Sundering Changes, part 2
"Come on, someone's got to be home," Willow complained as the phone beeped indicating that it was punting her call to voice mail yet again. No one was picking up at Xander's. Usually she could get one of Xander's perpetually cranky seeming parents or even his weird uncle if Xander didn't get the phone himself, but no one seemed to be picking up at all. She considered if she could get through to Buffy, but realized that her friend wouldn't know about why Xander wasn't home as she was in LA. It was unusual for her not being able to reach him after nearly a week of trying. Willow wished she had access to an Internet connected computer.
Willow hoped her friend was okay in LA and promised herself that she would call Buffy's mom so she could get some sort of number for Buffy so that she could at least talk to her during Buffy's three month stay with her dad.
Xander opened his eyes and looked around. He was in a concrete room with a small toilet next to the door and a hard bunk bolted to the floor. The door was solid steel with a small slit of glass in it. The only other openings were grates near the top of the cell on either side. Xander looked down himself. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit with a number on the chest over white cotton underwear. Xander guessed he had been moved to some sort of prison, but he was confused about why he had been drugged during the move. He moved his head slightly and realized he was wearing something around his neck. He reached up and found a metal ring locked around his neck like a dog collar. It had obviously been there long enough to have the same temperature as his skin. He headed over to the window in the door and looked out. There was some sort of well lit corridor and a concrete wall across from him. He could spot two more doors as well probably just more cells. There was something written on the wall. It said: Neverland in blocky black lettering.
"Neverland, strange name for a prison," he mused, but Xander couldn't blame them for bringing him here. He belonged in prison after killing his parents. He belonged locked away from people. He could hurt more people at any time. That was probably the reason they had drugged him before bringing him there. Sighing slightly at his situation, but deciding he deserved to be there Xander lay back onto his bed and waited.
Buffy cursed as she opened her eyes. Her headache continued on its fourth day. She realized something was wrong, but she didn't want to tell her dad. He would just send her to the hospital and she loathed those. Besides it was getting better just very slowly. So she lied about being sick. She was used to lying to her dad. She told her dad every time he asked that she was feeling fine now and that she didn't mind going out to eat or join him and his workmates and their families at some fancy dinner, which was her dutiful daughter job for the evening. All day yesterday she had been allowed to go to the boutiques of her choice in Beverly Hills and spend away of her dad's money. He had almost given her a car as well, but so far that hadn't gone through, mostly because her learner's permit was just a fever dream at the moment.
She got up and carefully dressed. It was strange being back in LA especially now that all the instincts of the Slayer had completely left her. She didn't feel the need to stay up at night nor did she really have the energy for it. Her strength, agility and endurance had gone back to being that of an athletic girl as had her coordination. However the skills had stayed with her. She knew all she had learned as a Slayer. She knew the right moves but her body couldn't perform them anymore. It sucked not having superpowers when you had been used to them after nearly two years. Still it also meant she could walk through an area and not feel the need to look for her enemies on every corner. She found it easier to be happier during the day and she slept through the nights. Buffy just knew she would never forget. Her time as the Slayer was history now, but it was important history to her and it had changed how she saw herself and how she thought about people and events.
Feeling better than on her initial awakening, she had hope for the day especially after her bath and getting dressed in a nice dress she had bought yesterday, Buffy went down and greeted her dad as his Spanish speaking housekeeper fixed them breakfast. "Hola, Isabella," she said.
"Hola, Buffy," the matronly housekeeper said. Isabella had greeted her with warm embraces and the woman was seemingly very glad to find Buffy less interested in starting fights and fires and more or less back to her original way of being. Her dad had hired her just before the divorce after moving out to an apartment for a while. He had brought her along to his new house and so Buffy knew the matronly woman from the earlier visits.
"Hi, honey, so I've asked Isabella to drive you to the Ice skating rink today. I know you love that place. I'll be in meetings until six pm, I'll swing by here around eight and pick you up. This dinner I am taking you to, is really important. The partners at my firm and I are going to meet with another firm that we're considering sealing a huge deal with, but we want to wine and dine them first. Now they didn't want a formal business dinner so we've made a bit of a party out of it and the entire staff is coming most of them will be bringing their families too. It'll be a social event. I know several of them will love to meet you. It won't be all boring I promise. Most of the partners have kids your age and we've arranged for a DJ and room for you to dance while we talk about the boring stuff with the other suits in another room, so don't worry," her dad said.
