Darlene alive. In fact, I don’t think she’s been alive for quite some time. I’m willing to wager that the owner will magically show up and blame all this on her. Only a demon is going to notice what I did, and he will know I’m not just some rookie cop. My little stunt will send him into an outrage, and he’ll blow his cover for us. What I just did made it personal.”
Faith shakes her head as half a dozen officers pile into the room to begin confiscating the art and prohibited items.
“Morgan, you’re insane. You know that, right?”
Wearing a Cheshire cat grin, she nods and begins cataloging and bagging all the items. As they are into the first hour, Thomas yells for Faith to look at his latest find. In an intricate wooden box, are eight aluminum canisters, no larger than an herb or spice bottle. Showing her the contents of the one he’d opened, Faith’s jaw drops open recognizing the two-millimeter pill-sized transmitter. Serving as the foundation of their public identification and financial services, the transmitter was coded to each individual and allowed for the ease and reliability everyone enjoyed in the city. Finding a sliver of paper in the metal cap, Thomas unrolls it and reads aloud.
Shaking their heads in astonishment, Faith checks the others and discovers only four others have a transmitter rolling around inside. Uncapping those, she isn’t surprised to find names with those as well. Not recognizing the names, she is surprised to discover the scanner was unable to scan the chips inside the canisters. Thomas only nods.
“It is something that the engineers have been trying to counter for decades. Once you go twenty-feet underground or water, the signal becomes distorted and unreadable. Our hand-scanners are supposed to act like a signal-booster, but the metal canisters are defeating it.”
Running the scanner or Darlene’s, he reads the data and cannot fight his frustration.
“The chip says she went off-line over an hour ago, about when we lost her signal up top.”
Morgan leans into them and runs her scanner over the chip laying in the open tin.
“It says there’s DNA on it…and it isn’t hers. It also says it’s not human. It can’t tell me what kind of DNA, but it definitely isn’t human. All the chips have this DNA on them.”
A visible shiver runs up Thomas’s back and he closes the tin. Setting it back for inventorying, he moves on as Morgan opens the empties. Discovering a slip of paper in one, she casually shoves Faith to show her the name printed on the small sliver. Subtle anger flows through Faith as she speaks what she reads.
After three hours, every illegal item is removed; and after installing a replacement door over the old door they smashed through, they leave a copy of the warrant affixed to all the doors as well as the secret exit into the sewers. Leaving unceremoniously, each of them tote a small green and blue bottle of beer in their pockets. With an all-points-bulletin out for Eiglestraum, they knew it was only a matter of time.
Pushing past John, Faith enters Captain Lamb’s and motions to seal the door behind her. To everyone’s surprise, she announces before the door fully seals: “We got a big problem.”
As Lenina begins to comment on her firm and brisk attitude, the captain dims the windows concealing their actions behind the closed door. Faith immediately begins giving him her verbal report, unwilling to wait until she spends the next three hours trying to write up everything she discovered. With her nearly finished after twenty minutes, he finally speaks.
“And you want to activate the Underworld system?”
In frustration, Faith shrugs. “This is exactly why we installed it right? Hurl’s people need to get involved in this operation. The suspect is one of theirs; and if he’s hiding out in their territory, we should let them try to bring him in. We need to show them our trust of their capabilities. And if they fail, they need to realize they can fail and work to fix it. Isn’t this what we have been trying to accomplish from day one? One day I will be killed in the line of duty and you’re going to have to rely on their skills as much as your people’s. This is as good of a time as any, right?”
Faced with logic of her truth, he nods. Typing in a command on his computer, the fiber-op system flashes that it is waiting for the person on the other end to answer. In a subtle transition, the screen is filled by the menacing horned-visage of Sheriff Hurlbet Gomik. Leaning back in his chair, he half grins seeing Captain Lamb.
“Long-time no-see Captain. What has got your people’s panties in a bind today?”
Faith laughs off-screen and Zachary shakes his head as he replies. “I got a demonic suspect who has fled into your AOR. As of right now, we want him for questioning for numerous points, and we have him on ninety-seven counts of possession illegal goods. That’s really nothing, when compared to the five counts of identity theft, and one attempted murder of a police officer.”
