Chapter IV: Revelations
The living room at 1634 Revello Drive was full of much unspoken tension. Willow didn't really know what was going on, and she didn't think Xander did either. But everyone else knew something. John wasn't just a friend. Somehow he had known that the man – no, the robot – was after her. He'd helped her escape, and his mom was some sort of buff warrior woman who was seriously exercising her Second Amendment rights.
Cameron was something else entirely. She was both like and unlike John and his mom. She'd seemed mostly normal at school, except for the whole pushing-Cordelia-into-the-wall thing. Though that was kinda cool.
But now her face was a mask of neutrality. Willow didn't consider herself to be the best judge of people, but she knew right now that Cameron Baum was not
someone she wanted angry at her.
For one thing, Cameron drove. According to the new girl, Buffy, she drove really well. Like, not at all how you'd think a teenager would drive. And then there was Buffy to think about. She hadn't said much, but the blonde girl couldn't seem to decide whether she wanted to stay away from Cameron or get closer to her.
Xander finally broke the silence. "Okay, just so we're clear: that's a robot," he said, gesturing over his shoulder to the broken thing in the garage. "And it wanted to kill Willow. Why would anyone or anything want to kill Willow?"
"That's a good question," John said seriously. He didn't look at all like the average high school student now. He turned to his sister. "Do you know why 'someone' would want to kill her?"
"Okay," Willow interjected. "Can I just say that you guys are seeming way
too comfortable about the whole people trying to kill me thing. Not that you didn't protect me and stuff, which was really brave of you. A-and thank you! But- You aren't even surprised by this, are you?"
"They didn't look like it," Buffy said. The short blonde girl hadn't said much, but all Willow knew was that she had taken on a freakin' killer robot with only another sophomore girl for help. "When the Franklin thing took roll call, Cameron and John were both looking pretty tense. John looked ready to bolt when his name was up."
Buffy stood up from the wooden chair she'd been sitting on and moved into John's personal space. "So why does the new boy in a small town expect
someone to come looking to kill him?" she growled to his face.
Cameron took Buffy by one shoulder and pulled her back, feet dragging and everything. Whoa! Crazy strength there! Really don't wanna mess with that.
"We didn't know what to expect," Cameron said very softly. "But we've prepared for it."
"So I see," Xander said, eyes drifting to the front of the house where Ms. Baum stood guard by the window, shotgun held firmly in one hand.
"B-but, why would someone want to kill you, John? And why would they send a robot?" Willow was all for advancing computer science, but not in the shooting and killing kind of way.
John sighed, and he really did look tired now. "I want to tell you, Willow. And you, Xander." He turned to glare at his sister. "But unfortunately, I don't know what I can tell you without Cameron killing you, so I think it's best if we have her tell us what we're all doing here. And we are
all supposed to be here, aren't we, Cameron?"
"Hang on! Time out!" Buffy said, looking a bit warily at Cameron. "What's with the 'supposed to be' stuff? Please tell me this isn't more
mystical destiny crap? Ugh, I thought that was all over and done with," she moaned as she collapsed to the floor, long hair hanging around her face like a curtain.
"There's no destiny," Sarah said. Willow turned to stare at the hardened woman. She hadn't looked their way, but there was no doubt that she was very much aware of the conversation.
"There's destiny," Cameron protested softly. "No fate, but there is destiny."
"Oh, God! Just shoot me!" Buffy whined.
"Please don't tempt her, Buffy," John said impatiently. "And enough with the stalling, Cameron. What's going on here?"
"I, too, would like to be in the knowing of the goings-on of the here and now," Xander said.
"W-what he said," Willow said, still not sure what to be thinking about all of this.
Cameron looked around the room from her standing post in the center of all of them. Xander sat next to Willow on a sofa, John stood in the corner, Buffy sat on the floor, and Sarah stood by the window.
"Willow, Xander, don't move from the sofa. Don't want to form a pentagram by mistake. Don't know what would happen."
"P-pentagram?" Willow said, even more lost than before. "You mean like a magic diagram or something?"
"Yes," Cameron said flatly. "This town stands on top of the mouth of Hell. Vampires, demons, and other evil things are attracted to this place. Or they come from this place. And unless we stop the right evil before it's too late, the world will burn in the fires of Judgment Day."
As the room fell silent, Willow was torn between wanting to groan and wanting to faint. On the one hand, Cameron was coming off as one of those crazy religious people who go door-to-door proclaiming 'The End is Nigh' and such. On the other hand, scary robot guy trying to kill her.