"I don't," Buffy replied and smiled lightly. She was actually looking forward to a night of a little dancing and fun even if it was with several kids she had never met before or if she had she probably wouldn't remember.
"Good, see you tonight," her dad said and kissed her on the cheek before leaving.
Buffy felt great as she studied herself in the mirror. Her dad would be arriving any moment now. She studied her beautiful red dress and the subtle make-up. She could have used a visit to the hair salon, but at least she had gotten rid of her Slayer damaged nails at a manicurist this afternoon. Her new shoes were tight, but they were also real pretty and matched her dress perfectly.
"My god, you're so beautiful. Be careful around the boys tonight," her dad suggested and gave her a wrap to pull over her arms.
"I know how to handle them. Besides I have kind of... I had a boyfriend in Sunnydale and I don't really want a new one right away," Buffy said. Angel didn't count as a boyfriend just as someone she was really interested in. At least that was what she told herself at that moment.
Her dad took her to his car and together they drove off to the dinner. Buffy watched as they headed through LA bathed in the colors of the dusk. She was feeling excellent. Her headache was completely gone and she felt almost electrified as they finally arrived at the restaurant her dad's firm had rented for the evening. Her dad let the valet park the car, before guiding her inside. They were not the first to arrive and immediately her dad started showing her off, introducing her to the other old men and one woman that owned the law firm along with him. There were other people there, junior partners her dad called them. Then there was the guests and the other kids. All looked a bit like her, teenagers or younger kids being paraded out to be shown off by their parents. She left her dad side and headed over to meet some of the others like her, suddenly uncomfortable with being shown off like a prize to older men and women.
"Hi," she said greeting the first sullen looking group seated in a corner booth close to where her dad had indicated they'd be seated during the dinner.
"Welcome to the party," one of the girl remarked.
"You look like you're having as much fun as us," a boy replied.
"Because I enjoy being shown off like something about to be auctioned," she remarked.
"Uh, we'll get along nicely. I'm Tommy. That's Clarissa. Miranda. Rory and Michael," a pony tailed about nineteen year old guy said.
"I'm Buffy," she said.
"Nice, you're parents were at least creative," Miranda commented.
"Yeah, because I've never gotten smart remarks about my name before," Buffy replied.
"Uh, relax, Buffy, retract your claws, we're all in the same boat here. At least this time they've arranged for entertainment for us. There is some sort of DJ coming after the dinner," Tommy said.
"Let's hope so," Clarissa commented.
"Kids, dinner," one of the older men yelled just after a large bunch of elderly men arrived in a group.
"Like I am nine," Rory mumbled. But they all got up and along with Buffy they headed over to the tables were dinner was being served.
The music was thumping and the youngest of the lawyers many of them in their late twenties had joined them on the dance floor dancing or chatting in the corner. Buffy had seen her dad heading into a quieter backroom along with all the partners from both firms. She didn't really care. She was still going strong, not even tired now that the clock was heading past midnight. She must have been a real nightowl before turning into a Slayer and had never known it. She did need to go to the bathroom though.
Buffy walked out into the hallways following the signs leading to the toilets when she saw something strange. There were several closed off rooms in back that the lawyers were using for their talks, but Buffy hadn't expected there to be actual guards. There were two burly looking Hispanics in suits standing guard next to one of the doors. They were staring at her. She felt a bit like a deer in the headlights for a moment before collecting herself and heading for the bathroom door which was just next to the two guards. She went inside and almost breathed a sigh of relief.
A few minutes later as she studied herself in the mirror she heard something from the open window at the back of the room. It was a slightly raised voice. Chance guided it to her ears and she realized it was her dad's voice. Buffy was curious and edged over to the window listening as he spoke. They must have opened a window to the empty garden surrounding the restaurant.
"So let's say we do go ahead with the current plan as we've agreed on. That would mean that we could service our international customers with the services generously offered for sale by your organization as long as it furthers your goals, while we at AIM will be able to help you get hold of all those weapons you need for your real purposes. That along with the details we have discussed earlier would mean that we have a deal," her dad said.
"Yes, I believe we might have a deal Mr. Summers. It's good that we can still deal with each other after all this time. I will have to get final approval from head of my organization just like you, but I think you can consider this a closed deal. Besides shifting the resources we discussed through your organization's contacts in the Middle East seems to be the best solution available to us at the moment, provided we can be sure there will be no information leaks. HYDRA is looking forward to seeing how your latest weapons series will perform in the field," another British accented voice said.
"Excellent, then I guess we can move back to the pleasant parts of this place," her dad said. There was a general series of noises like people moving around in the room next door.
