Chapter 1: Far From Home
Willow told me that you've been using a public library for computer access, and we can send emails to each other if needed. I decided to ignore the 'needed' part of that sentence, and send one right away.
So how's the runaway trip going? Is Dawn ok? Hope she's not too bored.
Things are rather quiet here. We haven't seen Glory since you left. She probably went to find you, but we're still lying low for now. After all, staying away from Hell gods is still on my top-ten list of ways to live longer. (Along with 'Don't invite vampires inside,' 'Eat less carbohydrates,' and 'Suicide is unhealthy.')
The first night after you left, Spike went out and attacked vampires at random, and returned with barely a scratch, complaining about the latest batch of fledglings. He disappeared a couple of days later. I guess without a Slayer about, this town doesn't hold much interest for him.
Willow has been spending all of her time fretting over Tara, trying to find a way to reverse the insanity. (stopping shortly to be surprised that I used the word 'fret,' and to complain about the number of parenthesis I use.) Giles is getting feisty, without a Slayer to train, and is talking about heading back to England until you need him again. Anya has mostly been, as usual, scaring young kids with her dirty mouth. (I love seeing the looks on their faces. It's priceless.)
Good luck, wherever you are. (Willow refused to tell me) And if Glory does somehow manage to find you, please bash her up for me. I'll pay you back with pancakes, if needed.
Far From Home
"So," Dawn asked, reading through the email they had just received. "When he said he hoped I wasn't too bored, was he trying to jinx me? Coz it sure seemed to work."
They were indeed within the public library, an extremely large building, rather fancifully decorated, considering that it was not within the more extravagant areas of the city.
"Hey, you shouldn't be the one complaining," Buffy protested, "I've been spending all my time trying to get a job. You've just been watching television."
"After spending several years in Sunnydale, badly-written fantasy shows just aren't that interesting."
"Yes, because getting kidnapped by real-life vampires must be so much more enjoyable."
Dawn glared at her sister, before turning back to a separate computer. She had been searching through Gotham City's news, looking for mysterious deaths, sudden rises in insanity rates, or other signs that could indicate that Glory was following them.
"It's rather funny," Dawn said, keeping her eyes on the computer monitor, "How many people complain about the crime in this city. We should invite them to Sunnydale sometime."
"Sunnydale has the highest murder rate in the county," Buffy said, "But nobody notices. This town is like caramel fudge cheesecake compared to SunnyD."
"I heard it gets pretty bad sometimes." Dawn countered, "Like when those guys tried to destroy the whole city by dumping stuff into the water, then zapping it with microwaves."
"Which is still nothing compared to regular apocalypses."
"Uhh, good point." Dawn muttered.
Satisfied that there was no sign of Glory in the local news, Dawn began looking at international news, curious about the result of the military's recent attack on Baikonur.
"Oh look," she exclaimed, a moment later, "The GLA no longer have control of the Cosmodrome."
"No surprise there." Buffy commented.
"Why?" Dawn asked. Buffy wasn't a strategist, but it didn't stop her from knowing more about war then her little sister.
"The Global Liberation Army operates using guerilla warfare. This is all fine and good, until they try and hold a single location. Then, America's brute force goes straight through their defenses."
"Think of it like me versus a weaker vampire," Buffy continued, "The vampire could defeat me, if he's clever or creative, but if he stays in one place, and I know he's there, he hasn't got a chance, since I can outmuscle him."
"Umm, Buffy," Dawn said, "I know what guerrilla warfare is. No need to use inadequate analogies."
"Oh, shut up." Buffy said.
They had now been in Gotham for a week, during which time nothing dangerous had happened. They had rented a relatively-cheap apartment, reasoning that they were less likely to be noticed there. Neither Glory, nor anybody else that Buffy knew, had turned up in the large city.
Buffy had largely spent her time trying to find a worthwhile job, since the money she had on-hand was quickly diminishing. Unfortunately, though, Gotham City had a rather high rate of unemployment, and, as yet, her search had been unsuccessful.
They remained silent for several minutes, each concentrating on their own work. Hesitantly, Buffy decided to speak. "You're going to have to start school again."
"You know, with running from home and all, I kinda hoped we'd skip that."
