A Rough Edged Tool
Chapter 19. A Rough Edged Tool
Thursday, 8 Jan. 1998, 12:00 PM, Lunch
Sunnydale High School Cafeteria
The group of us Scoobies sat down to eat lunch together in the cafeteria. All American standard plastic topped bench tables that could be folded up and wheeled over to the walls.
One day I’m eating four star meals at Marriott hotels on white linen table cloth and catered corporate executive lunches in Europe and the next, I’m sitting at a high school’s lowest bidder cafeteria table, eating food cooked by a staff that hates children. I wasn’t sure they knew how to cook real meals. It was called ‘food’ and it was edible – but cardboard soaked in grease would also fit that description.
I was feeling like I had been dropped onto a different planet. I was disjointed again from my travels.
After this lunch I had to hurry up town to the College to get my books and check in with my Professors because those classes started next Monday. I was planning on taking Advanced Placement Exams to avoid as many of the courses as possible, starting next week. These exams were different from the CLEP exams but essentially working in parallel but different subject areas. I was not thrilled… but a necessity to avoid being bored to death by snobbish Profs.
I suppose I might be more excited about going to College if I was going to join a Fraternity, drink gallons of beer weekly, act like an idiot at parties, watch the football games and chase nubile drunken Sorority girls.
Well getting away from Principle Snyder was a bonus.
I swear that quarter-man… had mostly troll, or ogre or goblin blood in him. He lived to abuse children and I’m sure the adult staff. It brought a secret smirk to my face to think that Cortana had a role to play in his current state of purgatory. His messy divorce proceedings were now public gossip in the school. Students were now mocking him.
A nice warm Willow sat next to me on my side of the table with Kendra, Cordelia and Buffy on the other side of the table. Cordelia was in the middle of a Slayer sandwich keeping them apart. She was deliberately keeping them apart.
It was obvious that Buffy and Kendra were fighting again with each other. Good naturedly though… at least so far. Once again it was about a claim of stealing each other’s kills or who got more kills that night. They were so competitive. Even when it came to their nightly slayage totals. So far Kendra led Buffy by two or more demons four nights in a row. Buffy was grumping and griping about it.
Cordelia kept snarking at Buffy that if she spent more time slaying instead of holding hands with Angel she would win some nights. It was the truth but Buffy really didn’t want to hear it. She was whining about life being unfair to her.
I wanted to blurt out, ‘Life’s not fair get over it.’ But I prudently held my tongue. No need to be eviscerated and torn limb from limb in the Cafeteria. Buffy would too. My Momma didn’t raise ‘no stooped kidz’.
Willow broke into my thoughts. She reminded us all of our 7:00 PM wedding rehearsal appointments at the Madonna Inn tonight and Friday night.
The churches in town were all booked up on that day months in advance but not all ministers or priests were. The priest told them that they had been together long enough and that he would put no impediments between God and the natural state of couples. Seemed like a nice refreshing attitude.
So Roary and Karen will get married on Saturday in the hotel, the reception would be held there also. They would also spend their first wedding night there and then drive down to Disneyland on Sunday.
After slurping up the last of my cherry Jello, I also had some good news.
That morning Warner’s had delivered my next special order directly to Reach. An order fit for Slayers and absolutely necessary if I was going to invite them to go underground with me.
They needed to go down with me a few times to learn the layout of the tunnels and experience the Demon Bazaar first hand. For their safety I was going to show them the black pool but we were going to fight our way there my way. My way is a vampire blitzkrieg.
I really didn’t know if I could stop Buffy from spending so much time bantering with her vampires before she killed them. In that her satirical snarkiness was rubbing off on Kendra. Or maybe Kendra was just loosening up and enjoying herself with her prey.
I didn’t need to tell them that Roary was down at Reach trying his new toys on right now. He wouldn’t get a chance to use it until after he returned from his honeymoon but he still needed to see if it fit correctly.
I smiled and played the game. “I know something you four don’t… You get three guesses what it is?”
Willow playfully hit me on the arm. Buffy froze with a spoonful of her cherry Jello hula dancing on her spoon. Her eyes locked on mine and her spoon perfectly level.
Kendra raised one eyebrow and smirked at me in a way that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. Like she was considering how badly she could beat on me for the truth. My sixth sense for self-preservation was alarm belling me that she was a mounting threat. I really wonder about that girl?
Cordelia continued eating demurely with only the briefest of pauses in the movement of her fork. Her attention though was fully on me.
Willow blurted out, “TalkfastXanderoryou’llbesorrylater!”
We all had to re-assemble her speed talk into something understandable across a few seconds.
Cordelia the queen of snark was the first. “Ya, I’ll bet he’ll be sorry with your hands down his pants?”
I almost spit out my last gulp of milk and I wasn’t the only one sputtering and coughing. All of Willow was bright red and her hands instantly covered her face.
A microsecond later her hands started to move to her tray and before she could pick up food to throw at Cordelia my hands stopped hers.
In that same instant Buffy in mock shock loudly said, “Cor-Zilla!”
Kendra with some uncharacteristic barbed wickedness immediately snarked at Cordelia. “Not enough puppies to stomp on this morning?”
I realized that I had started this hoping for some good natured banter but this trajectory was now veering into a free-fire war zone. I had to put a stop to what I started.
So I fessed up and fast. “I’m sorry Willow… Cordelia… but your suits of armor are not ready yet; but Kendra and Buffy’s arrived at Reach today. If you four will meet me at Reach at 4:30 I’ll introduce you to your new toys. Afterwards we can all go to the Inn’s restaurant to get some dinner on me and then do the rehearsal.”
Four pair of eyes radar locked on me. Willow hit me again in the shoulder and harder than the first time. She silently mouthed “Ow!” Rubbing her hand and wrist; but looking happy.
Buffy blurted out with a happy joyous smile, “Toys? Presents? Goodies! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?” As she threw a crouton at me from her limp salad.
Kendra was just looking at me while fingering her plastic lunch knife. Her eyes were squinting at me with a disturbing twitching smirk on her face. I believe she was considering all of the possible places she could plant that knife in me before I could get away. Maybe I needed to have Cortana find her a boyfriend, she might lighten up. Assuming we could find a young man brave enough. At least she wouldn’t be looking at me like a hungry wolf eyes red meat.
Cordelia was still looking offended or maybe she had gas. She whined, “Goody toys for them but nothing for me?”
I needed to hurry up and get out of this mess.
“Ladies… What this is… Is battle armor and it is difficult to make and basically hand made for just one person. So I can only get two maybe three of them made at one time. So Willow and Cordelia’s armor is on order but will not arrive until the first week of March. Kendra and Buffy’s has arrived. This armor was designed by Cortana from your scans and fit for Valkyrie’s.”
With that they all shut up and were looking at me with eyebrows raised and mouths open. I could almost see the light bulbs behind their eyes and the single thought racing away. “Cortana’s gorgeous armor!”
Having all of their exact physical measurements from my medical scans three weeks ago helped Cortana accomplish this task.
I quickly continued, “Any of you could wear this armor to the next big Medieval or Renaissance Fair and fit right in with the Viking Norseman groups. In fact they would probably drool all over you. Except this armor is not decorative - it’s battle ready, very strong, enchanted against evil - but unfortunately not as good as mine… yet - but a whole lot better than your bare skin.”
I stood up and kissed the top of Willow’s head as I scooped up my lunch tray to beat a fast retreat. I had to get to the college and finish up by 4 PM to make it back down to Reach. At least they weren’t preparing to do battle over the cafeteria tables as I backed away to the doors waving my right hand fingers goodbye at their stunned faces.
Thursday, 8 Jan. 1998, 4:40 PM
Reach Technologies, Armory vault, Sunnydale
I met up with the gang of girls… They were waiting for me in the front office lounge area. Cordelia was playing billiards with them and had been taking their money at $2.00 each a game.
Willow brought me up to speed on the action. Cordelia was a real pool shark and already $8.00 ahead. Buffy and Kendra just couldn’t seem to finesse the cue ball. They continued to slap the ball into a gunshot ball bouncing off the bumpers. Then Cordelia would clean up the table on them.
I stood and watched as Cordelia finished off Buffy taking her spending cash again. They were all beautiful, desirable, intelligent and for me in one year jail bait. That’s all that kept coming first to my mind, every time I looked at my closest school friends.
It was almost like I had a countdown clock going in my head for when they all would be jail bait to me and then when they would stop being jail bait. That magic California number of eighteen years of age plus one day.
In my imagination I had a glowing foot tall numbers over each of their heads counting down the days and hours.
I had to shake this attitude. It was affecting my relationships. I was even treating my underage fiance like she was thin blown glass and I would shatter her. I had one year to go and Willow’s solution would keep me out of jail.
Either that or I go for an older women. Maybe the delicious looking curvy bodacious Ms. Calendar would toss Giles over the side for me? Wishful dreaming… Yup, not gonna happen. The Giles man definitely has something she likes.
Down the hall Curt came out of the offices and I waved him off, so he could get back to whatever he had been doing. Turning back to the gang, Willow stuck her small hand into mine. I softly smiled at her and said, “Time to go shopping at the armory ladies. Please follow me.”
They knew the way but I still led in my own domain. At least I think it’s my domain. Three minutes later I was entering my cypher key code into the vault door. Unlocking with a soft but positive click and then a series of thunks as the door edge bolts retracted, the door began to swing open with the soft humming sound of the electric motors.
Ten feet beyond the vault door jamb was three brand new one cubic meter Zero cases on the floor. Beyond them was my two clean hard wood topped work tables. The working surfaces on either side were all clean of weapons and parts. The wall shelves below and above closed and locked.
The room smelled of light lubricating oils and steel. From John’s memories the smell of starships and safety while aboard them.
Each of the cases had shipping ownership tags taped on them. In large four inch tall white letters on each visible side was S1, S2 and R2 for the furthest away. R2 was for Razor 2 and Roary had already been here and had given thumbs up on his armor. S1 was for Slayer 1 as Buffy and S2 for Kendra. I silently said a prayer to God that they fit perfectly.
As of yet I had not given the names of the Slayers to Warner’s Jewelry or to Rajhul. It was safest for them all, if they didn’t know. Rajhul knew a slayer was in town but was still terrified of meeting her. Rightly so. Buffy and especially Kendra were the kill first, happy joy-joy dance and ask questions later kind of slay girls.