Buffy realized she was standing there completely frozen in shock. She had just heard her dad secure a weapons deal with some sort of organization that sounded suspicious. In fact the entire thing had sounded deeply shady. The thought of her father dealing in weapons when she had thought him a contract law expert as it said on his card shattered her preconceptions of her dad completely. She wondered if it had been going on long and if it had, if her mom knew. She also wondered what AIM and HYDRA was, because her dad's company was named IDIC. Those were pretty weird names really. Deciding to keep things cool at least until she could think things over Buffy left the bathroom as if nothing had happened and headed back out onto the dance floor.
However as she danced with several of the quite attentive LA boys she realized that she felt strange about this party now. It felt the party was just there to cover for shady dealings. She was there as a part of her Dad's cover. Covering from what exactly, she wondered for a moment, but decided she had too many weird theories in her head to really know what she wanted to think.
She tried to get back into the dancing mood but after nearly a half hour she hadn't managed even with four different boys and a couple of the girls trying their best to get her to join them in their fun. Instead she sought out one of the corner when she noticed her dad waving at her. Buffy headed over to him.
"Listen I have a couple of early meetings tomorrow, so would you mind if we leave now," her dad asked.
"No, I am getting tired anyway," she replied. Her dad nodded and they headed out after she picked up her wrap.
She got into the car the valet had fetched and noticed how there were more stiff and careful looking burly guys standing around the parking lot. All people she hadn't seen inside at any point. The entire place had been under guard she realized and again she wondered what was going on.
"So did you like the party?" her dad asked.
Buffy wondered what she should say. But she realized what she wanted to say, but she also didn't know enough to really ask what was going and understand it. "It was great," she lied and put on her best happy face. She knew she would have a talk with her dad tomorrow, but that would be after she borrowed his Internet connection and tried to see if she could do like Willow and be the netgirl long enough to figure out what AIM and HYDRA was. She just hoped she remembered those names until then.
Xander woke up. He wasn't sure what day it was or what time of day even. His body ached slightly. They were drugging his food. It had arrived that first day through a hatch in the door and he had eaten it without realizing until he had passed out on the floor. They were drugging him. He sat up and realized that something was wrong with his arms. He examined them. There were multiple needle marks that were still healing. Jumping up in panic Xander examined himself. There were many places on his body like that. They had cut into him and done things. "What the fuck? What is this? I want my lawyer. I want my phone call. Someone answer me!" He screamed.
"Welcome to Neverland," a voice whispered.
Xander turned around in his cell and saw nothing.
"Over here," the voice said. Xander looked up towards the grate in the ceiling to his left.
"Hi there," Xander said.
"What is this place?" he asked not wanting to get into all the other questions about who the voice was and what his crime was.
"Neverland. Where they take mutants to get cut up and probed to see if they can use you for something in their experiments," the voice replied.
"What! But... I expected to go to prison. I haven't even seen a lawyer. I was never sentenced," he said.
"Don't expect to be. You're new to this business I can hear. Listen, you're a mutant. To them you're just an obituary waiting to be written. It's my second time in here. I escaped for a short time once. Guess how surprised I was when I got out and find out that I was officially dead. I had apparently committed suicide in my cell before I got any representation. And they hunt us too. You get out then you run and don't trust anyone except other mutants," the voice said.
"My name is Xander," he said.
"Bah, your human name right. Have you picked out a real one yet?" the voice asked.
"What do you mean?" Xander asked.
"Listen, you can't go around using that human name. Human names are for homo sapiens. We're the next step in human evolution. You have to have a real name. Your true name. We'll pick one later. My name is Toad," the voice explained.
"Toad, really?" Xander asked and laughed thinking Willow would never like his new friend.
"Yeah, my mutation gives me frog like characteristics," the voice said sounding annoyed. Xander decided not to make fun of him. After all Toad might be his only ally at the moment.
"Okay, cool. Not one to judge," Xander replied.
"And you, what's your power?" Toad asked.
"I can take and give lifeforce. You know heal people if I touch them or kill things by draining them. That works at a range apparently," Xander replied.
"Nice. You're probably an Alpha class then," Toad replied.
"Alpha class?" Xander asked.
"You're really a greenhorn. Not to worry I'll school you," Toad said.