"You've said this before, Cameron," John said. "But what do you mean when you say 'Hellmouth'? You've been acting a lot more religious since we got here."
"No, John," his mother said. Willow turned to look at the black-haired woman again, and now she did look their way. "They don't do religion. They don't have souls. She means it literally, and my nightmares make a lot more sense now. I think."
"You have nightmares, too?" Buffy asked the older woman.
Ms. Baum shook her head. "Nightmare. Only one, every night. Then again, I'm no Vampire Slayer."
Xander held up a hand as if he was asking a question in a classroom. "Time out, please? Are we speaking in tongues here? Hellmouth, Judgment Day, Vampire Slayer. I mean, really? Who are you people?"
"Hey! Not one of them!" Buffy protested.
"But you do know something about vampires?" John asked. "Considering that a gang of them attacked us when we got here, I'd like to know more about how to kill them if we have to face them again."
"V-vampires?" Willow asked, wondering how the conversation had shifted from killer robots to killer other things. "As in the guys who turn into bats and then swoop down and suck your blood?"
"Ugh!" Buffy rolled her eyes. "Vampires do not
turn into bats. Not that I've seen anyway. But they do suck your blood. That's their idea of food and drink, generally in a human-shaped package. They're soulless animals who care only about themselves. And speaking of which, Cameron, did I hear your mom say you don't have a soul?"
"That's a terrible thing to say!" Willow piped up, the comment only just now hitting her. "What kind of mom tells her daughter something like that?"
"Not my daughter," Sarah said flatly.
"Oh, so she's adopted. That just means you get to insult her and call her names and pick on her? Why-"
"Just hold on a sec, Willow, was it?" Buffy asked.
The redhead nodded. "Okay. Holding on now."
"Let me try to explain what I am, and then I'll try to explain what Cameron is. Maybe. I'm the Vampire Slayer. One girl in all the world, she alone will stand against the forces of evil and all that wonderful nonsense you read about in crappy fantasy novels. Well, hey! Guess what? It's true, and it's me! Yay me," Buffy said before she slumped back into a wooden chair. She didn't look too happy.
"So, what?" Xander asked. "You're some kind of superhero? What can you do? Can you fly? X-ray vision? Have you been peeking into the boy's locker room, young lady?"
Despite the tension, a small wave of giggles went around the room. Only Sarah and Cameron didn't laugh. "Well," Buffy said. "This would be so much easier if I could- Wait. Cameron, do you mind if I throw you across the room? I think it would answer a lot of questions without so much talking."
"Whoa! Buffy!" Willow squeaked. "Look, I'm sorry if we sorta ambushed you in the library earlier. We really were just trying to say 'hi,' you know? New student and such is kind of a big deal in Sunnydale. Three in one year is like super-big!" And I'm getting the feeling that it may be more like mega-ultra big. I don't like this feeling. I don't think I do, anyway.
Cameron just stepped forward towards Buffy. The two girls just sort of looked at each other. Buffy's look was more of a glare, while Cameron's was more one of curiosity. "Don't worry," Cameron said. "I don't bruise easily."
Buffy smirked. "Didn't think so." A hand went to Cameron's arm, and then the brunette was flying across the room, though her body didn't flail and she didn't make a sound. Cameron sailed a good few meters before hitting a bookcase. Said bookcase broke under Cameron's weight, and Cameron herself looked to be at a rather awkward angle.
"Holy shit!" Xander exclaimed. "Cameron!" he yelled as he went to her side. "Cameron, are you okay?" he said as he crouched next to her.
"Oh, no," Sarah groaned. "John, don't tell me the kid has a thing for Cameron?"
"Hey! 'The kid' is right here!" Xander protested.
Cameron, meanwhile, got to her feet, looking none the worse for wear. "Nothing wrong, Xander. No need to worry."
need to worry!" Buffy yelled indignantly. "Don't you think it's a bit odd that she can just stand up from that so nonchalantly?"
"Uh, no offense, Buffy," Willow said carefully, "but you did kinda throw her across the room. W-with one hand. I'm kinda more worried about that right now. N-not that I'm angry at you or anything. No, nothing like that. A bit scared, maybe. And, and oh, God! Please don't hurt me!"
Buffy watched as John went to Willow's side and put a hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. After watching Cameron go up against Franklin, she had an idea of what John's sister was, but that wasn't what was bothering her right now. She was the Vampire Slayer, even if she didn't want to be. She was the person that all the nasty things out there were supposed to be scared of.