I didn’t know if he had heard that there were two slayers in town. With Willy Durante’s big mouth at his tavern and the gossip flowing around inside the demon community he had to know by now. He was smart enough to guess what or who S1 and S2 was for. I just hoped that he didn’t rabbit out of town with his entire clan.
I sighed as I motioned them all forward. Buffy, Cordelia and Kendra flowed past me with eyes fixed on the cases.
The armory room was an acoustic echo box. You could hear the slightest sound even without enhanced hearing. The rustle and swing of the girls’ clothing and soft squeak of rubber soled deck and running shoes on the dry laminated Teak wood floor. The Teak was pretty and expensive but practical. A dense hard wood over the cement for durability and dry wood would not conduct electricity.
Willow put her arm around my waist and quietly said, “Seems just like Christmas Honey. Who gets which?”
She is ever the meeting minder. Keeping me on pace.
I coughed, “Well… yes. Buffy your box is S1 and Kendra’s is S2.” They had already figured out as much and were in front of their boxes kneeling with their hands on the tops.
Cordelia stood back and jumped up sitting on the side work surface to watch. She crossed those long lovely legs of hers. Willow leaned into me more her small hand still in mine. She squeezed my hand firmly in affirmation.
Kendra and Buffy both opened the latches and the boxes hissed from the pressurized dry nitrogen inside. They all looked at me quickly. I explained, “Weapons and machine tools are sealed into hermetic boxes like this with dry nitrogen or helium to preserve what is inside for many years of storage. It’s harmless to you in small quantities but you’ll talk like Donald Duck if you breathe too much of it.”
Just then the vaults environmental system kicked in with the fans, filters and air-conditioning. Buffy smiled a huge smile as she began removing each clear stiff plastic sealed bag. While Kendra had noticed the large pictorial guide book taped inside a clear pouch on her cargo case inside lid. She removed it and it was an instructional on how to assemble and wear the armor’s pieces.
I was proud of Cortana and her designs. The armor could be worn in whole or in whatever lesser armor coverage that the wearer wanted. Some pieces were essentials for upper body protection and others for each segment of the human body. There were five different kinds of under-garments to protect the wearer from chafing under the armor. From light weight for summer heat to a heavier weight for battle in a frozen winter not usually found in Sunnydale California. The materials were all from advanced manufacturing prototypes from our new chemicals, fabrics and clothing companies. Each garment was also enchanted to be as tough as the scaled skin of a Tyrhrock dragon and also providing a level of additional protection from claws, arrows, handgun bullets, scrapes and blunt force trauma.
Unlike my skin suit and environmental suit these garments were not suitable for warfare in the vacuum of space or lethally contaminated environments. Given time in a few years my weapons for humans and Slayers were going to get better.
The outer garments to the under suits and the armor were meant to be both practical defense and feminine. The top wrapped ensemble was exact recreations of Cortana’s virtual blouses and dresses with different patterns and colors. There was even light over garments to cover the armor and hide it, much like a football players jersey hides the protective gear they wear.
Cortana had spent a few seconds of her thought matching patterns, colors, cuts and frills to each Slayer. From their smiles and happy eyes, Cortana’s efforts had been a huge success.
Each also had four styles of helmets or headpieces. All of them had Fleetcom radios built into them for instant communications while out patrolling. Not as powerful as mine but for Sunnydale good enough. The first was a simple but jewelry decorated Tiara that would fasten into their hair. Each successive one provided more safety covering for their heads and hidden subminature cameras for Cortana to keep a watch on them and watch their backs.
No more of this unprotected crap where Buffy or Kendra is left bandaged up, broken bones or getting X-rays for skull fractures. They were tuff girls but demons were just as tough and many of them had really big teeth and razor sharp claws.
This vault room may have been appropriate for Roary in seclusion to strip down and don his new clothing and armor, but it was not appropriate for two ladies and especially with me here. I really didn’t need to be seeing them naked as much as I might fantasize them all naked. Now was the time to relocate to more private area.
I coughed loudly before they had the chance to litter the work tables and floors with the contents of the boxes and their own clothes. “Ladies! Close up your boxes and lock them again while I go get a fork-lift. We are moving this fashion show to the apartment house up front where you can undress and dress in the comfort and privacy of your rooms.”
I held up my right hand to stop their protests. Willow squeezed my hand tightly. “You don’t want me watching you get all naked to put that stuff on and we don’t want other people who work here seeing you all naked.” Buffy’s mouth snapped shut when she was microseconds from a protest. Their alarmed eyes gave feedback to me when they all realized what they didn’t need.
Willow and Cordelia were not bound up in the joyous brain fog of ‘new shiny presents’ both started laughing at Buffy and Kendra’s predicament. They wanted to skinny out of their clothes in a flash but now they wouldn’t. I and now they were sure that the guards or one of the working technicians walking down the hall would dearly love to see them in their birthday suits.
Both of them blushed as I untangled from Willow and stepped outside the vault to find a small forklift to handle the boxes. The boxes were awkward in size and not heavy enough to prevent a Slayer or myself from lifting them – I just didn’t want anyone to see them carrying them like a shoe box after the big burly truck drivers couldn’t lift ’em. Very few who worked here knew of the legend of Slayers and fewer yet knew that Buffy was The Slayer. Those few knew that Buffy sparred with Kendra and myself. So they might have connected the dots on Kendra as a Slayer but then again they might think she was more like me, just a little more than the ‘mark-100’ human.
We had some time for a fashion show as they would try out each combination of armor and dress. Then twirl, stretch and some gymnastics to test out the fit and comfort. A Slayer fashion show for an audience of three.
I was already thinking of what comes next. After the wedding party was over then some short serious training with their new armor. They didn’t know it yet but after Roary and Karen left town, I wanted to take them into the tunnels with me. They had to see the demon bazaar for themselves.
First things first, armor boxes and girls into the privacy of my Reach residence. After the fashion show they can store the armor inside their private rooms or take it home with them.
As we walked back up to the living quarters area, I told them that they needed to practice and use the armor itself as a weapon. It’s not just to protect their latest manicure and delicate lady knuckles.
That’s when Buffy hit me, hard.
Friday, 9 Jan. 1998, 11:30 AM, Lunch
Sunnydale High School Cafeteria
I really didn’t have to be at the High School today but I did need to talk to Giles and Jenny. Plus I really couldn’t go back to the house. Since yesterday there was wedding stuff everywhere and also Karen’s family and her friends were everywhere. I felt awkward and in the way. I was in the way. Roary and I were both in the way.
Karen like all brides before her was getting coiffed, pampered and stressed out all at the same time. She was worrying over tiny little details for her big day.
Roary and I had moved down to the apartments at Reach after the previous night’s rehearsal. Something about seeing the Bride on her wedding eve and also self-preservation.
Uncle Roary was like most guys. We only need to shower, shave, run a comb through our hair and get dressed in a fancy suit. No hours of dressing up in gowns, makeup and hair do’s. Just show up, smile and say ‘Yaah, Ya betcha parson’.
It‘s not like I’m throwing Roary a wild drunken bachelor party tonight and planning on delivering him to the wedding tomorrow obviously smashed in a wrecked tuxedo.
My ruminations over a drunken Bachelor party that wasn’t to be, brought me back to earth. Here I was in the cafeteria line behind Willow, Harmony, Cordelia, Kendra and Buffy at the front – smiling to myself and contemplating what I could do…
If I did get Roary drunk and put him on a plane to Vegas with only $20 in his pockets. That would be a mean spirited – terrible prank. Karen would murder me and no women in the state would vote to convict her – he might even try to kill me.
While listening to the ladies banter while picking up our cafeteria cuisine Cortana drifted into my mind.
The sensation is fleeting but cold as she flashes me a ‘Cortana calling, please open the connection’ message. Not a Flash over-ride but a polite request which is rare for her. I wonder what this is about because it’s too soon for more business decisions.
“Hello Sis, what’s up?”
Cortana sounded excited and pleased with herself, “I’ve two things that just can’t wait! First is our special networking, telephone switching and computer equipment is now online with the States and Federal Government. Mostly inside your law enforcement and other agencies right now but also the equipment is checking in from inside the Defense Department at all levels. So far they’ve purchased over a billion dollars in our equipment but only half of that has been installed. Our partner companies have reported an additional $7B of projected orders in the next ten months. At this rate we will have 90% penetration into all layers of government from the smallest towns to the White House by this time next year.”
I smiled inside like a wolf. This was great news. “Congratulations Cortana, your plan and efforts are working out. Please, keep a ransacking eye out for evidence on those black clad Federal cops or special ops soldiers that you keep seeing.”
Cortana’s voice dropped 100 degrees, “I’ve already spun off multiple search process for them but I project that they will have covered their tracks thoroughly and I won’t find them except on the most secret of networks and computers. With all their secrets hidden under layers of encryption, I will eventually find it and decode it.”
I tried to console her, “Your right about them. But I still think the fastest way to locate them and peripherally characterize them is via their support elements. Their purchases and deliveries of food, water, electricity, telecommunication services. All of that stuff has to be delivered by a continuous stream of cargo delivery trucks. They have to be accepting deliveries and a lot of them. We find their groceries warehouse point and we find them.”
Cortana mused to me, “There has been a steady stream of large trucks to a pull through warehouse on the north end of the city about three blocks west of the campus near the train tracks and freeway. I believe that might be a good candidate for additional surveillance?”
“Can you get additional surveillance cameras and a few parabolic listening devices up that way? It could be nothing but best to check’em out.”
Cortana was nothing but business, “Since we don’t normally have much vampire activity up that way, I’ve allocated my new surveillance installations in the higher threat areas but for my next phase of installs I’ll allocate additional resources for that area.”
“Good. So long as these Feds stay on Sunnydale campus and do not threaten us consider them a low priority in Sunnydale. If that set of rules changes then notify me immediately and I’ll take a more… physical role in capturing a few of them for interrogation.”
Cortana sounded hopeful, “Roger that Alex.”
“What was your second bit of… can’t wait?”
Cortana seemed to stretch in my mind and her pleased emotions fell on me like a warm summer rain. “I’ve found a man who would be perfect as our new director for security and counterintelligence. I need you two to meet ASAP. I’ve interviewed him now three times by telephone and he’ll be… perfect.”