Willow read through the newspaper article for the fifth time. Her face was streaked by tears. She had borrowed a network connection and her dad's laptop to see if she could find a number for Buffy's dad and see if she could go through the networks of Sunnydale to find out what was going on. What she had found out was that something had happened to Xander's parents. She had searched for him and found the article. She couldn't believe it. Xander had been a mutant apparently and had used his powers to kill his parents and had then killed himself in his cell by hanging himself. Willow of course didn't believe a single word of it. Xander would never kill his parents and it was probably some sort of magic that had killed his parents. She had entered the coroner's files and had found something disturbing. Xander's body hadn't been examined, but had rather been given immediately to the funeral home for cremation. The newspaper had said that no one mourned Xander, but they were wrong. Willow however would do more than mourn. First she'd clear her friend's name. Then she'd have Giles' new Slayer extract vengeance from whoever had done her friend in. She found and scribbled down Giles' phone number.
Buffy had tried to enjoy her morning, but really she had just waited until both her dad and Isabella were out of the house. She ran to her dad's home office and booted his computer. It came up with a password prompt, but Buffy knew the password. Her dad had always had the same one. His initials, then a space then her first name and then her mom's birthday. The computer showed its normal desktop. She quickly found the Internet browser and tried to remember how Willow had always done these things. First she tapped in the address of the search engine and then she entered the name: 'AIM.' It produced a long list mostly with stuff she guessed wasn't about what she was looking for. It took a while to sort through it all until she got enough and added: 'organization' to the search. Then she found several articles. There were newspaper articles and hundreds of other stories from private people telling everyone about how the AIM was a terrorist weapons supplier dealing in stuff as advanced as Stark Industries the name of which she only knew from seeing Tony Stark in the celebrity pages of her favorite magazines.
Trying not to think Buffy replaced AIM with HYDRA and got even more hits. All of it was worse than AIM. Where AIM was mostly an unscrupulous arms dealer, HYDRA was a fascistic terrorist organization bent on taking over the world by any means possible including having tried to detonate all of the world's nuclear weapons at once back in the seventies. She couldn't believe her dad was involved with something like this. Buffy knew one more thing about her dad and how he kept his secrets. When she had been small he had kept certain important things in his safe. A safe she knew the combination too. The safe which now stood in his office.
She shutdown the computer but stayed in the office for a while before deciding to confront her dad when he got home. She might not be the Slayer anymore, but she couldn't imagine standing idly by either. The ability to ignore everything and live in her own little Disney world hadn't returned with the loss of her powers. She walked over and tapped in the code on the safe's keypad. Predictably her dad hadn't changed it. She opened it and found that besides some weird liquid containers attached to the inside of her dad's safe there was several stacks of folders, a strangely fancy looking pistol and a small stack of cash. Buffy ignored everything but the folders. She knew she was snooping but she just had that vain hope that in one of those folder there would be evidence that her dad was an undercover agent for some sort of police and not the criminal she now feared he was.
The first few folders were simply personal stuff, the divorce settlement with her mom, a copy of his personal papers and stuff that barely interested Buffy like his employment contact with his firm IDIC. Still amazing herself with her focus given the comparatively research like situation she was in, Buffy forced herself to keep reading. The last two folders were the most interesting and shocking. They were presentation notes for some sort of device that would make everyone in an area feel like they were being burned alive. It was listed as being pocket sized and easily portable. According to the marketing speak it was guaranteed to start massive panics and perfect for quelling or starting riots. Buffy felt sick at the prospects pictures of screaming and catatonic people. The other folder was some sort of printout of a document including comments from her dad about what should be changed for a final contract. It was an agreement between two unnamed parties exchanging money massive amounts really, but the document didn't say what for. Her dad's notes however were filled with words like cover-up, whitewashing and conceal.
Buffy put everything back in the safe and tried to mentally prepare herself. She tried to reign in her anger. How dared her dad to be party to things like this? How could he? She would confront him. That much was sure.
Willow finally got Giles to pick up his phone. "Rupert Giles," he said.
"Giles, it's me. Have you heard? What they claim Xander did?" Willow blurted out.
"Yes, my dear. I heard the same day. The poor boy. Apparently he had been abused by his parents for years. He never told us. If only he had. We could have done something," Giles said.
"Giles... It couldn't have been him. Xander wasn't a mutant. He would have told us," she said.
"Willow, I understand your sentiment and I shared it in the beginning, however I went over Xander's home thoroughly with the help of Miss Calendar and Angel. It wasn't magic or demonic power that did this. We also acquired the tape of Xander's confession. It was quite informative. Apparently Xander did not want to tell any of us of his status as a mutant because his parents knew and had punished him for a long time for that fact. It is really a quite horrible situation. In fact Xander might have gotten free of his first degree murder charges in my opinion. The use of his power was clearly unintentional and even if not he was acting under duress as he was being beaten by his father at the moment. He would have had to serve time for manslaughter for his mother, but really anything would have been than the solution he chose for himself," Giles explained.
