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Wicked Inspiration

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This story is No. 6 in the series "An Inspired Future". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Whenever Faith goes to Boston, she gets into a fight. [F/RW, JL/DM, DM/XH] (An ignorant Bible mistake was fixed in Chap. 3)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Cartoons > DariaEricJablowFR1839,927185,10323 Aug 0517 Jun 07Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR13

Inspired Conversations

Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane have had an unsettling encounter with vampires and with Faith, a Slayer. Now, Daria is looking toward Faith's organization, the WCI, as a possible source of income. After all, she is a struggling college student, and presumably Quinn gets more than her share of the Morgendorffers' financial support. Daria, however, is not a creature of impulse; she does her homework.

Some of the background and insertions into canon are completely made up. We've never seen djinni and efreeti in the series, and the incident from the summer between Seasons 6 and 7 is purely fiction. I would like to recommend the novel "Declare", by Timothy Powers. This is another take on it.

The Buffyverse is the possession of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Dariaverse is the possession of Glenn Eichler and MTV.

---

"Hi, Mom."

"Hello, Daria. How are you, Sweetie?"

"Fine, Mom. How are things at home?"

"Quiet. It's a bit lonely here without the two of you. It will be nice when the two of you are back."

"I shouldn't say this, but it will be nice to be back too. How's Dad?"

"He's out reliving his youth playing 9-ball."

"You're working on a brief?"

"Actually, we just settled the Glicksohn case. I'm taking the night off."

"You're a softy at heart."

"Even I know how to relax, Daria."

"I spoke with Quinn yesterday. She's doing pretty well."

"We're proud of both of you." The phone was silent for a moment, and then Helen Morgendorffer continued, "Are you alone?"

"Yes, Mom."

"I looked into the organization you asked about, and I find it quite disturbing."

"Oh?"

"I'm not sure you should get involved with them at all."

"What did you find out?"

"I checked with the Ohio state government; WCI is a non-profit corporation chartered there in September of 2003."

"Go on, please."

"'WCI' is short for 'Watchers Council International', the successor organization to a British non-profit, the 'Council of Watchers'. The name is only the first disturbing thing about them."

"I'm beginning to get the idea."

"The stated purpose of the organization is antiquities preservation; they're very reticent about the type and location of the antiquities. They don't seem to have any contact with the public about them; their asset list does not include any museums or schools."

"Non-profit organizations have to be about some public purpose, right?"

"Right. This WCI doesn't seem to have any public presence at all. They don't have a web site. A Google search shows nothing. They don't do any fundraising, but the financial papers they filed show assets of cash, appraised values of antiquities, and properties in Europe and the United States totalling 27 million dollars."

"How did they get approved?"

"I don't know. I have a scan of their last annual report. It's only two pages!"

"You're sending me all this?"

"Certainly. I'll log on to work after this call and send you what I found."

"What about the officers?"

"Again, there aren't any biographies of the officers; all I have are the names. It looks like a very closely run charity; the board has only five members. The CEO is an Alexander L. Harris. There's nothing about him."

"I think I spoke with him."

"The Treasurer is a Willow Rosenberg. No data."

"Hmm." Daria remembered Faith mentioning a 'Willow' who favored clunky boots. It was nothing to mention yet.

"The Chairman of the Board is a Rupert Giles, a British national."

"That must be rare for a US charity."

"The other members are Ms. Elizabeth A. Summers; Mr. Robin Wood; Dr. Charlotte Meara, OBE; and Father Brian Abernathy, S.J."

Daria had overheard Faith's cell phone call; she isn't surprised to hear the name 'Robin,' though she's slightly relieved that it's attached to a 'Mr.' "OBE?"

"Order of the British Empire. The British give out that level of honor like candy. She's a professor of linguistics at the University of Glasgow."

"What about the others?"

"I don't know anything about Summers and Wood, but I searched the Catholic Church's web sites for Abernathy. For some reason they've become a lot more transparent in the last few years." Daria grimaces as Helen continues, "He was the pastor at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope in Sunnydale, California."

"Sunnydale. Didn't that town get whacked in an earthquake? I wonder if any of the others come from there."

"Are you sure you want to meet these people?"

"Well, at least I'll get a Melody Powers story out of it."

