Chapter Two—Living Conditions
“Well, that's all of it.” Kennedy smiled with satisfaction as she broke down the last box.
“I can't believe how much crap you have.” Veruca looked over Kennedy's room as she said it.
“What can I say? When you have money, you tend to buy a lot of things you don't really need. You buy them anyway because you figure you might find a use for them.”
“Well, there's at least one thing you have that I'm glad about.” With that, Veruca headed back into the living room and settled onto the big overstuffed leather couch that Kennedy had bought, turning on the 50” plasma TV.
When Kennedy had decided to move in with Veruca, she had feared the apartment would be a real shithole. It had turned out to be far from it. The apartment complex was a little older than most, but that just meant the apartment was actually big enough to live in versus some of the boxes they were making these days. For an older apartment complex, it was well maintained. And the best thing about it was that each of the girls had their own bathroom, so there would be no fights over who got to use it first thing in the morning. All in all, Kennedy was satisfied.
Of course, if the apartment was cool, the décor wasn't. Veruca used milk crates for a coffee table and the ancient lumpy sofa that had originally been there looked like it had come from a flea market. That had all changed. With the wave of her magic wand, in the form of her family credit card, Kennedy had wrought changes everywhere. There was the new leather sofa, two leather recliners, a set of two end and one coffee tables, new lamps, a new dinette set, and a new rack for the stereo equipment that Veruca already had. She'd also furnished her bedroom similarly, with an inexpensive chest of drawers, a dresser, a couple of night tables, and one queen-sized bed. The plasma TV adorning one end of the living room completed Kennedy's purchases.
All told, she had spent less on all of this stuff than she'd spent on a single dress in the past, even including the plasma TV. Kennedy had always been a bit of a snob when it came to buying things, a consequence of having wealth. She had actually been shocked that there wasn't a Filene's close enough to shop at and she had to settle for a Rooms To Go. Still, if the items weren't exactly things she would want in her house, they were definitely of high enough quality to last her the next few years. Actually, she thought morosely, the couch'll probably last longer than she would survive as the Slayer.
Well, the apartment was now livable. And classes started tomorrow. She would do a short patrol tonight, and get plenty of rest. Kennedy hit her room, changing quickly, then headed out to patrol. As she passed Veruca, she saw her eyes were closed. The girl wasn't asleep, and her breathing was odd. Oh well, Kennedy thought, she's probably just doing some silly meditation...
Veruca lay on the couch with her eyes closed. It was at times like this, that she could truly appreciate the sensuous feel of leather against her skin. It just felt more alive than cloth or vinyl. Veruca could feel the moon, pulling on her as easily as it did the tides. All of her senses felt sharper, her sense of smell especially. She knew now that was how she'd known there was something off about that guy from last night. She should have trusted her instincts. Of course if she had run into him tonight, the vampire would have come off a poor second.
She would become the Wolf tonight and for the next two nights. She would run free and do whatever her dark heart desired. It was a wild and feral feeling and one that drew her in again and again. For a brief moment, Veruca felt guilt as she imagined what Kennedy would say. After all, the younger girl had saved her life and in some cultures, that made her responsible for Veruca. But she couldn't resist that siren call. Not now, not so close to the moon's rising.
Getting up, Veruca went into her room and changed into something that she didn't care about getting destroyed. Barefoot, she walked across the apartment and out the door. Hiding a key where she could find it, she headed off into the night. About to change, she was fearless. After all, it was whoever or whatever she met tonight that needed to be afraid...
Kennedy watched the girl that she knew
was a demon walk across campus. She was following her slowly, staying just far enough back to be able to keep the creature in sight. As soon as she got someplace where there weren't any students around, she was going to take the opportunity to put her theory to the test.
Kennedy had spotted her while she was getting coffee. The girl, who had annoyed one person after another in line with her cheerful, inane chatter, had sent Kennedy's Slayer sense off the scale. She was definitely evil, even ignoring the fuzzy little sweater she wore. Her short, dark curly hair closely resembled horns to Kennedy's prejudiced eyes.
Following her, Kennedy wondered if she had been spotted when she saw the girl stop, stiffen, and look around herself. But, after a moment of standing still, she realized it wasn't her that the girl had sensed. With a growl, something leaped out of the bushes towards the girl!
At first, Kennedy wasn't sure what the thing was. Notty had gone over most of the common demons she might encounter here in Sunnydale, but the thing wasn't one of them. Powerfully built, it had a thick coat of shaggy fur. It ran on all four limbs, each of which was tipped with sharp, powerful claws. The face was almost like a baboon's, but the jaws were wider, more powerful, and filled with more and sharper teeth than any terrestrial animal's.
After its initial lunge forward, it had stopped. Scenting the air, it seemed to not like what it smelled. The creature growled, then hesitated as the girl it faced growled right back at it, her face a mask of rage. Then she shouted something in some kind of guttural language. After a moment, the creature moved back, never taking its eyes off of the girl. When it was a little further away, it broke back into a run.
Kennedy watched, torn between which one to follow. The girl didn't appear threatening, but was definitely evil. Still, whatever she was up to didn't appear to lead to immediate mayhem, while the other creature was a mauling waiting to happen. Making a quick decision, Kennedy followed the baboon creature, moving as fast as she could. Behind her, the girl she had been following smiled and quickly left...
