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Reversible Error

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Story

Summary: It’s a whole new world now, and there are corners to it that nobody expected.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > GeneralAadlerFR131926,063265,9217 May 147 May 14Yes

Introduction

Reversible Error(Twelve Slayer Awakenings That Did or Didn’t Happen)with SRoniCopyright March 2014

Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: the Series are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN. Other recognizable characters are likewise not mine, but presented with respect and affection. This author neither owns nor profits from the characters.



The new Council of Watchers didn’t maintain a permanent headquarters in London. The almost total obliteration of the Council’s elders, in the months leading to the Great Wave of Slayer activations, had taught the survivors a much-needed lesson in the merits of decentralization, redundant systems, layers of facilities and support personnel that overlapped and reinforced one another. The current arrangement borrowed heavily from both the military organizational structure applied in combat theaters, and the fail-safe designs in computer hardware and operating systems. Never again could the Watchers be essentially decapitated with a single bomb; lines of succession were clearly established, echelons of leadership were geographically dispersed, and Council headquarters shifted at least three times yearly on a deliberately randomized schedule.

Worthy goals all, and many of them long overdue. The upshot, however, was this: Rupert Giles had at long last made it to the Cotswold retreat.

Should have done this years ago, he thought to himself, looking out through the French doors to the shadows deepening over the sculpted landscaping of the estate grounds. A snifter of brandy was cradled in his hand, and behind him a low fire had been laid up against the expected evening damp. Everything before him, all the atmosphere around him, was redolent with centuries of acquired and cultivated tradition.

When he turned, of course, the entire tableau was instantaneously exploded … but he’d had more than a bit to do with bringing that about, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many things had changed. Xander’s tan was so deep now that — aside from the horrendous, garish shirt and the eye-patch — he wouldn’t have looked out of place in the markets of the Punjab, and the muscles in his wrists and forearms had thickened impressively. Buffy was gradually working leather into her wardrobe, determined to wed style with durability, and she had (finally!) allowed her hair to return to its original color, a rich deep buckwheat-honey hue so dark that it could only barely be called blonde by dint of utmost charity, and somehow rendered her more stunning than ever. Willow, in her turn, had trimmed her hair in a tapered cut that left it rather shorter than Xander’s, and which made a striking contrast to the tailored, formal garb — almost a uniform — of the proper female Watcher (and Giles still hadn’t decided if she was perpetrating a deliberate parody, or innocently unaware of the effect she created). As well, there were a few new faces: Wendell Chu was once again reviewing the latest reports on the screen of his ever-present smartphone; and in the corner she had claimed as her own, Salome Beresford, wizened, silver-haired and merry, drew languid shimmer-patterns in the air with her fingertips.

Yes, much had changed. All the same, it had been so long since the four … original ‘Scoobies’ … had all been together, in the same place at the same time, that the fundamental nostalgia of the scene almost literally took his breath away.

Unsurprisingly, it was Buffy who broke his musing silence; she had both mellowed and blossomed in the nineteen months past, but the Slayer Prime still tended to be the most forceful and decisive personality in any gathering. “Okay, Giles, you’ve made us comfortable,” she announced. “You’ve done the intros, for those of us who didn’t already know each other. We’re not looking at any imminent world-endage, or you’d already be telling us about it, probably into your second page of footnotes by now. But, since you’ve pulled together all of the heavy deciders, we know this isn’t any casual meet-and-greet, so how’s about we get straight into the whatever of us being here?”

Giles gave her a lifted eyebrow and a tilted, rueful smile. “There is no pressing agenda,” he acknowledged. “In fact, when I first proposed this gathering, my primary thought was of reunion and well-deserved relaxation.” He sighed. “As I looked ahead to those matters we might discuss, however, I realised that there was indeed a particular issue that would soon call for some decisions.” He flicked a gesture to include Wendell and Salome. “And so I … expanded the guest list, for even if no choices can yet be made, this issue very much needs to be explored.”

“This isn’t about Spike again, is it?” Xander asked. It was startling to see the familiar schoolboy grin appearing in that firm-jawed, sun-bronzed face, but the easy, assured confidence in the man’s tone struck a note of even greater dissonance. “Because I’m tellin’ ya, he never, ever, stays dead.” He shook his head, and added, low and mournfully, “Ever.”

“No news on that front,” Salome assured them cheerfully, the piping little-girl voice rich, amused and conspiratorial. “I mean, he’s a sneaky bastard, so I make no promises, but the Coven is watching all the omens and monitoring any shifts or sudden peaks in the standard spectra, and we all know Willow would have sounded the alarm if her upstart line had spotted anything —” She chuckled as Willow stuck out her tongue in exaggerated retort, then went on. “I’m with Xander, the Peroxide Punker will definitely be back sooner or later … but it’ll be something original, knowing him, and we probably won’t have a clue till he appears in Trafalgar Square in front of a horde of mutant fire-breathing were-zebras.”

“Well, I’m not making any guesses,” Willow said with a shrug. “Mainly because it only delays Giles telling us.”

“Indeed,” Giles said in agreement. “Not that the colourful byplay hasn’t been every bit as entertaining as informative.” He set down his drink. “Very well, then. Wendell, how many Slayers do we have in register at present?”

“Right.” Chu began rapidly tapping keys on the smartphone’s screen interface, the custom-designed holographic spectacles giving his face a vaguely Strangelovian cast. “I think I might know where you’re going with this, sir, so: do you want the number currently living, or the total identified since the First Activation?”

“Ah.” Giles nodded. “Very perceptive, and quite correct. The latter, please, with detail.”

“Mm-hmm.” Chu tapped in a few more entries, then reported, “One thousand, four hundred and twenty-seven positively identified — not including Primus and Secundus — of whom forty-one are deceased. Additionally, there are one hundred thirteen who died before we could confirm their status, with an aggregate confidence of 85.4%, so the likelihood is that this number included ninety-six or ninety-seven actual Slayers. And —” More taps. “Fifty-one current possibilities are being investigated, with available evidence suggesting that at least twenty-nine are almost certainly Slayers, and seven more highly probable, with the remaining fourteen not yet firm enough for extrapolation.” He looked up. “In total, a probable one thousand, five hundred fifty-two, of whom roughly one thousand, four hundred sixteen are still living.”

“Got it,” Buffy said briskly. “We already knew we were slammed with a tidal wave of baby Slayers after Sunnydale did the ol’ sinkeroo, and we’ve been scrambling to play catch-up ever since. Sounds like we’re finally on top of it, thanks to world-class mystical detecting —” A nod to Willow. “— and field follow-up.” This to Xander. “Great job, guys, champagne is definitely warranted here.” She turned toward where Giles still stood. “Except, why am I thinking it’s not that simple?”

Giles shook his head. “Would that it were,” he sighed. “Would that it were.”
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