"I've never been able to keep you from doing whatever you wanted, or to get you to do something I wanted. But, if you're going to meet them, you'll need a lawyer. Send me a check for one dollar as a retainer."

"Gee, Mom. Do you think that's necessary?"

"I think it might be."

---

"Xander, that is the last straw!"

"Willow, it worked."

"You nearly got Annette killed. You nearly got yourself killed!"

Andrew sits at his desk at the Slayers' headquarters in Cleveland watching the two friends argue; occasionally he looks at the computer screen and clicks the mouse.

"Look, we got rid of--"

Willow shouts him down. "You do not mention this to anyone. You do not get any of the glory for this stupid act of yours. When are you going to stop trying to commit suicide?"

"I was trying to help."

"Do you know what your death would do to me? To all the Slayers?"

"It wouldn't do a thing."

"Ask them. They depend on you."

Andrew looks at the screen, whistles, and types something in. "Guys, somebody tried to Google us this afternoon."

Xander asks, "They got to our trap page?"

"Yes. They didn't get to our internal site."

"Willow, who was the last person to Google us?"

"Someone from Riley's group. I sent him a nastygram."

Andrew adds, "And he got out of the hospital in less than a week."

"So, who tried to track us down," asks Xander.

"I'm trying. It's not an anonymous account. Got it. The domain is registered to a law firm: Vitale, Davis, Horowitz, Riordan, Schrecter, Schrecter & Morgendorffer."

"Morgendorffer--that's the girl you're heading to Boston to see."

"Right. Willow, don't send another nastygram. It's only fair. We check her out--her parents check us out. You know, someday we'll have to go public."

Both Willow and Andrew blurt out "No!" Andrew adds, "We have to be the silent guardians of humanity, selfless and ready for battle."

"Oh, and the world's doing really well with that sort of attitude."

"You're not talking about vampires and demons, are you."

Xander and Andrew stare at each other, and Willow interrupts: "Guys, we aren't here to worry about politics. Xander, go to Boston. But you're taking a bodyguard with you."

Xander says, "What?" A man walks into the room.

"This is Roger Bloom, one of my apprentices. If you aren't going to be careful, you are going to be good."

"You didn't get a Slayer to guard me?"

"There are only three Slayers who won't go along with any of your mad schemes, and they aren't around. Besides, you won't want to put Roger in danger. And, having a woman accompany you might cramp your style."

The ensuing fight lasts two hours.

A week later.

Daria and Jane step out of the T station closest to the downtown Legal Seafood restaurant.

"Sunnydale--you think they had something to do with the Sunnydale earthquake? Just because one of the board members was there?"

"Jane, why do you think Abernathy joined the organization's board after his town was destroyed? I'm guessing that he knew some of the other board members before. And, doesn't the earthquake seem a bit odd to you? I checked--almost no news coverage."

"You sound like Artie."

"If you're looking for a probe to be stuck up your butt--"

"Not my style, Daria. Though I could pick up something at--"

"Not now, please. I don't know how what happened on that roof works, but it's certainly not the chemistry and physics we learned in school."

"Anyhow, we're here. Ready?"

"Not really."

"Me neither."

The two walk into the restaurant and ask for the Harris party; the hostess leads them to a private room. Four people at a circular table stand up to greet them; they recognize only Faith. A man in his mid-twenties walks around the table to greet them; the skin around his left eye looks taut and glossy, as if he had had plastic surgery.

"Hello, Ms. Morgendorffer, Ms. Lane. I'm Xander Harris. My parents call me Alexander, so call me Xander."

"Hello." "Hello."

"I believe you've met Faith." They nod. "And this is Robin Wood." Daria is quite surprised by the couple, but her poker-face holds. Jane's eyes widen, though. Faith laughs.

"And this is Roger. Please, sit down. We're all friends here."

Daria and Jane sit down, and the waitress takes their drink and appetizer orders. They order various items to share, and Faith calls the waitress back to ask for a dozen clams. As the waitress leaves, Xander asks her to close the door.

As the door closes, Robin tells Roger, "Would you like to do the honors?" Roger nods and opens his briefcase. Xander tells Daria and Jane, "We need to protect ourselves from eavesdroppers."

"Isn't that a little paranoid?" asks Jane. Daria nods.