Hurl chuckles. “Faith! You there?”
Faith nods and comes around to the side of her Captain. “Yah.”
Hurls nods and continues. “Is this our face-changer we talked about?”
Seeing her nod dramatically, he continues. “Normally I would want to review your evidence first but seeing that Faith and I have been conversing about him already, there’s no need. He fled down here huh? Well, my boys have been itching for a good apprehension. They’ve been frustrated by the quality of the criminals they’ve grappled with lately. Are you wanting to turn your system on down here?”
Zachary nods. “That’s right. He’s got a chip inside in him; and before he gets smart that we can track him down below, we thought you could apprehend him. Unless of course you want my people to…”
Hurl explodes with a forced sarcastic laugh. “No thank you! Let my people try and bring him in. Heck, if you want to have two of your people present during the apprehension that will be fine. These elder demons can have a lot of tricks up their sleeves, so it would be nice to have the slayer there as back-up. Well? Flip it on! Let’s see where he’s hiding out!”
Zachary nods and inputs the command and the system indicates operational. Inputting the chip ID number, it pauses as it searches for ten seconds. Finding no hits above ground, it immediately resumes the search under the city; and after another five seconds, a bright spot illuminates in the Cat Market. Exiting, the captain yells out after Faith.
“I’ll send a uniform to your location armored up!”
Faith continues her sprint out the bull-pit even as John and Lenina stare at her. With thousands of questions running through them, they knew there was nothing they could say or ask. As Faith runs towards her car, Officer Michael Hernandez pulls up in his police car and screeches to a halt with the passenger door flipping upwards and open. As one of twelve special duty officers on Captain Lamb’s team, he grins seeing Faith without any armor, as usual.
Shaking his head, he motions he has an extra vest and extremity protection in the back.
“Suit up while I drive!”
Without a second thought, Faith leaps into the car as he accelerates out of the parking lot. As he arrives at the Industrial center, Faith looks over her bracers and leg protection. Though it couldn’t stop most high velocity rounds, it did stop most pistol rounds and nullified the glow-rod’s disabling effects. Skidding to a stop, the doors swing up and the pair exit. Meeting a meek private security man in his mid-fifties, he seems unable to stop anyone if unless they fell in the late geriatric categories. Checking their identities versus their chips, he nods and motions to continue to the service elevator. The magic concealing the troll as a human was just one of the many forms of security the underworld city established. The demonic officers in charge of the portals to the under-city took their charge so extremely serious that Faith and the human officers knew to never trifle with them. The meek and puny appearance the magic displayed had a two-fold purpose; not just to fool the above ground citizens, but also the unknowing denizens of the city below who were foolish to ignore the laws of their leaders. With word that a toll system to control the flow of people in and out of the city was in work, Faith wasn’t too pleased with it. Though the coinage was needed to pay for the daily magic use, it could encourage others to bypass established entrances and exits to the city.
In minutes, the pair is arriving at the side entrance to the underworld police department. With six massive demons suited up for combat, they happily welcome Faith to them. Though Michael was one of the original members of the team, not many had the opportunity to meet their demonic counterparts. Reluctantly accepting his presence, they wait as Hurl exits his office and gives the green-light to go.
“He’s nearby Sholly’s Grill. Not sure if he’s at a bench or Figgy’s leather shop, so remember our suspect is a shape-changer of sorts. Use the trackers to apprehend and after we have him in custody, we can confirm his identity. It might get confusing, so take them down when in doubt. Now…GO!”
Faith smirks watching them march out in a tight formation carrying massive clubs and swords. Sticking to the rear, Faith motions to let them take the lead, while using the hand scanners to watch Eiglestraum’s movement in the market. In a minute, the deputies surround a cloaked figure hunched over a plate of food. Faith can feel the malice and power radiating from his location and warns Michael to get ready for trouble. Though Faith cannot comprehend all that is said, when the lead deputy comes flying over the first rank of demons, she imagines talking and requesting a peaceful surrender was out of the question. Itching to get into the fight, Faith knew it was ‘rude’ to insert herself into the fight until all of them had failed. Michael looks down as she hops on the balls of her feet preparing to leap into the fight and shakes his head incredulously. As the last deputy is catapulted clear of the fight, Faith passes under him as he is thrown out.