She immediately began uploading the interviews and her personnel folder on the poor man. He wasn’t poor in wealth or spirit from I could see, just a poor slob that Cortana had fixated on.
I chuckled over the neuronet connection, “Hold on and slow down Cortana. Give me a few moments to absorb all this.”
I wanted to eat my lunch with my friends and not appear to be talking to someone invisible at the cafeteria table. What am I worried about? That isn’t unusual in California. Although Willow noticed that I was distracted and that mattered to me.
Cortana couldn’t wait and launched into her sales pitch to me. “As you can see Patrick Bartholomew Garibaldi began his law enforcement career after enlisting into the US Army and served as military police. Then he was employed as a policeman at our other not so friendly Hellmouth of Cleveland Ohio as a patrolman. He was married there, wife murdered. He relocated and made detective Lieutenant in Cincinnati Ohio. Then hired by the FBI where he worked for twenty years with the last eight years in counterintelligence. He abruptly retired from his job four months ago, moved his family to the small town of Fulton Kentucky where he is their Chief of Police. He married late in life to the former Miss Lillian M. Bairdin, a Registered Nurse from Cincinnati. They waited eight years before beginning a family. They now have five children, three sons and two daughters.”
As I continued to scan her folder on this guy, he seemed to be a good cop but what made him stand out? Why was she so fixed on him? “Ok Cortana, I know you’ve been scouting hundreds of candidates for the past month. So why him?”
She purred, “He’s puurrr-fect.”
I almost started laughing out loud, while sitting at our Scooby table. “Yes, you’ve said that now three times… Explain it to me? – Please?”
She was way too pleased with herself, her happiness like an ocean wave bleeding through our connection. “He is a brilliant police man and investigator. He might even be a modern Sherlock Holmes. He knows about the supernatural and he goes out of his way to fight them. Plus he’s survived each of those encounters which infers a lot about how smart and tough he really is. He has buckets of character, virtue and morals. Then he knows when the law – is obstructing or working against what is right and just. I’ve found out why he retired early from the FBI. Seems his top three bosses and the Attorney General are up to their necks into the pockets of the Chicago crime mob and are also actively crushing investigations into cases of espionage and treason. He retired because he wouldn’t dishonor his oath of office like his dishonorable so called superiors were. Now he’s the Chief of Police in a small town with a population of barely 2,600 souls that just happens to sit on the single north-south railroad line that runs from the Port of New Orleans to Chicago. The rail line that three mob families use to smuggle - people, drugs and stolen goods. In just the last four months his little police force has seized more drugs and stolen goods, rescued more slaves and arrested more fleeing criminals that the previous police chief did in the past five years.”
Wow! This guy was impressive. Now he’s sticking it to the Chicago mob, New Orleans mob, the Dixie mob and his old bosses by proxy all at the same time. “Cortana why’s this guy looking for work now? I mean he moved his family to Fulton, Kentucky only four months ago?”
Cortana was clever and more. John knew her to be a sentient A.I. and a weapon system with a UNSC ID part number. I’m not sure he thought of her as transcending that distinction into a true sapient life form. He thought of her as a friend and comrade. He was as fiercely protective and loyal to her as anyone that he adopted as part of his ‘team.’ She was more than a tool, she exhibited all of the observable skills and abilities of sapience. She was an electron and photonic life form that was no one’s slave or part number. She could be relentless like any A.I. but she was now more… she felt richer across the neuronet connection. She was whole and completely her mother’s daughter. Had she earned a soul with that transcendence? Did John feel her… emotions like this? There’s nothing in his memories like this. Yet… with all of her intellect and mothers memories - she was still non-human in some ways.
Cortana came back and was positively rubbing her electron hands together in wicked glee. “He’s not looking for work. I found him because I’ve been looking for someone who could - do - the work.”
I chuckled wryly, “Well I suppose that is an important distinction but what makes you think he’ll work for us?”
Her voice got quiet with worry. Worry and a microscopically quick smidgeon of trembling fear bled over me across our connection. That was unlike the Cortana that John knew. “All three mobs today took out contracts to kill him and his former FBI bosses are also planning on framing him for some sort of crime to neutralize him.”
I realized that she already cared about this Mr. Garibaldi and his family. He wasn’t just a number on a file dossier to her anymore. She was considering him to be part of our closest family. She was afraid for them… There’s more to this? What has she left unstated?
I sighed across the neuralnet, “Cortana. How did you learn about these contracts to kill him and the threats. What is the actual level of these threats?”
She flashed back a gestalt of imagery and her actions, focusing on when she found him and spiraled into the decision to recruit him. Connections blossomed out around Garibaldi, where she was looking for all possible traces and potential negative reports. All part of her massive effort to investigate him and each member of his family all the way back to his great-grandparents. That also leads to work associates and neighbors and every firm that he had ever done business with. Every bank check that he and his wife had ever written. Cortana’s nexus web spanned over a million nodes of focused interest in less than a minute of realtime. Each node a name, an address, bank accounts, telephone numbers and call records, cable TV connections, check book records, health insurance claims, pharmacy receipts and more. Each node cross-correlated against other data bases and finally against the criminal data bases. Nexus nodes flashed threat red with hits. Some nodes flashing fast pulses of red settled onto a dull throb as more information was correlated, compared, assessed, discarded, and evaluated in microscopic detail.
Finally 124 folders were left with a human name attached and all a tone of angry red with sixty flashing bright red for high threat and the others a dull steady red. Their individual folders filling with mega-bytes of their related intercepted and recorded communications. Video records of them on the street with lip-reading transcripts of their conversations. Garibaldi’s name appearing more frequently in their conversations across the last fourteen days. Cortana’s collage of text, imagery and sound filled our neural connection. Finally the recordings of the high threat bad guys conversations with their assassins to ‘solve’ their lawman problem and send a message.
They didn’t just intend to kill him, but kill his entire family in front of him before killing him. Their ‘message’ was a chain saw massacre.
This was capability, intent, commission of dollars for action and pre-strike prepatory actions. Clearly a high and imminent threat to the Garibaldi family from an impressive collection of human scum with the morals of evil demons.
My resolve hardened to the strength and blades edge of my katana, “I’ve some tasks for you Cortana. First off find him a replacement for his job there in Fulton. Someone he knows and trusts – or someone he has trained. It’s obvious this is a job that he believes needs to be done and if anything - he will turn you down to keep doing it. In fact you should ask him for a short list for his own replacement?”
I paused to order my thoughts and steel my mind to what needed to be done. My mean and cruel streak as Buffy once said came to the fore bounding from the jungle like an enraged tiger. “Second target these three crime organizations money. You are authorized to clean them out, their corrupt politicians, lawyers, judges and their corrupt cops. Use however much money it takes to have contract killers from the demon’s Teraka Assassin Guild take them out. Use any and all means at your disposal to disrupt and harass them. I want them all destitute, confused, lashing out at each other, self-destructing and the key threats dead soonest.”
Cortana was taken aback for a microsecond but she glowed in warm pleasure. Her feminine sadistic side came to the front. “Thank you, Alex. I do like the creative use of the Teraka Guild. They are a rough edged tool and are imminently qualified for this job. This might prove profitable for them and solve this problem quickly. My backdoor full access to all of the Federal Law Enforcement agencies criminal data bases was just in time to aid in the targeting.”
I swear Cortana is part cat. She’s purring like a well-fed and happy cat. Her thrumming emotional waves of feline pleasure across my neuralnet making me flush with heat. I wonder if she got that from her mother?
“Third thing Cortana is to alert Mr. Garibaldi to this threat to him and his family. No secrets from him on this subject and offer him a temporary private security detail for his family. If he agrees lets also offer for his protection to ship his entire police department some of the latest military weapons and body armor. This is not a loan or temporary. Just get it ordered now for FEDEX delivery next week. If he refuses the overt private security detail, which I think he will - get them there tomorrow as a failsafe anyway. They’re to silently set up shop, covertly observe with no contact and intervene violently if necessary. Their job is to be proactive, preventative and completely invisible to even Mr. Garibaldi… if that’s possible. Offer them a large bonus for removing the mob assassins from town and killing them. I want the mob killers disappeared permanently. No traces. In this we are not acting as law abiding citizens but avenging angels of justice. If the private security won’t kill them… please do not pressure them to do so. Then we’ll have the security teams turn over the killers to an agent of Teraka. So have Teraka send something to Fulton that… is… patient and hungry.”
Cortana whispered in satisfaction, “His phone is now ringing. I’ve sent a Fax to the Teraka Guild with a call back number and wired startup money to their Panamanian Bank account. I’ve wired enough money to kill a small town of mobsters, but this amount will get their attention.”
“Fourth thing Cortana is that Giles and I are scheduled to handoff Kendra to Sam Zubota in Santa Monica in seven days. LAX airport is right next door to Santa Monica. See if Santa Monica has an airport that can handle our jet. I can fly out after the handoff. If not then I’ll fly out of LAX. Tell Mr. Garibaldi that I will be arriving at Fulton on the morning of the 18th to meet him at his office or his home, whichever he chooses. If he’s still alive… I’ll make him an offer that he can’t refuse.”
Cortana began laughing at first then she got worried. “Now you’re Marlon Brando as the Godfather? -- Alex… what do you plan to offer him and… what will you do if he refuses?”
I’m sort of touched… I think she’s fearful of what I might do to her ‘new hire’ if he does tell me no?
“I’m thinking he’s our new Aten Works Vice President for Global Security. I’ll leave our offer an open deal. If he refuses then – he’ll come to us sooner or later. People like him are valuable, can-do pillars of civilization and nearly incorruptible. As such they don’t kiss politicians asses or grovel and consequently they make enemies. Powerful enemies like politicians who don’t like honest folk. We’re going to have to shield him as best we can. For what it’s worth Sis, thanks for finding him. We’re going to need hundreds like him and I’ll bet a pile of gold that he knows a lot of them.”
Cortana was all excited by her ‘new’ business. After a five minutes while I ate and smiled for the girls at appropriate moments, she came back, “I’m talking to Garibaldi now, he’s taking it rather well. You were right, he doesn’t want our offer of additional security for his family. I’m also making a call to a private military security company outside Fort Campbell, Kentucky. That’s the home of 5th Special Forces Group, other Federal three-letter-agencies and the 101st Airborne. They’re two hours away and can get a six man team onsite for initial 7x24 overwatch and invisible security by tomorrow morning. A larger group of specialists later. I’m also talking to the financial chief of The Teraka Guild, a demon named Mr. Royar Harkness. Our wire transfer got his personnel attention. Calling me was a poor choice for him since I now know where he is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I will also make him an additional offer… a contractual arrangement to stay out of Sunnydale and never take a contract ever again on a Slayer. Unless they want to lose more than the team of three they sent last time.”
