Chapter 9. Kendra Lives
Friday, 21st November, 5:00 PM EST, Cayuga, New York.
On the other side of the country in upstate New York near the city of Auburn, fifteen year old Slayer Kendra Young was having an extremely tough time against a more experienced enemy. Every trick she had tried ended in failure. This new enemy was protected by some sort of magical shield around him that prevented her crossbow arrows from reaching him. Three wasted bolts and she finally closed with him for hand-to-hand fighting.
She and her Watcher, Sam Zabuto, had been on his trail for months, ever since she had been activated. This Seth cult following had appeared and disappeared on the Watchers radar for three thousand years. Always to disappear before they got close. This ‘Seth’ cult would brainwash naïve humans to do his bidding and when the authorities over the centuries attempted to stop him he would massacre the people and vanish only to reappear decades later doing the same thing all over again. The Council had tracked this ‘Seth’ who did not seem to age across the last three thousand years.
“Die Demon!” Kendra shouted at him as she closed the distance in a rush. Her razor sharp Russell Green River Buffalo Skinner knife held in front of her with one hand and in the other her favorite wooden stake.
“Foolish mortal, bow before your god!” commanded the demon. Seth’s eyes glowed as he blocked her arm, side-dodging her knife thrust and slapped her aside. That surprised Kendra for a microsecond. This was the first demon she had encountered with brightly glowing eyes but this still did not change her determination to kill the thing.
Kendra stood up and changed tactics. This time she charged at him, attempting to tackle him over and kill him when he was down. To her surprise it worked, it seemed his magic protection from her arrows did not prevent her from getting close. His magic barrier was slippery and tingled her but she had him on his back. Straddling his body and before he could react she attempted to shove her knife straight through his heart. Pressing down her knife slowly sank into and through his invisible magic skin. Her knife point finally glanced off some sort of metal armor he was wearing under his robes. He struggled to throw her off and she tried to shift to knife him in the head or neck. The demon worked a hand loose. Striking her neck, she fell to her to his side. He rolled partially onto of her. Where he then held up his other hand with a glowing jewel in the center of his palm. To Kendra the pain was instant and paralyzing. The last thing Kendra saw was her opponent’s eyes glowing a hot demonic white. Screaming she passed out from the pain.
Two days later she woke up at the bottom of a trash dumpster. Her Slayer healing powers had been tasked to the limit. Emaciated, ravenously hungry Kendra staggered out and away from the dumpster. Looking around she was now in Auburn miles from Seth’s cult compound. Now in despair over her failure she found that she was barely clothed, filthy dirty, no money, no weapons and her Watcher was missing. She stood there at the mouth of the alley leaning up against the building from weakness and hunger. Kendra was now shivering cold as a light snow began falling on her bare skin.
An ambulance drove by. Stopped in the street and reversed. The window rolled down and a uniformed women leaned out the window. Bobbed brown hair, early thirties and observant blue eyes with a blue stethoscope hanging around her neck. She observed Kendra and her surroundings for three heart beats. She asked Kendra, “Miss are you OK?”
Kendra was still weak, confused and her mouth bone dry. Her brain stuck in molasses. She was about to answer her when the women came over and gently took her arm and led her to the back of the ambulance. “Hey Ken, radio base that we will be 10-38 at this 20 with a patient. Possible female assault victim here, 10-45A. Will need a police unit also. Tell them 10-49 and code 2 to Saint Ann’s.”
Kendra was too weak, starved and cold to protest. Her Watcher will find her. He will find her. He must. She had failed to kill the demon. She had failed.... But I’m alive... I’ll get another chance... Yes, another chance.
As the paramedic got her into the back of the ambulance she wrapped a wool blanket around Kendra and turned the heat up as she began to medically exam her. The driver had checked the alley quickly. Returning to shut the doors, he paused and asked his partner, “Cheryl, look at her clothes. Do you think she was with that cult up the mountain? … We may have a lone survivor here?” With that he shut the rear doors and drove off to the hospital.
Friday, 21st November, 5:00 PM PST, Sunnydale, CA.
Xander and Roary’s new home.
I stood in the formal living room and turned around just looking. They were going to have their Open house dinner and party in thirty minutes. My parents were coming, Willow, Buffy, their parents, Jenny and Giles. I was nervous. Why was I so nervous? It was only a dinner party? I felt like I expected the Covenant to show up for dinner.
As I stood there I marveled that the house was now fully furnished. Right down to family photos on the walls, decorations, new bath towels and kitchen scrub brushes. The utility was full with one large Maytag washer and dryer. The kitchen was full of Maytag, Viking, Kitchen Aid and a thousand other cooking and cleaning items. I never had a clue how much all of the stuff in my parents’ home had initially cost them but now I did. Wow! it was a lot. Karen, Roary’s girlfriend had been in the kitchen since 1 pm cooking and baking. She was singing and whistling while she worked. She kept kicking Roary and I out of what was rapidly becoming ‘her kitchen.’ She was obviously happy and it... felt right for her to be here. The kitchen was hers.
Roary was setting the table and called for my help again in the last minute preparations.
Cortana comm’ed him, “Hey Alex! How is your first evening of domesticity going so far?”
As I walked into the dining room and kitchen area I replied silently, “A little anxious about all of our guests in one room. Roary and Karen have their story down pat. Buffy may finally figure things out tonight if Willow or my parents slip. But I’ll roll with that if it happens. One thing for sure is that Karen is a very good cook and she has cooked enough to feed a squad of Slayers. We’ll probably have to roll Buffy out of here tonight if she digs in.”
Cortana laughed at that image, “Good luck doing that with her. She’ll pound you. Here is your Threats report for this evening. Things are quiet in town tonight so far when it comes to vampires and demons. They seem to be laying low for some reason… They are afraid of you and word is getting around underground. I have recorded hundreds of conversations and the tales told are getting wilder. In some tales you are thirty feet tall and fart lightning bolts like a Scotsman. About 15% of the vampires have left town due to you and the Slayer. Most heading for San Francisco, Los Angeles or Cleveland Ohio. According to the vampires Cleveland is a lesser Hell Mouth and the only other one in North America. Another 20% are planning to leave.”
Thinking quickly I said, “Cortana I didn’t know that Cleveland is also a Hell Mouth. I am glad it is a ‘lesser’ one whatever that means. We need to very carefully scan all of Giles books and other ancient books from around the world to identify all of our targets and threats. Eventually we will need to know how to close these hell dimensional rifts. Maybe an orbital kinetic strike or some anti-matter would do it. I know from Giles that powerful magic can open these portals but I am uncomfortable with using even more powerful magics to close them. More because the creatures that Giles describes as being magically powerful enough to open or close these portals are rarely human and therefore mostly hostile to humans.”
Cortana replied, “I agree that we will have to discover how to deal with them but that will be for next year. I will design special stealth robots to scan Giles books when he is not around. They will be designed specifically to not allow demons to take control of them. No more Moloch like problems. Then we can use the same ones to enter every library on this planet to scan every ancient book and scroll or map that we can find. But for right now given our limitations we are doing good. On our financial front, our banking assets are past $2 trillion dollars. You will have to travel to our Headquarters in Switzerland next year and then stop off at all of our other headquarters to show your face, sign papers and give pep talks. Then we will start filing patent applications in America and in Europe.”
Really surprised, I almost blurted out loud, “Did you say $2 trillion dollars?”
Cortana now gleeful at surprising Alex, “Yes, silly there are a lot of bad boys and girls on this planet and their business models have a lot of profit built-in. I expanded my bad boy list to include certain homicidal despots and dictators which is where the bulk of the new funds came from. Which means we will probably have another $2 trillion by the close of next year.”
That news left a warm and tingly feeling. “Wow! I haven’t been looking at the balance sheet lately. Well I can travel during the Christmas or Easter breaks in school. Assuming that my Passport arrives before Christmas?” As I was pulling out our brand new kitchen ware to set the table places.
Cortana still amused, “Silly boy, they approved your passport application today and they will be printing it next week. I made sure that your application went to the top of the queue.”
I replied, “Great a no-fun road trip. I wonder if Willow or the gang would like to take a vacation. For me work but for them a nice short vacation. Tonight I will find out who has passports and who doesn’t. Probably only Giles and Cordelia have passports. Maybe if they fill them out quick enough you can do your thing again so that they get their passports back quickly?
Cortana giggled, “You betcha! I can get them back fast but if they mailed them on Monday - I still may not get them back before Christmas. With my corner cutting yours was still three weeks when normally it is twelve weeks or more. With your human holidays coming and end of year Federal employee vacations... it would be very close and I wouldn’t bet any money on it.”
