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Just the Zeppo

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Summary: 5 years ago Xander Harris left the Watcher's Council, now they want him back for one last job. Dangerous, risky, deniable; it's tailor made for a sap. Which is probably why they kidnapped him for the interview.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Xander-CenteredTofuFR18421,79887415,3492 Apr 1327 Aug 13No

Back From Africa

DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters represented in this work, those are owned by their creators, publishers, or distributors. No profit will be made.

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Chapter 2

Back from Africa

or

Indignation with a glass of Whine

5 Years Ago


Returning from Africa was like high school.

That needs a bit of expansion.

That is, it's like being an awkward freshman in high school. Everything's different, you don't know anyone, and the friends you thought you had have moved onto bigger things, like the jazz band, or a varsity team. In this case it was running a multinational supernatural defense force.

Which makes it seem way more like a super sentai show than it really is.

It's not that I wasn't part of the Watcher's council, my entire purpose in Africa was to find and track Slayers for them, but I was so far removed from the inner workings or the politics it was like I was a stranger to them.

Africa was simple in comparison; I listened for rumors about super powered girls, then tracked them down and offer them a position as a slayer. Some said yes, few said no.

Head quarters for African operations were run out of a small office in Cape Town, but most of the time I found myself up north in Sudan or Somalia. If you've been keeping up with foreign events, you'd know that those are currently major conflict zones, with death tolls exceeding quadruple digits. Seniority dictated I take the riskier assignments. Which was probably fair; my eye patch made me look like a mercenary, which in a conflict zone, is as common as an innocent bystander. Just look disgruntled and walk like you know where you're going and no one will harass you.

After all, stealth isn't just avoiding sight, it's making yourself completely fit in to the point people are sure you were always there.

Africa led to the realization that demon's were not the cause of human suffering. Call it naiveté, but I was under the impression that demons were the sole cause of war and demons were who we were going to rescue the slayers from. I was wrong, humans were the real danger.

Pardon what may sound like ethnocentrism on my part, but women in Somalia and Sudan are not treated particularly well. They're abused, often sold into marriage, and if they're a slayer; they're turned into a weapon and pointed in the wrong direction. It's tough to rebel when your whole life you're told to listen to who you perceive are your betters.

Reforms to gender bias, and simple sexism, are slow; which isn't helped by the patriarchal nature of the government and public opinion. Feminism is beat down and women and girls are repressed and abused.

But sometimes, maybe once in a hundred, they fight back.

The first slayer I ever encountered was a girl named Anita in Sudan. She was kind hearted teenager from Khartoum being held in jail for violating article 152 of the penal code. If you haven't been keeping up with Sudanese politics; article 152, which was implemented in 1991, stipulates that any conduct or clothing in violation of public decency can be punished with up to 40 lashes. There is no guideline for what constitutes indecency, which means police officers are free to levy their own judgement.

The track record for this law is just about what you expect, beatings, rape, murder. It's basically a tailor cut way for the police to abuse their power and pass it off as diligence. You probably wouldn't be surprised at how many political targets are attacked with this law.

These days, if you go out with gun and murder half a dozen rapists, the government will literally tear the city apart to find you and hang you by the balls. They'll spend hours poring over grainy CCTV footage just to see if your reflection was caught in a store window, and then they'll invent the enhance button to make it visible.

But let those same rapists loose on an innocent girl and watch the police stand around and twiddle their thumbs.

"Are you sure she was raped?"

"Are you sure she's a girl?"

"Is rape against the law?"


So what do you think a girl does, after being subjected to that kind of treatment? For an ordinary human their options are limited; they can try to cause public outrage, but the Public Order Police have been known to kill female activists if they get too loud. They only other option is to swallow it, bury your feelings and stay silent, but that's as bad as saying you consented to the indignity in the first place.

Slayers are no ordinary humans.

So she takes revenge. Revenge with inhuman strength and innate fighting ability meant to kill demons.

14 dead, 5 injured; three of those in critical condition, one of which will be permanently crippled, and one scared teenage girl on the run for her life.

She ended up joining a gang, considering her strength she was a shoo in for the muscle. No one could touch her lest they risk a broken arm.
Another watcher thought she was a sort of modern Phoolan Devi: a woman in northern India who rose to fame as the "Bandit Queen of India" in the early 1980's. According to her biography, her descent to banditry began after she was raped by her husband at the age of 11. Later came the upper-caste members of her community. When she turned to the police they repeated this indignity. Tired of her anger, the village hired a bandit gang was hired to remove her; she instead joined and fell in love with the leader. Together they ran the gang for years, before he was killed, and Phoolan Devi was captured.

I think he saw the movie once and thought he was being clever.

News of Anita came to us by way of an informant working for the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service, NISS for short. In turn he gave me up to his superiors for a quick buck, which when dealing with informants like him is par for course.

They grabbed me from my hotel, pointed me in her direction and pushed an AK-47 into my hands. They wanted her alive, to be made an example of. As if the public lashing wasn't enough. But Watcher's Council's policy of government co-operation prevented me from shoving the AK up their ass and holding the trigger till it clicked empty. Instead I smiled and grinned the entire time, then turned around and threw the AK into the nearest bin.

I tracked her into the Nuba Mountains, an area in South Kordofan, it's an area home mostly to indigenous tribes, and it's largely inaccessible by motor vehicle. Since 1983, ownership of the Nuba Mountains has been in dispute, leading to indiscriminate bombings, attacks on civilians, and mines being placed at entry points under orders of President Bashir. This makes it an ideal place to run from the law, as they'd never risk venturing into the mountains for fear of sparking a powder keg. (These days stars like George Clooney visit the Nuba mountains to condemn Bahsir's actions and draw attention to the continuing genocide; funny how that works)

It took me two days of hiking to find her gang.