"No chance, sis. I'll have to talk to Willow, about the best place you can enroll for next term. But unless Glory finds us, you're not getting out of it."
"And here I thought I would never want to see Glory again." Dawn laughed, before continuing, in a quieter voice, "You don't think she'll find us, do you?"
"There's something like thirty million people in Gotham," Buffy pointed out, "We're not going to stick out. And the only way she has of tracking you is with another giant snake, and we can deal with it."
"Actually, I think the police would be." Dawn pointed out, "But I'd love to see their faces when they caught sight of one of those snakes. Or, maybe Batman would try to stop it, and there'd be a big fight. Imagine: Batman vs. Mr. Snake. Film directors would be clamoring for the movie rights. And they'd get a really handsome actor for the starring role."
"Y'know," Buffy said, "You could use that impressive imagination for a lot better things than dreaming of film stars."
"Bah, where's the fun in that?" Dawn grinned.
Buffy couldn't help smiling as she turned back to her computer. She cleared the history, something which had taken months for Willow to build into her habits, before closing the browser.
"Almost finished?" She asked her sister.
"Just a moment," Dawn replied, as she rose from her chair, "I saw an interesting book on the Office of Technical Staff, or Technical Services Staff, whichever is the proper name. It'll only take a couple of minutes to get it."
"Only in Gotham City a week and you already have a library card." Buffy commented, "I thought you didn't like school, so what's with all the studying?"
"It's not studying, it's, uhh, learning. Because that's totally different. Besides, the book is about the section of the CIA that deals with nifty gadgets and disguises and assassinations and all that stuff. And that's not schoolish at all."
"I don't know, it's a rather slippery slope." Buffy said, "Today, sure, it's CIA and assassinations, but tomorrow? You might be borrowing high-level chemistry and nuclear physics textbooks."
"Don't worry, Buffy. Remember, no matter how smart I am, you will always be able to beat me up one-handed."
"For which I am eternally grateful," Buffy said, giving an overly large smile, "God, I couldn't bear it if my annoying little sister could beat me up."
Dawn just grinned, before disappearing down an aisle of books in the nonfiction section. Buffy headed outside, where she was shortly joined by her younger sister.
"Got the book?" she asked.
"Feel like an ice-cream on the way home?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
Half-an-hour later, Buffy and Dawn sat outside an ice-cream parlor eating, respectively, boysenberry ice-cream and mango sorbet.
"I can't believe you like that stuff." commented Buffy, eyeing her sister's cone with distaste.
"Hey," Dawn protested, "This has more flavour than yours."
"Well, I don't know about you, but I like my ice-cream to be creamy."
Dawn just rolled her eyes, and didn't bother to point out that sorbet was not ice-cream. Smiling at her sister, she took an exaggerated lick at her cone.
Dawn watched her sister, as she grinned back, before taking the first bite at the waffle cone. Buffy was acting bright and cheerful, and, in all honesty, quite unlike the Buffy that Dawn had grown accustomed to seeing recently.
Buffy had not been this carefree for a long time. Mom dying, and before that, Riley leaving, had drained the joy right out of her. Of course, when they talked about Mom, both Buffy and Dawn were anything but cheerful, but overall, the light was beginning to come back into Buffy's eyes.
Perhaps it was the reduced pressure, now that they had left Sunnydale and its vampire population, which had begun to bring out the bright side out of the Slayer. Or, maybe, the act of distancing herself from the source of all the pain had given buffy an opportunity to heal. Perhaps it was because, for the first time since her boyfriend had left, Buffy had been able to spend hours talking about things other than slaying, stopping apocalypses, and the host of other serious subjects that so often surrounded her.
Whatever it was, Dawn couldn't help but think that, now that they had travelled so far away from Sunnydale, Buffy finally felt at home.
Either that, or Buffy was a better actor than Dawn gave her credit for.
"So, what's the plan for the afternoon?" Dawn asked.
"I'm not really in the mood to get turned down in more job applications, so I think we'll just go back to the apartment. Besides, we're practically rich from the money Giles gave us before we went."
"Ooh, if we're rich, can you buy me a laptop?"
Buffy chuckled, "Not that rich. The money won't last long if we spend it all willy-nilly."