Just then the front doorbell rang. I went to open it and my parents were there. They were happy, smiling, holding a wrapped house warming gift and not inebriated. Not intoxicated was a very good thing. Behind them coming up the walk way was Willow and her parents, looking confused. Tonight was going to be a pleasant family and friend’s time. No patrol for Buffy and no demon run tonight for me. Only a quiet evening with friends and family.
Saturday, 22nd November 1997, 9:00 PM PST, Sunnydale, California.
Road Running Mission.
Once again I was at Reach and suiting up in my Mjolnir armor. The guards hyper-alert for unwanted guests in the night. This time they had uncovered one of the parking lot storm gratings for me so that they could keep the street gates locked. The guards told me that they were more worried about journalists or some California tin-foil hat type than vampires anymore. Neither of those people could keep their mouths shut, it was genetically impossible for them.
I didn’t know about journalists, tin-foil hat conspiracy crazies and neither did John’s memories. But I acknowledged their expertise over mine. Willow was with Cordelia and Giles doing some research tonight, so I wasn’t worried about them. Of course I hadn’t told any of them about my planned Op tonight.
Finally I locked my helmet down and began my systems checks. Once again all green across the board. Radioing the guards I gave them a SitRep and walked over to the grating.
“Thank you Jake. Thank you Leroy. When I come back I will radio you an all clear. Only then move the truck and grating, confirm.”
In harmony they both replied, “Check confirm Mr. Harris.”
Then Jake came back, “Mr. Harris will you let us start putting victory flashes on the side of the building somewhere so we can keep count?”
I chuckled at the image of combat victory flashes painted on my Mjolnir armor. Counting coup for John the armor would have been all white with flashing. No room really. But a wall inside the warehouse? The construction team was building industrial strength employee lounge facilities inside. A wall there for painting up? For our in-the-know employees. I paused for Leroy and Jake. “I hadn’t thought of that but it would be good for morale wouldn’t it?”
Leroy answered me, “You bet it would and how. We sort of feel like the ground crew for a fighter pilot about to take off and face the enemy. Since you don’t have anything but that suit we thought a victory board would be good.”
I chuckled again, “Ok you win. I will have a graphic artist make up some stencils for you tomorrow and have them paint a wall section white. You guys can stencil in the kill count when I return.”
Leroy and Jake saluted me as I stood on the edge of the manhole. Leroy then said, “Good luck and good hunting, Sir.”
John and I now... respected old soldiers. I gave them a smart and respectful hand salute. Then dropped out of sight.
Crouching on the tunnel floor motionless, I scanned the tunnels in both directions. Standing I dropped two Cyalume sticks and painted my navigation way point, A2 on the wall up high. But this time I painted both sides of the tunnel under the grating. Just as I finished the heavy steel grating clanged back into place and a heavy tractor rig was backed over it until four wheels weighed it in place.
I jogged south the two hundred meters of tunnels to the other gratings inside the warehouse complex and painted the walls marking both sides A1. Turning I put away my spray paint cans and scanned again. This time longer ranged, higher power scans.
I unsheathed both Katanas and began jogging north again building speed. Tunnel running was quicker and a bit more exciting than sneaking around at a stalking walk. I could map more miles of tunnels this way and the vampires stood no chance against me. Usually I just ran over them and they were just bowling pins. Stunned and injured from the collision they were then rabbits to my inner wolf. A few vampire groups tried attacking me but my shields made that interesting for only a microsecond before my swords cut them down to size.
So far I had not run into a giant of a demon again and a good thing to. At a Spartan run I couldn’t stop on a dime. Not when your fast jogging speed was 128 kph.
My mission was mapping the tunnels and the caverns. The vampires were just road kill.
After two hours, I had now mapped a total of 193 km of tunnels. Tonight I had road killed eight vampires and discovered three new caverns full of demons. Two caverns a whole lot smaller than the third. The last one.
The last cavern I stepped out into caused a panic among most of the vampires. I heard a low yell from at least a dozen voices, “Vengeance, get’em!” At first a dozen came straight for me with a gang of thirty right behind. I backed into the tunnel to keep them from flanking me and making it so no more than four or five could attack at once. This also minimized the enemy intel for the older smarter vampires who would be watching from a distance.
They came at me inside the tunnel with no finesse or tactical plan. To them I was a Spartan Cuisinart. The watching vampires back in the cavern only saw arms, legs and heads flying from the tunnel before dusting. None who went in after Vengeance came back. After that the rest bugged out when only myself as Vengeance stepped out to the lip of the drain pipe. I was able to collect up the spoils and then walk into the cavern unmolested.
Inside this cavern the radio was able to link with Cortana. Radioing Cortana I gave her a running commentary. “Just had a very short bit of exercise with forty-two vampires. All now dust. This cavern that I am in... is now empty of all demons. They left everything behind. I think this one is a market or bazaar for demons. There are some shops with colorful fabrics, clothing and even shoes are on display. As well as clothes that look like they had come fresh from a Goodwill donation box or a graveyard. There is a store inside a side cave that looks like a jewelry store. Here is one of those ATMs you have tracked. Hold on, I will scan the serial number on it so that we can positively ID it.”
Uploading my recorded video to Cortana as I walked around. I then walked thirty yards up cavern and told Cortana. “I believe I am now looking at their grocery store and the neighborhood butcher shop. The ‘foods’ are medieval and bizarre. There are numerous caged dogs, cats, rats, pigeons, doves and variety of other small animals. Some of the dogs have collars on them. Also skin on and skin off carcasses of same hanging. Oddest of all is that most are live cats. The cats equal all of the other animals in number.”
Cortana replied, “Maybe cats are a special delicacy for some of the demons?”
I continued walking and searching and said, “I’ll have to ask Giles about all of the live cats. There are even gunny sack bags for taking your live animals with you. One bin on the floor here is full of kittens.”
I continued walking and the next side stall made me halt. - My anger rising. “Cortana, I’m in the grocery section reserved for human meat now. I have several fresh human carcasses here, pieces of others and two live humans in cages. They are unconscious or catatonic but they are breathing. I’m going to pulse you now for a location fix. Can you have Roary or an ambulance waiting at the manhole marked as DK-22?”
Cortana all business, “Roary is on his way. He will drop the two patients off at a safe location and I will have an ambulance pick them up.”
I rotated scanning the entire cavern for threats. None detected. I turned back to the caged humans.
I bent the bars until the locks broke on each cage. Deactivating my shields I pulled each human out and checked them over quickly. One woman and one man both in their late thirties. Both were beaten, bruised and abraded but otherwise no vampire bites or meat missing. Both quickly returned to a fetal position and thousand yard stares. I went back to the cat store area and grabbed two of the 100 pound potato sack bags. Returning I bagged both. I picked them up and walked out into the tunnel I had arrived in. It was only two hundred meters to the manhole and I went up quickly. Arriving at the street Roary had just pulled up. I put the bags gently into the back of the pickup truck. I uncovered the two victims and talked to Roary briefly.
“Hey Roary, sorry to get you away from Karen’s arms but I thought you needed some exercise.”
Roary laughed at that, “With her cooking I’m going to need the exercise. But what’s up with these two?”
I told him the truth. “I found them in cages ready for a demon meal. The area was a demon meat market. They were the only two humans alive. I couldn’t leave them there, so here they are.” Roary was shocked. He closed his eyes and gripped the truck bed lip tightly. He said a short prayer for those who were lost. His internal pain clearly coming to his face for me to see. Past friends, his wife and child murdered.
Cortana came online, “Roary you need to drop these two at the corner of Johnson and Pismo. That is only one mile from the hospital. Radio me as you drop them so I can 911 the paramedic ambulance.”
Roary looked at the two with the unseeing thousand yard stares and nods his head. He looked at me with anger replacing his pain. “Meet the demon cook for me and give’em some lead.”
With that Roary jumped into his truck and raced off.
I watched him go and returned to the drain tunnels.
I spoke to my mission recorders and for Cortana, “I wonder if some of the demons have returned? Right now... I feel a little pissed off tonight.”
I ran to the cavern and burst out of the tunnel into the main cavern. Sure enough a dozens of the demon merchants had returned. I drew my swords before my feet touched the cavern floor and sprinted up cavern. The blades making a whickering sound they moved so fast. Demons began running again but they were not fast enough. I bounded over carts and stall barriers cutting through the tenting and demons without pause. Tonight I felt like a ballroom dancer - all movement and grace with no wasted motion. Blades in motion.
In less than one minute the carnage was done. I was at the far end of the cavern and behind me was slaughter. Dust and demon body parts were everywhere. The walls and ceilings were splattered with regular demon gore. I walked back scanning for any that hid well.