Okay, this damn thing moves fast, Kennedy noted thoughtfully, as she ran. She'd been running full out for more than five minutes and had covered over two miles. At first, it had headed in the opposite direction to the one where the girl had gone, then gradually it had curved around towards its original course, which took it back onto the campus, moving towards student housing. It had just run around a building that Kennedy thought might house the Psych Department, when she lost it. Looking around for a moment, Kennedy tried to sense it, but had no luck. Then she heard the sound of heels on pavement. Figuring that if she could hear it, so could the creature, Kennedy moved towards the sound.
She saw an older woman, dressed in a business suit, walking briskly along towards the parking area. Then, in the bushes nearby, Kennedy saw the creature lying in wait.
She ran forward, just as the creature lurched forward. The woman, with minimal fear, tried to shoo the creature away. Then it launched itself at her!
Kennedy had already arrived, however, and tackled the woman, pushing her out of the way of the creature. It landed where the woman had been, and snarling, prepared to leap again. Kennedy scrambled back to her feet, stepped forward and kicked it squarely in the jaw. In a move that would have made any punter weep in envy, she planted her left foot, while her right foot flashed upwards until it intercepted the creature right at the point of its jaw and hit with thunderous force.
She thought that without her steel-toed boots, her foot might have been broken. The creature spun head over heels back into the bushes. Kennedy was just about to jump in after it and finish it, when she heard a voice at her back. “Young woman, where did that animal go?”
Turning back towards the older woman, Kennedy saw that she had gotten up and was brushing herself off, doing a much better job of it than the half-Brachen demon from the other night. Cool, intelligent eyes studied Kennedy, making her feel curiously inadequate. “Err... I'm not sure. It ran off in that direction when I kicked it.”
“Well, I'll be sure to file a report with campus security first thing in the morning. Imagine, feral dogs running around campus. That thing was enormous. I'm not sure what would have happened if you hadn't come along. I'm Dr. Maggie Walsh, by the way. I teach psychology here.”
“Kennedy Stallings, I'm a student here. Freshman, actually. You teach psychology? That's a coincidence, I'm taking Psych 105.”
“Then you'll be one of my students. Miss Stallings, I don't play favorites. You'll have to work just as hard as any student. But if you have any questions, please do feel free to visit me during my office hours. Thanks again. Now I must be off. And so should you. You have my class at 9:00 am, and I don't tolerate tardiness. Good night.”
Kennedy had barely had time to echo Dr. Walsh's good night, when she was off, resuming her brisk stride as she left. Okay, that sucked, she thought. I nearly outed myself as the Slayer to one of my own professors. Notty would kill her if that happened.
Worse, she didn't have anything to show for tonight's patrol. Both the evil girl and the baboon creature had gotten away. Kennedy quickly decided to head over to Notty's and make him earn his Watcher's salary. Hopefully, he would have some idea of what she was dealing with...
“I'm sorry, Kennedy, but I don't have the least idea of what the girl could be. Any number of demons can assume some kind of human form, not even including those that possess humans. For all we know, she's completely human and is a witch or some other form of magic user.”
“Thanks, Notty, you're a big help. Not.”
“I'm terribly sorry, Kennedy. But I need more to go on than she set off your slayer senses and was dressed in a 'fuzzy' sweater. Now about the other matter.”
“I hope you have more for me there.”
“Yes, I believe I can. Is this the creature?” Notty opened the book he was holding to a place he'd marked previously. Kennedy looked over a picture that almost exactly resembled the creature she'd seen.
“That's it, Notty. Looks like you're batting five hundred. Not too shabby.”
“Well, baseball references aside, what you ran into tonight was a werewolf.”
“Seriously? It didn't exactly look like a wolf. More like a quashed dog-baboon hybrid. Are you sure it's a werewolf?”
“Quite sure. Now, do you have any more information about where the werewolf came from or where it might have gone?”
“Sorry, but I don't.”
“Well, you'll have two more chances to find it.”
Notty nodded. “It's going to change the next two nights. Since whoever it is either doesn't know that they're a werewolf or doesn't care, you can probably expect them to be out again tomorrow night and again the night after. If you don't find them by then, you'll have to wait until the next full moon in four weeks.”
“Well, we wouldn't want that. Don't worry. I'll find him. And I'll find that girl, too.”
“See that you do. Now let me give you a bit more information on werewolves just in case you need it.” With that he went over werewolf lore for the next thirty minutes, until he'd exhausted the subject. Finally, he wound down.
Kennedy started to head out, when Notty spoke again. “Kennedy?”
“I appreciate you stopping by and informing me of how your patrol went. I was... ahhh...” He stammered a bit.
Kennedy grinned. “You were worried about me. It's cool.”
He stiffened. “Certainly not. I was just concerned that you wouldn't be able to make the best use of your Slayer abilities. That's all.”
“Well, I'll see you tomorrow, Notty.” With that, Kennedy left. She felt a warm feeling at her Watcher's words. He really was a nice man when he forgot he had a stick up his ass.
As Kennedy walked up the steps to her apartment, she was smiling. Just as she was about to turn in to her apartment, the door opposite opened. A young man a few years older than herself walked out. Spotting her, he gave her a quick onceover and smiled, apparently liking what he saw. “Hi, there. I haven't seen you here before, have I?”