"You'd be surprised," replies Xander. Roger interrupts with "Your cellphones, please." Xander, Robin, and Faith put theirs on the table, while Daria and Jane shrug. Roger takes a vial of white powder from his case and a brush; he then brushes some powder on the three phones. Finally, he takes reaches in his case for another vial; he takes a pinch of red powder from it and throws it onto the decorative tea-light at the center of the table. A red flash suffuses the room.

"What was that?" demands Jane.

"Magic," replies Xander. "It's a tool, and often a threat."

"We can't use it often. Power corrupts," adds Robin.

Daria asks, "And absolute power corrupts absolutely? That's what WCI is named for--watching over each other to prevent that?" Faith looks down at the table.

"That's part of it. You've been doing research on us; what have you discovered?" asks Xander.

"Is this a test?" Daria's face turns stony.

"Sure. We need devious and careful people; if you aren't as tricky as the Devil, we can't use you."

Daria starts: "Okay. You're the Chief Executive Officer of the WCI, short for the 'Watchers Council International'. Sounds creepy to us. Your reports to the State of Ohio list the Board of Directors, which includes Mister Wood there. The only available information about any of them was on Father Abernathy; a Church web site listed him as having served in Sunnydale."

Jane continues: "A town disappears in an earthquake, and there are almost no news stories about it. There wasn't even a 'Sick Sad World' show on it; we suspect something's wrong with that, but only you would be able to tell us. So, we looked for Sunnydale on the net; we found the SHS Alumni web site. Your high school was much stranger than ours. A gas leak? Anyhow, we found some of your pictures in the Class of 1999 pages; who would name a kid 'Buffy' anyway?"

"'Class Protector'? We're guessing that she's one of your Slayers, and since she's the board member, she's probably the chief one. We also saw Rupert Giles' picture on line; he gets a lot of respect for a teacher in a student yearbook site." Daria turns to Faith and Robin: "We saw nothing about either of you; if you were there, you came along later." Faith looks down, but says nothing.

Jane adds, "You're the 'Watchers Council International'. Who are you watching? Vampires? Not likely: you kill them. I'm guessing the Slayers. I'll bet they like that a heck of a lot."

Faith finally interrupts: "You have no idea. The old Council either brainwashed their slayers or they pissed them off daily." Robin and Faith lace their hands together.

Xander says, "When they blew up, we told the survivors they could join us or they could retire. But if they joined us and tried to take control of the Slayers they would be retired."

"Retired?" wonders Jane.

"About the way Tommy Sherman retired, I guess."

Robin speaks for the first time in a while: "If he's dead, you're right. Did you figure anything else out?"

"Only that whatever you do, you have an 'in' with the US and British governments. Dr. Meara's OBE citation is secret, and she's not military. And your organization was chartered a week after you applied for your charter; somebody is looking out for you," finishes Daria.

Jane adds, "Your high school yearbooks remind me of Columbine's."

"We know. There's a nasty reason for that," says Xander. He turns to Robin and Faith; they nod. "You two will do. You're good detectives, and Mrs. Morgendorffer has a good eye too."

The waitress knocks on the door, and Roger hurries to let her in. She serves their meals, and heads out.

---

"How can you eat that much?" Daria has just watched Faith devour a steak and lobster dinner; a 300-pound linebacker would have had trouble finishing it.

""Slayer," Faith mumbled between two bites. "The Slayer metabolism," adds Robin. "It takes a lot of fuel to live like that. As far as we can tell, there are no fat Slayers. She'll work it off tonight."

"One way or another," says Xander. Robin glares.

Jane says, "Is it always like this?" Faith winks.

Daria asks, "So, what would you like us to do for the WCI, and what would the pay be?"

Xander claps. "Very good. Nice focus." He opens his briefcase and pulls two folders out, which he hands to Daria and Jane. "You need to understand how all this started. You see, the world did not begin as a paradise; before man, the world was a playground for demons. Some were invaders from the various Hell-dimensions, others were simply visitors from other worlds coming through portals. None liked us. But when Man became sentient and started to dominate the world, the demons lost their hold on Earth. Most fled to their home dimensions or hid in the dark places of this world."

Robin takes up the story: "There were some exceptions. The Turok-han, the ancestral vampires, learned to mix their blood with humans and create the common vampires, dead bodies animated with a vampire's spirit, and these could remain behind after the Turok-han were forced to flee to the Hell-dimensions. And these vampires fed on humans and warred against them."