"Wow, Buffy, you're being responsible, and thrifty, and all that stuff. Or you're being selfish and hogging all the money."
"And I pick Option A: Responsible. It'll go much better on my resume."
"What if you decide to enlist for 'evil gang member?'"
"Oh, I'll just bash up a few innocent bystanders, set fire to the police precinct, and blow up a bridge. That should be enough to up my evil meter."
"But this is Gotham. City of big-headed mob bosses and messed-up psycho-killers. Don't you think you'll need to do a bit more than that?"
"Fine, I'll rob the pet store, and kick all the kittens. If that's not evil, then somebody needs to rewrite the dictionary."
"If I do it, can I change the definition of 'Dawn' while I'm at it? I'll make it mean something really awesome. Oh, and Hell can be redefined as Sunnydale, and Angel can be redefined as somebody with messy, stuck-up hair."
"Looks like somebody has been spending too much time with Spike. Good thing we got away from that bad influence."
"Hey, just because he made sex-robot Buffy doesn't mean that ... actually, never mind."
Buffy just smiled, and shoved the last of her waffle cone into her mouth.
After trying the key three times, Buffy finally managed to open the door, and, followed by Dawn, she entered their apartment.
It was a very small affair, reminding Buffy of the low-grade room that Faith had rented in Sunnydale, before being given a new room by the Mayor. While this room was larger, with two, rather than one, beds, it still had the same low-class appearance.
What Dawn enjoyed most was that, like Faith's room in Sunnydale, the apartment had a television.
The Summers family had never been big watchers of television, since Joyce Summers had never had much interest in the first place, Buffy was caught up in her Slayer gig, and never had the time, and Dawn got bored of wasting hours doing something that required no input.
While they lived in Los Angeles, Dawn much preferred to make use of the Nintendo, and play Super Monster Fighter 3: Extreme Carnage. But since she wasn't often allowed to play it, since it was considered too violent, Dawn usually stayed away from the television altogether, preferring to play with friends.
Here in Gotham City, however, the television was a godsend, if for no other reason than because it stopped Dawn from pulling her hair out in frustration over the lack of anything more interesting to do.
Now that she had borrowed a book from the library, she was glad to have something else to fill her time, but habit, if an action only done in the last week could be called a habit, caused her to flick on the television, and begin channel-surfing, as she entered the room.
Buffy entered the kitchen, and checked the pantry to see how many packets of two-minute noodles they had left. Since neither Buffy nor Dawn was particularly adept at cooking, two-minute noodles had become one of their primary sources of food.
Satisfied that their future was not lacking in noodles, Buffy glanced over at the television, and a documentary on modern weapons caught her eye."The United States has recently upgraded their international arsenal with the feared Particle Uplink Cannon. This powerful superweapon showcases the combined usage of power and precision, together in a fearsome display that can terrify even the most hardened warriors."
"The Particle Cannon, as its name implies, fires a deadly beam of particles up in the air. This sustained beam is reflected through a system of orbital mirrors in geosynchronous orbit, before raining down fire upon the target."
"While the specifics of the Particle Cannon's operation are still highly classified, it is clear that the Particle Cannon is an extremely expensive, and energy-intensive weapon, yet it has the power to strike virtually any place on Earth within seconds of the Cannon being activated. And, while the Chinese nuclear missiles, and the recently use biological MIRVs and SCUD missiles used by the Global Liberation Army, can be shot down mid-flight, the particle beam does not have an effective counter, save to destroy or depower it before it can fire."
"The Particle Cannon, it seems, is only limited by its significant power draw, which requires long recharge periods between firings, and the limited time it can use when a geosynchronous satellite is directly above the Particle Cannon."
"With multiple Particle Cannons erected throughout Europe, and the grid of orbital mirrors currently covering most of Europe, Asia, and Africa, critics have become increasingly vocal. Some have encouraged the use of this weapon, due to its high effectiveness, and minimum collateral damage. Many more have condemned it."
The picture cut to an image of a protester, talking to the camera, "With a complete satellite grid, the United States will be able to kill anyone on the planet with within seconds. I think history shows that nobody should have that kind of power."
"Government officials are defending their use of this controversial weapon, citing the GLA's use of weapons of mass destruction as catalysts for the weapons completion. As one supporter said, 'If the choice is between a United States government that needs to be watched closely, or a terrorist organization with no qualms about leveling cities, I know what I would pick.'"