Kennedy wasn't really interested, but decided to be friendly. “No, you haven't. I'm Kennedy Stallings, Veruca's new roommate.”
“I'm Warren. Warren Mears. I go to UC Sunnydale. You?”
“I start tomorrow. I'm a freshman.”
He looked relieved. “Whew. For a second there, I though you were still in high school. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but then I wouldn't be able to hang out with you at the Bronze.”
Kennedy grinned. He seemed nice. “Is that a rule?”
“Yep. Unwritten, but it's one of the most important. So, how about it?”
“Want to go hang out at the Bronze with me?”
Kennedy shook her head. “Sorry, but I've got class tomorrow at 8:00 am. Plus, I just met my Psych prof. Talk about scary. The last thing I want to be is either tardy or a no-show. Besides, it wouldn't be good for your chances if I was there.”
Warren's smile dimmed slightly, then grew puzzled. “Err... why's that?”
“We'd both be competing for the same girls. And no offense, Warren, but I'm much better looking that you.” For a second, Kennedy thought she'd pushed things too far, too fast and pissed him off. But after giving Kennedy an appreciative look, Warren starting laughing and after a second Kennedy joined in.
“You keep thinking that, babe. We'll have to get together soon and see who does better. Nice to meet you.” With that he took off.
So far, Warren appeared to be an okay guy. She was glad to have some cool neighbors.
“Veruca, I'm back. You here?” Kennedy called. After she didn't get an answer, she shrugged and headed off to go to bed. Tomorrow would be another day.
Veruca woke up out in the forest. Damn, she hurt. This was by far the worst she'd ever felt after a night as the Wolf. Her jaw especially hurt. Probing it lightly, she found it sore and swollen. For an injury to hang around after she transformed back, it must have been pretty bad. Somehow, Veruca doubted a person had done this. It was far more likely she'd attacked something else, like one of the demons or vampires that Kennedy had told her about.
Shit! Kennedy! She would be getting up soon. Unless Veruca wanted an inquisition, she'd better be there when Kennedy got up. Hurriedly she got to her feet and moved off. She had over a mile to go before she got to where she had a stash of clothes. She'd better jog, painful muscles or no painful muscles...
Quickly, she let herself in. Good, Kennedy wasn't up yet. Veruca slipped into her room. The first thing she was going to do was take a shower. Then she was sleeping for another four hours, class or no class. Although, actually, she didn't have a class until 11:00 am, something she'd planned with the Wolf in mind. Just as she got naked, there was a knock on her door.
Grabbing her robe, Veruca threw it on. Opening the door, she saw Kennedy, looking disgustingly awake. “Hey, what's up?”
Kennedy smiled. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay. I heard you come in just now. Everything cool?”
Shit! Kennedy had Slayer senses. Veruca had forgotten about that. It was going to make things a lot more complicated. Thinking quickly, Veruca blurted, “I was with this guy. What a waste of a night. You know?”
Kennedy seemed taken aback and just for a second looked far younger than her eighteen years. Then she smiled and said, “Sure, sure. I know the feeling. Wow, that's some bruise you've got.”
Veruca was taken aback. “What bruise?”
“You didn't know? Looks like you got punched in the jaw. This guy you hooked up with didn't hit you, did he?” This last said in a suspicious tone.
Veruca nearly panicked. “No, no. I think I may have fallen at some point. I'm kinda out of it. I drank a bit too much last night.”
“Ahh, well, okay. Look, I'll talk to you later.” With that, she turned around and left.
Veruca sank onto the floor with the door at her back. Oh God, she wished she could control the Wolf. Lock herself inside tonight. Avoid any chance of hurting someone. But even as she thought it, Veruca knew she wouldn't. The call of the wild was too strong. The urge to run wild, to hunt, was too overwhelming. What was she going to do?
Kennedy sat near the back of the class, listening to Professor Walsh. She was even tougher in a group setting, Kennedy thought in amusement as Walsh hammered out her speech about being called the Evil Bitch Monster of Death. It was less amusing when she started talking about all of the work she assigned, but Kennedy wasn't too worried. Somehow she doubted that a public institution of learning would be as tough as either of her last two tutors, not even including Notty, who was in a class by himself.
As the class continued, Kennedy took notes. It was odd being in a classroom setting after all these years. Kennedy had learned from private tutors all her life, her only playmates the children of servants or those other individuals who matched her family's social standing. Still it was interesting watching how everyone scrambled to keep up with their note-taking as Professor Walsh rattled on.
After class, Kennedy headed out past the beefcake Walsh had as a TA. Not that she swung that way, and he was kinda old for her, but those muscles were certainly impressive. Just as she got to the door, a voice called her back. “Kennedy!”
Turning, Kennedy saw Professor Walsh looking at her. “Yes, ma'am?”
“Please, call me Maggie. I wanted to thank you again. And to introduce you to Riley Finn, my teaching assistant. Riley, this is Kennedy Stallings. Keep an eye on her, I'm sure she'll do great things in class.”
The man who stood next to Walsh smiled and said, “It's nice to meet you, Kennedy. The professor told me how you ran off that dog last night. It was very brave.”
Kennedy shrugged, uncomfortable. “It was just a dog. I just pretended I was kicking off for Notre Dame when I kicked it.”
Riley's eyes gleamed with pleasure. “Are you a football fan?”