Kicking him with all her strength, he gurgles out his pain as he’s sent through a wall. Knowing she can’t let up, she tears him free of the debris by his foot and throws him against the opposite wall as he attempts to shake off the spinning in his head. As she comes in to give one more blow, he flips over backwards to land on his feet. Faith sees him subtly leaning backwards to his right and correctly surmises his massive punch. She feels him pass with unrestrained energy and would have been the death of her had he connected. Her elbow strike to the side of his head leaves him staggering forward as if a troll had hit him and he cannot conceptualize how she grips him until his Asgardian gauntlet is wrenched off his arm and tossed aside. Recognizing his odds are diminishing rapidly, he drives his left hand into his coat pocket and depresses a button on a palm-sized cylinder. Feeling it pop in his hand, he tosses it to the ceiling and dozens of small marble-sized balls fall around them. Some instinct in Faith tells her to run away and the demon runs the opposite direction. As Faith tumbles mindlessly from the concussion, the demon snickers and laughs over the din of the numerous concussive explosions and rain of fire he leaves in his wake.
Willow and Katya barely had time get changed when Alecia notified them she sent a uniformed officer to drive them to the hospital. With latent concerns that the demon might try and retaliate against Faith’s friends and family, no one wanted to take any chances. With Katya nervously pacing the apartment, Willow exits in time to answer her Fiber-Op. In a crisp black uniform, the eager young man smiles warmly as he speaks.
“Ms. Rosenberg? I am Officer London, and I am parked downstairs. I will come up and get you both. The hospital is a very short drive away. Relax and leave the driving to me. Be well.”
Willow nods anxiously and thanks him before he signs off.
Exiting his cruiser, Officer Gerald London goes to the trunk and extracts a long murderous silver knife from his bag. Pushing back a black plastic cover concealing the spare tire, he reaches down and slices open a pale young man’s hand. Extracting a small chip imbedded in the back of the hand, he drops it into a plastic bottle and sneers at his efficiency. Covering up the bleeding body, he closes the trunk and gleefully strides into the apartment complex with murder on his mind.
Chapter 24: Blessings
June 3, 2041
Grabbing her jacket, Katya patiently waits for Willow to finish changing before leaving for the hospital. With Tara explaining how badly Faith was burned, Katya was barely functional with the knowledge. Though she knew Faith had bounced back with graver wounds, the unfamiliarity with this type of damage was just another unknown variable causing fear and frustration in everyone. As Willow exits her room wearing gray slacks and a white long-sleeve shirt, the doorbell stops her in her tracks. Checking the door monitor, they see the uniformed officer waiting patiently. Katya heads towards the door, as Willow finds her purse. As the door opens the officer begins.
“The department sent me to escort you both to the hospital.”
The crisp, finely tailored officer with his blonde hair styled neatly and properly, smiles warmly at the pair. As he reaches out to take Willow’s bag a concussive blast sends him into the opposite walls in pain. Looking down, Willow realizes he went to grab Katya instead. Thinking back, Willow’s eyes enlarge as she recognizes the magical aura it left behind and yanks Katya back into the apartment. Raising her hands defensively she prepares to seal the door only to have him jam his foot in the way. Seeing Willow’s posture, he fishes out a large glass statue from a bag in his pocket and raises it towards her.
“This item will prevent anymore magic from stopping me. I hadn’t forgotten this is a witch’s stronghold.”
Snickering, he confidently strides towards the two. As he is mere steps away, his instincts scream for caution as Willow’s posture and resolve strengthen. Thrusting her hands out towards him, she seethes; “Not a step closer!”