They were holed up down a ravine, which made it easy enough to smoke them out with an improvised Benghazi burner. The soldier in my head spent the two days hike, formulating plans and contingencies. By the time Anita realized it was a trap her gang were trussed up in paracord and she was corned on the edge of a cliff.

And I was bleeding out a hole in my abdomen. 7.62x39mm hurts like a bitch, even if it is just ricochet.

She wouldn't give in, I don't blame her. Between being handed back to the people who beat and raped you, or going with the stranger wearing an eye patch who you believed to have killed your friends, option C was a whole lot more appealing.

She turned around and jumped off the cliff.

Slayers are remarkable athletes, they can take and deal more punishment than humanely possible, and they can perform feats of athleticism that would make an Olympic medalist green with envy. To survive a 300 meter fall onto jagged rock would a great feat of luck no matter the participant. Anita had never been lucky.

And that was it, my first job done. I'd failed the council and even worse I'd failed Anita.

The NISS could take it up the ass as far as I was concerned.

Three years of that; 15 slayers recruited, 11 rescued but released, and four lost.

It changed me. People say that college is when you discover who you are. I never went to college. Africa broke me down then made me whole again.

And violence became my home.

- - USA - -

On the day I came back stateside, I flew into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Everything had changed. Flat screen TV's projected baggage information and the cars pulling into the pickup lane were impossibly sleek. The roads were paved, I didn't choke on dust when opening a window, and everyone spoke English.

So it worried me when it didn't feel like home.

My instincts turned out to be right in that regard. Home is where you belong, where you have a place to contribute and grow.

There was no place for me in Cleveland. To them I was an outsider. Being one of the original Scoobies didn't mean much when most of the slayers thought you were useless. I wasn't the best researcher, or the best fighter, and I was refused from introducing the modern tactics and technology I'd learned while overseas.

In Africa it was adapt or die, and the idea of a fair fight was laughably naive. It seemed as if the slayers in Cleveland were being taught pithy quips during battle were somehow integral to winning. The psychological edge is important no doubt, but it was if they hadn't even heard of an ambush unless they were on the receiving end. Which they were, frequently.

One day while teaching Mariette, an older slayer from Pennsylvania, proper handgun technique, Robin Wood called me to the side. Pasted on his face was a wide grin.

"Listen Xander, I'm not sure we want our girls learning about firearms."

"What are you a politician? Fire arms are a serious issue in America, if we're operating near them, the slayers should be aware of how they work and how to use them."

"Demons don't use guns."

"Humans do."

"Well there you have it!" he said, as if he hadn't just proven my point, "The girls don't have to worry about guns."

This was the man leading North American operations... Remarkable. I'm not sure whether it was the cheese eating grin on his face or the patronizing way he said 'girls' when he was talking about slayers. A certain amount of respect for the people that risked their lives to save the world wouldn't be asking much.

In any case, I couldn't turn to my old friends for support; they were absent and off doing their own things.

Buffy was off with Dawn in Italy, Willow was still attached at the hip to Kennedy, whose hate on raged for me as much as mine did for hers, and Giles was much too busy being a respectable adult to fraternize with someone he still saw as a kid.

I turned into a non-person. A liminal existence.

Until someone offered me a position; Robin Wood said he wanted me to help run his operation. There was a catch of course; I'd have to lend my public backing to him. By that I mean support his methods publicly, but something like that's always part of the deal.

Can you blame me for taking it?

Robin Wood was boring, like a burlap sack full of dead kittens. Two things which might be fun separately, but together all you get is a soggy burlap sack, and dead kittens kept in a shoddy container, which is to say: no fun at all. You could expect him to quote the book and follow traditions that went obsolete during the turn of the 20th century.

The work he gave me was homework at best; crap research or errands a fifth grader could do. But Robin gave me a chance, and a place to belong. I couldn't give that up for the world.

Could you blame me? I think you would. But how do you value your experience weighed against your own selfish needs? I could have rebuffed him, charged forward pushing reform to update and modernize the council. It would have been better for the slayers, better for the organization as a whole. That sort of fortitude is what we look for in a hero.

I was nowhere near strong enough.

------- end chapter -------

Story Notes:

The format of this story will be alternating chapters of what caused Xander's split from the council and the continuing plot line from chapter 1. Hopefully the balance works correctly and the pacing fits as planned.

Xander is a bit whiny in this chapter, but I feel that's a part of his character. Not to worry, he'll be shaping up formidably soon.

Other notes:

I make Sudan sound awful, and to be honest I softened up my description considerably. Article 152 is real and as is even worse than portrayed. You can find numerous news articles detailing the atrocities committed with that law.

Phoolan Devi is also a real person. During her years as a bandit leader she became infamous for castrating upper-caste men who had raped girls or poor women. After turning herself in, she remained in prison without trial for 11 years, eventually being released in 1994. In 1996 she entered India's Parliament as a member of the Samajwadi Party. Sadly, Phoolan Devi's story ends in July of 2001, where she was assassinated by a man claiming to represent some of the upper-caste members she had killed.

These days members of a group called the Gulabi gang, founded in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi, act as vigilantes in North India, protecting abused women from their husbands or communities.

India hasn't totally reformed, but they're a far cry from the state that Sudan is in. I'm not advocating acculturation and I'm trying to avoid ethnocentrism, but yeah, it's pretty bad there.

Okay, history lesson over.

Please review, I'd love to hear all comments and criticisms. And a belated sorry, less humor this chapter.
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