"Some, however, have gone so far as to claim that the US has not been using the Particle Cannon enough."
The image changed to a well-dressed man inside a university, "The Baikonur mission was, from an incredibly tainted point of view, an immense success. America succeeded in recapturing the Cosmodrome with minimum casualties or other military loss."
"But, had the military activated the Particle Cannon, the launch facility could have been flattened long before the Global Liberation Army had a chance to use it. But, instead, while our strategists planned troop numbers and battle tactics, the terrorists launched missile after missile at defenceless cities."
"Perhaps, if our politicians were not so cowed by public opinion, they would not refrain from doing all that is in their power to save millions of lives."
The Initiative had scared Buffy.
For the first time, she had come to realize that the supernatural world was not restricted to those chosen by fate, and those close to them.
The government was aware of the supernatural world, even if they didn't fully comprehend it. And the government was not prone to making inconsequential decisions. Which was why the Initiative was such a large project. It was also why, when it fell apart, there was such a large fallout.
In the wake of the Initiative project, the US government had come to realize that they were better off staying outside the mystical world. They had survived hundreds of years without the knowledge of the supernatural, and the one time they had attempted to interfere, it had fallen spectacularly apart.
So, with the exception of a small military group, including Riley Finn and several other Initiative soldiers, that was involved in hunting down particularly antagonistic demons, the government had not attempted to interfere in their world again.
But despite the fact that the Initiative had been shut down, Buffy had realized how badly interference with the mystical world could turn out. If they had only been slightly slower, Buffy would have not been able to stop the human/demon/cyborg army that Adam had been intending to build.
The Initiative had caused Buffy to begin to realize why it was best for the demon world to remain hidden. Because, if anybody with significant resources attempted to mess with their world, the effects could be catastrophic.
Hearing about the Particle Uplink Cannon was another reminder about just how large, and how powerful, the United States was. Right now, only China, and the Global Liberation Army, had resources anything near their level. As it stood, this was not a problem.
However, interacting with Maggie Walsh and the Initiative had provided Buffy with a firm distrust of the American government. It wouldn't be long before they decided, once again, to attempt to conquer and exploit the supernatural world. And, cautioned by their last defeat, their attempt would be exponentially larger.
And exponentially more devastating. If they failed, they would bring down the wrath of the supernatural world upon them in even greater force. In the unlikely event that they succeeded, they would be given immense power, which they did not understand. And, considering that they were relatively new to the supernatural, it was unlikely that they would even be capable of using it wisely.
Buffy supposed that, having saved sixty percent of the Initiative forces, she would have some favour within the government, at least, those with the security clearance high enough to know of the secret military project. But she doubted it would be enough to stop them if they got it in their heads to start messing with forces they didn't understand.
And Buffy really doubted she would be around to stop them the next time they tried something ill-conceived.
Buffy sighed, and rose from her bed. It was a complicated problem, and not one that she could probably solve tonight, if at all. But now, it had brought up a more present issue.
She had been within this house all day, except for the brief trip to the library. Now that night had fallen, her slayer instincts were urging her to patrol.
She couldn't help but crave patrolling. Despite the fact that there was essentially no demon presence in Gotham City, her subconscious was screaming at her to wander the city, looking for the threat that likely wasn't there.
And, having sent quite a bit of time pondering the supernatural, she was having a harder time resisting the urge. She had, since she had come to Gotham, stayed inside every evening, and she found herself feeling increasingly uncomfortable every following night.
She passed Dawn, lying on her bed devouring the book she had borrowed, and turned on the television, hoping for something to occupy her mind until she was tired enough to sleep.
Two minutes later, she got tired of listening to politicians discussing the education budget, and switched the television back off.
Looking around the room, her resolve finally crumbled. She was a slayer, and she knew by now that it was a part of her nature. Even if there was nothing to slay, she couldn't stop herself from looking anyway.
Walking to the opposite side of her bed, she picked a jacket out of her open suitcase, and pulled it over her shoulders. Then she reached inside, grabbed a wooden stake, and, with a parting remark to her sister, disappeared out the door, into the Gotham night.