“Good idea Sis, but how about our list of soon to be deadee’s? Did this Royar accept the contract on them?”
Cortana giggled, “That wasn’t a problem at all. He only asked how soon we wanted the 60 contracts fulfilled. I responded with a suggestion that the sooner this list was completed then I would post a second list to them with the same generous target fee structure. He offered a seven day time period for fulfillment of the first sixty. I said that was acceptable and I would release the second half of the fee when we had confirmation. He agreed and I’ve posted to him the second list of mobsters categorized by city location to speed up this process. Many of them live in the same cities and in the same neighborhoods. I did stipulate that some of the targets shall be killed in a more aggressive ‘demon fashion’; as in torn apart or eaten messily – and collateral extermination of those who stood around the primary target would be… rewarded on a per head bonus. We might as well as clean out the top hierarchy of the gangs leadership and henchmen, which he readily agreed to. Then he said this-”
Cortana’s voice stopped and a recently delayed voice recording began of whom I assumed to be Mr. Harkness. A deep bass voice chuckling followed by – “Oooh I like you… finally a woman who knows how to get things done. Do you wish any specific parts of the targets delivered to you upon fulfillment, something delicious like their fresh hearts?”
Cortana cut the recording and came back. “I think he’s in love with me or maybe it’s just my money. No matter - all of our problem people will be off our chessboard in fifteen days. Then the only top shelf threats left to Mr. Garibaldi and his family will be his three former corrupt FBI bosses and the Attorney General. With all of their criminal sponsors dead and a mob war going on they’ll have other things to worry about since I’ll be calling the survivors and telling them it was the three FBI guys who set them up. Naturally those pesky corrupt FBI guys will be our fall guys for everything that follows and they’ll get what they deserve.”
“Good thinking Sis. Keep me informed of their progress on threat reduction. Make arrangements though for our corporate jet to pick me up at 8:00 PM on the 17th at the Santa Monica airport after our trip down there to drop Kendra. Kendra will have her new luggage with her so I’ll drive her down in her new van. Giles will then drive me to the airport where the plane can fly me to Fulton’s airport or maybe Memphis, Tennessee. Have the pilots plot the course and pick the runway that they can land and refuel at. Also have the security company that is babysitting Garibaldi’s family provide three armored cars minimum and a private security detail to meet me at the airport for the trip to Fulton and back. I’ll fly back that night.”
Cortana was pleased then concerned, “Good simple plan Alex. I’m making the arrangements now. You will take some body armor and weapons with you?”
Body armor and weapons were a necessity of my life now. In Fulton I hoped that it would all be over by the time I got there but I couldn’t count on that. I had a high probability that I was going to be stepping in between a dangerous policeman and potentially three teams of mob assassins who were tasked before their bosses died. “You betcha Sis. I’m assuming it’s a war zone.”
I had nodded my head throughout lunch. I didn’t remember much of it since my mouth was on autopilot chew mode but finally Willow elbowed me. The other ladies were walking away from the table.
Willow leaned over and whispered to me, “You’ve been silent, distracted and closing your eyes a lot during lunch. It’s weird. -- You don’t need the super-suit to talk to her do you?”
I sat there frozen like a deer in the headlights. She saw right through me. Standing up she smoothed the wrinkles down on her skin tight light gray pencil dress. My eyes following her hands down as she smoothed her clothes. She bent over giving me a view down her blouse and patted my shoulder. Her minds ability to assemble fragments of details and then leap to a correct conclusion was astounding.
Willow said for just me to hear, “You can talk to her at any time. Why didn’t you tell me? Is it like telepathy or something?”
I slowly stood and looked down into her face, trying to stall for time to think this through. She was absolutely sure and I couldn’t lie to her to save my life. Misdirect just a little maybe, but not lie outright. I spoke softly so others wouldn’t hear, “Yes, special security measure, telepathy radio and need-to-know. You’re the only one in town who knows so please keep this a very deep secret.”
She gently caressed my cheek, “I’m not stupid Xander, just jealous.”
Jealous of Cortana? Ooh-kay… I decided then and there to see what she thought of this situation with Mr. Garibaldi and his family. So I sat back down and quietly told her about the mobsters, the assassins and what they intended. Then I asked her what would she do?
Willow sat down slowly as she thought. Then she looked me in the eye and said, “I take it that Cortana discovered all of this… evil plot?”
Her answer helped assuage my own decision.
She quietly spoke in measured tone, “So the Law has been ineffective and will continue to be… incompetent, negligent and even criminally complicit. Therefore only one solution remains.”
She stood and placed her hand firmly on my chest and got a faraway deep look in her eyes, “You must stand between the innocent and those who would slay them. Aku! Soku! Zan! You must not fail!"
I was surprised at her vehemence and the way she looked when she said it. Courtesy of Cortana, I had fast learned French and German for my European business trip, I didn’t recognize the words or language. I had to know, so I asked Cortana, “What were those three words she said?”
Cortana whispered back across the neuralnet, “That was perfect Japanese and it means, “If you see evil, slay it instantly!” Which is interesting since I didn’t know she was learning Japanese.”
I was as perplexed as Cortana but satisfied. “She hasn’t said anything to me either. But she did answer my question.”
Quick as thought Cortana came back with an update, “I’ve completed my negotiations with Royar Harkness of the Teraka Guild and he is their Chief Executive Officer. Apparently they do other ‘things’ besides assassinations. I was unable to contract with them to stay out of Sunnydale but I was able to come to an agreement for them to refuse any and all contracts regarding violence against a Slayer for the next 500 years. With the stipulation that they would provide the asking contractee’s name and location for an additional fixed price. From Royar’s response I’ve concluded that the three Teraka assassins sent after Buffy was not the first time that Teraka has been commissioned to kill a Slayer and that the previous times ended badly for Teraka. He seemed relieved to be offered a contractual out for Slayer gigs, so the price was relatively cheap.”
“Cortana? … Err – What other things do they do? Why couldn’t you keep them out of Sunnydale?”
Cortana chuckled, “Besides assassinations, they can also be hired for sabotage, cat-burglary style theft of rare and even magical items, retrieval of stolen rare items and the rare for them precision robbery. The theft and retrieval part is why he balked at staying out of Sunnydale. Seems they retrieve stolen magical and rare objects from Sunnydale regularly. For this I’m perfectly willing to let them continue to do so since I assume that these objects were originally stolen for a world-ending apocalypse ceremony as I’ve catalogued from Buffy and Giles listing of events. The list of things they won’t do is actually quite illuminating and you will be interested in this. Seems they absolutely will not take a contract involving a kidnapping or blackmail. They do offer a significant discount for the contract to hunt down kidnappers, rescue the kidnappee and kill the kidnappers. In that order with no options out of the kill the kidnappers part. When I pressed him, Royar only said that this stems from a series of unpleasant events beginning about 15,000 years ago, so they hold a grudge a very long time.”
My interest was piqued, “Did he tell you why?”
Cortana voiced grew clipped but neutral, “He only said that it was because of the ‘Go-oold’. From the tone and vibrations in his voice - he personally hates them. I mean really hates them. But his “Go-oold” enemy phonetically sounds a lot like Shalomar’s “Goa’uld” pronunciation from her prophecy to you.”
My interest was definitely peaked. We had a potential ally against these aliens. Vicious and ruthless demon allies but allies none the less.
“Wow, Cortana. Who knew that even the Teraka Guild had scruples? But this is most interesting. If their timeline was believable then these Goa’uld had been here before the first known human civilization. Hmmm… Call him back and commission another contract with them. Contract them to help us find this ‘lost Goa’uld Princeling’ of ours but make sure that the contract clearly states that this target is… ours to take. We may need them as backup or for cleanup afterwards.”
Cortana replied coolly, “From what I now know of Royar Harkness and the Teraka Guild, they’re going to want this Goa’uld tortured for a few centuries before they feed it alive to something that munches slowly. They might even do this for free when I tell them that one of these Goa’uld is still on Earth.”
“Warn them that this creature may not be a demon as they know them but something else… something that might be dangerous for the entire planet. We have to take him or her or it alive for interrogation – we’ll have to hit it fast before it can communicate off-world. Both conditions are critical.”
I could tell that Cortana was leery of this tasking. Not concerned for my safety but uncertain how Mr. Harkness would react to this contract proposal.
Cortana commented, “I’m calling Royar back right now…”
“Sis, we need this Goa’uld alive. Stress that to him. If it is here it might also have a ship… A ship we can tear apart, learn from and find their weaknesses. My greater fear is that it also has a faster-than-light long-range communicator. – We have to take it by surprise and isolate it fast. Last thing Cortana… We need to know everything that they know about these Goa’uld. I mean everything. Have them send to us their Goa’uld history expert. We need more information and it seems Royar may have it or at least knows who does.”
Cortana signed off, “I’ll let you know how this conversation goes in few minutes.”
Only a fraction of a second had gone by in real-time during Cortana’s and my conversation. I was distracted away from Willow’s strange outburst.
Willow patted my chest several times as her eyes came back from that far-away stare and then she leaned into me, putting her arms around my waist and hugging me. Her cheek was against my chest.
She asked me in a measured controlled tone. “Can you save them?”
I answered truthfully, “No… maybe… Chance and luck are factors. Which just means that I can’t save everyone.”
She leaned back, looked up at me with realization and concern in her eyes, “What have you and Cortana done?”
I sighed, this truth might hurt. “I’ve done what I can for now. Cortana and I’ve hired extra-special military type security to watch over the Garibaldi’s.”
She pinched me hard, “What else?”
Oh crap. She’s not going to stop until she knows all of it. “We hired the Teraka Guild to kill every mobster that hired the assassins. Plus we’ve hired the Teraka Guild to hunt for and eat the assassins found near Fulton. In addition… I’ll be going there next week on the 17th and 18th and returning.”
“I’m going with you!” She said quickly and with conviction.