Instead, all she'd done was to terrify the poor girl who had done nothing to her other than try to welcome her to her new home. And oh, yeah! She's also been singled out by a killer robot and shot at! Smooth, Summers. Real smooth.
"How did you do that?" John's mom asked softly from her post by the window.
Buffy had her back turned to the window, but she sighed. "Like I said. Chosen One and such. Comes with a package. Stronger, faster, heal quicker, you know." She shrugged and turned to face the woman. "Nothing to get-"
Sarah was pointing the shotgun directly at her, and Buffy guessed that she wouldn't hesitate to use it if she thought she had to. "-excited about?" The blonde raised her hands in the air slowly. That's right. Just don't look threatening. Don't provoke the crazy lady, Summers. Just breathe.
"John," the boy's mother said, not moving her gaze, "get a knife. We need to see if she's telling the truth."
"How, exactly, is a knife going to be proving if she's super strong?" Xander asked. "I think we kinda got that one figured out."
"I heard her, kid," Sarah said. "Stronger, faster, heals quicker. Just like Cameron. Just like your substitute teacher."
Buffy winced. So I was right. Still, she looks a lot less like a killer robot than the big guy. Wouldn't a killer robot be stronger if it was bigger?
She heard Xander sigh with indignity. "Okay, Mrs. Baum. First, can you please stop with the 'kid' already? I'm Xander. That's like Alexander, but without the first three letters. It's my name. Second, Cameron, you're a superhero too? Just like-" He trailed off. "What did she mean, 'just like the substitute'?"
"Just what I said. And it's Ms. Baum. Not married," she said as John returned from the kitchen, handing a steak knife to his mother.
"W-what are you doing?" Willow asked. "John, why is your mom about to cut into Buffy?"
"She wants to see if she bleeds," Cameron answered. "Franklin has blood, but he doesn't bleed."
Realization suddenly hit Buffy. "Whoa! You want to cut into me just to make sure I'm not a robot? I mean, if I wanted to hurt you, wouldn't I be, you know, hurting you?"
"Sarah's paranoid, Buffy," Cameron said calmly. "I know what you are, but no one else does. They need to be sure. And they don't trust me."
"Because you're one of them!
" Buffy shrieked. "Why would they trust you?"
Sarah grabbed the blonde's right wrist and made a quick, small slash across her arm.
"Ahh! What the hell?" she yelled, her left hand instinctively going to cover the bleeding cut.
John let out a sigh of relief. "Sorry, Buffy. We had to be sure."
Sarah put the knife down on a small table. "No sense in letting her bleed more than she has to. John, get a medkit?"
"On it," he said as he dashed away to the bathroom.
"So, that's it?" Buffy asked angrily. "Just cut me, see if I bleed, and all of a sudden we're best friends?"
"Not yet," Cameron said cryptically.
"Getting back to the 'she's one of them' outburst," Xander said warily, suddenly even more unsure of himself than he had been, "does this mean that I've been hanging out with one new student and his not-sister who is really a killer robot?"
"Cybernetic organism," Cameron corrected him, her face showing no emotion. "Living tissue over metal endoskeleton."
"S-sorry," Willow said, "but, isn't a cyborg a person with mechanical improvements? No offense, but I don't think any part of you technically counts as an organism. What with the not being organic and stuff. A-and I'm really talking to a robot, aren't I? Uh, thanks for not trying to kill us, I guess."
Xander shook his head. "Okay, cyborg, robot, whatever. Not sure it matters. What matters is that this is so awesome!
I mean, I'm friends with a mechanical person! Cameron, I hope I'm not freaking you out, but this is cool beyond belief! You
are cool beyond belief!"
"Xander!" Sarah snapped. "Shut up. You're not talking to a person. You're talking to a killing machine. They kill. It's what they do. It's all
they do. Don't forget that."
"Uh, sorry, ma'am," Xander said with what might have been genuine apology, "but Cameron was kinda helping to save us, so I'm gonna go and say she's on our side."
"Don't let her get to you, Xander," John said, returning with a medical kit. "Here, Buffy. Take the hand off your wound so I can clean it. Uh, please," he said meekly.
The blonde girl seemed to relax a bit. "Thank you, John," she said with somewhat exaggerated politeness. Xander guessed that John's cool head and manners were a big factor in them all not being killed by any of the freaky super women in the room.