Faith finishes up that part of the story. "One early tribe of humans, the Shadow Men, found a way to fight the demons. They summoned a demon themselves and merged its spirit with a young girl of the tribe. She was the First Slayer, with the power to fight the vampires and demons, and win. Of course, they chose a girl because they could control her." With a savage grin, she concludes, "We won't be controlled now."

"But you have lots of Slayers now," says Daria.

Xander answers, "When they started the system, the Shadow Men arranged that a new Slayer would be activated only when the previous one died. And Slayers died young. One slip, one overwhelming attack, a sacrificial maneuver, or even a betrayal, and the Slayer would die. One of the potential Slayers would become the new Slayer.

"As time went by, the secret of the Slayer was passed on to other societies and early religions. In every case, the Slayer was watched over by one set of priests or another. And in every case, those priests were royal bastards who treated the Slayers as tools. They kept her isolated, friendless, without any real power over her own life.

"Eventually, the old religions died out. Before they went away, the priests who knew the situation got together and formed the Council of Watchers, an organization independent of all the religions, supposedly neutral to all the governments and kingdoms of the world, there to help the Slayer and to defend humanity against the vampires and demons. You can guess how well that worked.

"They found a way to figure out who the potential Slayers were. Usually, they got it right, and they had an agent watching the Potential who got tagged, but sometimes they missed. A Slayer who thought for herself was dangerous to them.

"When they finally tracked down a lone Slayer, more often than not, they tried to let her just get killed. They'd assign her a black-sheep of a watcher, one they'd be willing to lose too. That way they could get one they could control instead. But Buffy and Giles were just too stubborn to just die."

"So, that's the Slayer story. How did you get from one to two? Or to many?"

"It turned out that there was a way to Call the new Slayer before the current one died; it's not something you'd want to do if you had a choice."

Robin continues, "Xander's being modest here. He discovered by accident that there could be more than one Slayer at a time. All that has to happen is for the current Slayer's heart to stop. We're lucky Xander took American Red Cross Advanced Lifesaving classes."

"I wanted a summer job as a lifeguard." He hums a song by Blotto.

"Wait. You weren't one of those Watchers?" Jane looks confused.

"I was a 16-year-old high school sophomore who heard a weird conversation in the school library. Then, a master vamp and its minions tried to take over the town, and I fought along with Buffy because my friends were in danger."

"You just wanted to do her," says Faith.

"Well, yeah. But it was more than that. When I found out what was going on in Sunnydale, I couldn't look away." Xander turns to Jane. "High school was the Hellmouth, you see. It held a portal where things could get in to our world, and Buffy was called there to keep it shut. Oh, we had the same crap as does every high school, though we didn't have a Fashion Club. But Principal Snyder was much nastier than your Ms. Li."

"You've been checking up on us," says Daria.

"Sure. Dawn remembered your name from an old Val magazine, and some of the Slayers like your Melody Powers stories."

Robin looks at Jane. "That was a very disturbing exhibit at Young Boston '03."

"I'm glad you appreciated it."

"So how did you get from two Slayers to lots? And what do you want us for? I can't fight, and Daria doesn't want to."

Robin answers Jane: "Two years ago, we faced our worst opponent. The First Evil, the Spirit of Despair, was trying to reopen the Hellmouth and bring back the Turok-han. She was doing a good job of subverting people, and her servants, the Bringers, were attacking the known Potentials and their Watchers. The remaining Potentials fled to us. Then, the Bringers used treachery to slip a bomb into the Council headquarters and destroy it."

"Small loss," says Faith. "We could have used their books," replies Xander.

Xander continues, "Buffy and Willow came up with a plan. They enacted a magical ritual to release the power of the Slayers and activate the Potentials all at once. They managed to hold off the vampires until we--" Faith interrupts, "Spike!" "Yeah, him. Spike used a magical artifact to seal the Hellmouth. Most of us got out before the town collapsed."

"Some of you died," says Jane. Xander looks down at the table. Daria looks at Jane; Jane nods back. The six of them sit silently for a minute, giving Xander's sorrow the respect it deserves.

When Xander looks up, Daria asks, "How many Slayers are there now?" "We're guessing about 1 Slayer per million people. Our stats are a bit rough."

"And you need people to train them and watch over them?"