With a grin, Kennedy said, “Only of college football. I think they try a lot harder than the pro's. Well, I gotta book. I have Bio in exactly four minutes.”
Riley nodded. “Well, it was nice to meet you.”
Kennedy said, “Nice to meet you as well. See you later, err...Maggie.”
“Have a productive day, Kennedy.”
Kennedy somehow held in a laugh as she walked off. Productive day? Was she for real? Be cool, Kennedy, she told herself. The woman probably means well.
Kennedy groaned as she walked back to her apartment. Okay, that's what she got for underestimating the public educational system. After psychology, the classes had come fast. Only P.E. had been any kind of relief. The low point in her day had been when that dick of a prof in her Pop Culture class yelled at some poor girl. It had been all she could do not to get up and kick his ass. Somehow, she'd managed, though it had left her in a bad mood all day.
As she trudged up the stairs, Kennedy saw Warren just ahead of her. “Hey, Warren.”
He turned. “Hey, Kennedy. How was your first day?”
Kennedy shrugged. “Well, I survived it. Actually, it wasn't too bad. Not enough cute girls, and too many jerky profs, though.”
He grinned. “Well, that's about as succinct a description of college as I've heard.”
“How was your day?”
Warren's eyes glowed with excitement. “I had the greatest day ever. I think I just solved the biggest issue I've been facing in my robotics work. I figured out a chip configuration that'll allow me to stack multiple Intel chips, using them in parallel, rather than series. I'll be able to...”
“Make use of the entire processing power of all of the chips together, even possibly increase it beyond that.”
He looked astonished and pleased. “How did you know?”
“I'm not just another pretty face, Warren. Actually, I enjoy computers. I'm not as into them as some I know, but I like surfing the net and reading about what they're doing with them. That's cutting edge work though. I didn't think UC Sunnydale supported that kind of research.”
“They don't. I'm working on it as a side project. I pretty much ace my classes. They're all easy. Even that whack job Walsh couldn't dent my GPA, not that she didn't try. Anyway, I've got on far as I can go with robotics in class here or pretty much anywhere outside of NASA or MIT. So I take the occasional class, so I have access to the computer systems, while I work on my other projects. If you want, I can show you sometime.”
“I'll take a rain check on it, but some other time, sure. Hey, have you seen Veruca today?”
Warren shrugged. “Yeah, I saw her three or four hours ago. She was off to class I think. Who punched her, anyway?”
Kennedy's look sharpened. “It look like she got punched?”
“Yeah, I mean, I'm no expert, but I did do a summer as an orderly at Sunnydale General to pay some bills. I saw a lot of people come in with bumps and bruises. Most of the women who came in looking like Veruca usually got punched by their old man. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do. Thanks, Warren.”
“Sure thing. Oh, hey, Kennedy?”
“If you see some kid come by, named Andrew, do me a favor and don't mention you've seen me. He's some nerd I ran into playing D&D and he's been a pain in the ass ever since, wanting to hang out with me. He's okay, but really clingy.”
Kennedy laughed. “Sure thing. I'll let your boy toy down easy.” Still laughing, she ignored Warren's horrified look and went into her apartment. That'll teach him to diss a nerd, she thought gleefully. Not that Warren was much more than a nerd himself with his robotics and “babe” comments. Still, he was harmless and probably pretty damn smart if he aced all of his classes. And he'd called Maggie Walsh a 'whack job' earning him extra points. Kennedy could literally see how unhappy Professor Walsh would have been to have someone like Warren in her class and making good grades. She'd probably ramped up and failed half the class in a futile effort to lower his grade.
Kennedy decided she needed to have another talk with Veruca about the entire bruise situation. She hadn't exactly bought what Veruca had told her this morning. Plus, Kennedy hadn't smelled any alcohol on Veruca. Instead, she'd smelled pretty funky, although more in a just rolled in manure way than anything sexual. There had actually been something vaguely familiar about the way she'd smelled that caught Kennedy's attention. She didn't know why it was familiar, but eventually she would remember.
In the meantime, while she waited, Kennedy started her homework, Psychology first, since she had the most there. Maybe I should drop a class, she mused...
Veruca nearly panicked as she realized what time it was. The sun would be down in thirty minutes. She had to hurry. The last thing she wanted was to change in the apartment and tear up all of their new stuff. And possibly her roomie as well. Of course, she was equally worried that it might be the other way around, with Kennedy tearing her up, based on how she'd whaled on that vampire.
But everything would be fine so long as she got in and out as quickly as possible. Throwing open the door to the apartment, Veruca raced to her room. Stripping as fast as possible, she grabbed whatever she could find to go out in. She was just about to head out when Kennedy appeared, blocking the door to her room.
“Veruca, we need to talk.”
Not exactly what she wanted to hear. Ignoring Kennedy, she tried to move past the other girl, only to be picked up and set back on her feet on her side of the door. “I don't think so. Look, I get that you're probably humiliated and embarrassed about the whole situation. I get that. But you don't have to go through it alone. I'm here to help?”
Embarrassed and humiliated? For a brief second, Veruca wondered if somehow Kennedy had found out about the Wolf. But thinking about this morning made it evident that what she was talking about was some theory about Veruca being abused. Her next words confirmed it.