“I’d really prefer that you stay here where it’s safer.” As soon as I said that, I knew that I had just lost this argument. Comparing the potential of a few assassins’ loose in Fulton Kentucky to the city of demons and vampires beneath our feet in Sunnyhell was a really dumb thing to bring up.
She smiled a wicked gotcha smile and hugged me tighter, “I’m safer with you and you know it, so I’m going. Nyah! Besides I’ve been learning a few things and can take care of myself.”
I counter offered, “You’d be a whole lot safer if I booked you into a weekend suite at the Shores Hotel with Giles and Jenny; which is one block away from the Santa Monica Galleria with my credit card. I understand that there is a Tiffany’s Jewelry in the mall.”
She grinned up at me like a happy faery imp, “Tempting… very tempting… but no. I’m going with you.”
Damn my luck. She loves me and is also naively bucking to get me killed. I tried to be serious, “Look Willow, if we arrive there and the assassins are still in action - we’ll both be in the middle of a war zone. If that scenario plays out - I won’t be able to protect you, myself or the Garibaldi’s at the same time. I’ll be forced to leave you and you will have to protect yourself. I’ll be worried for you and distracted by it. Distracted enough to potentially make a mistake that will get either myself injured or someone we value killed. Plus you could be killed in the crossfire or by a wild stray bullet.”
She said with certainty, “Roary and his friends have been teaching us how to shoot. I’ve been learning hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. I have my own guns in the vault now. So this weekend I’ll practise on your range each day. You’ll see, I can take care of myself. Besides accidents can happen anywhere and not just in Fulton. So I’m coming along.”
I wasn’t going to win this - so I gave in for now. I had a snowballs chance on the surface of the sun for getting her to change her mind. Still in seven days a miracle could happen.
She smiled up at me and wiggled a bit. Then she jumped up to kiss my cheek. Her hands stroked down my chest to my hips and turning she left for her next class putting a lot of hip sway into her walk. At the cafeteria door she stopped and blew me a parting kiss before disappearing into the hallway beyond.
I was standing there stupefied.
Confound that… that woman! How does she do that? She jumps to a correct conclusion on the slightest of information. Then she astounds Cortana and myself with her brilliant alternative solutions. Then she shows a wonderfully practical and ruthless streak a light year across. Then for a grand finale makes my head all warm and fuzzy.
Which are major reasons why I love her so much?
I really need my head examined, so I decided to talk to Giles about Teraka and these Goa’uld. Maybe they found their way into the Watchers books?
Friday, 9 Jan. 1998, 12:20 PM
Sunnydale High School Library
I had sat down in the back of the library up past Giles office to read through one of his randomly selected occult mythology books which was not so mythological. He wasn’t back yet from the teacher’s lounge and I was hoping to find something about these Goa’uld before he arrived. Pure luck if I did.
Cortana chimed back into my thoughts. “Alex, I’ve concluded my conversation with Royar Harkness… and the Teraka Guild. We do not have a contract at this time. I believe in this particular case Royar’s negotiating position was representing the entire Harkness family, the Teraka Clan and others unnamed clans - due to their vows for revenge. The negotiations involved some informational exchanges so far but we do not have an agreement.”
I wondered briefly about what information Cortana had to give them in this opening exchange? I had a gut feeling about this. We need them for helping us find this Goa’uld and most likely for what would come after.
“Cortana… What’s this going to cost us?”
Cortana had a worried tone in her voice and emotions, “Alex… It’s not about the money… It’s going to cost more…”
This was not going in the direction that I had thought it would. “Start over Cortana and tell me about your negotiations and then about their conditions.”
“Alex, when I informed Royar about the Goa’uld as the target to be found – he was first stunned into silence and then he came unglued. You would have thought that I had just placed a long ton of gold at his feet and a basket of beating virgin’s hearts; for telling him that there was one still left on Earth. He told me that this news meant that they would hunt the Go’oold for free. When I countered that we wanted the Goa’uld alive… he… was not happy. Not happy at all. That’s when he spilled information where this was a grudge started when the Goa’uld first began slaughtering all demons and almost exterminated the original Teraka clans. This is a family blood revenge vow that spans 10,000 years. He personally wants to kill this Goa’uld and given the opportunity all of the Goa’uld in the Galaxy. He’s the patriarch of his family and Clan. He will take this as a personal insult if you do not allow them this revenge.”
This is bad. Not world ending apocalypse bad but just might slither and slide in that direction.
“What did you tell them about us and why we wanted this Goa’uld?”
Cortana sighed, “When I called him, I told him that I was representing a different client who had asked about any and all information regarding Goa’uld. I told him that a recent prophecy was made to the client that there was a Goa’uld on Earth. After he came unglued is when he demanded to know who the client was. I thought it would shut him up and bring him back to a more rational state if he knew it was Vengeance that wanted this contract. That’s when he went silent for ten seconds and then demanded… certain concessions. I told him that these Goa’uld weren’t real demons but far worse… and he didn’t believe me. He demanded that he talk to you and no one else. Then he hung up. My surveillance of his telephones even on-hook audio indicates a very strong emotional and violent post-call reaction.” Cortana had a slight emotional quaver in her voice.
Royar must have been mad enough to be breaking things and killing minions. She was worried and for her without a physical body there wasn’t a lot she could do.
“What concessions did he want?”
Cortana replied, “Besides negotiating with you? He reserves the right to kill this Goa’uld himself.”
I sighed this time. This deal was veering off the tracks and I had no idea if I could get it back on? This might be a race between our sources and theirs to find this Goa’uld. The end results could be catastrophic for Earth.
“Change my voice to Vengeance’s on this call Cortana and dial him back. I’ll talk to him with you online but with you only listening.”
“Are you sure about this Alex? He isn’t sounding reasonable right now.”
“Yes, Sis. Get him online. Even if we can’t come to a settlement, he has to know our position and we need more information which he might leak to us.”
“Please be careful Alex… Earth is at stake. His phone is ringing.”
A deep angry bass voice answered the phone, “Wha’da ya want NOW!”
I could hear the spittle globules hitting the telephone mouth piece. I guessed that one of his relatives or staff had inopportunely interrupted him previously so I continued as if he had been polite. In my altered deep gravely V-voice at the other end, I said, “I am Vengeance, Mr. Harkness, and we both have business to discuss.”
Royar fell silent but his breathing was still full and labored as if he had been exercising or running. “Yes. Yes we do… yes we do.” I could hear him sit down heavily in the background as he paused to compose himself.
Cortana and I needed information. We needed a mutually agreeable solution. “Mr. Harkness, my representative states that you have a claim of first blood against this Goa’uld. Is that so and may I know the circumstances?”
Royar, inhaled deeply and his voice developed almost a reptilian anger. “First blood you say? That wouldn’t be enough! All of its blood and beating hearts would not quench my family’s flames for revenge or satisfy my ancestors!”
He paused to catch his breath and compose himself again. I said nothing for twenty seconds waiting for him to go first. Finally he began again but in a more controlled voice. “When the Go’oold first came to this world they were content with taking a few humans but then their great magic golden pyramid began scouring the world’s surface clean of all non-human kind. A thousand years it floated above hunting and destroying. Only those who could hide well survived. Those that co-existed with the humans were left alone but eventually… the Go’oold trained humans like dogs to hunt us. The Teraka Clan leaders went as supplicant emissaries to the Go’oold King to plead fealty and with tribute. Only their charred heads returned in baskets. Soon after an army of lesser Go’oold demons with lightening weapons came and slaughtered all before them. Humans, non-humans and even true demons fell before them.”
He paused again but this time I could hear him drinking some liquid containing ice cubes. “Only a few handfuls of Teraka survived and across the next millenia more Go’oold pyramids appeared. From that first slaughter and for the next 10,000 years we became excellent killers in the night of all things Go’oold and their human worshippers. Then a Slayer joined us in our fight against them and then many others. A great price was paid in our blood and bodies to get to them… but we paid it. The Go’oold’s magic portal was cast down, their warriors crushed and their golden magic pyramids’ rose into the sky never to be seen again. All of their minions left behind were hunted to death and their great stone statues broken. My clan led the non-humans of this world against the Go’oold. We lost the most and paid the greatest price. I claim for my ancestor’s the still unbalanced debt that their dying bodies can only measure against!”
Wow… This was a lot of good information and completely unexpected. If a Slayer was involved in this fight then the Watchers Council should have a book or at least a paragraph on this… war. This was not just one battle but a war that he says lasted for 10 millenia. Seems the Teraka clans really do have a serious grudge and we can use this… but I’ll have to be careful so they don’t harm my goals. So how old really is this lost Goa’uld Princeling?
I decided to offer up my legend and no fluff. “Mr. Harkness, I’ll grant you and your Clans revenge but my claim against these Goa’uld supersedes yours. Do not despair - I also want them dead and gone. But this one I need alive… for a time, so that it can answer questions. Its race is not like any on this world but the Goa’uld were once a great civilization and they flew between the stars in their starships. Ships that you called magic golden pyramids. Unlike demons here on Earth they command the weapons of those ships which also includes nuclear weapons of such power capable of killing all life.”
I paused but Royar’s voice stepped in, “How can your blood claim superceded ours?!”
“They came from the stars to Earth and they returned to their stars. I’ve fought great battles between the stars but have missed the past 20 millenia on this planet. I did not know that they had come to this world and survived. I was awoken and sent here to battle evil demons again but I’ve been given a prophecy of one Goa’uld here. These Goa’uld are such a danger to this world. A danger such that even one must be dealt with my way so that it cannot communicate with its fellow race out in the stars. Otherwise they will come back in greater numbers of ships and with their weapons. The Goa’uld will not tolerate ANY race that can challenge them. This world needs time to prepare for a coming war with the Goa’uld. A war of such violence that your Clan cannot imagine.”
This seemed to damp down Royar’s anger but he was still smoldering. “Space ships you say and not magic? Can you really grant us our revenge?”
My voice must have dropped a few degrees. “My war against the Goa’uld is just beginning. I will finish them off this time but I am only one great hunter. So through my human allies - preparations are being made for building warships that can hunt the Goa’uld across the galaxy. A fleet of ships and the soldiers this fleet will require will take time to build. To accomplish this, I cannot have any Goa’uld alive and free on this planet. My knowledge will aid these humans in building the starship fleets and they are going to need fleet captains and soldiers. I will need the Teraka Guild to hunt down these Goa’uld across the stars, conduct espionage, surveil targets and kill them.”