Willow deflated. "But... I... " She couldn't help herself she just started crying uncontrollably. She hung up the phone without saying goodbye and curled up on the bed.
Buffy watched her dad walk in, looking tired after a long day. Isabella had made them dinner and Buffy had already eaten. She had wondered if she should call Giles earlier. Her appetite was back to Slayer levels at the moment and while her instincts for a lack of a better word weren't back there was still something different from what was normal for her. She felt good physically, almost like she was ready to bounce around the room. But there were more important things for her to do.
"Dad. We have to talk," Buffy said trying to sound as serious as she felt. She would have to seem that way. Her dad barely acknowledge she had a brain after all.
Her dad turned and gave her a strange look. "What is it, princess?" he asked.
"Dad, I heard some of what you and those guys from HYDRA talked about, while I was in the bathroom yesterday. I checked your safe. You're dealing in weapons. You sell things that kill people, innocent people. This is all bought with blood money," she yelled gesturing at around the room.
Her dad didn't defend himself. He just paled and charged at her. Before she could defend herself he bowled her over and held a hand over her mouth. "Shut up!" he commanded. Buffy tried to press his hands away, missing her Slayer strength more and more by the moment.
"Have you got any idea what you've just done? To me, to yourself, oh your mom. Tell me you haven't told your mom!" he commanded. Buffy shook her head.
"Small mercy. Shit, Buffy. Goddamn it, how could you. Couldn't you just have enjoyed all of this. Why snoop around, why listen in. These people aren't to be reasoned with. Now you will have to join them or they'll kill you," he said sounding sad, but sure that she would do just that.
Buffy managed to move her dad's hand over her mouth. "Never, I'd never join with psychopaths and terrorists. We'll just get help. And more to the point how could you? Dad, how could you let something like this into our lives in the first place," she asked.
Hank seemed to give up and let her go, getting up. He stared out the window for a moment. "How couldn't I? They pay me in millions Buffy. And here in LA everyone else is mixed up in something too. They always are. You'll understand when you start growing up. Why shouldn't I reap the benefits as well," he turned and looked at her for a moment. There was something in his eyes she hadn't seen for a long time. A deep caring love as well as fear. It was a look like Giles had given her every night these last few months. Was that how a father's love looked, Buffy wondered.
"Why did you react like that?" Buffy asked and felt her face. It felt almost like she had been slapped across the mouth.
"Because my employers have bugged my house before. And in light of the importance of the deal you overheard and me being the head negotiator you can probably expect HYDRA has at least temporarily set someone to watch me as well. Buffy, you have to swear your loyalty to one or the other. You have to. Or they'll kill you and me," he said.
Buffy thought back on the list of insanity and murder she had seen online describing both groups. "Never," she repeated, but for a moment felt less than certain.
Her dad grabbed her by the shoulders and said, "Stop being so unreasonable. They'll kill you." Her dad looked like he was desperate.
"Dad, I couldn't. Never. I am not that kind of person. I won't ever serve something like them. I loathe people like that. I... I have seen true evil and I won't back down from it. You have to face it or it will consume and destroy you or something you love. You could do good. You could stand up against them. Go to the authorities and tell them everything. I'll be right there with you," Buffy recalled meeting the Master in his cave and dying. She knew she could very well be condemning herself again. But even with that very real threat on the horizon she couldn't make herself surrender to evil. It was just not in her nature. Not even for pragmatic reasons.
Her dad's shoulder's slumped. Buffy meanwhile heard a strange high pitched whine just at the top end of her hearing. It faded again. She looked around but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
"Buffy, I don't understand how you can be like this. What's happened to my little girl," her dad said when suddenly the living room window exploded into the room and three yellow clad figures waded inside, while Buffy and her dad got back onto their feet. Buffy looked up and saw how they wore a strange armor like set of clothes including a face covering helmet. It would have been slightly funny hadn't it been for the lethal looking huge high-tech guns the trio was carrying.
"Mr. Summers. Management has decided that your employment contract is to be terminated. Your daughter's pathetically simple penetration of your security more than adequately proves that you're clearly not fit for your current position. As we have records of your daughter's vehement denial of the only option open to her, we'll be terminating her along with you. I will be merciful and kill you first to spare you the sight of her dying first," the leader said. Buffy considered getting up and running, but she had no cover and she was unsure about her speed after losing her Slayer powers as well. But if she didn't she'd just die on her knees.