“Just tell me who hit you. I'll go have a little chat with him and straighten him out. Even if you don't swing my way, we need to stay solid in the sisterhood.”
Veruca could literally feel
the Wolf getting closer to the surface as the moon rose and the sun set. She only had a handful of minutes to before it was too late. “Look, Kennedy, nobody hit me. I fell. I was drunk off my ass. Don't make more of it than it is.”
Kennedy's eyes hardened. For just a moment, Veruca felt just how a vampire might feel facing her. “See, I don't think that's true. You didn't smell of alcohol this morning. Actually, you didn't smell like you'd gotten any either. So I figure you were lying. What I don't know is why. I'm not letting you out of this apartment until you tell me. So what's it gonna be?”
Veruca was panicking. “I have to go! I'll explain later. Let me by!” With that, Veruca tried to push past Kennedy. She might as well have tried to make the Earth stop rotating. Kennedy effortlessly tossed her back.
Then she felt the change happening and lost focus on the world as her consciousness slipped away...
Kennedy stared in astonishment as her roommate changed. Veruca's clothes ripped and tore. Hair sprouted all over her form and muscles, bones, and tendons changed. Veruca's face changed as her jaw extended, her eyes became yellow, and her mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. Claws pushed out from her fingers and toes. Where Veruca had stood, now was a werewolf. And it was charging right at her!
Kennedy dropped onto her back as the thing sprang, driving a leg up into its stomach and catapulting it over her head and into the wall behind her. The entire building shook with the impact. It also left a huge crater in wall of the room. Not that it slowed down the werewolf it the slightest. Shrugging off bits of drywall and dust, it leaped to its feet and charged again.
This time, Kennedy kicked it again, catching it hard in the shoulder and knocking it backward. Unfortunately, she wasn't wearing her steel-toed boots and the impact nearly broke her foot. “Motherfucker, that hurt!”
“Okay, let's go you overgrown dog-faced girl! Bring it on!” Kennedy hoped she wasn't just spouting bullshit as the damn thing got up again, seemingly no worse for the wear. Notty had told her that a werewolf was able to take tremendous amounts of damage because of its amazing recuperative powers.
Kennedy knew she needed to get out of the bedroom, since it was too small to be able to use her superior speed and agility fully. She faked moving forward, and when the werewolf lunged, juked sideways through the bedroom door, into the living room. The werewolf quickly recovered and followed her. Kennedy grabbed an end table and brought it down on the werewolf's head as it entered the living room, driving it flat on the ground.
Then the door to the apartment opened. Warren stood there, mouth opened in astonishment as he took in the scene. The werewolf took that moment to lunge to its feet, snapping at Kennedy. Fortunately, the blow had bought her enough time to get something else to hit the werewolf with. In this case, one of the leather recliners. Hefting the heavy chair over her head, Kennedy ruthlessly slammed it down on the werewolf, pinning it to the floor. Warren's eyes were even larger as he took in what she'd just done. Then he found his voice.
“What the fuck, Kennedy! What the hell is that thing?”
“That's a werewolf. It's also Veruca. I need to figure out a way to stop it without killing it. Unfortunately, I'm fresh out of ideas. Shit! It's getting up again!”
Warren's eyes brightened, then he raced off with a “I'll be right back!”
Great, Kennedy groused, as the chair beneath her heaved. He's gone. Probably going to get his imitation light saber to whack it with. Suddenly, she went flying as the chair exploded upwards. The werewolf wasted its energy tearing the recliner apart before spotting Kennedy on the floor nearby. She tried to scramble to her feet, but her damaged foot slowed her down. And hurt like hell. Change that nearly broke her foot to definitely broke her foot. Man, that hurts, Kennedy thought as she finally got to her feet, only to find the werewolf between her and the door.
“Nice doggy, “ she managed. But the 'doggie' wasn't having any as it rushed forward again. Just as it was about to hit her, a blast of light struck it from behind. The werewolf convulsed, its limbs spasming as if it had received a great shock. But it still wasn't down. Then Warren did something with the device in his hands and it shot again, even brighter than before. The werewolf went ballistic, shaking and jerking, before finally going still, steam rising from its form.
Then the device that Warren had used started sparking and flashing. He tossed it hastily into Kennedy's kitchen and dove into her couch, knocking it over onto its back. Kennedy hastily joined him just before an explosion occurred. Looking up, Kennedy was shocked to see that her kitchen was now a gutted ruin.
“Holy fuck! What the hell was that thing.”
Warren looked chagrined “One of my inventions. It's essentially a wireless taser. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a stable power source for it. Those damn capacitors charge up fine from an AC source, but discharge is a little off.”
“What the hell are you doing building something like that? I thought you were into robots?”
He gave Kennedy an embarrassed smile. “I'm kind of a fan of Star Wars. I always thought it would be neat to have a blaster, like the one Han Solo had. So I've worked on it intermittently since high school. Who thought it would be so hard to figure out how to build one?”
Kennedy by this time had managed to get over to where Veruca lay and check for a pulse. She was alive. And probably out for the rest of the night. Still, better safe than sorry. Dragging the werewolf into her room, Kennedy dug out a set of manacles, some chains and some heavy rope. It only took her a few minutes to bind up the unconscious werewolf and place it inside of her bathroom in the bathtub. Just in case you have an accident, Kennedy thought.