"You're welcome," he said as he placed some gauze over her cut. "Willow? Could you pass me some of the medical tape?"
"Huh? Oh, sure!" As she moved to help, Xander couldn't help but feel a swell of pride for Willow. He'd always known she was made of stronger stuff than she gave herself credit for. The fact that she hadn't totally broken down after everything told him that he had a truly awesome best friend. Or else we're both totally insane. One or the other.
"Okay, just to clear some things up," Xander said, feeling that there were still too many unanswered questions. "Vampires are real. You," he said, pointing to Buffy, "are the one who slays the vampires. This is a good thing. I prefer my blood inside of me. And you," his finger shifted to point at Cameron, "are a robot. Do you mind if I call you that?"
"No. I don't mind," she said without emotion.
"Right. So, Slayer. Robot. Three teenagers. Angry mom with a shotgun. Am I missing anything so far?"
John looked somewhere between a groan and a laugh. "Uh, no. I think you've got that covered, Xander."
"Cool. Thanks, John. Now, onto the things that fall under the category of not-knowing-yet: Hellmouth. Judgment Day. Vaguely religious words coming from a robot. Not so much with the making of sense. Could someone please do with a bit of explaining?"
John looked to his mom and his sister – or whatever she was – and back to Xander. "You know," he said, "I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't sure what I could tell you without Cameron killing you. You should probably be asking her these things."
Xander blinked, not quite sure what to make of that. Cameron seemed so nice. Then again, she also seemed so human. "Uh, okay. Cameron. Everything I just asked, only at you now. Answers, por favor?"
"Xander!" Willow said happily. "I thought you said you didn't know Spanish, you big faker!" she teased.
"I don't, Will, really," he said with a chuckle. "I just know a few words. Hola. Gracias. Yo quiero Taco Bell. Not much else. But, no more distractions! Cameron. Uh, answers, please? And also no killing, if you don't mind?"
Cameron gave Xander a small smile before moving away from him to stand closer to the others, the sophomore boy following behind. "Sunnydale was built over a Hellmouth: a portal between this dimension and one inhabited by demons. It's not open, but it is active."
"L-like a volcano, you mean?" Willow asked, her voice shaking. "Like, it's not erupting, but it could? A-and with demons instead of lava?"
"Not exactly," Cameron said. "It's active status attracts supernatural forces and beings to this area. Vampires, demons, spirits, and other things are drawn here by the Hellmouth."
Xander started doing some metaphorical math in his head. "So, when someone disappears here, as people are wont to do more so than we'd like, it's a demon doing it?"
"Makes perfect sense," Buffy said, sulking. "I move to get away from the vampires, and I run into an infestation of them. I guess they really weren't kidding about this whole Chosen One thing."
"Don't worry," Cameron said. "You won't have to face it on your own."
"I won't?" Buffy said curiously.
"She won't?" Sarah challenged.
"O-of course not!" Willow said more forcefully than Xander had heard her talk in a long time. "If there are demons and vampires and killer robots and stuff out there, then it'd be stupid to fight all of that by yourself. We'll help, Buffy! I-it's the least we can do after you helped save us today. A-and you seem really nice, too! And a bit lonely, I think. But I don't want you to be! L-lonely, that is. U-unless you'd rather hang out with Cordelia, which I would totally get and not hold against you. Even if she is kind of mean and nasty. B-but that's not you! A-and I-"
John had been smiling throughout Willow's nervous babble, but he put a hand over her mouth as he chuckled. "Breathe, Willow. Take a break. No one will hurt you if you stop talking, I promise."
Xander smiled and gave a thumbs up. "That's my Willow," he said proudly. "And, yeah, Buffy. We really do owe you. Not that we only want to be your friends just because we owe you. I mean, we were gonna try to be nice even before we knew you were a superhero. That's just an added bonus. Except, you don't seem to see it that way, so I'm gonna shut up now."
"Yeah, Buffy," John said. "You're not alone. You probably won't believe me, but I kinda know how you feel." And he really did, for once in his life, know how someone else was feeling. It wasn't easy to relate to people going about their lives in blissful ignorance. Being singled out since birth for a greater destiny wasn't something he could really share with anyone else. Until now, and she really believes it. And Cameron seems convinced, which means that there's a story she hasn't told us yet.
The petite blonde gave a small huff, but smiled all the same. "Thank you, really. This- This really means a lot to me. When I tried to help at my old school, they kicked me out."