But before Buffy could even decide, her dad heaved the couch up and pulled something out that had been taped to its underside. It was a small rifle like thing that made a whine noise as he fired a blue bolt of something that went straight through the armor of the left most of the trio with a hiss. There was a blacklight-like flash in the room as the couch blew apart from the shot fired by the leader of the yellow armored guys in response. Her dad threw himself to the right.
Buffy's body remembered her training well enough even if its options were more limited than before. So she elegantly rolled left and ended up back on her feet in a run. She knew she couldn't stop. Something crackled and blue arcs shot past her blasting in the wall to the kitchen. Buffy used the smooth stone floor she had reached and slid into cover in the kitchen.
Buffy scrambled back on her feet then had an idea as she had not stopped her mad dash yet. She grabbed the door outside and opened it before continuing on around the kitchen grabbing a meat cleaver on the way. She slid down and hid in the nook under the central table where they usually kept the chairs. Thankfully the lights were off. She could hear someone run up. Heavy steps. She watched one of the trio run into the kitchen.
"Fuck me, I want that kill bonus," the figure paused while he muttered to himself. "Don't tell me that bitch ran out on her precious dad. Typical teenager no idea how easy it'd be to pick her off from a distance. Fine my sniping skills need some work out any way." The man moved into position at the door.
Buffy followed behind the figure as he went to the opened door. Carefully as not to make too much noise she got out of her hiding place. She knew she could only have one good try. Her time as the Slayer had taught her two things about ambushes. Strike where it would hurt the first and don't hesitate. She noticed there were gaps in the armor around the shoulders and neck. Having a cleaver she went for the shoulder hoping to hit the man hard enough to get his gun or something. She swung.
Had she been the Slayer, she would have taken the arm off. Had she been the Slayer she would have hit perfectly. The cleaver embedded itself in the joint between arm and shoulder. The armored man screamed in pain and tossed himself around to face her, his finger holding down the trigger on his sci-fi weapon. Blue arcs pulverized the wall, several cupboards and made the fridge explode. Buffy threw herself to the ground earning more pain from doing that then she had ever gotten before. She lamented being without Slayer endurance and resistance to petty scrapes at that moment about just as much as she missed her Slayer strength and the rest of the package.
"Die Bitch," the man probably standing over her said. There was a whine and a discharge. Then a loud metallic gong noise. Buffy looked over her shoulder and saw her enemy lying halfway out the door a cleaver in his shoulder and a big smoldering hole where his face had been. Buffy looked the other way and saw her dad, looking pale and bleeding from his right arm but still holding his rifle ready. He hobbled up to her.
"We need to run," Buffy said.
"I know. They have all my cars rigged with tracking devices in case I get attacked and need to be found quickly. I wouldn't put it past them to have installed explosives either. I'll hotwire one of the neighbors cars," her dad said.
"You can hotwire cars... Cool," she replied feeling numb to the surprises she took it all in stride.
Her dad looked at her funny. "How come you're handling all of this. That's not like..." He said.
"I have been dealing with bad stuff for over a while now, the stuff you didn't want to hear about the last time I tried to tell ya. Listen Dad I'll tell you in the car," she said.
"Yeah, more of them will be coming. This was just the surveillance team. Buffy we might not be able to run anywhere as Hank and Buffy. They're everywhere, they have people in the government. They can tap phones, follow you anywhere. We can't go anywhere they can't go too. We'd have to erase our existence," her dad said.
"So what you want me to give up my life? No way. Death threats can be overcome. Trust me there is nothing like acertain death. I've defeated prophecy. We can beat this too," she said.
"We have to run and hide. Even if we tell someone, even if we could stop AIM, they'll keep coming. HYDRA has been under attack by all the world's government agencies for over 50 years and they're still here. We can't go public and expect to be safe. The rest of our lives could ruined along with all the lives of all those we tell about this," her dad said.
Buffy paused and looked at him. "Are you serious?" she asked her mind boggling at the very idea.
"I know them. We can't ever pull anyone into this unless you want them hunted like we are now. And they'll be watching everyone at least until they think us dead," her dad explained sounding like he was coming up with a plan. The electricity in the house suddenly died.
They looked at each other and started running back through the living room, Buffy supporting her dad the best she could while trying to avoid looking at the people her dad had shot earlier. She decided to ask him about his combat skills later.
