Recruitment“It wasn’t the resurgence of the Slayers that brought the war to an end; if we hadn’t found any survivors at all we still would have won. The Slayer Essence was the power of a demon, driven by magicks.
The time had simply come for the torch to be passed…”
--Cordelia Chase, from her MemoirsLondon, England, Headquarters Office of the International Council of Watchers
“ABC International Exports, This is Isobel speaking, how may I direct your call?” answered the middle aged receptionist.
“Yes, Ma’am, I want to order a case of California Seven, if you please?” said the authoritative voice on the other end.
Right away Isobel knew that was the code statement for requesting secure communications, and keyed in a sequence in her computer’s videoconference software to start encryption. Within a moment, static appeared all over her screen, and then it cleared to reveal her Windows desktop once more. The one difference was that a window had popped up showing the face of Director Giles. She plugged in her headset and microphone and said, “We are secure, Director. Rotating encryption protocols and frequency hopping are active at 100 per cent.”
“I’m sending you Liam on a red eye flight from New Zealand; he needs full access to the historical archives from the First Council. Can you get in touch with the Archives Watcher for me and pass that on?”
“I certainly can, sir. When is he due to arrive in Heathrow?”
“He’ll be there tomorrow morning, and I want him to get started straightaway, Miss Horrocks,” responded Giles. “I have to stress the utmost urgency of this endeavour. Make sure everything he finds gets copied and packaged for immediate dispatch to my office here, paper, electronic, everything. With all the clone activity recently he’ll be hard pressed to keep it out of their hands by any means.”
“I just got a dispatch from the Los Angeles branch on that, sir. I would appear that clone intelligence units were reported mucking about with some sort of magickal eavesdropping techniques, and they’ve been getting hits all week on that at the Hyperion,” Isobel said. “The new Senior Partners at Wolfram and Hart are backing this all the way somehow.”
“They must view the Sith as a means to bring about the apocalypse that the old Partners were working on. There must be another angle; the fulfilment of the Shanshu prophecy blew their old plans out of the water, so to speak,” spoke Giles. “I’ll pass that on to my people here. Thank you so much.” The window flashed briefly before disappearing from her screen, and her desktop showed the transmission was terminated.
She dialled the Archives Office as soon as she got her hands on her desktop phone.
“Mr Norrington, I need you to prepare anything from the First Council for research and copy for Councillor Angel when he arrives from New Zealand. He is to have full access to find what he needs, and this comes from Director Giles, so please, we need this done….”Los Angeles, The Hyperion Hotel
Drusilla had just finished her daily prayer after lunch when Patrick came out onto the balcony. Since the vision she had made it a point to spend as much time in the sunlight as possible, and now she had a nasty sunburn instead of the glorious tan she usually had from leisurely exposure to the sun. The gift from the Powers That Be had not been wasted on her, and she had made it a point to pray in the sunlight whenever possible.
“Someone would think you spent too much time in the sun, love,” said he.
“One of us still happens to be a vampire,” said she as she smiled beatifically. “I spent over 200 years in the darkness; a little sunburn for me is just a reminder to take it slow, enjoy the reward more.”
“You ready to get going, then? Cordelia should be ‘porting back in any moment now; I just got a call from Xander Harris in New Zealand.”
“Xander?” she responded, and her eyes lit up at the memory of an old enemy now turned friend. “Oh, how’s he doing? I do hope he’s enjoying his position with the Council still.”
“He’s fine, still taking it hard over Willow and Dawn. He still wants to kill them both. He’s taking to calling them both Sith now, and I don’t think anything’s going to change that.”
“You can’t hate someone so thoroughly that it twists your guts inside out. Believe me, I should know.”
“We both do, love, thanks to Tara.”
“Well, I hope he’s wrong about them. As evil as it seems they’ve become, I have to believe that there’s still some spark of goodness left in them,” she said wistfully.
“You might find that hope to be a bit empty, Dru,” said a familiar voice behind them. “We ready now?”
They both turned to find Cordelia standing about ten feet away, still inside the vast living room. She had changed her appearance since she returned, and now she looked like she was wearing a tailored Dolce Gabbana pantsuit in navy blue with pinstripes, and Gucci pumps with five inch heels that would put Buffy Summers to shame, had the Slayer still kept her lower extremities after being immolated by Dawn. As it were, the hybrid Slayer/Old One looked exquisite and very classy.
“Well, don’t you look smashing, Cordelia. Does Illyria agree with it?”
“Totally,” she replied, flashing her trademark million-watt smile. She stretched out her arms to both of them, beckoning them to take her hands so she could teleport them to Christchurch. They followed, and the trio disappeared with an audible pop.