She came out of her room to find Warren talking to some guy in a maintenance uniform. Warren was gesturing wildly. “The damn thing just exploded. I tell you I've never seen a microwave explode before. I didn't even think they could do that.”
Walking over to where they stood, Kennedy got her first look into the kitchen. The 'blaster' that Warren had used had landed on top of the built in microwave. Exploding there, it had damaged pretty much the entire kitchen. Only the refrigerator still seemed to be working, since having been off to the side, it had been shielded from the worst of the blast.
“You kids both okay?” The man, whose name patch said Eduardo, looked worried. He probably thinks he's going to get in big trouble for this, Kennedy thought.
“We're both fine. Luckily, my roommate's out right now. Can you fix this, Eduardo?”
“Sí, I can fix it. But the management, they are going to want to investigate. If the microwave blew up, they are going to find someone to blame.”
“Is it your job to stay on top of stuff like that, Eduardo?”
The man nodded. “Sí. I don't know what I am going to tell them.”
Kennedy made a quick decision. “Let's do this. You don't tell them anything. Arrange to get everything fixed. I'll pay for it.”
Eduardo looked both relieved and ashamed. “I cannot let you do that, señorita. I am responsible for this...”
Kennedy was insistent. “Yes, you can. Don't argue with me. I can afford to pay to fix this. Okay?”
Eduardo smiled. “Okay, señorita.”
“My name's Kennedy, by the way. Let me know when you need a check and I'll get you one.”
“Thank you, Señorita Kennedy. Vaya con Dios.” With that, Eduardo left.
Warren looked displeased. “I had him going. The management would have paid to fix everything. You didn't...”
Kennedy held up her hand in a stop gesture. “Don't. You shouldn't have lied to him. If he'd turned this in to his bosses to fix, they would have fired him, assuming that he did something wrong. That's bullshit. It was us, not him, that were at fault. That was a pretty shitty thing you did there, Warren.”
Warren hung his head and wouldn't meet her eyes. “I didn't think about him losing his job. I just thought...”
“That you'd lie and get out of trouble. Real life doesn't work that way, Warren. Lies usually just get you deeper in. I'm not saying that sometimes you don't have to lie, but don't make a habit of it. Eventually, you'll tell one too many and lose any chance to make things right.”
Warren nodded jerkily. He really isn't that bad a guy, Kennedy mused. His morality is a little too flexible, but otherwise he's okay. “I did want to say that what you did? Possibly saving my life? That was pretty cool. On the grand scales of the cosmos, it probably makes up for lying to Eduardo.”
Warren's face lit up. “You really think so?”
Kennedy nodded. “Yes, I do. It was pretty brave of you to come back. So thanks.”
Kennedy slowly walked around picking up stuff and putting things back upright. The chair, both end tables, and the couch were write offs. The plasma TV hadn't been touched. Who knows how much the kitchen was going to cost to fix. Luckily, she still had a lot of room on her credit card. Plus the family would pay off the balance on the first of the month. Yay money, she thought.
“As long as we're on this truth spiel, you want to tell me how you were able to lift that chair and whack that overgrown dog with it?” Warren's eyes were alive with curiosity as he asked.
Shit, Kennedy thought, hoisted on my own petard. She scrambled to try to come up with an appropriate explanation, then realized that only the truth would work.
“Okay, Warren, the truth. Why don't you sit down in the only remaining recliner and make yourself comfortable? It's like this...”
Holy Ratshit, Batman! Warren couldn't believe his ears. Kennedy was this Slayer chick. Like Spiderman, but without his clinging powers, his webshooters, his spider sense... okay, so not really all that much like Spiderman. Still, Kennedy was a genuine superhero. How cool was that?
“So this watcher guy is like your Alfred?”
“My Alfred?” Kennedy looked confused.
“You know, like with Batman? He has Alfred, his butler.”
Kennedy shook her head. “Notty definitely isn't like Alfred. For one, he's not a butler, and he does everything but bring me tea and cookies.”
“That's a misnomer, you know. Everybody thinks that all Alfred did was to bring the tea and answer the door. But he was a lot more than that. He was Batman's right hand man. He...”
Kennedy's voice was sharp. “I said he's not like Alfred. Okay?”
“Sure thing, Kennedy. No need to get testy. So, what's next?”
“Next? Next, I call my Watcher and then I need to figure out something to do with Veruca. I can't leave her in my bathtub forever, although I think it'll be okay just for tonight.”
Warren was about to ask about helping her when she crossed to the still halfway opened door. Throwing it the rest of the way open, she grabbed a figure that lurked outside, pulling him in, and throwing him to the ground!
Kennedy stood over the kid, glaring down at him, as he cowered at her feet. “Okay, kid, who are you? What were you doing lurking outside my door? Talk to me, already.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Warren do a double-take, and put his head in his hands.
“Warren, you know this guy?”
“His name is Andrew. Remember, I told you about him?”
'Andrew' cautiously looked up at Kennedy, and apparently deciding his life was in no immediate danger, sat up. “Oh great and powerful Slayer, I am Andrew Wells, sometimes referred to as the Wise. I couldn't help overhearing your tale of excitement and adventure as you explained it to my compatriot, Warren. I hereby pledge to aid you and place my great powers fully at your disposal.”