"Maybe we..." her dad was in the middle of talking. Buffy noticed a green dot sweep past her then suddenly her dad's head exploded with a wet ripping noise spraying her with bone, blood and brain matter. She fell down. Her head felt like it was on fire, but all she was looking at was the corpse of her dad. The headless corpse. Buffy noticed a strange white light surrounding her. And then for a while she saw next to nothing but white.
Paul studied the video of the Summers home one more time. A few minutes ago his two back-up squads had moved into the help the surveillance team close the information leak, but had found the surveillance team dead and the former employee and his daughter on the verge of leaving. Rats always ran in his experience. Still the Summers family had so far impressed him with their teeth. The video feed from inside had given out just a moment after Hank Summers had been terminated. All he had was the images from the surveillance van's outside camera. The white flash and the incandescent white explosion and followed by a huge shock wave, that had blown the Summers home to tiny bits and left a sizable crater. He was studying the feed to decide the reason for the explosion and if there were possible survivors either Buffy Anne Summers or his two point men who had been inside.
"How is the police situation?" he asked Celia his right hand woman.
"They have arrived on scene and are canvassing the area. Given the energy output measured SHIELD is moving in to take over the investigation according to our LA sources. They'll be undercover as FBI," Celia explained.
"Fine, have our source in SHIELD forward us a copy of their complete report when its done. I want to know as soon as they do if anyone survived. Keep a watch on the situation," he commanded. He knew that HYDRA was watching on this one as were his bosses. Reentering into contact with HYDRA had been a high profile operation and the central council had been adamant on security and leak prevention.
"What shall I tell HYDRA in the meantime," Celia asked.
"I'll tell them that the Summers have been terminated and that apparently Summers tried to cover up his escape by using something like photonic bomb, but got caught in the blast himself. Both he and his daughter are to be considered missing in action for now. We'll upgrade them to dead as soon as we have final confirmation," he said.
"Sir, given the energy output measured from the light given off, there might not be enough recognizable organic matter for any kind of identification," Celia said.
"Either way set up automated taps on all people connected to Buffy Summers, do both phone and Internet connections," he said.
"Physical surveillance?" Celia asked while inputing his commands.
"No, Sunnydale is a no-go zone for our agents according to our agreements with Wolfram and Hart as well as the Sunnydale Mayor, besides electronic should be enough. We're dealing with a lawyer and a regular teenager here. Should the Summers girl by some miracle be alive, she'll either go to the authorities or home and then we will hear about it. But be sure to be thorough I want full coverage here. If you don't know who to tap, ask the Sunnydale Mayor's office. They'll be accommodating," Paul said almost shuddered remembered the unnatural nature of Sunnydale and those that hid it. AIM had been about to investigate once, but after consulting with and being sought out by those forces that ruled it, AIM had decided to stay with science.
Buffy realized two things early on as she came to her senses. One thing was that she was very high in the air. The second thing was that she was still going up. Buffy looked down and realized she was giving off a white light from her entire body. It was also propelling her upwards at a pretty high speed. And up high it was supposed to be cold. She wasn't cold, but she wasn't exactly happy about heights either. But as she worried the white light disappeared and she was blasted with cold. Buffy gasped but got no air.
The world seemed to narrow then slowly grow gray as she realized she was falling towards the ground. She blacked out. Then for just a moment she opened her eyes and saw the ground approached. She screamed in fear and there was another white flash before she passed out.
Willow was about to get breakfast when the phone in her room rang. Wondering what anyone would want from her now. Maybe it was for her parents who had just left to give their lecture. "Willow," Giles' voice sounded worried on the other end.
"Yeah," she replied.
"Oh, good. Willow, there has been an accident. The police in LA thinks a gas main near Buffy's dad's house blew up. There is nothing left of their house according to the news," Giles explained.
Willow immediately wanted to protest in disbelief. How could two incidents happen to both her friend in so short a time. Giles continued to speak, "I checked with the seer I used to confirm if Buffy had indeed lost her Slayer status. She swears Buffy is alive, but is now on a path that has to take her away from us for our own safety."
"What? What does that even mean?" Willow protested.
"I do not know. However she was quite adamant as was that we needed to keep the Watcher's Council and my nose out of that business. She was very convincing when she channeled the Powers That Be. She even convinced my superiors via the phone. So I won't be allowed to head to LA to find out more myself. And I believe neither should you. Something is happening to Buffy according to the Seer. I have contacted Angel. She never mentioned him. He will be able to find her for us and find out what is going on," Giles explained. Willow felt a little relieved but not much. She was in danger of losing her last best friend. This trip to Washington had to be something she could cut short somehow.