"We're getting that. But, we have a more important problem. The old council was a corrupt bunch of overbearing, deceitful bastards. But, they had the staff and the knowledge to form a strategy. They could analyze supernatural trends and figure out what to do next. We need analysts more than anything else. We think that's a job you can do, Daria."

"And what about me?" asks Jane.

Robin answers, "One of the problems we have is presenting the knowledge we have. We can use some people who know graphic design and art. I think you can work on a reference work of demon identification. A 'Jane's Dragons and Basilisks', perhaps."

"That's from 'Bored of the Rings.'"

"It's still a good idea."

Xander speaks up, "Jane, I have a special commission for you meanwhile. When we left Sunnydale, we left just about everything behind. Buffy and Dawn were left without any pictures of their mother. I was able to get an old picture of Joyce from her old high school alumni society; could you look at this and tell me if you could paint her portrait? She would be twenty-five years older than what you see here." Xander hands Jane a print on photograph paper.

"I could try."

"So, the two of you would have to sign contracts and confidentiality agreements. It's not to keep you from doing research or telling Mrs. Morgendorffer; you just couldn't sell any stories to 'Sick Sad World'. We know your time isn't really your own; you have exams coming up, but we'd pay $3,000 for a report on the things in this folder, Daria, and I'd pay the same for that portrait, Jane. If it works out, we could arrange for further work. I'm guessing that you have careers lined up, so we're not looking to hire for full-time work."

Jane and Daria look at each other, and the two get up and move to the end of the room, as far away from the table as they can get.

Daria asks Jane softly, "Do you believe them?"

"We saw her kill two of those things. You killed one of them."

"But a world-wide battle against them? Why hasn't it been public?"

"So ask them. I can use the money, you know."

"Same here. They're really strange--not like Artie, but strange. Consistent."

The two return to the table, just missing Faith's short nod at Xander.

"I still have a few questions," says Daria.

"Shoot."

"I can't believe that the government isn't involved in this. You'd think that they'd take the lead in fighting these vampires."

"They have, in the past. It's usually been a disaster," says Xander.

"They're always tempted to use them," adds Robin.

Jane asks, "Bush?"

Faith replies, "Clinton." Robin adds, "Be fair, Faith. He didn't know what they were doing." "He should have known."

"What were they doing?"

"They had a base under UC Sunnydale; they were capturing the local vampires and demons to study," replies Xander.

Daria asks, "What went wrong?"

"Their experiments were torture, pretty much. The Slayers kill vampires, but our side doesn't torture them." Faith looks a bit wistful. "They experimented on other demons and supernaturals too."

"Some 'demons' are just visitors from another dimension; they're just immigrants, really," says Robin.

Faith adds, "Lorne's a great guy."

Xander says, "Clem's a good one, if you don't care for cats. But, they experimented on humans too. Oz was a werewolf, but he was one of our friends."

"Werewolves," says Daria.

"There is a germ of truth in most monster stories and fairy tales. There are vampires, werewolves, trolls, djinni and efreeti, zombies, ghosts, and evil lawyers. Unfortunately, the people in charge of that base decided to enact 'Frankenstein.'"

"And you stopped them."

"Barely. We let the government know afterwards that not to meddle with the supernatural; they've turned it over to us," says Xander.

Robin adds, "Besides, a born-again Christian like Bush isn't likely to try to get power from demons."

Xander thinks for a moment. "In fact--Roger, you need to take a break for about fifteen minutes."

"Xan, Willow left me strict instructions not to leave you alone."

"Willow is not in charge here."

"But--"

"Go." Xander stares at Roger; he looks patient and confident. After a minute, Roger replies, "But Xander." Xander simply closes his right eye. "All right." Roger gets up and leaves.

"I'm sorry about that, but no one would believe you if you told this story, and they'd believe him."

"Oh, wonderful."

"No offense intended, Jane. It's just that Roger's known as one of Willow's magicians, and I don't trust him with this. Magicians often have their own agendas."

"I guess."

"Anyhow, back in the summer of 2002, Buffy was summoned to a meeting in Washington. They brought Giles over from England, and the two of them met with President Bush, some Air Force types, and some security types. The President showed them a set of photographs taken at an archaeological dig in Iraq, about forty miles from the dig at Ur. Don't ask me how the photos were taken; I don't know. Iraqi soldiers were building an sacrificial altar there, and Buffy and Giles recognized some of the symbols.