Royar was quiet for a few seconds, “One was left here… How many are out there in the stars?”
I answered as truthfully as I could, “At least one thousand worlds, a hundred million or billions of Goa’uld. I do not know their numbers but it will be a great many. Make no mistake this will be a war so vast and bloody that even you may get your fill of it.”
Royar’s chuckle was deep and devoid of all mirth. “Not hardly. In this I will allow you to take this Go’oold as you see fit but when its usefulness is done … it is Teraka’s… it’s mine to put to death.”
I didn’t think this would go any other way. At least we had the beginnings of a deal. “When I’m done with this Goa’uld, it will be turned over to you or your agents for execution. I have other needs also, services for which I will pay the full price. I will require the assistance of Teraka agents for the Goa’uld interrogations and prison guards. I will need jailers who will not be sympathetic to the Goa’uld and capable of dominating it. I will require a liaison to report to my trusted solicitor in this hunt. Lastly, I will need to learn all that your people know about the Goa’uld when they were on this world. Will you be agreeable to this?”
Rupert Giles came into the library one floor below me so I pulled my mobile phone out and pretended to talk quietly into it. Eventually he would be up here.
This time Royar’s chuckle had a tone of immense pleased expectation in it. “Yes… Yes… This will do nicely. Very nicely. Our revenge will be honed by waiting, standing over our ancient enemy chained at our feet and squeezing every last dreg of knowledge from it. My Clan will be there at every battle no matter how long this takes, until we have witnessed their extinction. I only pray that one of my children is the one to kill the last of them. Only then may our ancestors finally sleep well.”
Giles came up the wide straight stairs with a carafe of water for his tea pot. I smiled and waved from my seat against the wall next to a tall slender window.
The Teraka were motivated, willful and determined. Maybe these ‘peoples’ would be my spear point into these Goa’uld. God only knew how much I wanted this fight to go our way unlike the Covenant’s war against humanity.
So I unveiled to him some of our plans to motivate them further but in the direction we would need. “Mr. Harkness, in the past your Guild has survived as assassins - as Ninja’s. This war may last a thousand years and will need Ninja spies but even more engineers, wizards, space construction workers, miners, skilled craftsmen, warship officers, marines and starship troopers. Your people will need to prepare themselves for what role they can fulfill. The first experimental spaceships will be ready for space trials later this year. After that the pace will accelerate. But first I will need capable and smart construction workers, miners, craftsmen and orbital factory workers. Starships require enormous quantities of metals, electronics, special heavy-metals not found readily on Earth and weapons to break the enemies ships. When the first starships are completed, I will need determined combat crews. All of those selected will receive training for working, surviving and combat in space.”
Royar’s voice was a rumble, “We have been unseen in the shadows so long I fear my Clan and our allies may be unsuitable for anything but the role of… your Ninja’s. I will assign one of my children to be your liaison and pass on to you all that we know of the long war with the Go’oold. But do not be false with me on this… or my blood oath will turn to you.”
Was it an act of trust or a test to send one of his ‘expendable’ children to me? A millenia old feud of this magnitude was not something for even I, to take lightly. I would have to be dead before my promise was broken. “Mr. Harkness, my kind are long lived - yet I was born and will die – but my promise to you is that I will grant you the sole right to kill this Goa’uld when I am finished with it and that I will take every volunteer who desires to wage war against the Goa’uld no matter how humble they think their contribution will be.”
I paused and he said nothing so I continued, “Your child will be under my protection in Sunnydale. When the fleets are ready in that distant future, your children and I will go off-world to wage war against the Goa’uld. If I must, we will turn their worlds into molten funeral pyres. When their spirit is finally broken – they will flee to hide in the vastness of the galaxy. I will build warships for Teraka to hunt the survivors like dire wolves no matter where they flee. Your Clan will be their executioners and this time… I will not settle for less than their extinction.”
Royar voice vibrated with a low sigh of pleasure, “You promise much Old One.”
“I have fought and killed so-called gods, great demons, lesser demons, and evil humans. The Goa’uld are extremely dangerous. In this war your enemy and my enemy are the same. No exchange of gold or duress will bind us. Only my death will release me from this pledge. It will be an honor to balance this world’s blood debt to your Clan for driving the Goa’uld away.”
Royar deep voice was heated steel, “The Teraka Guild will turn every stone and search every cave to find this Goa’uld and when we do… We will wait for you to seize the creature. This will be the first step in our revenge.”
I answered him truthfully, “Once found, you will not wait long because I must strike fast. I will not sleep easy until this Goa’uld is chained naked in a windowless prison. - I will have my solicitor call you back within the hour to finalize the services and fees.”
Royar grumbled, “In this your money is no good. Seeing this Go’oold chained naked and knowing that our revenge is at hand will be our payment.”
I responded politely but firmly, “I commend you but in this I would not impoverish your family and Clan. We both may have many years to wait before this Goa’uld is found. Besides you will have widows and orphans enough to care for when this war starts. Let me at least cover your people’s expenses until we are ready to strike their home worlds.”
Royar harrumphed and after 10 seconds of silence on the line he finally spoke again, “Very well. Have your solicitor call me.” He hung up.
I sat there in my seat, my eyes unfocused on the sun’s rays spilling from the high windows on the southern wall opposite my position. My mind racing with potentialities and plans.
Cortana broke into my moment of mental reflection, “You realize that the Watchers Council and Giles must also know something about these Goa’uld. Do you plan on asking him right now?”
We had to know, “Yes. I’ll ask him.”
Cortana’s voice dropped low in concern, “What were you thinking when you offered ‘revenge’ to the head of what is most likely the oldest and most powerful group of organized demons on this planet?”
I sighed deeply, “I don’t like who and what I just cut a deal with but the passion in his voice as he stated their case swayed me. He told me no lies or you would have said something. So I decided, they’ve waited long enough and deserve their revenge. Besides we need them and they need us.”
Cortana would have been worrying her hands if she had any, “I still don’t like this. They could change goals in a microsecond and be a threat to you.”
I sat there with my eyes marveling at the peaceful beauty of the light spilling down and across the quiet library - while Cortana and I discussed my fate, the fate of the world and a galactic war. It was so… incongruent.
“Yes they could turn but they won’t. Not for any amount of gold. You analyzed his voice just as I was. He’s a ‘true believer’ in fulfilling his Clans millenia long hate against the Goa’uld dishonorably murdering his ancestors. I’ll bet that every child in that Clan has grown up with the stories and making a blood oath promise to kill Goa’uld when they came of age.”
Cortana whispered, “Will you be safe?”
“Cortana, I should have died last year… several times. – You, of all people know that Spartans do not make promises very often and when we do… we keep them. So long as we both keep this promise they will be faithful in keeping their end of the bargain and maybe even more. I think as Royar Harkness realizes that we really are going to war with the Goa’uld beginning with this one, they will be very motivated in keeping me safe.”
Cortana started giggling and finally snorted out, “Teraka bodyguards for you?”
I chuckled at that image, “I hadn’t thought of that… but they’ll probably insist on it at some point.”
Cortana came back more serious, “My telephone surveillance of the Teraka headquarters is paying off. Royar is having an executive meeting with his staff. Many of whom are also this Teraka species of ‘demons.’ Your deal with him and the news of the Goa’uld is moving like lightning through the Clan.”
“Is their conversations good or bad for us.”
Cortana replied, “Mostly disbelief at first. Their reaction is very much like Royar’s. Hate and fear of the Goa’uld, vows of vengeance at hand and many volunteering.”
“Mostly good news for us then.”
Cortana said, “At this rate I will have the telephone numbers and locations of every member of the Teraka Guild and Clan on the planet by the end of the week.”
I chuckled at her capability for surveillance, “Cortana, please do not spend a lot of your time surveilling them. I don’t think they will be a threat to me but keep their headquarters under your watchful eyes.”
Cortana was somber, “I’m also analyzing their finances down to the individual Teraka households and they aren’t rich assassins by any definition.”
“What do you mean Sis?”
Cortana was more subdued, “Royar was truthful when he said that they lived in the shadows. There really isn’t that many of them in terms of a population group and less than two percent of them work as assassins. The money from their contracts goes like shareholder dividends to all members of the Teraka Guild. The vast majority of Teraka are low income workers trying to hide and just get by. If we weren’t paying for their services it would have impoverished thousands even more than they are.”
Cortana flash briefed me the top level view of her investigation and economic profiles. “Who would have thought that the mighty Teraka Guild was fronting for the Teraka Clan which was mostly Cajun swamp folk, auto mechanics, stevedores and sanitation workers? The Teraka Guild acting as their insurance agency, retirement fund and financial support for their widows and orphans.”
Cortana commented satirically, “They’re not the vastly wealthy all powerful assassins guild of their public relations image.”
I sighed, reality was always so mundane. “I’m no better Sis. I’m just a kid, mind merged with you and John – trying to stay hidden from grabby government types. They’re just trying to survive and hide – still in fear of the Goa’uld and rightly in fear of murderous human governments.”
I stood up from the comfortable seat. The book that I had selected was near useless to me now. Time for asking Rupert some direct questions.
Dr. Giles was whistling a 1960’s pop song as he finished pouring his cup of Earl Grey tea. It was the Elvis Presley song, “Can't Help Falling In Love.” My parents were big Elvis fans. I sat down as he quickly looked at me from the corner of his left eye while still concentrating on his tea cup. I gave him my patented Zeppo grin and eye-brow wiggle. I flashed the book that I had borrowed while pointing at it.
He grinned back at me as he turned full on towards me and sat down in his desk chair. I almost laughed outloud because it was brilliantly obvious that Miss Calendar had planted a perfect red lip gloss kiss on his right cheek and smeared red across his lips. Even his nose had a spot of red.
I couldn’t help it and began snickering, then laughing and then coughing behind my hands. He had an annoyed and then irritated look on his face as I finally scooted up, retrieving the flat rectangular mirror that he kept tucked into his book case. I held it up for him to witness the marks of passionate possession that Jenny Calendar had left on his face.
Dr. Gile’s face went from irritated to a look of horrified embarrassment in one instant and he spilled a bit of his tea. This was one of those priceless Kodak moments that I wished I had a camera with me for.
The only thing he said was, “Oh! Oh My!!”