"Thanks for the heads-up," Willow agreed.
"Listen we do not know if this is some sort of concerted attack on us. I am going to look into Xander's death again," Giles promised.
"As soon as I am back, I'll help," Willow agreed.
"Be very careful and try to stay in safe places," Giles said.
"I will. Goodbye Giles," she said.
"Goodbye Willow," Giles replied.
Buffy blinked and realized that it was warm around her. She looked around. She was lying in some tall grass except for the areas, where her landing had smashed it to the ground. Buffy tried to get up and looked at herself. She immediately felt a few flashes of pain. She studied her body. She had bruises and scrapes several places, but as she slowly moved her fingers, toes and limbs she became sure nothing was broken. She looked up. "It could have been a dream," she thought, but as she studied the blood stains on her clothes. Blood from her dad, she had hard evidence that most of that evening had happened. There had been a flash of light and since that moment her memory turned a bit hazy. Buffy stood up and looked around. She had no idea where she was only that it looked like arid brush lands. Thinking of her dad she wanted to lay back down and scream, but she couldn't.
After the first few steps she had taken Buffy began to think. She hadn't wanted to. She thought about how a few words had brought her Dad's terrorist employers gunning for them. How her dad's employers according to him would be looking to kill her now and until they died. How anyone she told was in the same kind of danger. So she couldn't just go back. She couldn't could she? But would she survive on her own if she couldn't connect to people. She'd have to disappear, she decided. She hated that idea immediately. She sucked at undercover work. She had always hated having a secret identity. But Buffy would have to become a ghost and she would have to do that without telling her mom, Xander, Willow, Angel or Giles what was happening. Buffy stared out at what seemed almost like a desert surrounding her and she started to cry. Because even if her dad had been wrong, she would not take that chance with the lives of those she loved.
Meanwhile in Westchester, New York, Ororo Munroe also known as Storm of the X-Men was entering the room of Professor Xavier. Her mentor and very close friend was sitting staring out the window. Jean's death still hung like a shadow over them all but most heavily on the Professor and Cyclops. At least they were both getting over it, even if slowly.
"You wanted to see me, Professor," Ororo asked.
"Yes, I wanted your opinion on something. Cerebro registered a very strong mutant last night. As strong as me and Magneto. I have been unable to lockdown the signature due to the nature of the mutant's powers, they are entirely psionic in nature and create a disturbance I couldn't penetrate. Even then I worry if I should even reach out to this one. I am not sure we are ready to pick up more students right now. We'd need more teachers. You and I are stretching ourselves very thin at the moment," he said.
Ororo wanted to say no, she hated the idea of leaving someone out there in the wilderness of human civilization. But the Professor had more of a point than he realized. She wasn't sleeping all that well and since Wolverine had left on a short trip to deal with his feelings over losing Jean, they were very short staffed until Cyclops recovered.
"How about if we asked Hank to return. He is a capable teacher," she suggested softly.
"I have asked him. He has decided to take up a position in the Department of Mutant Affairs that the President has offered him and won't be able to teach at the same time," Xavier revealed.
"He can do a lot of good for us all there," Ororo agreed.
"Yes. Kurt has decided to stay, but he is not ready to teach yet himself. He will be soon enough though," Xavier explained.
"I am glad," Ororo said. She had to admit the faithful prankster was swift becoming a close friend and had seemingly also struck up friendships with both Logan and most of the older kids.
"What about Kitty and Peter?" she asked.
"They are almost ready to be X-Men, but both are far from ready to teach the same goes for Bobby and Rogue," Xavier explained.
"Then while we have the room, we'll have to leave this one out there for now," Ororo said.
"Yes, but I will keep an eye on this one. Mutants as powerful as you or I are very rare. I really loathe doing this," Xavier mused.
"Magneto would want to recruit someone like that as well," Ororo suggested.
"Thankfully the manhunt for him is still going strong. He is not in the country according to what I can glean from the minds of his brotherhood. For all that his helmet protects Eric, it doesn't prevent me from reading the mind of Mystique or Pyro. Eric is looking for more allies at the moment and he is feeling politically weak as well, but I fear he is planning to change that somehow. For now I think we must just hope that the mutant is able to survive on her own," Xavier explained and sighed.
Ororo nodded. She had usually left discussions with the Xavier about Magneto or general strategy to Jean and Scott, but since neither were here she would listen and try to help.