Undeterred, he steps forward brandishing a silver serpentine blade. Used to kill thousands of women in the past eons, he pulls backwards as he prepares to bury it in the frail old woman. With her end approaching, Willow feels a soft fatherly caress at her cheek as she prepares to unleash a different type of magic coursing through her veins. As her eyes pull closed, a brilliant beam of energy explodes from Willow’s chest and waits at her outstretched arms. Landing in her hands, she can feel it beckoning to be released and Willow sneers as she reopens them to see the terror in the demon. With an angelic chorus, the light reminds Willow of the releasing of the slayer’s source yet with a fantastic holy feel to it. Not resembling any magic from her youth, the waves of holy light ravage the demon and he screams and roils in agony. Unable to advance, he is thrown out of the apartment and into the wall as the waves of light scorch his demonic body and soul. Akin to standing next the very sun, it blazes with majestic might and he barely gets an arm up to protect his face. Pinning him to the wall, he is powerless to escape the pure holy embrace of divine light, once referred to as Imperial Grace. With only a handful of mortals blessed on the Earth who could wield such a gift, the false police officer’s guise is washed away and the fanged horror of old is exposed. As the last of his evil life threatens to be cleansed, the holy radiance suddenly ceases, and he collapses to the floor smoldering. Unable to stand, he crawls uselessly away to the emergency exit and abandons his cause. Spent and wearing a massive grin, Willow collapses to the floor unconscious with Katya cushioning her head as she falls.
As Morgan rushes out the elevator, she sees dozens of people standing in the hall in concern and shock. With most of their conversations expressing their total confusion to the disturbance, her arrival seems to put many instantly at ease. In an authoritative tone, she speaks over the flock.
“Please return to your domiciles and let me through.”
Repeating her speech several times, she finally arrives at the Rosenberg’s and finds Katya sitting beside an unconscious Willow. Feeling the tension she wears, Morgan reaches down and checks the elder woman’s vitals. Feeling a strong pulse and seeing no wounds, she tussles Katya’s fiery hair.
“She’s fine, just needs to rest. What happened?”
As she threatens to explode in anxiety, Katya takes a deep breath before replying.
“A cop came here to escort us to the hospital but he made a grab for me instead. Something magical happened and he was pushed away from us. Then Willow threatened to hurt him if he came and closer and the cop had a long knife…that one!”
Morgan follows Katya’s finger and notes the murderous blade before returning her attention to Katya.
“And then Willow summoned some kind of holy light and it nearly burned the demon to death. He crawled away…I think out the fire escape.”
Nodding, Morgan calls for a paramedic and backup as she sprints out the door to the emergency exit door. Using her divine senses, she doesn’t sense anything behind the door and pushes it open. After checking the area, she rushes down and sees nothing at each level. Arriving at the first floor, she surmises that he managed to escape and starts to leave until her senses pull her attention to the basement. Feeling his vile aura lurking underneath her, she takes her glow-rod into her hand and carefully steps down the stairs. On the lowest landing, she methodically checks her corners and notices the overhead light is magically extinguished. A sick and perverted laugh rings out and the demon envisions overpowering a meek child of a girl to recover some of his lost strength. His laugh is abruptly silenced when Morgan touches the overhead light with her hand and his magic is dispelled. Fear overwhelms him, and his eyes fully open despite the pain from the burns. Morgan looks him over and nods.
“I bet right now you have hundreds of questions running through that crispy head of yours, but I’m afraid its going to have to wait. You’re one of those Assura Demons, right?”
His subtle head bob lets her continue. “Yah, I thought so. I haven’t seen your kind in thousands of years. I knew of the rumors that one of you had survived Ubar, but I never could find you. I’m sorry I didn’t kill you back then, not through my lack of trying mind you. All your people were sent along to Hell, and it wasn’t right I kept you on the Earth for so long. For that I am truly sorry.”
Growling in defiance to her concern, he manages to spit at her, only to have the bloody mass fall a foot short and land on his outstretched leg. Morgan shrugs indifferently before continuing.
“Its going to take me years to clean up the mess you left here, but it’s for the best.”
Dropping the glow-rod to her side, she drives it backwards letting him say his final words. With no surprise he chuckles out his last breath.
“What? With that electro-rod? HAH! Even in my diminished condition, it will do nothing!”
Her eyes momentarily glance down at her weapon then back on him as his smug expression disappears. In place of the cheap black baton-like weapon, the glowing holy blade of the Child of Light replaces it. His mouth hangs loosely open as Morgan replies.