Within the considerable range of my sensors, I detected only two heart beats. Whatever they are they weren’t running. They were hiding against the cavern wall behind a shop and under some old rugs. Lifting the rugs away, my sword high and preparing to slice - I found two small ones, male and female, hiding together clutching each other. Just children!? They looked similar to the non-hostile Brachen demon Darren Bouchard. Their eyes were closed tightly in fear. I knelt. My sword tapping their shoulders. They both cracked their eyes and terror filled them.
Adopting my deep gravely baritone voice for Vengeance I said to them. “I am Vengeance. What kind of demon are you?”
With that the small female fainted and the male tried to hold her up. I was moved by his pathetic mewling and attempts to protect his female. I noted that both bore a strong resemblance to the beer drinking Brachen. Neither of these two had long rending claws or carnivores teeth. More like human teeth. I made an assumption and decided to go with it.
I stood and sheathed both swords. Quickly bending I grabbed the male demon by the neck and held him aloft giving him a series of small shocks until he stopped struggling. Reaching down I pulled the female away from the wall and out from behind the boxes. Laying her out I elevated her feet on a roll of carpeting that was nearby. I then noted that this shop appeared to be a very poor excuse for a carpet and bedding shop.
Shaking the male gently I asked again, “What kind of demon are you?”
Seeing that his female was not going to be killed, the young demon quit struggling. With dejected resignation he looked at me as Vengeance and said, “I am Simon Bouviare and we are called Pinotaerie.”
As Vengeance I asked pointing down at the female Pinotaerie demon, “What is she to you?”
Simon answered with a spark, “She’s my sister... Please don’t hurt her!?”
I looked at her carefully. I held out my sensor arrayed arm and scanned her. She stirred, still unconscious. Her physiology and sensor readings were not adding up. She was young in age, maybe 6 years old but she was anemic, thin and showing metabolic signs of malnourishment. I then shook Simon gently without looking at him and asked, “What is her name Simon of the Pinotaerie?”
Simon eeped and quickly answered me, “Her name is Shalomar. Shalomar Bouviare. Please! Please don’t hurt her?!”
I slowly turned my visored face to Simon, still reading the medical sensor data and asked him, “Do you prey upon humans Simon of the Pinotaerie?”
Simon eeped again but said indignantly, “No! We… are not like the others.”
Simon saw two vampires appear at a tunnel entrance from the cavern behind and past Vengeance’s right shoulder forty yards away. Simons eyes widened when they appeared and he thought that this Vengeance would kill him and his sister quickly. But Vengeance without moving his feet or wavering in holding Simon at arm’s length drew a large human gun in the blink of an eye and without even looking fired twice.
The vampire’s heads just blew off! At least most of their heads were gone and then their still upright demon bodies began to burn. Vengeance holstering his gun with contempt since he never really looked at them. He never really aimed at them?? Simon saw that both vampires were now turning to flaming ash and wondered how this was possible? Vampires were not supposed to die from human gunshot wounds…?
My sensors alarmed when the two demons appeared behind me. They were inopportune, so I shot them using only my sensors for gunsighting. I dispatched the two vampires off my right rear side with my new .45 ACP hollow point ammunition with explosive blessed silver-nitrate incendiary payload. My sensors told me the whole story as to their effectiveness. My witness, this Simon, seemed to be impressed. His eye balls were about to bug-out of his little head.
I scanned Simon and found him to be only three, maybe four years older than Shalomar. This was curious? I asked Simon, “If you do not prey upon humans why are you here... in this place?”
Simon was confused but the question angered him. “No place for us to go… I work here. This is… was my father’s. Have to make some money to live… to leave.”
Finally I put two and two together. The picture forming in my head was not a pretty one. “Where are you parents?”
Simon visibly relaxed and seemed to deflate. Tears appeared in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. “They didn’t come back two weeks ago. I thought they left us but others say a Tyrhrock ate them.”
Well this sucks for them and now I have two orphans in hand. But the intel on this new demon maybe priceless. I had to keep him talking and figure out what to do about two non-combatants. “What is a Tyrhrock and why would it eat your parents?”
Simon was confused. Isn’t this Vengeance supposed to an Old One? Shouldn’t he know what a Tyrhrock was because they too were an ancient line of demons?
Simon gulped and answered, “Tyrhrock are dragons… reptile demons. They are carnivores and eat all that they can catch. Humans, animals, other demons are all their food. They have some preferences but my parents must have been caught…”
I spoke slowly to Simon, “Yessss… I met one such as you describe. He filled the tunnel and died quickly. His skin will decorate my halls.”
Simon was now very impressed, “Good! I hope you tore him apart slowly!”
Switching tacks I asked him, “Do you know where more of these Tyrhrocks can be found?”
Simon was now afraid that this Vengeance would make him show him. “Yes… No… All’s I know is that the fourth tunnel on the right, that away leads in their direction. If you go down it after a few miles any tunnel that goes northwest will take you to them. It’s suicide to go that way!”
The young Simon pointed west down cavern and clearly was fearful of going that way.
I spoke out loud for my recorder and to slow down my racing mind. “So northwest into the Montana De Diablos mountains…. Which is where the bovine blood and meat would come from… Hmmm.”
I asked, “Why would your parents go that way?”
Simon responded with anger, “They wanted to leave the caves. My mother was a seer and I think she foresaw your coming. They needed money to leave and that way is said to be lots of gold. The dragons gold. I would’ve stopped them…”
Simon was now crying great heaving gasps of air and tears. His small body wracked with grief.
Making a decision I set him down so that his feet touched the ground but did not release him. I did exchange his neck for his arm in my grip.
Scanning the cavern quickly for additional threats and finding none. Releasing Simon I turned off my shields. I bent down and gently picked up Shalomar. Simon tried to stop me and clutched at his sister. Cradling her in my arms, I looked down at an emotionally shocked and fearful Simon.
I thought it was ironic - me protecting some demons. Protecting two children who were no threat. I channeled the Terminator from the movies and said to Simon, “If you wish to live follow me.” It was appropriate to say. If I left him or his sister here they would have been dead. If not another demons kill then a slow death from malnutrition. I couldn’t kill them.
With that I turned and began walking at a human pace back to the DK tunnel entrance. Simon wiping the tears from his face followed after a few seconds. Pausing only long enough to pick up a small cigar box and blanket roll he ran after Vengeance.
Simon thinking, everyone says he is an Old One that only kills… Why didn’t he kill us? Why all the questions? Where is he going with my sister? Will he eat us both?
At the mouth of the tunnel I paused looking back at the orphan. Thinking, “I must be crazy and Roary is going to think I am crazy also.” My plan was setting into place. I needed allies for this. I needed both Roary and Karen for this.
As Simon approached the tunnel I asked him, “Do you know the Brachen demons?”
As Simon scrambled up to the tunnel he answered, “Ya, they’re supposed to be cousins or related but I’ve only seen a few of’em.”
I turned and began walking with Shalomar in my arms. She was awake now and looking up at me with wide gentle golden-brown eyes and no fear in them. She reached up with one hand and knocked on my breast armor like knocking on a door. Then she said, “Good in there. Can’t fool me.” She closed her eyes and smiled. A child’s honest and trusting smile.
I was taken aback by her change in attitude. Simon said his mother was a seer. I wondered if this little ‘girl’ was also a seer? Could she see me inside this suit? Was she a threat to me? She radiated trust. A child’s complete trust and safety with me. I radioed Cortana, “Hey Cortana, I need a ride for two again same location. Can you raise Roary for me?”
Cortana came back instantly, “Two more human survivors Alex?”
“No not human and not hostile to humans but they are survivors. They are called Pinotaerie demons and I have two children with me. The oldest maybe and I stress maybe, ten years old and is named Simon Bouviare. I also have Shalomar Bouviare his younger sister. They both are emaciated. Recently emaciated. I do not believe that either have eaten much since their parents were killed. Remember that big dinosaur like reptile I killed a few weeks ago.”
Cortana replied, “Yes, the 28 foot long one that our taxidermist is still working on?”
I said grimly, “That’s the one. Seems those beasts are called Tyrhrock demons and they are ancient. But they also eat other demons and pretty much anything they can catch. Seems the one I killed may have eaten Simon and Shalomar’s parents.”
Cortana asked, “What are you planning on doing?”
“Well…. I need you to get Sophia Tielkind on the telephone for me. If you can’t raise her then call her brother Darren Bouchard in Ventura. But for now Roary and I, have a spare bedroom at the house. Barring that I can put them up in the Ramada Inn until we can find sanctuary for them.”
Cortana came back, “I have Sophia on the line now. I am talking to Roary and Karen.”