The kid was insane. Kennedy looked at Warren, who shook his head. “Great powers?” This to Warren. God knows, she didn't want to encourage the kid to open his mouth again.
“He once called up Hellhounds to terrorize the Prom.”
Andrew grew indignant. “That was my brother Tucker! I called up flying monkeys to terrorize the school play. I'm so tired of everyone confusing the two. I...”
“Can it, Andrew, or I'll flying monkey you. Got it?” Kennedy gave the kid a hard look that shut his yap. Thank God.
Walking over to Warren, she lowered her voice. “What am I going to do with him?”
Warren's eyes gleamed with repressed humor. “You could always do what I do, pretend not to be home when he comes by.”
“I heard that!”
“Shut up!” Both Kennedy and Warren chorused, then grinned at each other in acknowledgment.
“Okay, I have an idea.” With that, Kennedy turned back to Andrew, who had gotten up and was checking out the kitchen.
“Wow, guys, what happened here? It looks like a bomb went off. That is sooo cool! Did a bomb go off?”
Warren shook his head. “Nah, my blaster blew up.”
Andrew's eyes bugged out. “THEY'RE WORKING?!? I must have one! Please, Warren, I'll give you anything for one! I'll give you my limited edition Boba Fett figure.”
Kennedy decided to intervene since Warren looked entirely too tempted to give Andrew the means to blow himself up. “No way, Andrew. The only place you're going is out of here. You can come back tomorrow at 3:00 pm and meet my watcher, Notty, who is going to have some questions for you about magic.”
“If I have to tell you again, I'll follow you home and take your Boba Fett figure for myself.”
Andrew's eyes bugged. Scrambling, he moved as fast as he could towards the door. Finally, he made it out. Kennedy could hear him scramble down the steps.
Warren looked vaguely uneasy. “You wouldn't have really followed him home and taken his Boba Fett figure would you? That was just a bluff, right?”
Kennedy rolled her eyes. And he called Andrew a nerd. “The same goes for you, Warren. I want you back here at 3:00 pm as well.”
“Don't argue. Now I need to grab a shower and get ready to go out. I have an evil something or other to slay.”
Warren left her alone and went back to his apartment. Kennedy stood in the wreckage of her apartment and thought about her life since being called as the Slayer. She decided she wouldn't trade it for a normal life, no matter how long. At least a Slayer really lived
. Now she just had to get ready...
She moved through the night. Soon she would have enough of the soul she was taking to be able to hide herself. It couldn't come quickly enough to suit her. The dangerous predator that had followed her the other night had worried her. But when she was done, such a creature wouldn't be able to recognize her and would pass her by as if she were human. They would...
Just then she felt a tap on her shoulder. She started to run as a voice sounded from behind her. “You didn't think I forgot, did you?” She felt a terrible pain at her neck, and then everything went black...
Kennedy frowned in disgust as the nasty green slime that the 'girl' had used for blood coated her jeans. That what I get for beheading her, she thought. Maybe, I should have stabbed her instead?
Oh well, it was over. Kennedy had been ninety nine point nine percent sure that the 'girl' was a demon. That point one percent hadn't been enough to dissuade her from attacking the 'girl' from ambush. Too much chance she'd lose if she did that. You never knew with an unknown demon just how tough they were...The next day...
Her watcher stared at the three young people seated on the couch across from him. “So this is them?” His tone revealed he wasn't particularly happy about knowing the answer.
“Notty, this is Veruca Sanderson, Warren Mears, and Andrew Wells. Veruca is a werewolf, Warren is a genius, and Andrew, well, he does some magic.”
Notty nodded thoughtfully. “Miss Sanderson, am I to take it that you have been willfully endangering people by running around under the full moon as a werewolf?” His eyes were cold and at that moment, Kennedy was glad he wasn't looking at her that way.
Veruca nodded and said defiantly, “That's right, gramps. So what?”
Notty slowly massaged the bridge of his nose. “Kennedy?”
“Did you explain to Miss Sanderson what the consequences were if she continues this behavior?”
“Sorry, Notty, but I didn't get a chance to.”
He looked pained. “Kennedy, please be so good as to tell her what will happen.”
This was the part she wasn't looking forward to. Veruca looked from her back to Notty, then back to her. “What's going on, Kennedy?”
“Veruca, I like you. And not in a sex way.”
Andrew whispered to Warren, “What is she talking about?”
Warren whispered back, “Kennedy's a lesbian.”
“That's so cool!” Andrew shot up off of the couch, then sat back down and kind of shrank in when he saw everyone looking at him.
Kennedy just shook her head. “If we could please cease the interruptions? Thanks. Now where was I? Oh yeah. Veruca, I think you're pretty cool. And you've got a pretty good life. You've got a kicking band from the CD I heard. You're going to college. You've got me as a roommate. The problem is that I'm the Slayer. It's not just what I do, but who I am. And if you keep running around attacking professors and anyone you come across, I'm going to have to slay you.”
Veruca looked scared. “Would you really hurt me, Ken?”
“I wouldn't like it, but I'd do it. More to the point, you know it's not the right thing to do. See, what I really think is that you subconsciously played it the way you did because you wanted to get caught. By me in fact. Otherwise, why leave it until so late to go out? Why even come back to the apartment at all? So, I'm giving you your wish. I'm going to help make sure you are in for the night. Notty has a cage we can put together in your room for when you turn into a wolf. He brought it with him today in fact. That's where you're going to spend tonight and any other wolfie nights.” Most of the plan, including the psychoanalyzing, had in fact been Notty's. But he and Kennedy both thought it would be more palatable coming from Kennedy. Now seeing the way Veruca was reacting, Kennedy realized they'd done the right thing by handling it the way they had.