“Kayla Meadows, Fiona Cable, and so many others send their regards...Doctor Lahzlo Ahmil.”
Shock flashes across his visage as the blade plunges into his chest and the energy which scorched his exterior is suddenly radiating him from the inside. A silent scream erupts as his vile essence is rent apart and driven to the deepest pit of hell to join his people after thousands of years. With all traces of his existence sent to hell, Morgan breathes easier. Noticing a pile of clothes and items left in his wake, she wraps it all into a tight ball and heads out to her car. Tossing it all into a gym bag in her trunk, she closes it and returns to the crime scene to direct her superiors to investigate the disturbance.
Faith groans in pain as every part of her screamed out from her injuries. As she tries to move, she realizes the bandages and restraints were there to aid in her recovery and opted to lay back and let the painkillers work. Though this played out countless times, she didn’t begin to register them being separate events until Katya and Morgan were regular visitors. As she lay in bed, she was told how a week had passed and the severity of her burns. Though her slayer healing was greatly assisting in the replacement of the destroyed skin and tissue, modern medicine was a godsend in her case. Her partner, Michael Hernandez, managed to extinguish the flames after he dragged her to safety and only received minor burns on his arms. With major burns over her face and body, the doctors were still amazed that she was conscious and coherent. By the end of the week, Faith noted how the burns on her face no longer hurt and they tentatively investigated the wounds. To only the doctors’ surprise were all her facial wounds gone, with only minor blemishes and redness remaining. With many parts of her body still radiating incredible pain, Faith surrendered to the advice of her doctors and remained hospitalized.
June 25, 2041
Arriving at her apartment, Faith scolds Morgan as she insists taking the bags to the bedroom for her.
“I’m okay now! I got a clean bill of health from them, and I’m just on light duty for a few more weeks.”
Rolling her eyes, Morgan ignores Faith’s words and continues to take the small clothes bag to the bedroom and sets it down by the foot of the bed. Leaving the room, she finds Katya making Faith comfortable on the couch as Faith tries to hide her underlying pain. Though most of the healing was accomplished, she still had a few more weeks as her body repaired the vast amount of internal injuries the flames produced. With her long dark brown locks a smoldering memory, she was happy that her healing had left her without a single scar on her head or face. Though the growth of new hair was confined to normal human rates, she admitted she was wanting to get a new look since Madeline left her. Unsure of how short she will keep it, she knew she had months to figure it out.
From the wreckage of the Watcher’s Council, the Guardians stepped up and took over the duties of managing the global network of slayers. Faith felt it was just trading one master for another, but Willow and Tara kept trying to convince her otherwise. Stating the level of help and support the organization brought was far beyond anything they had received in the past, including during Buffy Summers’ era, Faith could do little but nod in agreement. The most recent aid from the fledgling organization was a bodysuit that could be worn comfortably under her uniform. Though it looked and felt like nothing more than an expensive leotard, the hand-written note said it provided fire and cold protection, and had a negligible degree of resistance to bullets, swords and clubs. Coming with matching gloves, it said it was the latest in personal magical armor. Wishing she’d had it a month prior, she reluctantly accepts any help, all be it late. The second gift was the arrival of a finely crafted sword. Over five-feet long, the blade itself wasn’t entirely the length of the weapon. The handcrafted weapon was wonderfully sculpted, and the wooden grip extended an additional ten inches to form an effective stake, specifically tooled for use by a Vampire Slayer. With the note mentioning that all senior slayers would receive the weapon, Faith admits it would have helped little on her last fight.
As Katya and Morgan make dinner, Faith sits back absorbing the scene around her. As she blinks, the room is replaced by an Amphitheatre of marble and gold. Standing before the packed seats, she holds the Slayer’s Scythe in her right hand and her new sword in her left. As the crowd roar and spit profanities at her defiant stance, a hand rises from the edge of the tall walls silencing them. A lizard-like demon slithers up higher on the wall and speaks.
“Do you even think this is all? This is just the beginning for you! You and your kind will never have rest as long as we live! All those who have come before you are nothing! Don’t believe that just because your numbers are great that it will help in any way! Look! Look at all those who lie dead and know that you can never have peace!”