"They figured out that the altar was to be used to sacrifice people to efreeti, to try to form an alliance with them. Now, this could only have been done at a place of great evil."

"Wait. Sodom? No, that was in Canaan."

Xander laughs. "Pretty good, Daria. We're guessing something like the original Tower of Babel."

Jane asks, "Are you saying that happened?"

Xander answers, "Not necessarily. But we've seen that nearly every monster story, fairy tale, urban legend, and Bible story has some truth to it. The Feds also showed Buffy and Giles some documents detailing the construction plans. Giles figured that it would take thousands of sacrifices, but the Iraqis might have been able to pull it off. And Saddam certainly had thousands of sacrifices available."


"Weapons of Magical Destruction, right."

"I understand that the President and Tony Blair have made it clear to certain other nations that further national attempts to raise demons would result in a strategic response," says Robin.

"Nuclear."

"Sure."

"I never heard this story," says Faith.

"You weren't around then, and it didn't seem important afterwards. But Daria and Jane need to know why governments can't be trusted with what we do."

Someone knocks on the door. Xander gets up and opens it; Roger stands at the door and asks, "Are you done?"

"We're done. Does everyone want dessert?"

"I could use a brandy," says Daria. Jane nods.

----

The remnants of desert are on the table, and the six of them are sipping coffee. Daria asks, "How did you get to be CEO anyway, Xander?"

Xander looks embarrassed for a moment, and Faith pipes up: "We forced him."

"After we blew up Sunnydale, we had just 15 Slayers, Giles, Dawn, Robin, and Andrew, all on a rickety school bus heading to central California. We had to stop at the first town out of the danger zone with a hospital, for Robin. We stayed there for a few days, but the new Slayers wanted to head home."

"Can't blame them," says Faith.

"After Robin was released, we held a memorial service for the ones we lost and for Sunnydale. Who knew that Giles liked Kipling so much?" Xander shakes his head. "Then, Willow set up a secure computer site for us, and created a bare-bones support system for the Slayers. Giles went to England to try to salvage the assets of the old Council. Buffy and Dawn took a long vacation in Europe. Faith and Robin went to Cleveland to set up headquarters at the little Hellmouth. Willow and Kennedy went to South America to search for Slayers and do--"

"Each other," interrupts Faith.

"Cho-Ann went back to China to find the Asian Slayers. And I took on Africa. I needed to get away." Faith, Robin, and Roger nod.

"Anyhow, in early May of 2004, I got shot in the leg getting Nathi out of Zimbabwe."

"A white man in Zimbabwe? With Mugabe there? How did you survive?"

"I told you I got shot, Daria. But somebody has to help the Slayers. We owe it to them. We don't leave them to fight alone. Anyhow, Nathi carried me to a village in Botswana; that's a nice country. And they took care of me."

"Willow was furious," says Faith. "It was an 8 on the Willow-scale."

Jane asks, "How bad is that?"

"Well, a 10 is 'Destroy the world.' A 9 is 'Nuke them from orbit--it's the only way to be sure.' She ended up teleporting to the middle of the operating room, really scaring the doctors. When she found out how it happened, she gave each of the soldiers who fired at Xander and Nathi a visit. I don't think any of them survived the experience."

"I hate it when Willow does that, but I wasn't in a position to stop her. We got Nathi settled there, and Willow forced me back to the US. I needed some plastic surgery anyway."

Robin continues, "Giles had finally gotten affairs in England settled. Buffy and Dawn were back from Italy, and we were setting up the new Council. All the new Slayers showed up at the Council house, and they made it clear that if Xander wasn't the new CEO, they'd walk. And when 150 Slayers show up and say they want something done, it gets done."

Faith says, "You see, Xander isn't a trained fighter, he's not a magician, and he doesn't have any other type of special power. However, we trust him. They know he will stand with them no matter what happens, and that he won't manipulate them. He's fought the battle for nearly ten years; they know what he's given up for it."

"The new Slayers forced us to add a by-law that the CEO be a normal human, not a Slayer, a magician, or a trained Watcher. Too many of the old Potentials have bad memories of their assigned Watchers."

"But why does he rate a bodyguard?" asks Jane.

Faith laughs. "He always gets into trouble. Bug people, cheerleaders, vampires, disease spirits."