Veruca looked alternately scared and defiant. “What if I don't want to do that?”
“Then I'm going to take a sword and cut off your head, just like I did that demon chick last night. We both know you dodged a bullet last night. I didn't want to hurt you. But if you do it again, I'll be ready. Do you understand, Veruca? I mean, seriously, you're busted and these are the consequences. The only other thing you can do is run. Right now, as far and fast as you can. But watch your back because I'll be there.” Kennedy didn't see the point in mincing words. The last thing she wanted was to kill Veruca. The best way to ensure that was to make sure that Veruca understood the consequences of continuing her self-destructive behavior.
Veruca looked like she was near tears. “I don't want to run. I don't. I don't want to be the Wolf. I just can't help it. I tried so hard...”
Kennedy got up from her chair and knelt on the floor in front of Veruca, taking her hands in hers. “I'm here to help you. You know that, right? You're not alone. Okay?”
Veruca sniffled, then gave a slightly tear smile. “Okay, but I'm still not going to sleep with you.”
Kennedy hugged her, ignoring Andrew's whispered, “Wow.”
Notty tapped his toe on the floor as he eyed the two young men. “Mr. Mears, you are very good with electronics, I take it?”
Warren nodded. “With a specialty in robotics. Did you want me to make you something?”
Notty eyed him narrowly. “Why?”
Warren looked nonplussed. “Why what?”
“Why robotics? It seems there would be far more lucrative fields for someone with your formidable skills to enter that would still provide one with certain intellectual stimulation.”
“Well... I... ah... I don't know.”
Notty smiled cruelly. “Come now, Mr. Mears, should I believe that? Surely you have an idea why you do what you do? Or are you that blind to your own motivations?”
Warren looked angry. “It's all I've wanted to do since the first time I picked up a comic book. It was an Iron Man comic and he was fighting Ultron.” He stopped for a second. “I didn't want to be
Ironman, I wanted to build
Ultron or something like him.”
Andrew lit up. “Oooh, that was a great issue.”
Warren smiled at him. “It sure was. I loved that issue. I...”
Notty interrupted. “Let's drop the comic book talk, gentlemen. Mr. Mears, what good are you?”
Warren looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, what can you do? How can you help? What good are you to my Slayer?”
“Well, I can make things to help her, gadgets 'n stuff. I can solve problems that come up. I'm really good with computers. I...”
“And do you want to help?”
“That certainly sounded like you meant it. I asked if you want to help, Mr. Mears. Do you?”
Warren looked thoughtful for a second, then slowly nodded. “Yes, I want to help. I really do.”
Notty thoughtfully nodded. Then he turned to Andrew, who volunteered without being asked, “I want to help.”
“Yes, but why should we let you? By your own admittance, the only thing you've used your small magical talent for is torment others. Or do you have a better excuse for what you did? Summoning those T'chal demons on the school play?”
Andrew looked crushed. “I... I wasn't trying to hurt anyone. It's just they were being so mean to me. So I decided to be mean right back.”
Warren interjected, “He dismissed them before they hurt anyone. All they did was fly around and scare people.”
Notty shook his head. “Magic is not a toy. It's not a game or a diversion for your entertainment. If you treat it that way, it will kill you, boy. That's assuming I don't have Kennedy do it first. I have half a mind to allow you to help.” Andrew smiled brilliantly. “But I have some serious reservations.” Andrew's smile fell. “I'll need you to do something for me first.”
Andrew cleared his throat nervously. “What is that?”
“I need you to swear that you will no longer use your magic without first clearing it with Kennedy or me. If you do that, I'll let you help. If you don't, I'll ask you to leave with the admonishment that if you discuss what you heard today, you'll regret it for the rest of your consequently short life. What are your thoughts, Mr. Wells?”
Andrew beamed. “Of course, I swear. I, Andrew the Wise...”
Notty snapped, “I said this isn't a game! Damn it, boy, you are no longer a child! You need to leave your foolishness behind you. Now give me you word.”
Andrew hesitated, then said, “I promise not to cast any spells without permission from Kennedy or you, sir.”
Kennedy enjoyed the amazed look Warren wore at Andrew's solemness. Truth be told, she was more than a little surprised that even Notty had managed to get that reaction from Andrew. But he had, and appeared at least somewhat satisfied.
With a final last look at the three young people on the couch, Notty turned to Kennedy and said, “Well, Kennedy, you have an interesting group here. I'm not sure how much use they're going to be though.”
Kennedy shrugged. “I didn't pick them because they were useful. I picked them because I like them.”
Andrew stared at her. “Even me?”
With a smile, Kennedy said, “Pretty much. Just watch the overreaction to the lesbianism, okay?”
Andrew smiled nervously. “I can do that.”
Notty turned to go. Only Kennedy heard him mutter under his breath, “Great. One recovering werewolf. One genius with delusions. And one deluded young man. The world is doomed.”
Kennedy looked over her group. They weren't the most glamorous bunch. But they were hers.