Reverting my vocoder to my Vengeance voice, “Sophia Tielkind of the Brachen?”
Sophia answered hesitantly, “Yes, who is this?”
“I am Vengeance.”
I couldn’t say anything more because Sophia gasped and dropped the phone. I could hear it swinging on the end of its cord. Bumping a wooden barrier, maybe a chair, on one end of its pendulum swing.
Just then I arrived at the manhole DK-22. Simon was following about three meters behind me. I went up and tossed the 46 Kilo manhole cover with one hand off the entrance. Climbing out I waited for Simon.
Sophia came back online, “Darren if this is you having a prank - this is soooo not funny!”
I as Vengeance replied, “I have met Darren and spared him - for a price. The price is questions answered - information.”
Sophia had stopped breathing for a moment when she realized that this was indeed the creature Vengeance that had scared her brother so. She sat down on a kitchen barstool light headed for a moment and thought quickly. It wanted something but what?
She breathed out. Her hands now shaking with fear, “What do you want?”
Vengeance said, “I have two orphaned Pinotaerie children with me now. I have saved them from the caverns below and they need sanctuary with foster parents. Do you know where they can be fostered?”
Sophia was stunned nearly speechless. Vengeance was supposed to be a terrifying kill-fest Old One! Not saving children? She regained her composure and asked fearfully, “Did you… Did you kill their parents?”
Vengeance sighed a low rumble of air, “Not I. A Tyrhrock killed them and ate them. I killed the Tyrhrock demon. The children orphaned. I can place them temporarily in a human home but they need to be with their own kind. I need options for sanctuary. - I need your help.”
Sophia understood and her heart skipped a beat in motherly emotion. She immediately said, “If you can find a place for them temporarily, I will find them sanctuary. But the Pinotaerie are rare for even us Brachen. They are pacifists and reject human modernity. They can pass for a human at will with their glamour so moving them about during the day should not be a problem. What number should I call when I have information for you?”
Vengeance replied, “Here is a number for you, *626. A human female will answer. Tell her everything and she will find me. For now these children are under my protection. Know this also, for the information that the young male has provided to me about the nest place of the Tyrhrock and his bravery; I have endowed them with wealth to insure their safe keeping and education.”
Sophia was thunderstruck thinking to herself. This is nothing like my expectations from what Darren told me. But to kill a Tyrhrock…. and speak as if it was nothing… Darren must have witnessed this Old One in combat. No wonder Darren was terrified. - But mercy for Darren and his barman Henry… Now mercy and compassion for two orphans. Ferocity and speed to kill vampires and even a… Tyrhrock… I must tell the clan and the others.
Sophia replied after a long moment, “I will call as soon as I find something.”
Vengeance said, “That is all that I ask. Goodbye Sophia.” And then the line went dead.
Sophia sat back down at her kitchen bar. Her seven children were running wild and noisy in the background of her home. She thought of her human husband David, her family and a Tyrhrock amongst them. Just the thought of it terrified her. This Vengeance at least killed one of the monsters. One less to threaten her and her children. She organized her thoughts and scribbled some notes on a pad in front of her then picked up the telephone. She called her eldest brother Mark Bouchard in Palos Verdes. He could put out the word the quickest. He knew the entire clan and then some.
Now with the boy Simon on the street with me, I put the 100 pound manhole covering back on and walked into the green belt out of the roadway and off the sidewalk. I faced the street and just stood there. My chameleon camouflage altering to blend into the vegetation.
Simon stood next to him. His sister still cradled in the arms of the Old One. Simon asked in a trembling voice, “What will happen to us?”
Finally Vengeance spoke, “I have spoken to a Brachen who lives here in this human city - Sunnydale. She will find foster parents for you but for a few days you must stay with humans. She said that you have glamour to hide your true form and appear human. Can you do this?”
Simon answered, “Yes… but my parents said that humans are bad?”
Simon looking up at the Old One beside him, saw Vengeance turn his great head and look with his large unblinking golden eye down at him. Then Vengeance spoke to him, “Yes, some are bad and many are good. Just as most demons are bad and few are good. Yet you stand here alive with your sister, both ‘demons’ and are good. Should I not place you temporarily with good humans?”
Simon was initially confused. His mind puzzled through it but he saw the truth in what Vengeance said and nodded his head yes.
Just then a human truck’s headlight appeared down the residential street and came to a stop near them. Vengeance stepped out of the shadows and approached a tall thin human man who had stepped out. Vengeance stopped and motioned Simon to follow.
I spoke to Simon, “Simon this is my friend Roary Harris of the humans. He will take you and your sister home with him and protect you. His Karen will feed you and stand as your foster mother for a few days. Do as they say for now and you both shall be safe. Can you do this?”
Simon’s sister Shalomar smiled at him and she spoke first turning her head from first Roary and then up to Vengeance. “Just good people. Safe. Can’t fool me. Darkness in there, secrets but fooling them good. Meet again soon. Bye.”
With that she wiggled for me to put her down, which I did. She walked past Simon to Roary and held up her arms in the universal children’s language of pick me up.
Roary was surprised at the small waif wearing torn rags in front of him. He bent and picked her up. She was all dirty tattered clothes and much to thin but he did not hesitate. She smiled at him and touched his cheek. Shalomar then said in her little girls voice, “Good! Warm Uncle.” With that she put her head on his shoulder and hugged him tight around his neck. Roary was speechless. Memories flooded him of a wife and their baby long dead. His eyes teared over and he hugged her back fiercely.
Still using my Vengeance voice I said to Roary, “I have said nothing to her about you. I think she is a seer or empath of some kind.”
With that I snatched the small cigar box and bundle from Simon. Simon resisted for a microsecond but I was quick and strong.
I opened the box and saw that it had only a few coins, costume jewelery and nick-nacks inside. Obviously this was their wealth. Their treasure box. The bundle contained what few raggedy clothes they owned. The bundled itself was two old wool blankets rolled around the clothes. They were starving orphans. The coins didn’t add up to $10 and the costume jewelry was was worth less than the cardboard cigar box. Starving and poor orphans, swindled by even the other demons.
Simon had climbed up onto the pickup tailgate to watch what I was going to do with his ‘wealth’. Probably fearful that I was going to steal it. With Roary gently rocking Shalomar in his arms and watching me also, I began. One small act to help Simon and put him at ease.
From my belt I removed the bag that contained all of my spoils and the demons pocket litter from the evening so far. I dumped the spoils across Simons blankets unrolled in the back bed of the pickup truck. I assembled a wad of cash under a gold jeweled money clip and separated out the real gold and silver jewelry. Displaying real wealth to Simon I dropped it into his box and closed the lid. I threw the costume jewelry away into the darkness. I then rolled up Simon and Shalomar’s meager clothes back into their bundle and tossed that up against the cab. I radioed Roary, “Hey big guy is Karen OK with this?”
Roary spoke back to him, “Yes. She understands but wants proof. These two will provide that…. We can keep them as long as necessary. Karen was going to quit her job on Monday and permanently move in to the house.”
Grinning behind my visor I asked, “Oh! What changed?”
Roary patting Shalomar on the back gently and rocking her small body. “After dinner tonight and after you had left… I asked Karen to marry me and she said yes. I mean I did the whole thing on one knee and a ring.”
I was all smiles, “This is excellent. I’m glad for you both. But for now these two will need a bath, some new clothes and lots of food. I will see you in about one hour. After this I am going to head back to the barn.”
Roary then said with a smile and a pat on my armored elbow, ‘Yep, you’ve been busy tonight! See you later.”
I as Vengeance handed the cigar box back to Simon. I said to him, “Go with Roary, Simon Bouvieare. You will both be safe and they will feed you. Tell Roary what you like to eat and Karen will see what she can do.” With that I lifted his thin body up and put him in the front passenger seat of the truck and buckled him in. He kept looking at his treasures box and then at me. Confusion stamped across him. Good. He didn’t know what to make of me. But for now he knew that I had given him a fortune in his world.
Roary got up into his truck with Shalomar still in his arms and drove off.
I stood in the street for a moment watching them leave. A car drove up behind me slowing and honked. I turned and scanned the car full of drunken college students. Through their alcohol soaked brains – fear began to sweep them. The driver was trying to get the car into reverse and failing even with an automatic. I walked to the front of the car and with my boot pushed it backward off the manhole. Then lifting the front of the car off the ground I bent down and moved the manhole off to the side and dropped in. The car thumped back to the pavement. I scrambled up the ladder and moved the manhole back into place. Finally the car began moving slowly down the street again. I laughed to myself about the unbelievable story they might tell about their drunken night.