"You."

"What did it this time, X?"

Xander and Robin say nothing. Finally, Roger breaks the silence: "He staked Dru."

"What, Xander? You nailed the old ho? Why didn't anyone tell me?" No one answers, and finally faith says, "Roger, what did Xander do?"

"He and Annette found Dru's hideout, and Xander ended up staking her."

Faith yells, "Annette? You took Flame-gal on a secret mission?"

"Flame-Gal? Like the Fantastic Four?"

"No, Daria. Every Slayer has her favorite weapons. Every one uses stakes, but most like using swords. Some use axes for the extra oomph. Annette prefers flamethrowers."

"Her father was a SEAL and her mother's a Grucci. Of course she'd prefer to blow things up," says Faith. "What did you do, X?"

"Remember when we took out Wolfram and Hart last year?"

"Who?"

"Law firm for the demons and vampires in LA. They'd killed some friends of ours last May, soon after Xander got back. We waited until we got organized and then we hit them the week before Thanksgiving. What else happened then, X?"

"While we were getting out of the place, I saw Dru's dossier on a desk. I took it and did some snooping afterwards. Dru's one of the loonies."

"You didn't tell anyone."

"I'll be damned if I told Buffy or Giles about that. Anyhow, I tracked her down to Renton, Washington, and Annette and I went there last month."

"But Annette? Why her?"

"I needed the shock power. And she liked the idea of burning out some vamps. Anyhow, I did it for Kendra."

"What did you do?"

"The two of us infiltrated the place. We'd taken out the last of the minions when Dru grabbed her and tossed her into a wall. Then, she knocked me out. When I woke up, she had Annette trussed up like one of her damned doll parties. She wanted to know if we'd led anyone else to her; that's why she hadn't killed us."

"How did you get out of there, X?"

"She stood me up, and then she tried to hypnotize me. She looked into my eyes, and she tried to hypnotize me."

"Ah, shit, X."

"She looked like Anya." Faith, Robin, and Roger are lost in thought for a moment, and then Xander's cell phone rings. He picks it up.

"Hello?" The reply is inaudible.

"How's Seattle, Barbara?--I know it's wet, yes.--What about the disappearances?--You figured them out?--Good. Gnargs, you say. It's probably a fertility ritual; they've got their ten victims, so it'll go down at midnight.--No, Barbara! Your actions are not approved. You march in there, and you're asking to get shot. Even Slayers can't outrun a bullet.--Yes, a bullet. Gnargs are one of the few demon races to know rifles.--One of them tried to take a pot shot at Giles summer of '01.--No, Giles didn't kill him; Lorne stopped it." Xander turns to Robin and snaps his fingers. "Who do we have in Seattle?"

Robin presses some buttons on his cell phone. "Captain Timothy O'Hehir, Commander, 2nd Special Weapons and Tactics. 206-555-5772."

Xander turns back to his phone. "Look, call Captain Timothy O'Hehir at 206-555-5772. Get yourself checked out with body armor, and get them to help with a covert insertion.--I know you hate body armor, but you need it.--Look, if you get killed, the funeral expenses come out of your salary.--Yeah, Barbara, I know.--Look, you do well, and next time I'm in Seattle, I'll take you out for ice cream. As big a sundae as you want. Yeah, we'll pull the 'moron' scam.--Happy hunting." Xander closes his phone.

Jane asks, "How old is she?"

"Seventeen," says Robin. Daria just stares at Xander.

Roger gets up and calls the waitress in for the check, and Xander pays for the meal, adding a hefty tip. Soon they leave the restaurant; Xander and Roger take their leave: "I hate plane flights." Faith and Robin turn toward Boston Common: "I gotta get some miles in. Hey, Robin, do you think the Sox will repeat?" Robin scowls, and they head off.

Daria and Jane walk toward the subway entrance, and then they see Faith turn around and run to them. Her grin is manic. "He's not dating anyone, D." "What?" Faith runs off.

"You want to go to the museum?" Daria nods. "Weird." "Yeah."

---

That evening, they split a pizza pie at a hangout near BFAC. "Jane, mind if I stay over tonight?"

"Sure. My dorm is your dorm." Jane thinks a moment. "Um, why?"

"I'm in extreme need."

"Oh."

The End

You have reached the end of "Wicked Inspiration". This story is complete.

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