I handed him the mirror as he turned away from me embarrassed, snatching handfuls of Kleenex’s to wipe his face.
While he was busy cleaning himself, I slotted the musty book back into its rightful position and looked at the other titles trying to divine one that might have held some information on these Goa’uld. I had been hoping for a book titled, “The Field Guide to Goa’uld Identification and Natural Habitat.” No luck. Maybe Cortana and I will have to write it.
Rupert coughed at me and I turned back to face him. I was still smiling and much too happy at his good fortune to have Jenny marking her territory on him. He was just the proper British school boy caught with not being so proper.
I sat down and good naturally said while waving my hand in front of my face like a fan. “Wowsers Dr. Giles. Can I go to the Teachers’ Lounge and get some of those?”
Several different emotions passed across his face and finally settled on a slight smirk. A British school boy’s version of a controlled grin trying to slip away at the corners. He replied just before sipping his tea, “No… She’s much too old for you.”
I was smirking now. “Yah. Willow used to never wear lipstick but I think she puts it on now just to plant her mark on me.”
Rupert now grinned at me, completely unashamed this time. Jenny was good for him and looked good next to him. They looked good together.
Now it was time to get down to business. I looked back up at Giles with serious business look. "I received a prophecy from a seer a few weeks ago and I need to know what a Goa’uld is?”
Giles spit his tea out coughing violently and nearly dropped his cup.
Bingo! He does know something.
Giles grabbed for paper towels. After a few moments he said, “How? Where did you hear the word Goa’uld?!”
I chuckled quickly to put him at ease because he was stalling for time. “I asked first Rupert. What are they? Who was the Slayer who first fought them? How do I kill them?”
Giles was still stalling, he pulled his glasses down and began polishing them vigorously. “Ahem… That would be a long story indeed.”
I picked up his telephone and dialed Cortana’s number and then sat down the handset on his desk with the microphone piece facing him. “Cortana and I have all afternoon Rupert.”
He slowly began, “I don’t have those chronicles here with me but now obviously I should. This period of our history was a special study of mine. It was a very long time ago and started in Egypt. It was written that at first one Goa’uld came to this world via a magic portal. The Goa’uld built a palace that was a magic golden pyramid that floated above the ground. It was a demon god named Ra and his palace was the floating pyramid. Ra took humans into his palace… and changed them. He changed them into his demon warrior guards, others into slaves and worshippers. The books say that he would tolerate no other demons. Ra had magics to find them and his warriors killed them with bolts of fire. Ra’s servants even hunted the Slayers and killed them. Ra took thousands of humans as slaves and many thousands were herded through his magic portal. None ever returned. After thousands of years passed, then hundreds more golden pyramids came with more Goa’uld demon gods. Wherever a golden pyramid landed great cities were created around them but they demanded worship and fear. Some of the Goa’uld were exceedingly evil and most were casually evil to humans. Only a few of them ate humans.”
Giles had paused to remember and drink his tea. I didn’t say a word. After a minute he began again. “The Watchers recorded the short lives of the Slayers during that time. The Goa’uld killed many of them. In time the Watchers naturally kept the Slayers far from the Goa’uld. As much to survive but also to kill the demons that flourished far from the Goa’uld. Finally one Slayer named Mutbeneret was saved from a group of vampires by the La-Terkia Clan of demons and she formed a pact with them to slay the Goa’uld kings and queens. The Watchers recorded some of the names of the captains that the Clans sent to fight with the slayers. Thousands of years passed and not all of the names of the Slayers were recorded since they and their Watchers were killed in battle. The Slayers came and went so fast that most of the time there was no Watcher to guide them, only that demon Clan. Finally the Slayer Battus Ladice killed the Goa’uld King Amenhotep and with the warriors of that demon Clans slaughtered every living thing in the golden palace. Then the Goa’uld king Ptah was killed by the slayer Hetepheres. Horus was killed by Istemkheb. Then the Goa’uld Queen Shu was killed by Nebty Khafri. Nemaat Itet killed the god-Queen Gebe. Khafre Hemetre killed the god-Queen Thoth. Urbi Achuuheb Scota Akhenati killed the god-Queen Ma’at. You might know Scota’s name since she was one of the founders of the great ancient ‘Earth City of Achu.’ In a very short period of time… about a period of 1,000 years dozens of the Goa’uld kings, their lessor Goa’uld lords and their warrior armies were killed. One by one the Goa’uld were killed, their warriors and followers annihilated. The Watchers wrote that it took the bodies of hundreds to kill one Goa’uld. Sometimes thousands died to kill just one.”
Giles paused again to start another pot of water boiling. So I asked him, “You never said that there were ‘friendly’ demons or should I say non-humans that helped the slayers. I’ve met Pinotaerie, Brachen, Gajug and Kantos demons. They aren’t harmless but they have no interest in killing or preying upon humans. Why not tell us about them?”
Giles said with caution, “Slayers kill demons and 5,000 years later The Watchers Council never thought of non-human immigrants to this world as peaceful or potentially beneficial. Most demons native to Earth are evil but it is obvious that some immigrated here via magic portals to escape a calamity or extinction by truly evil demons. Thousands of years ago we had a pact with demon clans to defeat the Goa’uld. We had to but in time the Watchers Council decided that this was a period of history best forgotten. The Goa’uld’ s portal was buried along with their warriors when Ra was killed.”
“I really think you need to educate Buffy and Kendra about the non-human and non-hostiles out there before they kill one and then feel terrible afterwards. Plus you need to tell them that the Slayers owe these ‘demon’ Clans who helped save Earth a great debt. But you need to finish your story.”
Giles sat back down his fresh hot tea ready for another burnt lip. “Oh, where was I? Oh yes, the Goa’uld weren’t gods because they could be killed. It just took a lot to get through their armies and then get through their magics to kill them. In the end there were still maybe a hundred Goa’uld kings and queens on Earth when the Slayer Pythia Kektar attacked the Goa’uld’s Supreme King Ra’s palace with an army of Kekeka-Ra, Tok-Ra and Ra-Eka demons to aid her. She drove her sword through Ra and killed him but she was killed by his surviving guards. The Kekeka-Ra killed the guards, set fire to the throne room while the Ra-Eka killed the remaining Goa’uld and palace guards. The Kekeka-Ra Clan brought her body out of the palace just before it began to rise into the air. Around the world the other Goa’uld pyramids also rose into the sky and vanished. When Pythia died the next Slayer called was a potential named Nefertari who was in the battle to take the Goa’uld portal with the remaining La-Terkia Clan of demons. She survived the battle to see Ra’s palace float up into the sky and then vanish in a thunderous flash of light. She with the La-Terkia warriors and her Watcher buried the portal with the bodies of the Goa’uld warriors. That last battle occurred about 3,500 BC. The Goa’uld must be extinct because none have been seen since.”
Oh crap. How do I break this to him? Straight up is usually best. “Rupert, I was given a prophecy about the Goa’uld. They’re not extinct. One is still alive here on Earth. I will capture and kill it. They’re a lot more of them out in the stars because they aren’t real demons but an alien empire. It’s my destiny to wage a galactic war against them. Oh and the Goa’uld portal has been opened.”
Giles dropped his favorite tea cup and saucer. They both hit the carpeted floor and bounced before impacting each other and shattering. He didn’t notice even though his eyes were the size of cup saucers. He was stunned senseless it seemed for three heart beats and then he rocketed out of his chair then collapsed back into it. He looked like a vamp had drained a quart off the top. “Oh my word… It can’t be… Goa’uld here. Empire not demons. Aliens… Palaces rose into the sky… Portal opened!”
I was concerned for Rupert. He looked like he had almost fainted and his mind was working over what I said in some form of mental gnashing. I pulled Rupert’s hidden bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream and poured a tea cup full. He drank it and shook his head. His eyes came back into focus and croaked out, “Are you sure the portals open?”
I sat back, “I haven’t seen it open or know where it is but the seer said it was open and this seer’s prophecies so far have been 100%. Do I believe it to be open? Yes. So can we move on to the more important stuff, like how do I kill a Goa’uld?”
Giles eyes were now more focused, “Well… They have their magics to get past first but cutting their head off or a spear through the chest seemed to work on them. The chronicles said that they were human looking most of the time but their eyes glowed. Most of them were very human looking when dead.”
I grinned at Rupert, “Ok, so they’re not ten feet tall and fart lightning bolts like Scotsmen.”
Rupert got a pained look on his face and said, “If you’ll excuse me Xander I must call the Watchers Council about this. A private call Xander.” He made shooing motions at me.
When I stepped out of his office and began heading downstairs towards the parking lot exit doors, I asked Cortana, “Surveill his call Sis. Let me know what they say.”
“Already done when he first hung up the telephone on me. They seem to operate almost like a governmental espionage agency. He has a code number and a recording system to leave messages at. I assume that they’ll dial him back.”
I chuckled as I walked, “Not surprising for an organization that tries to manage the supernatural sub-rosa for the past six thousand years.”
Cortana was still worrying over my deal with Royar Harkness. “Alex, why did you promise the Teraka that you intended to exterminate the Goa’uld?”
“Practicality Cortana. If these Goa’uld wiped out the Covenant then they absolutely won’t tolerate another space faring race as a potential threat. They came here and played the role of gods to us primitives. They took thousands maybe millions of humans through their portal. This doorway to the stars must lead back to their home worlds but why take so many humans across the thousands of years? They left without slagging our planet because we weren’t a real threat to them. I’m not convinced that this Ra is dead because they probably have advanced medical therapies just like I have. I know that a sword through my chest would hurt like blazes but it wouldn’t kill me. So Ra was their supreme leader… I assume he was tired of us and that’s why he ordered the others to return to their stars. So they know where we are but they don’t know that we’re on the verge of spaceships and starships. If they did? -- It would be all over for us with an orbital bombardment. To win this war for our very survival will require the extermination of the Goa’uld because they will glass this planet if given the slightest opportunity, just like the Covenant would.”
Cortana came back with a different issue for me. “Alex, we have other business that can’t wait. Sansum Research called while you were talking to Giles.”
Friday, 9 Jan. 1998, 4:40 PM
Reach Offices, Sunnydale, Calif.