Turning I scanned the tunnel and then began running back to Reach.
While I ran Cortana comm’ed me. “Hey Alex news update. Roary is almost home and Karen is making a big pot of spaghetti with all of the trimmings for the kids. Sophia has been busy. She has telephoned her eldest brother after your conversation with her. A Mark Bouchard of Palos Verdes in Los Angeles, which is a very wealthy neighborhood. My intel so far shows him as owning over one hundred hotels, restaurants and pubs across Los Angeles. He is also the local go-to-guy for the Brachen clan. A mover and a shaker for both humans and the non-violent demons. I am now surveilling him also. Sophia was most eloquent on your account. She is amazed that you are not some joyously insane kill-happy Old One. Her family by all of the telephone calls going on right now are really trying hard to find a foster home for Simon and Shalomar. They don’t want to piss-you-off and they are happy that you spared the kids. Seems these Pinotaerie are related to them and very rare. A dying clan but by their own rejection of technology. Sort of like your Shakers in American history. But also because other demons found them to be tasty and even the vampires like to suck them dry when they can’t get a human.”
I commented, “Well let’s hope that we can change things for the better with these two. Can you set up a trust account for Simon and Shalomar to pay for their expenses where ever they go. That boy is smart, brave and courageous. His sister maybe a telepath, empath or a seer. Maybe all three. I want them on our team when they come of age.”
Cortana gently laughing, “Softy! Softy! Softy! -- But you are correct they would be valuable assets later.” A few seconds passed and Cortana came back. “I have set up two accounts in their name and funded by Aten Works. The master account is in Switzerland and the second is here in Sunnydale at the bank where Sophia’s husband, David works. For starters I loaded the Sunnydale account with $600,000. That should get David’s attention and he will pass the word back to Sophia.”
“Great Cortana, thanks. I have another request though. Have you thought about a suitable weapon for taking on these Tyrhrock monsters? Short of anti-tank rockets which I don’t have yet.”
Cortana responded gleefully, “You do have those nice 12 gauge magnum shotguns and also a .50 cal Barrett Rifle with ten and twenty round box magazines. The bullets from either and with explosive warheads should put down these monsters. Barring that a 40 mm grenade launcher should put a grenade inside one of them.”
Now approaching my A-2 marked exit into the warehouse parking lot, I responded, “Great! I will be trying out both tomorrow. Give our Taxidermist a heads up tomorrow for some new work coming his way.”
Radioing the guards the all clear, I began climbing up. “Cortana, please let Roary know that I am safe and will be home in less than one hour. Bye!”
It took a minute for the guards to move the big tractor rig off the grating but finally I stepped up onto the concrete. The waning moon was rising and half illuminated the lot. I radioed the guards again, “Hey guys can I get a wash and scrub tonight, no wax.”
They laughed and asked, “Ok, Mr. Harris but how did you do tonight? Fess up!”
I walked over to the hose and sudsy buckets that were laid out for me. “You guys are a blood thirsty lot but tonight went well… unexpected but well.”
“You holding out on us Mr. Harris, I got money riding on your score.”
“Well in that case. Here is for your notebooks. Before I went down tonight I had the following: 40 vampires, 1 Vos, 2 Sankregs, 6 Koltah and 1 Tyrhrock demon.”
Jake burst out, “Holy shit!! I knew you were taking on the vampires but what in hell are those others things?” He was scribbling furiously into a pocket notebook.
As Leroy scrubbed and washed down the Mjolnir armor I explained, “The Vos is like an eight foot tall, talking carnivorous lizard. The Sankreg is like a giant egg-shaped rock-crab with a powerful punch. The Koltah are a pack of very nasty 250 pound demon rat-wolves. The Tyrhrock are really big and look like a cross between a crocodile and a T-Rex dinosaur.”
Jake was still scribbling on his notepad said, “Jimmy Christmas Mr. Harris! I… We didn’t know that they have a freaking city of demons down there!”
I laughed and popped my helmet off shaking my short hair free, “You guys haven’t seen anything yet. I have met non-violent demons also. I mean that there are some that are not exactly human but they are just trying to live and dodge the evil demons just like us. I am not sure that using the word demon on them is appropriate. I will bring a couple of them around in a few days and introduce you. They are very nice and I saved them from being another demons lunch tonight. Oh and I almost forgot. Pass the word, the front of the Warehouse will be a victory hall of sorts. I am having a lunch room, showers and a locker room put in. A taxidermist is working on the remains of the Vos and the Tyrhrock for you guys to see.”
Jake and Leroy both took their hats off and scratched their heads. Both said in harmony, “Wow! Holy Shii-te!”
Finally Leroy piped up, “Ok, Color me very impressed so what happened tonight?”
I motioned for them to follow me back up to the front warehouse where my storage boxes for my Mjolnir armor was. On the way I gave them the Cliff Notes summary, “I think I am getting the hang of this suit now. So tonight was a little better than the others. I killed 51 vampires, 22 other assorted demons, saved two humans and two orphaned children.”
Both Leroy and Jake stopped dead in their tracks in awe. Five seconds went by and Jake blurted out, “Jesus Christ almighty you killed three full platoons of the enemy tonight!”
Leroy asked, “What’s the story on the four saves?”
I was now sitting on a heavy steel shop chair as I removed my outer armor. I said, “The two adult humans were in cages at a sort of demon meat market. There were other human bits and pieces on display. So I broke them out and got them to the surface. Roary took them and they are in the hospital now. I went back and found the kids. They were hiding and I got them out. My Uncle Roary is putting them up for a few nights until foster parents can be arranged.”
Jake stood there marveling, “A demon meat market you say… It makes sense but I never would have thought of it. The vampires aren’t much for taking their food home with them.”
They were all silent for a few minutes as I got undressed and then dressed again.
Standing at the loading dock door I said, “Well guys keep the betting going because at dusk tomorrow I am going down loaded up for a whole nest of those Tyrhrock monsters. If anyone wants some Tyrhrock meat to BBQ on the grill? I’ll have a ton or more available for anyone who wants it.”
Leroy turned to Jake and with a great smile said, “Tastes like chicken!” Then they all laughed. I jumped down to my car and they opened the gates for me. As I left, I waved goodbye to two of my growing circle of adult friends.
Sunday, 23rd November, 12:07 AM PST, Sunnydale, California.
Arriving at my home on Albert Drive just after midnight, I walked into the house via the garage entrance and smelled a wonderful scent of Italian spaghetti and hot Italian bread with butter and garlic. Drooling I dropped my go-bag and headed for the kitchen. Rounding the corner there were two Pinotaerie children at the kitchen table wolfing a plate of food. Both children were not using glamour to hide their non-human skin and features. Both were now obviously clean and wearing Roary’s oversized T-shirts. Karen was at the sink and Roary was also sitting at the table. Roary saw me first and said, “They’re on their second plate of food now. I don’t know where they’re putting it.” Shrugging and smiling he nodded to Karen. “She is cooking more and there is enough for you to.”
I immediately noticed the nice engagement ring on Karen’s right hand. I strode to Karen and hugged her. She was surprised when I kissed her on the cheek and holding her by the shoulders said, “Roary told me you said yes. Congratulations and have you two set a date yet?” Smiling she shook her head no.
“Roary? How about a wedding right after Christmas? You two can spend a week or two on a honeymoon somewhere nice.”
Karen was all smiles now and looking at Roary with obvious love in her eyes. I got down a plate, a large glass and fished some table ware out of a drawer. Karen pushed me out of the way and served up a large pile of steaming hot spaghetti on my plate and then ladled a thick red spaghetti sauce with sausage cuts in it all over the spaghetti. Then she dumped a large handful of grated Tillamook cheese over that. Then she opened the oven and produced two large slices of hot garlic buttered Italian bread for the edge of his plate. Pushing me now away from her stove and kitchen towards the table, she made shooing noises.
I sat down and looked at Roary with a question mark on my face. Roary shrugged, winked and said, “She said that the kitchen is hers and to stay out. I suspect that she means you and me. But they get a free pass.” Nodding towards Simon and Shalomar who had not stopped shoveling and chewing. At least I think they’re chewing.
I ate in silence for awhile. The kids finally reaching their limit. Simon came to me first at the kitchen table with respect beyond his years. “Mr. Xander, Thank you for letting us stay here in your home. I am in your debt but cannot repay you.” His eyes tearing slightly and his mouth trembling.
John’s memories and my own emotions rose unbidden. I turned quickly and swept him up in a bear hug surprising the young man. I whispered into his ear. “All debts were paid tonight. Vengeance said that you were courageous tonight, worthy of his friendship and protection. For that I am but an ally of Vengeance and you will stay here as long as necessary. Vengeance and I have made arrangements for you and your sister. So long as you live - you are both welcome into my home at any time. Do you understand this?” I squeezed him in my hug again and then let him go.