They reappeared instantaneously in the conference room at the Watchers’ Council headquarters building. When Cordy released them, she sauntered over to where Xander was waiting for them.
“You got them, that’s great news, Cordy,” beamed the Council Deputy Head. “Hi, Dru.”
The daywalker inclined her head and said with a smile, “Xander.”
Xander walked over to them and shook Patrick’s hand, then embraced Drusilla. “It’s good of you both to come, I have an idea as to how we can find some Potentials to get a hold of and, possibly, Call them as Slayers. Why don’t we sit down?”
“That’d be great. Patrick’s hungry and so am I,” she said.
At a comment like that from a vampire, Xander Harris would in the past have whipped out a stake and slammed it into the offender’s heart in an instant. In this day and age, however, he just raised one eyebrow at Drusilla. She had a soul now, he remembered, and now had the best of both worlds as a vampire that could walk about in the daylight, and as a Slayer.
“Very good,” was his response. I’ll have someone bring up a plate for you both. And Dru, what’s your pref? O positive, AB negative? Yeesh,” he winced.
“Sheep's blood, sweetened,” she replied.
A minute later a staff member brought in a tray laden with exotic Maori delicacies as well as standard American and English fare. The tray also contained a glass and a small, steaming bowl of sheep's blood with a ladel.
“Well, here ya go guys, dig in,” said Xander as soon as the tray was set upon the meeting table. “Thank you, that’ll be all,” he turned to the staffer and said. “Not everyone can say they’ve had Maori food before, but I kinda like it. Oh, Dru, I had the blood sweetened with some honey. I hope you like it?”
She raised her eyebrows at that. “Oh, really? That ought to be nice,” she said as she perked up. She reached for the bowl and the ladel, and poured out a small portion into her glass.
“Straight from the beehive, it is,” he said. “Now, down to business. I asked Cordelia to bring you in because I think that your talents as a seer should help us to locate Potential Slayers.”
“I’m in,” said the vampire at once, “you only had to ask, Xander.”
“Thank you, thank you both. Now, with the Slayers either all dead or gone into hiding, Hellmouths haven’t been closing. We need a strong source of mystical energy, and I think that not only would it help us locate Potentials, but it also should serve as a conduit for your powers as well, Dru. I mean, you have the gift of foresight, and if you can channel such a massive burst of Hellmouth energy, then it should trigger your visions. You and Patrick can then interpret them and see if they give us any hints as to where we can start looking. And while we’re doing that, Giles is having Angel look through the archives of the First Council to see if there’s any evidence as to how they might have found Potentials to train as Slayers in case one dies and another is Called,” he explained. “We think they had to have some alternative eventually to having to go to the Coven of Masters; with an eternal war against evil, you have to have a varied arsenal. It’s the same as a conventional war in that you never rely on one weapon all the time. The First Council applied that knowledge, all the way up to our big scrap with the First, and we've been doing it ever since."
“Also, in a while Cordelia and Spike are going to go out there and see who they can find on the streets, and they’ll bring in who they can. Cordy’s other half, so to speak,” and here he threw an apologetic glance at the brunette, “has to know where Potentials are lurking, and whether or not they know about their talents.”
Cordelia chimed in at that. “Blue’s told me that she can sniff out a Potential a mile away. I mean she’s known since the Shadow Men created the First Slayer what to look for. She’ll know the instant someone achieves Potential in a way we never could. I’ll just keep my eyes peeled and listen to Blue. Plus there’s the added benefit of being able to alter the flow of time; any clones that happen to come our way will never know we were there. We can approach who we find, and we give them the whole spiel; no time for anything else, with the clones on the move in Mexico and elsewhere. And if they say yes, they come. If not, then we leave and move on to the next.”
“That’s right, Giles has made that particular point very clear – we do not force them to go with us, and we do not take them from their families if the answer is no. That was the First Council’s thing, not ours,” responded Xander. “We are not in the business of taking away someone’s right to choose. That said,” he went on, “we need to find as many as we can. I refuse to believe all the Slayers were wiped out. Some had to survive Groom Lake, and we need to find them as quickly as we can, and get them here yesterday. Cordy, Illyria knows the Slayer Essence is still intact, or she would have said something, correct?”
“Yup,” said she. “Having not said, though, we can go through with these plans as we’ve been discussing them.”
“And that’s pretty much it,” replied Xander. “Add the Watchers we have running around the planet keeping their ears to the ground for anything on those nukes and we have a solid battle plan. And now I’d like your thoughts on all of this. Patrick? Dru?”