Faith glances at her feat and sees hundreds if not thousands of women slaughtered around her. Going back to the first slayer, she feels the ache in her heart as she sees Buffy’s disemboweled body atop Katya’s. Beside her, she notices a lifeless black girl whom she replaced when she became a slayer. Unsure if her name was Kendra or not, the image of Katya’s disemboweled corpse reminds her that this was her past fate, and probably not the future. Sensing the deception, Faith manages to ignore his endless babbling for attention and begins searching the crowds. Seeing a black void when she tries to focus her attention, she raises her scythe up towards the blackness.
“I will not lie and say that I’m not afraid! What evil does is obscene and against all that is right in the universe. I know I’ll die, but the good I do while I live is more incredible than this spectacle you bring me today! So…GET LOST! GO! Tomorrow I might be slaughtered, but today you tell me what we’ve always known: you are afraid! I will die and another will step up and take my place, while you are thrown back into the hell you came from! So, if this is all you are going to say, GO! I’m done with your crap!”
Faith’s eyes crank open as a pleasant and reassuring warmth surrounds her. Watching Katya and Morgan goof and play as they finish dinner, their love blasts Faith’s prone form. As tears of joy overwhelm her, she feels the temporary pain from her previous battle cast aside for a time. Pulled into another vision, she sees her speaking marriage vows to Morgan at the park, with Katya standing beside Willow and Tara. In her early teens, she sees how her daughter is growing well and resembling the Russian Slayer ever more. Yanked further along, she sees Hurl being elected to a senior council position with the Child of Light attending the ceremony beside her. As she is let go, she sneaks a peak into the distant future and sees Buffy, Angel, and Tara standing at a magnificent holy entrance, beaming pride and admiration towards her. As she is pulled back to the present she glances down and sees her hands old and shriveled due to excessive years. Though she doesn’t have a mirror, she knows she is at least Willow or Tara’s age when she approaches those gates.
Thrown back into her body, she inhales deeply, seemingly having stopped breathing during her trance. Looking around the room, she sees Morgan had changed into the Kimono Kayla had always worn, and the tears explode across her face. As she tries to get up, Katya exits her room and stops her.
“Hold on mom!”
Reaching her side, she helps her up and gets her to the dinner table. Thanking her, she sits and wipes the tears. As Morgan begins to ask, Faith speaks.
“I’m so happy having a family. I have two beautiful girls who love me as much as I love them, I’m doing work which makes this world a beautiful place, and we have friends that mean everything to us. Katya, would please say a blessing over dinner? I would really like to hear that from now on. And maybe tomorrow, you can help me to do the same?”
Nervously smiling, Katya cannot contain her joy hearing Faith tell her that. As she clutches their hands and begins speaking, Faith glances up into Morgan’s eyes and sees the tears trickling down her chin. Bowing her head, Faith feels an unspeakable rush of joy filling the room and says her private thanks.
Donning her department hoodie, Morgan says she won’t patrol too long and leaves out into the night. Stopping by her car, she takes out the gym bag in the trunk and begins walking. After half an hour, she finds the park devoid of life and checks all the dark corners. Satisfied, she returns to the entrance to find four tall figures standing at the entrance. Turning in unison, they begin approaching Morgan without speaking a word. Tightening her grip on the bag, Morgan continues towards them unwavering. Ten feet away they all stop and Morgan shrugs. Flipping the hood off her beige mop of hair, she sighs.
“Are you done with the Cloak and Dagger routine?”
Noticing a mild chuckle from the taller of the four men, he flips his hood down, revealing the graying visage of Cardinal Montego. Grinning, he opens his arms wide and accepts Morgan’s sudden warm embrace. After introducing his three companions, Guards from the local diocese, Morgan hands him the bag.
“These three items are completely evil; its dangerous to even store them here conventionally. I couldn’t risk an evil power acquiring them even while they were stored in lock up. I was able to convince my superiors that the church could destroy them, though you will be hard-pressed destroying that dagger. The best I think you can do is imprisoning it in a null-dimension or something. It has fed on so many souls that it won’t be easily obliterated.”