The boy had different tears in his eyes now and a look of gladness on his face. This time he came forward and put his arms around my neck and hugged me like a child would a loved parent. I... I didn’t know what to say but my emotions were doing the happy dance.
Shalomar had been hugging Karen’s leg while watching her brother and I. Roary stood away from the table and said to them all that it was time to put the kids to bed for the night. Shalomar’s eyes were drooping but she came forward and held out her arms for me. I stooped and picked her up. She snuggled into my chest and suddenly rocked back looking at me hard and curious. In a manner beyond her years. She turned her head slightly towards Karen but her eyes not leaving mine and said giggling, “I know you… Fooling them all, you are but not me.” She giggled again, smiling at me she touched my cheek with the palm of her hand. Her face grew serious, changing and seemed to age twenty years, “You will protect us all and avenge my mommy and daddy. Do not be sad… You will be amongst the stars soon enough. She loves you – a lifetime of love.” With that the cloud over her face passed and she was back to being just a little girl again. She giggled and then hugged me tight. Closing her eyes she was instantly asleep on my shoulder.
I was flabbergasted. Stunned into silence. I immediately uploaded her statement to Cortana.
Karen took Simon by the hand and led him down the hallway with Roary and I following. The guest bedroom had its first two guests tonight. Roary asked Simon if he needed a night light tonight and Simon all the young man too soon, said no. Roary left the small light in the wall outlet anyway. I knelt down and with Karen’s help we tucked Shalomar into her bed. Simon got into his bed and snuggled in. It was obvious to me that this was the first time that he had ever been in a human bedroom and a plush bed. We adults stepped into the hallway and Karen shut the door quietly. We went back to the kitchen.
Karen made some hot chocolate while Roary and I sat down again at the kitchen table. Roary asked me to wait until Karen was seated. Roary said that they were partners in this now and she had the right to know.
I looked at Karen as I sipped my almond chocolate and said, “Fair enough, ask any question that is on your mind and I will answer them.”
Karen began, “I never knew about them or the others. Roary told me a little and Simon told me some also. Those poor children and their parents eaten by a monster from a horror movie. He said that an Old One rescued him but that at first he was afraid that the creature Vengeance would kill his sister and him.”
Roary cut in and held her hand, “Xander... is Vengeance honey… He just looks scary in his suit of armor. But that is a secret that you can tell no one outside of this house.”
Karen nodded slowly then she asked, “What is an Old One? Why are you doing this?”
I looked at Roary first and then began. “The vampires and demons have legends of very powerful and strong demons from the ancient past. These are what they refer to as Old Ones. According to the legends they are almost impossible to kill and some have great magical powers. Vampires and demons today are very afraid of the concept of an ‘Old One’. Sort of their version of a terrifying boogey-man. Anyway I have a suit of powered very high tech armor that allows me to fight the demons in a way that no human can. The demons are stronger and faster than normal humans. We are their natural food. There are some… non-humans that share this planet with us like those children and some others who are not dangerous to humans. The vampires and other evil demons prey upon them as they do us.”
Pausing to drink some more of my chocolate, I continued. “You’ve met Buffy and Dr. Rupert Giles?”
Karen nodded her head yes, clutching her mug of mint chocolate as she contemplated her nightmares turning into reality.
“Buffy is more than human. She is ‘The Slayer’.”
Karen’s eyes bugged and she blurted out, “That vivacious little blond Buffy Summers isn’t human?”
I smiled ruefully, “Yes she is human but she is... more than human. She won the cosmic lottery two years ago. If you ask her she was cursed. She was gifted by God, by magic prophecy and some ancient powerful magic spell - with superhuman speed and strength to fight the vampires in hand-to-hand combat and protect mankind. This makes her… The Slayer.”
Karen with concern, “Oh My God! That little girl is also fighting vampires?! Does her mother know?”
I said quickly, “Her mother Joyce... does not know. As of right now you are only the sixth person in this entire city who knows that she is the Slayer. This knowledge puts you now at great danger from the vampires but this also arms you to help us protect those children and Buffy. Those children need protecting and so does Buffy whether she’ll admit to it or not. You must understand that normally Slayers fight and die alone. They are gifted at a young age and most only live one year or two years. When one dies another young girl is chosen. By that cosmic lottery again.”
Karen with emotion said, “That is so sad and so terrible for them…”
I continued, “I got pulled into helping Buffy by accident and so did Willow. At the time Buffy was saving our lives from vampires. But Giles is her Watcher.” My memories of the past year really sucked.
Karen stopped me, “What’s a Watcher?”
“As long as there have been Slayers there has been a secret organization that assigns an adult, a Watcher, to train, guide and care for a Slayer. Rupert Giles is Buffy’s Watcher and Miss Jenny Calendar who you have also met is… with Giles and has some magical ability.”
Karen blurted out, “Your kidding aren’t you? She’s a witch or something?”
I looked between both Roary and her, because this was new ground for Roary. “She is sort of a like the good witch Glenda in the Wizard of Oz but without all of that cool magic bubble. I don’t know how… capable she is. I believe that she is learning but she knows about magical spells and she has abilities that the vast majority of other humans do not have.”
I finished off my chocolate and looked at Karen, “As for the why? Remember Halloween and all of the strange stuff that happened? Well a sorcerer, named Ethan Rayne, cast a spell on all of the costumes in a shop. A horrible prank really. He rented a costume to me. One that he said was from the movie Starship Troopers. A space combat armored suit. I wore it and his spell made it all real that night. Everything went back to normal for everyone when the spell ended… except for me. I have the memories of the futuristic soldier who wore that suit and I have the combat armor. I am the only one on this planet that can wear it because it is very dangerous. But those memories are making me wealthy and that combat armor allows me to fight the demons, to also help protect Buffy and protect humans.”
Karen was nearly speechless. “My God in heaven! I wouldn’t have believed a word of what you said except for when Roary brought those children home. They were so terrified and yet so sweet.”
I looked at her and went to our fancy kitchen telephone, dialed Cortana’s number, pushed the speakerphone button and set the phone down on the kitchen table between them. I said to the phone, “Hello Cortana. I have Roary and now Karen here. I have given her the short version about me and I know that you two will have plenty of time for girl talk later but can you give me a SitRep for the evening.”
Cortana came on all bubbly, “Hello Karen! Don’t mind him. Welcome to the family and congratulations. I hope that you don’t regret joining our little team?”
Karen surprised said, “Hello Cortana… I… I never thought that saying yes to Roary would drop me into the twilight zone. But so far it’s been good.” She squeezed Roary’s hand and smiled at him. She glowed at him. His whole face smiled at her.
Cortana chuckled, “Well Alex got some of his crazy from Roary and one thing they both are… is… lucky. So Alex you were a busy boy tonight and very successful. I have reviewed and analyzed your video logs. Combined with what is going on in the caverns below us you have struck terror into the hearts of most of the evil creatures down there. Word of your… attack is spreading fast. Plus killing so many in so short a time was witnessed - lending fevered authenticity to the new rumors spreading about you. On the surface the vampires are fairly quiet. Buffy and Angel did go out on patrol and encountered only two fledglings both dusted. They are still out walking and even Angel is speculating about Vengeance. At the hospital your first two saves tonight are responding well to familiar surroundings. I am afraid that the staff will treat them as delusional crazies if they blurt out their nightmare story of captivity and drug them up. Sounds like Simon and Shalomar Bouviare are adjusting well given what has happened to them in the last two weeks. Sophia’s clan is burning up the telephones spreading the word about your good deed tonight and also a little awe. They are very impressed that you killed a Tyrhrock. I would say that Tyrhrocks are a big deal in the world of demons and non-humans. I have made Roary and Karen their legal guardians for now. The legal papers will be delivered Monday morning. Karen, I have made appointments for Simon and Shalomar with a local pediatrician who knows about demon children. He will perform a general but thorough medical exam for a baseline. He takes care of Sophia’s kids and a few others in the area.”
Karen then asked, “Who is Sophia and there are other non-human children in Sunnydale?”
Cortana came back gleefully, “Sophia Tielkind is a member of the Brachen clan of non-humans and she is married to a human, David. They have seven children and she’s also the owner of ‘Sophie’s Kitchen’ restaurant in Sunnydale. Their children are mixed blood but healthy and show no genetic abnormalities.”
Karen gasped, “I’ve eaten at ‘Sophie’s Kitchen.’ I love their lunch menu! I never would have known…”
Cortana was enjoying herself, “There is a small group of Brachen’s and other peaceful non-humans in Sunnydale. They do have children and there are some humans who provide services to them with full knowledge.”