"What? Why would they do that?" Willow asked, sounding stunned. John smiled at the red-haired girl. She was, he imagined, like his own mom must have been before that day when she had her first run-in with a Terminator. She's kind and innocent, but tough underneath. And cute, too. Oh my God! Am I really comparing a cute girl to my mother? And does this mean I like her? Ah, crap.
To John's surprise, Buffy looked a bit abashed. "Well, I did kind of, uh, burndownthegym," she said very quickly.
Xander's mouth came open a bit. "Oh." John mentally echoed the sentiment. "Was the gym full of evil nasties?" the other boy asked.
"In that case, good for you, bad for them," Xander said as if that settled the matter.
Another awkward silence followed. "So," Willow said after a while, "Buffy is here to fight the supernatural evilness, since she's been Chosen or something. And you guys are here because…?"
John shared a look with his mom and with Cameron. Sarah seemed to be keeping her mouth firmly shut, while Cameron looked at him expectantly. She is a weird one. Not bad, but unusual. Not your run-of-the-mill Terminator, to be sure.
"Well," John began, hoping he wouldn't sound like a complete idiot, "according to, uh, reliable sources," How dumb does that sound,
"the world is going to suffer a nuclear apocalypse at some point in the future, and we think that whatever is responsible comes from Sunnydale." Gee, that didn't sound idiotic at all.
"Ah." Xander had a sagely look on his face. "So, you are also in the business of crusading against evil. Vague, ill-defined evil from unnamed sources, but evil all the same."
"Not vague," Cameron said. "Very specific evil."
"Cameron," Sarah warned.
"There are books in the school library. Tomes and volumes that could give us information we don't have," the gynoid argued without passion.
"Hmph. You're saying a demon or something like that is actually Skynet?" Sarah scoffed.
"Possibly," Cameron said. "Probably. We never learned why Skynet turned on humanity. It just did."
"Wait," John interrupted. "I thought it was self-defense."
"If it was," she countered, "cyber-warfare against the United States government would be more efficient and less likely to provoke armed resistance."
"Time out!" Buffy cried, forming a T with her hands. "Go back, rewind. What's Skynet? And armed resistance against what?"
Sarah sighed before putting the shotgun down on a table. A collective sigh of relief was released from around the room. "Skynet," she began, "is a supercomputer that will come online on April 19, 2011. Two days later, it'll launch a nuclear assault against mankind. That's what the survivors will call Judgment Day. We're here to stop it before it can come into being."
"Whoa!" Willow was visibly taken aback. "And here I thought computers were cool. But, I'm confused. This whole Skynet thing hasn't even happened yet. How do you know it's even going to happen at all? Let alone on an exact date?"
"What do you think made Franklin?" Sarah countered. "What do you think made Cameron? That kind of tech doesn't exist yet. We're trying to prevent it from ever being made."
"So," Xander said slowly, "They're from the future?"
John sighed. "Yeah. They're from the future."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense. Kinda. Does that make sense, Willow?"
Rupert Giles had been terrified to hear gunfire in the school. And it had come from the Slayer's classroom. He might not know her, but she was the Chosen One, and she was therefore his charge.She's also a young girl who's clearly terrified of what's to come,
he told himself. She had certainly seemed uneasy when he had confronted her. And then those other four students had made things infinitely more complicated.
He had helped the staff do a headcount the student body only to find that a number were missing, including young Miss Summers, the two Baum children, Miss Rosenberg and Mr. Harris. He'd looked up the addresses of the five students and had found that the Summers and Baum residences were quite close together.
Getting out of the car, he couldn't help but notice a trail of dark red marking the pavement. Dried blood, it seems.
It was hard to see, but there was a trail leading to 1634 Revello Drive, which he seemed to recall was the Baum household. If the Slayer is here, then she may be injured. She'll need my help.
Walking up the front, he knocked on the door. After waiting patiently for a few seconds, the door opened to reveal a black-haired woman holding a large firearm. More importantly, it was pointed at him.
"Oh, not you again!" the Slayer said from just inside. She was holding a chair as if she meant to swing it at him. "Are you gonna bleed him too?" she asked the older woman.
"Not a bad idea," she said. "Cameron, hold him down."Bleed me?
"What? What are you doing, madam?" he protested.
He didn't have a chance to say much more. Young Cameron Baum appeared and grabbed onto him with surprising strength. Without another word, Giles was yanked inside, and the door to 1634 Revello Drive shut firmly behind him.