With a dreadful nod, he accepts his charge.
“Thank you Anointed One. You look well.”
Chuckling, Morgan agrees.
“Well, not through the lack of every demon in a hundred-mile radius trying to change that. It’s been rough as Faith recovers from her injuries, but she needs the rest.”
Sharing her laugh, he replies.
“So I have read in your reports. His Holiness wanted to send his person thanks for your efforts at keeping us informed. I only wish I had been here to see Ms. Rosenberg unleash her blessing.”
Morgan nods. “Me too, but I will say she nearly destroyed a full demon with it. When I caught up with him, he couldn’t muster any negligible defense against my final blow. He truly was on his last breath. My daughter wasn’t exaggerating that Willow burnt the beast nearly to death. The kind of awesome might she channeled must have been incredible. Thank you for preparing her spirit. I do not doubt she could never have been able to do it without your guidance.”
Patting Morgan’s shoulder, he humbly replies.
“You don’t give Katya enough credit. That girl of yours was responsible for keeping Willow in the word and on the path. Many times Willow was tempted to abandon her journey, only to have your daughter set her back on the narrow winding path. Unfortunately her spouse is not as welcoming to the change, but she is not condemning it either. In the here and now, God’s will was served.”
Morgan nods as she replies. “Praise be to God.”
As they walk the path through the park in silence, the cardinal finally asks the one question he feared would be answered.
“In your last letter to his Holiness, you spoke that you believed that Willow was physically touched by God when you healed her. The pope is confused by the language of your letter and wanted me to get a clarification. Any chance I can coax a more detailed explanation?”
With a heavy sigh, Morgan takes ten minutes before speaking.
“When God has me heal, he imparts some degree of his essence in the process. Anywhere from a wave to a heavy breath saturates the target. When I healed Willow Rosenberg, I felt his physical presence pass through me. I wish you had been conscious so you could tell me what you might have seen so I could understand it myself. I lied to her a little when I said he had completely healed her. He didn’t just heal her body; he cleansed the evil from every corner of her soul. Not one single element or facet of sin was left behind, and Willow encouraged it, openly invited it. He wouldn’t have done that against her will so that leaves me with so many unanswered questions. That’s the best explanation I can give. I’m Sorry, I’m just as confused.”
Nodding the cardinal replies meekly.
“Just another one of God’s little mysteries for us mortals to dwell over until we enter his kingdom.”
Laughing, Morgan agrees and they part ways.
With the hot afternoon sun blazing down, Faith buys three sets of faux flowers and hands one to Morgan and Katya. Approaching Kayla’s grave, Morgan excuses herself and traverses the path down to the older portion of the cemetery. After they lay the flowers on Kayla’s grave and shed their false sympathies for someone who was alive and well, they stand and search out Morgan. Finding her kneeling at a forgotten grave, Faith tries to place the name on the grave and searches the surrounding graves for some clue. After thinking back she notes most of the dates ended on the same date: the night the cryo-prison fell. Thinking, Faith is suddenly taken back to her time in the Los Angeles jail.
“Fiona Cable…wasn’t she in the cell next to mine?”
Morgan nods grimly.
“She was convicted of murdering her father and mother while she was doped up on Meth, at least that’s what the prosecution was able to convince a jury. I saw into her soul and it was obvious she was innocent of those crimes. She died while in Cryogenic stasis when the prison went up in flames. That monstrous demon who violated me and put the demon seed inside of me had his fun with her as much as me. He boasted that we were his favorites, and her spirit crumbled before mine. She was just one of countless victims of his, and there’s no way his death makes any of this right or balances the scales.”
Faith grimly nods and steps back with Katya to give Morgan some space as she pays her respects. As they leave the cemetery, Faith mulls over the visions she experienced the previous day. Unsure how much was real or imagined, she knows these type of visions were not uncommon for slayers. Having experienced them in the past, she admits the visions were not false. Until they became relevant in the here and now, she decided to keep them to herself. Despite all the fear and pain in her life, the joys she foresaw were worth the wait. Reaching over and kissing Morgan, she grabs Katya and picks her and gives her a strong hug while relishing their combined love.