I now interrupted to get back to business. “Cortana you and I need to talk later about these other potential assets and how best to use them. How about this we all go to ‘Sophie’s Kitchen’ tomorrow for dinner? Maybe Sophia will be there so that we can meet her. Will she be there Cortana?”
Cortana laughed wickedly, “I think I can guarantee that she will be.”
With that I took my leave of Roary, Karen and Cortana who were chatting away.
I needed sleep now. Before I passed out on the kitchen table. Tomorrow night was going to be… exciting.
Sunday, 23rd November, 10:00 AM PST, Sunnydale, California.
I came awake! Something was in my room with me... but it wasn’t a threat. I rolled over and unglued one eye. There were two children peering at me from one meter away. Shalomar smiled at me and got an impish look. She elbowed her brother Simon. In her little girls voice said, “See I told you he is awake.” Then she climbed up on the bed on top of me and sat on my chest. Pinned now under my blanket I didn’t know what to do.
She thumped me in the chest with her open palm three times. Knocking on me like a wooden door. She was smiling and now laughing. Giggling she said, “Can’t fool me. Good you are.” Pausing she then crooked her head and said, “Where do I go potty in this place? I’m hungry!” Then she scampered off of me and headed for the door. Simon never moved the entire time but looked at me with a confused look.
I thought to myself, She said the same thing last night... She knows who I am even without the suit on.
Then I looked at Simon and asked him, “Can you close the door Simon. I need a minute to get dressed and then we will see what I can do.”
Simon silently backed out of the room never taking his eyes off of my face and closed the door.
Thinking as I quickly dressed. The boy is smart, maybe Willow smart and maybe has a good memory. He may now suspect who I am? Or did his sister tell him who I am?
First things first. Neuronetting Cortana, “Hey Cortana I am up and so are the kids. Do you know when Roary and Karen went to bed?”
Cortana came back quickly, “Yes we talked until almost 3:00 AM so they will be asleep for awhile longer. Buffy returned to her home safely last night about the same time. Angel is at his house for the day. He has speculated a lot on Vengeance to Buffy last night. He thinks the lack of vampire action on the surface is due to you. Buffy isn’t sure if you are evil or not. She does tend to whack and kill first. Last night I did acquire some interesting video imagery that I cannot explain at this time. There were four men dressed in tactical military uniforms with what appeared to be very powerful electric stun wands capturing a lone vampire about one mile from your home on the campus of CSU Sunnydale.”
I paused as I entered the guest bedroom across the hall from mine. Shalomar and Simon were on their beds watching a morning childrens television show as if they had never seen cartoons before. I took them one door down the hall to the bathroom and explained how everything worked. Then I went downstairs to the family room and the bathroom down there.
Later at the refrigerator I began removing sandwich making materials and asked Cortana, “Were the men coordinating well as if they had been trained or was this some crazy mad scientist type grad students?”
Cortana said, “Very coordinated. Their stun wands, nets and the drugs that they gave the vampire are not readily available. After subduing the vampire they strapped him to a litter and disappeared into an area that I do not have camera surveillance. I believe the lack of camera surveillance is deliberate in that one area.”
I thought for a moment as I called the kids over to the table to pick their sandwich items. But first this turned into a giant taste everything buffet. These kids were having new experiences by the moment with us mere humans. Their lives prior to this must have been a demons version of abject poverty. Musing silently to Cortana, “Not police, not foolish academic researchers and therefore possibly Federal… Military involvement. A very small effort… otherwise you would have discovered them already. Must be well hidden.”
“Ok Cortana, let’s see what we can do to flush them out where you can get at them. Drop a grant on the University to install a modern police outdoor Closed Circuit Television camera surveillance system. Cameras for the safety of the students sort of thing. Then you can see if the police cameras are subtly diverted from this area from inside the Campus administration. If they are then have an outside company covertly come in without the campus administration knowing about it and install the cameras that you need. That way we will have a good chance of finding out who, how far their reach is and where their base is. Long before they find us. Also they probably have a satellite dish somewhere and land lines. I’m sure you can find those.”
Cortana was giggling, “Good plan Alex! Devious, cunning and I like it. I could kiss you but I am sure that Willow will do enough of that for you soon.”
I almost dropped my knife dripping with Dejon Mustard. Thinking about Willow’s kisses and lips was dangerous for a hormonally challenged teenager.
Shalomar was sitting at the kitchen bar, her first real homemade subway sandwich on her plate in front of her. She picked up her glass of milk and eyeing me over the top rim of the glass said, “Your ‘Valkyrie’ is always near… What’s a Valkyrie?”
Simon was sitting across the bar from me. I was almost done making his sandwich. Simon then looking seriously at me and asked, “My sister said that this is your disguise… your glamour for the humans. You are Vengeance… aren’t you?”
I froze. My heart seemed to beat louder. After a few seconds I sighed and resumed my sandwich making. Finishing Simon’s I pushed the plate to him and began on my own sandwich. Gathering my thoughts, I coughed and looking at them both I said, “Yes and my name is Xander Harris to all my friends. This is a great secret. You can tell no one. Inside this house Roary and Karen know.” Looking at them solemnly. Simon nodded his head. Shalomar just grinned with lettuce in her teeth. She was an adorable little sprite.
Looking at Shalomar I said, “I guess you both will need to begin going to school to learn about the human world, history and science. A Valkyrie is a warrior women… but they are ferocious... beautiful... magical women. They appear as human female warriors who could be anywhere instantly. In the legends of the Norse Vikings they were warrior angels, demi-goddesses, who served the Norse gods Odin and Freyja. They sometimes chose to be guardians and shield maidens for great warriors… champions... heroes. The Valkyrie’s live in a place called Valhalla. A place that we cannot go... They also on a battlefield choose the righteous dead and govern the battle for victory.”
Shalomar blurted out while tapping her head, “You talk to her all the time. She is listening now. She chose you. You’re her hero.”
Simon looked at his sister wondering. I stepped over and dialed Cortana’s special telephone number and put the phone on speaker. Stepping back to my now finished sandwich I said, “Cortana the children would like to hear a real Valkyrie.”
Her laughter was music. Simon’s eyes nearly bugged out. Shalomar said to him, “I told you she’s real.”
Cortana spoke to them in a voice that even I rarely heard for its feminine beauty. “Oh my children, do you want to hear a story of great battles by heroes long past or do you wish to… just... talk?”
Simon blurted out, “Are you… a real Valkyrie?!”
Cortana’s musical voice chided him, “Yes and I am more than that. I am more than what I once was. My guardianship now spans this world and there are few places that I cannot go. But with Alex’s help I can even go to those… dark places.”
Simon looking around the family kitchen and dining room, “Where are you?”
Cortana laughed, “You cannot see me, but I can see you Simon Bouviare.”
Simon’s eyes were bugging out. Rubber necking he was about to ask another question when the large screen television mounted on the wall came on and flashed across several channels until it stopped on a dark channel. The big screen entertainment center beyond in the family room mirrored the kitchen set. The dark grey snowy screen went to a light blue and rolling storm clouds scene. Striding forth out of the clouds came a tall stunning blond woman wearing silver-blue and gold colored armor. Form fitting armor. A white skirt trimmed in royal blue was worn below her armor and covered her to just below her knees. A shield on her left arm, a great jeweled sword belted to her slender waist and in her right she held a spear that glowed with an internal light. Her helmet bore the classic swept back wings in gold of a falcon. She drove the spear tip into a cloud and it stayed there lighting the inside of the cloud and she removed her helmet. Her brilliant blue eyes, flawless skin and long golden braided hair now exposed. She shook her head and greeted both Simon and Shalomar. Her voice coming from the telephone and the televisions now in stereo but perfectly synchronized. I was mildly stunned at her flashy display of synchronized control. She never looked this good for John. Neuronetting her I chuckled, “Show off! But I like it. I think the kids do too.”
Cortana whispered back to my mind, “Not just for you and the kids. Karen and Roary are standing in the hallway and also watching my performance. You should welcome them.”
I stood up and took four steps to the hallway door and said without looking, “Nice of you sleepy heads to join us. The kids and I are eating a brunch and Cortana has joined us via television.
Roary said, “Like Wow! I didn’t know that she was… a Valkyrie and… such a hottie.”
Karen elbowed him in the ribs and very graciously walked into the room and greeted Cortana as if she was a best girl friend. “Good morning Cortana and how are you today?”