Earlier that afternoon Cortana had neuronetted me with a heads up. The Sansum Clinic was couriering to me a small glass pharmaceutical drug bottle packed in an ice chest. It was the end results of the filtering, centrifuging, electro-magnetic bathing and cryogenic processing of my blood serum that she had specified to them. One bottle containing 4 cc of my reset-to-neutral concentrated nanites. Also packed in the delivery was four 1 cc and two 2 cc sterile syringes with needles in a medical kit pack.
Cortana and I had debated at first what to do. Now I sat looking at the slightly off-clear fluid in the cold vacuum packed vial with the grey rubber hermetic medical cap. I was sitting behind my first floor executive desk, with the door closed and just turning that vial in my hand as if it was the most precious thing on the planet.
The concentration density was nowhere near what the dosage was from the 26th Century or even the 25th Century but it was the best that Sansum Research could do. Still they followed Cortana’s instructions precisely and these nanites had been reset to a zero start state, no imprinted DNA code to unlearn. Rendered safe to inject into any human and start adapting to that human’s DNA immediately. No six week slow reset of the genetic template for these nanites.
My first question for myself was more along the lines of either four shots for four people or two shots for two people? Cortana speculated that four shots would cut a decade of transition down to maybe two to three years. Two shots for two people would mean less than one year transitioning from Homo Sapiens to Homo Novis or Methuselahs or whatever we should be called.
My next debate was again with myself as to who do I give the shots to? I wanted to give it all to Willow but she’s already in transition more than anyone else. Plus Sansum will produce another 4 cc or more vials from my blood next month and each month thereafter.
Should I give it to Mrs. Summers right now and cure her cancer? That would force me to tell Buffy and try to keep from being beaten to death because I held out on her. Maybe I should give it to Giles and Roary because they are the two oldest of my now best friends? When should I dose my parents? Or should I dose my parents? If I did I would soon have annoying bratty little siblings to spoil rotten. Would that be cruel to my parents? My nanites making sure they were parents again and again. They would also never be able to get intoxicated again. I cruelly chuckled at that thought.
After minutes of contemplating this, I decided and went in search of Roary.
Friday, 9 Jan. 1998, 5:20 PM
206 Albert Drive, Sunnydale, California.
In my soon to be former home, I sat facing Karen who sat on the edge of her bed kneading her hands. The still empty sterile syringe inside its sterile sealed wrapping and the bottle of my nanite serum lay on a fresh clean white towel on the footstool between us.
My explanation was done. A heavy silence lay between us as she pondered her decision.
With Roary, he took maybe ten seconds to decide. A longer life, maybe look a few years younger, but it was a full life ahead with Karen that allowed him to finally say, “Yes, let’s do this kid.”
It was his love for Karen and his hope for a family with her that decided him.
Although he did say that the prospect of having the speed and reflexes to fight vampires and demons on a more even field was a bonus. But he quickly added that he would kill me in my sleep if I ever told Karen that. As if I would.
Karen weighed this momentous decision herself. She had contemplated a hoped for marriage, normal span of years of life with a man she loved and children. After I had told her of my nanites and what they meant for her, the hope for a family sprung. She just hadn’t expected a very large family.
Now I had laid before her the actual means to realize that hope.
It was her decision. I hadn’t told her what Roary’s decision had been.
I hadn’t told him or her that I even had two syringes.
They each needed to make this decision by themselves.
I owed both of them that simple natural right, the right to choose for themselves.
I hoped that she would say yes, and join Roary in a long and healthy life together. This is by far a more important decision for her than him. Not just married with a few children but even with just one child every twenty years this could be twenty children or more. Like all women before her since Eve became a mother, this was a huge decision.
She stared at that bottle for thirty seconds and then her eyes closed slowly. She took a deep breath, opened her eyes and looked around the master bedroom filled with her things. Her wedding stuff was everywhere. Her wedding dress was carefully arranged on a mannequin to her left. Her eyes stopped there and then her eyes snapped to mine.
She rolled up her left sleeve and firmly said, “Yes, I’m ready.”
Saturday, 10 Jan. 1998, 10:10 PM
It seemed like a long double exhausting day. After the reception ended Kendra and I had dropped Willow off at her home.
My soon to be former home looked like twenty people had camped there for a few days and they had. I changed into something comfortable and cleaned up the place. I even did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen bar.
Even with Kendra down the hall, the house still seemed… empty.
Finally I stepped into a hot shower which was refreshing me as I thought about my day.
California’s notorious fickle coastal weather had obliged us with a dry pale sunny day. No rain or howling Pacific gale.
The wedding went off with just one hitch. As in Roary and Karen were now hitched. Married bliss and all that. He and I were dressed like penguins. Karen was beautiful as she came down the aisle. I was surprised that even I got a little moisture in my eye.
At least I hadn’t fumbled the ring when I handed it to him.
Willow was a lovely sight as she sat with her and my parents. So was Buffy, Cordelia, and Kendra who all sat on the brides side of the aisle.
Kendra was not surprising quite stunning in a classy dress. I really think the fancy dress was a first for her but she seemed pleased with herself. I think the Scooby girls scheme to domesticate, fashion plate and feminize Kendra was finally working.
Something was sparking though between her and a young man in the church. She looked back over her shoulder four times before the ceremony at him. Henry was a handsome young man in his early twenties sat three rows behind her with his parents. It didn’t hurt that he was very buff wearing a dress green US Army uniform with 75th Ranger insignia. Which meant that he was a bona fide tuff-guy. Earlier I had been introduced to his parents. Tony and Delila Jefferson had known Roary since their Army days. Tony and Roary were both bonded by the brotherhood forged in combat.
After the wedding Kendra did spend more than a small amount of time with Tony, Delila and Henry. Definitely sparkage. Maybe she’ll lose interest in trying to hurt me during our sparring matches? Yeah, I can dream can’t I?
The wedding reception was nice and I finally got to meet all of the Harris family but this time as something other than a drooling baby.
Roary and my father’s youngest brother, William Harris attended. I really liked him.
Will was the white sheep of the family in that he had never succumbed to alcohol or drugs even after huge personal tragedies. He was a respected business man in Orange County south of Los Angeles. His sense of humor was much darker and razor sharp. Like his older brother Roary he loved to work on cars and build things. That’s why he owned a construction company and other manufacturing businesses. I didn’t know he owned a small machine shop and foundry along with a specialty plastics and materials fabrication company. Cortana neuronetted the finer details to me as we talked business and I told a few funny “there I was” stories about Uncle Roary. He told better ones.
I asked Cortana to check up on what kind of work we could send his small businesses. At least I could trust a family member more than Joe Blow Incorporated.
I dried myself off and dressed in a terry cloth bathrobe, flip-flops and a pair of my athletic gym shorts. I began to walk down to the kitchen.
Kendra poked her head out of her room long enough to give me some eyebrow wiggles, an enigmatic grin along with, “A package arrived for you. It’s downstairs.”
With that she disappeared back inside her room, leaving me in confusion in the hallway. It was Saturday and late; and no delivery service worked past noon on Saturday.
I turned and padded down the stairs cautiously. I visually searched and saw nothing in the formal living room, foyer, family room, dining room and kitchen.
I decided that Kendra was just messing with me. So I poured myself some cold lemon tea from a previously made carafe sitting in the refrigerator and then pulled some ice cubes from the top freezer. As the freezer’s top door was shutting closed I was startled.
Standing at the edge of the kitchen door was Willow.
A Willow that was showing a lot of skin. Red hair, stunning eyes, smiling face, a white silk blouse unbuttoned all the way down… and open a tantalizing inch. No bra showing and smooth skin down to her silk white boxer shorts with pink trim that was barely showing below the edges of the open blouse, her hips accentuated by the blouse, then bare legs all the way to her bare feet.
She had a lot more covering her than a beach bikini but it was… she was smoking.
I gulped and had a sudden urge to bow to my knees before her and kiss her feet. Start kissing at her feet and slowly work my way up.
I resisted but my Johnson betrayed me instantly and I must have turned almost as red as her hair.
Her eyes glinted as she tantalizingly fiddled with her blouse and said, “My parents are gone on another one of their week long… speaking engagements. I was returned to an empty house. An empty house isn’t safe for a young… vulnerable… woman. I decided to pack up and keep you company.”
She paused and her voice slowed to a sultry soft pace, “I really need to have some of my… freckles counted and… you’re just the man to do it.”
Which was amazing since she usually talks so fast and this means she’s really trying hard to send me a blazing impression.
With that she opened her blouse another inch, exposing more of her fine smooth skin. An impression stamped on my head with a mallet.
My mouth gawped like the fish I am and my eyes were bugging.
Kendra said I had a package downstairs and she knew! She knew what kind of a dangerous package she was allowing into the house! It’s a conspiracy!!
“My God!” I rasped to Willow through a dry mouth. I need a chaperone and fast. Her smile changed from golden light and welcome to wicked expectation.
I squeaked out not very convincingly, “You and I both need a very cold shower. Cold separate showers, right now.”
She stepped towards me blocking my way and purred, “You’ve already had a shower and so have I.” She began fanning her chest and neck as she slowly glided another step towards me.
I almost dropped the glass of lemon tea. So I drank the entire 10 ounces in one pour down my dry throat. I was hoping that it would put out the fire that Willow had kindled.
Bat crap! No luck.
She stepped closer and said while flipping her hair aside with one hand showing me her smooth kissable neck. “You owe me… a freckle counting.”
I was petrified in place as she stalked her prey. In slow motion she continued towards me. I had every Spartan opportunity to run, escape and evade – but I was a rabbit. Mesmerized, frozen in place by my personal predator.
Then she was tugging at the knot of my terry cloth robe and undid it. Opening my robe her hot skin met mine as she slithered her way up my torso until her nose was touching mine. Her knees were wedged above my hips and my mind was total vacuum. She kissed me and her tongue scrapped the insides of my eyeballs clean.
She backed off my face smiling wickedly again while licking her lips. Then she hopped down and quickly away from me. Teasingly she turned heading for the door into the formal dining and living rooms. The stairs to the bedrooms lay beyond.
She said over her shoulder just before she disappeared through the doorway, “I’m sleeping with you tonight.”
I stood there like a statue for at least 60 seconds. The only thing twirling through the vapor of my mind was, Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!
When I finally came out of my stupification I was wondering outloud, “What just happened? Was I dreaming?”
I was so tired, I convinced myself that I day dreamed Willow until I got to the top of the stairs.