They looked at each other for a moment, then Patrick spoke up. “All of this seems like you worked it out pretty well, but this looks like another one of those classic movie scenarios where the good guys are faced with a very powerful and resourceful enemy, and they’re basically left with a desperation option. The enemy can figure out what’s going on pretty quick, but both sides know how the other thinks, and basically the opening move is the only one available, or even viable. The outcome's fairly well fixed.”
“So let’s sum up what we have on them so far. You have a massive army of cloned demon soldiers out there right now, every one of them implanted with insane levels of tech that keeps them connected and up to speed on intelligence and combat operations. Their weapons are frighteningly accurate and powerful; most regular troops wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance against them. And they’re adaptable, emotionless and utterly without a sense of ethics – it just wasn’t programmed into them. They’re born and bred killers that took out our Slayers in the field like they were sheep.”
Xander's only response so far was to glare intently at the former detective and Catholic priest, who went on without regarding the Watcher's look of death.
“Those soldiers are commanded by one of your oldest and best friends in the world since childhood, or she was until about eleven years ago. Her grief over Tara’s death then turned her to the Dark Side, as it were, and she went wild with rage and hate. By the time you got through to her – you told us all this, remember?” he said, holding out an open hand to forestall Xander's retort as soon as he saw him squirming with anxiety, “she’d already killed two men and was going after the others who had played a part in Warren Mears’ schemes. We’re just lucky Giles showed up when he did and imbued her with the powers of the Coven, or she’d have started her reign of terror that much earlier.”
“Her chief lieutenant is Buffy’s young sister, also trained in the use of the Pagan arts, but twisted to evil just like Willow, and way more powerful than her master. And I’m not trying to come across as callous or insensitive; I’m just filling in the blanks as thoroughly as I can. So she’s the one that went through the Groom Lake complex killing everyone she came across. A fine pair of mass murderers, these two are. And now they want to rule the world, and we have to stop them. That about right?”
“I remember Willow and Dawn as my friends and family,” said Xander, whose face had, in the course of listening to Patrick’s monologue, gone slack with fresh numbness that showed the deep wound in his soul for what it was. “Those two, who wear their faces and speak with their voices, are wholly and irredeemably evil. I will not see them just stopped, I will see them destroyed. They are not my friends, or my family; they are the enemy. And if you have an enemy, you make sure that enemy dies by your hand.”
hand, Xander?” asked Drusilla.
“The new Slayers we train and field will be my hand. And Buffy will be my sword that deals the death blow. Do not delude yourself into believing that there is any spark of goodness left in them, Drusilla Carpentier; the Dark Side has taken them body and soul
,” he said with finality. “There is NO
coming back from that.”
“The Dark Side of what? The Force
?” asked Drusilla. “Xander, this fanboy obsession of theirs, and
yours, is going to hurt us all if it keeps going. But,
it may also be Willow’s and Dawn’s salvation, if just one
of us holds out hope that they can be saved from the darkness. Now Cordelia said it may be an empty hope,” she went on, “but I choose to believe that, until and unless
they prove it empty, there may yet be some good left in them.”
Xander's countenance darkened at Drusilla's insane optimism; had the woman no sense of finality?
“Well, you can believe that if you want to, daywalker
, but anyone who’s read the stories knows that renouncing the Dark Side is next to impossible!
” retorted Xander with more than a hint of spite, and then he stood up and spun on his heel. His swift departure from the room left little doubt that he would be almost impossible to convince that either Willow or Dawn could be redeemed. And it had left more than a little anger on the part of Drusilla and her husband toward Xander for the disgust he poured into the word daywalker
. They regarded each other with dread, the hurt on their faces showing deep concern on the part of their friend.
“Now does anyone else see where this is heading?” said Cordelia at length. She had known them all, with the exception of Patrick, since the beginning, and for Xander to behave so fanatically hateful towards his oldest friends and family was highly unbecoming of him. Indeed, she would have said it was not only uncharacteristic of him, it was dangerous behaviour. For his part, Xander could become obsessive in his resolve when it came to ethics and creatures of the darkness, even redeemed ones such as Angel or Spike. Even Drusilla; though Xander had come to view her as a friend and confidante, he never forgot in his heart what she was. Redeemed and transformed though she was, Xander never forgot that she was a VAMPIRE.
. A thing to be cast into Hell at the end of it all, to burn in flames for eternity.
His obsessive resolve now had turned against Willow and Dawn, and it would not be denied. And everyone around him had begun to see it for the double-edged sword that it was. For such absolute resolve and closed-mindedness was rigid, was inflexible, and when stressed to the breaking point would shatter into a million razor-sharp shards that cut more deeply than any enemy’s stroke. His resolve would be his undoing.
If someone did not talk him down, get through that thick skull of his, Xander Harris would be undone.