Cortana faced her on the screen and smiled a dazzling bright smile and said, “I am doing well. Better than you since I do not need to sleep such as you mere humans do. But alas there is none left to warm my bed and for pillow play.” Winking at Karen and lustily smirking at Roary and I.
Both Karen and Roary choked and coughed at her. Karen’s cheeks flushing in embarrassment.
Shalomar giggled and said like she was practicing a strange word, “K… Kor-tan-a.” She giggled again looking at both Karen and then Cortana on the television screen. She nodded her head and said, “Valkyrie guardian… to us all now.” She giggled and took another bite from her rapidly shrinking sandwich.
Simon then asked with great seriousness, “Were you there when Mr. Harris fought the Tyrhrock that killed my parents?”
Cortana paused and looking with concern on Simon, “No and yes. But not as you would understand it. He and I are never far apart… ever. - Would you like to see the battle?”
Simon nodded his head and finely said vehemently, “Yes!”
Karen and Roary sat on stools at the kitchen bar also as Cortana began to tell her now epic tale. I more than a little self-conscious began eating my sandwich. Cortana faded out and the screen reverted to the Mjolnir’s recordings. Cortana had edited them skillfully to obscure some of my sensor capabilities and she provided a voice over. She played the entire encounter starting from my first detection of the Tyrhrock to my dragging the dead beast to below the manhole. Then she faded back in, rubbing her hands in glee and said, “Tonight Alex, Roary and I will be busy hunting Tyrhrocks. Tonight many Tyrhrocks will perish!”
Simon looked smug and said to Cortana and then me, “Thank you! I wish you could have killed him twice.” As Shalomar just stared at the screen her small heart fluttering. A monster from her nightmares shown alive and then satisfyingly as dead meat. Ending with the now deadly beauty of Cortana.
Karen with a worried and appalled look on her face turned to Roary and then me. Shaking her head rapidly no, she finally squeaked out, “Your hunting those things! They’re monsters!! As big as a truck! That is way too dangerous! I – I – I…”
Roary hugged her and put his hand up to her mouth to spin her down. “Honey, Xander does the hunting and I do the support. Don’t worry about us because Xander can kill a tank or three with the weapons he has. Besides tonight we have more than myself going along to help Xander. Tonight is a payback night for a lot of people. Besides honey… this is one of the things that we do.”
I put my sandwich down, took a drink of milk. I needed to coordinate our mission. “Cortana this is as good a time as any for pre-mission coordination. Sundown is at 5:30 PM tonight so I want to be on station three miles west of DH18 tonight at 6:00 PM. I maybe walking ten miles or more of tunnel tonight so this could be a long one. The mission tonight is to scout out the tunnels leading to the Tyrhrock nest and kill all targets of opportunity. I seriously doubt we will be able to exterminate them all tonight but we can put a dent in their numbers.”
Pausing I looked at Karen as I said, “Cortana’s number is on the speed dial on all of the phones in this house. Anyone here is welcome to call her at any time to just talk. But if you wish to listen in to the radio chatter just ask Cortana to tune you in. You are welcome to listen but I am not much for talking. You will most likely hear a lot of me just breathing hard as I jog through enemy territory.”
I looked from Karen to the kids and raised my eyebrows at them. They each nodded back in understanding.
Simon asked in a low but determined voice, “Are you gonna’ kill’em all?”
I looked at him in earnest and replied, “Not tonight but yes, eventually I intend to kill‘em all.”
Simon crossed his arms and shook his head yes quite definitively. Shalomar spoke up nodding her head yes, “Not sorry for them!”
I then asked, “Cortana, what’s our inventory of .50 BMG and those Montero special shotgun shells?”
Cortana replied, “Currently you have only 200 assorted .50 BMG and 60 of the Montero special HEI rounds.”
I asked her, “Can you get Jimmy Montero on the line and you are authorized to send him that video for him to record for his employees. We need him and his contacts fully on board with our goals and he does live in the shadow of those mountains.”
The telephone sounded another phone ringing and then an older males gravelly voice picked up. “Hello and welcome to Montero’s Guns &Ammo. What can I do for you?”
“Good morning Jimmy, this is Alex Harris and Roary Harris is here with me. Roary is going to be out at your place today for an ammo pick up and also tomorrow to refill our account with you. Will that be OK?”
“Why yes Mr. Harris but your account is paid up in full and then some.”
“I am going to need some extra special help today and tomorrow from you and your friends, Jimmy. I am going to probably blow through all of those .50 BMG and your special HEI shotgun shells tonight. What I would like for you today is to send your friends out and buy up all of the .50 BMG that you can find. Especially Raufoss rounds if you can get them. I will need a lot more of those .45 HEI hollow points and also more of your HEI special shotgun rounds.”
Cautiously Jimmy asked, “Are you intending to start a war tonight Mr. Harris?”
“No, not like your thinking. Turn on the Television that you have in the corner. A friend of mine that you have talked to will introduce herself and show you what we will be hunting. You might want to pop in a Video tape and push record so you can motivate your friends.”
Cortana waved goodbye to the kids and vanished from the screen in the dining room leaving behind a banner that stated, ‘Cortana’s Valkyrie Service – No Enemies Left Living’.
Jimmy put down the telephone and they could hear him moving around in the background. After a minute or so he came back on. They could hear Cortana in the background seizing control of his TV set. Jimmy dropped the telephone.
They could hear Jimmy, “God almighty! Cortana I dreamed you were a goddess but damn woman I wished I was forty years younger.” They heard Cortana’s teasing laughter in the background.
The kids finished their sandwiches while waiting for Jimmy to pick up the swinging telephone handset. Every once in a while they could hear Jimmy swearing as he witnessed the Tyrhrocks death.
Finally coming back online Jimmy said, “I knew something terrible lived in those mountains and canyons. The legends go back to the local Chumash and Spaniards. I’ve seen things… cows eaten and horses torn in half. I’d pay to hunt with you Mr. Harris!”
I sighed, “Not possible tonight Jimmy but you may get your chance soon. But what I was calling about. I could use some anti-tank rockets but the .50 BMG and 12 gauge specials should kill these monsters.
Jimmy answered with sorrow, “I’m afraid you’ve already bought everything I had…”
“I know I did but what I was calling about is that my hunt will begin at 6:00 PM tonight in earnest. If you round up your friends I will pay their wages and expenses in cash if they can drive where ever they have to go to get more ammo and be back tonight before 8:00 PM. I may not need the extra ammo tonight but it pays to be cautious. Can you make some calls for me and see what you can do?”
Jimmy paused, “You betcha I can Mr. Harris. How much ammo are you going to need?”
I answered grimly, “Buy or steal all that you can. Roary will be by with a suitcase of cash. Make no mistake Jimmy this is a war against these monsters and I intend to kill’em all.”
Jimmy was excited, “Hot damn boy! Are you going to need any extra help tonight?”
I laughed, “Cortana will give you her number. Roary and some of our friends are going to meet tonight at 6:00 PM at Arroyo de Drágón County Park. That will be our base camp. Roary and Richard Harney of Richard’s Taxidermy will be there and in charge. Whatever I kill is going to be brought out of the caves and tunnels. If you want some Tyrhrock ribs or steaks bring a big ice chest. I’m sure there will be plenty for everyone.”
Jimmy was now a little kid, “Holy Christ! Even if I show this tape to my friends none of them will believe me unless they can see it and touch it. You can bet your socks I’ll be there and I will bring my skeptics.” Chuckling evilly he paused and then asked, “Do you think these Tyrhrocks taste like chicken Mr. Harris? Cause I love Honey BBQ chicken.”
Laughing with him, “According to Richard Harney they do taste like chicken… only better.”
Jimmy now in a rush, “Mr. Harris I have to go and make some calls right away. We’ll see what we can do but we’ll be there tonight. Goodbye, sir.” Then he hung up.
Cortana came back online with my telephone and the TV.
I asked her, “Hey Cortana, Thank you for talking to Jimmy. I think he’s in love with you.”
Cortana laughed and with a sultry voice, “Yes he is but he is not as handsome as you… or Roary.” We all chuckled at her joke.
“Please call Jake and Leroy for me and have their gang meet Roary at the park tonight.”
Cortana replied, “Already done and they are just as excited as Jimmy is.”
Karen rolled her eyes and said, “Men with guns and monsters that can kill you.”
I shot back with a who-me expression, “You forgot the swords, knives and battle axes.”
I then said to Roary and Karen, “I think we need to go kid clothes shopping today and be done in time for an early dinner at Sophie’s Kitchen.”
Cortana said goodbye to all and dissolved into soap bubbles on-screen accompanied by the sound of musical bells.
Hanging up the telephone, I said to her via the neuronet. “Show off. But they all loved it and you.”