parts 26 and 27
Kendra focused on the school, rather than letting herself worry about Quentin the Watcher, or her feelings for Charles and the connected jealousy of Victoria. There was nothing she could do now about Quentin, nothing to change his mind or persuade him to help figure out how she’d ended up here and now. Charles was dating Victoria, which made these feelings a moot point, and besides that, she was a Slayer, assuming that she didn’t get killed, she wouldn’t have time for dating and romance and… and having a family was right out. If Charles liked Victoria – and why would he be dating her if he didn’t – then there must be something good and fascinating about her. Even if Kendra didn’t see it. She couldn’t do anything about those things.
What she could do something about was the school. She kept the children on task, trying to improve their general physical condition and coordination. Brandon and Erik helped her set up some basic training tools outside, a running track with some hurdles, a climbing wall, and some targets. Granted, nobody had any abilities that would need targets for training, and only Kendra and Mr. Kruchten knew anything about archery or throwing knives, but it was best to be prepared. She made plans for more elaborate training grounds later, if they were needed, or if they had the resources to expand. She listed out practices and drills to help the children improve their fitness and fighting skills, and made some notes about the current students.
After all, Slayers did not reach old age, and it would be best if whoever replaced her had as much information as possible. Not that she was in any hurry to die, but it never hurt to be prepared.
Kendra also decided to write down as much as she could about meditation. She could see advantages for Jean and Misty learning it. She also suspected that eventually there would be more students who could benefit from learning to meditate. It would help improve memory and learning, help them to learn to control their emotions so that they reacted with their heads instead of with fear or anger, and help them to plan in the midst of stress or danger. She had the feeling that the students of this school would face far too much of both.
“You aren’t always telling us everything, are you?”
Misty’s voice caught Kendra’s attention as Kendra had been trying to write down some drills to improve accuracy with either thrown weapons or some sort of projection ability. Looking up, Kendra could tell that Misty was not in a mood to be easily distracted by glib answers or discussion of desert. “Of course not. I suspect that few people here would tell you everything about many things. Some because they are entitled to their privacy, much as you, and they do not wish to share each detail of who they may desire or what they might do wit’ them. Or because they do not want to talk about all the details of their past, much the way you do not talk about your family. Some people also have hobbies and not everyone wants to hear each detail of a tennis match and how it compares to famous tennis players of the world.”
“I meant when you mention that you learned how to fight, or when you learned to meditate. You don’t give us the details, and Jean said that you’ve got something that makes it hard to hear your thoughts, even if she can feel where you are,” Misty sat down across the table from Kendra.
For a moment, Kendra wondered how most people would handle this not quite question. If they would make excuses or try to hide the truth. She rejected that idea immediately, choosing honesty. “Yes, I do keep many of the details to meself. I was taught meditation to help wit’ me temper and to improve me.. my memory. I’ve been learning ways to fight since I was much younger than you are now. And you do not need all of the details.”
“Why were you taught to fight?” Misty leaned forward, her yellow eyes narrowed.
Kendra sighed, deciding that there was no reason not to give at least a sketchy answer, since Jean already knew about her fighting vampires. “This world has more than humans and mutants. There are also demons and vampires. Vampires used to be human, but now they are not, and they eat humans, hurt them for fun. Demons were never human, though some can pass for human at times. Many demons eat people as well.”
“Demons? How…” Misty paused, taking a breath before she whispered, “How do you know if someone is a demon or a mutant?”
“A mutant is a person, though they may look different. They want to lead their life, and are capable of surviving without killing or hurting another person for sustenance. A demon is a monster, someone who eats people, who takes joy in hurting them. That is the difference, though other people would tell you different things,” Kendra offered. “I was raised to fight monsters, to kill demons and vampires before they could kill other people.”
“And a little never been human that just wants to live their life, maybe raise chickens and cabbages?” Misty’s voice wobbled a little as she asked.
“Then I wish them good luck with their cabbages and chickens, and will have no objections to their life goals,” Kendra replied. “It isn’t what someone looks like that makes them a monster, it’s what they do with their life.”
“You’re trying to make your accent go away, aren’t you?” Misty asked.
Kendra nodded, taking this as evidence that Misty was observant. “I am. Monsters do not like being killed. It is very dangerous work, which often leads to injuries. Some are smart enough to look for those who hunt them, and would attack me if they could find me. A woman with dark skin in not specific enough for them to find me in an area with so many people. A woman with dark skin and a Jamaican accent? That is a bit more specific.”
“Why do you say that some of them are smart? Aren’t all the monsters smart?” Misty was frowning a little.
“No, not all of them. The stories that I was told speak of the beginning of the world, when powerful things that came from other places moved over the world, ruling over all that was around them, devouring and fighting and killing as they pleased. The stories called them the Old Ones, or Pure Demons. It is said that when they began to leave this world, something happened, and some people an’ animals were changed because of them. Made forever different than they were before. Some became monsters, and sought to eat those who had been family. Others changed in form, but remained people. There is a tribe of blue people in a desert across the sea – they are people, and do not eat others. A tribe in India are no taller than my knee and can take the form of parrots when they choose, but they are people. Then there are some demons that look almost human, but they rip the hearts out of women. Other demons were changed from rats, or snakes and lizards. There is one type of demon that looks almost like a newt, but it is nine feet long. It thinks much like a newt as well, and humans look tasty to them. Another type of demon looks like a rat as big as a wolf, with grey scales instead of hair.”
“Newts aren’t really known for being smart, are they? Or snakes, or rats,” Misty agreed.
“I have hunted demons and vampires. I have fought them, killed them, and been injured in the fight. I have found the people that they were holding prisoner, to better to hurt them or kill them later. You do not need the details of that. I’m not certain that any of the students here need those details,” Kendra explained. “Such things can get ugly, and will eventually be the cause of me death. There have been several close calls already.”
“You don’t have a retirement program, do you?”
Kendra gave a small shake of her head, “No.”
“Will you tell me more when I’m older?” Misty asked, her yellow eyes suggesting that in some ways she might be far older than the twelve years that had passed.
“If I am still alive and you still want to know, I will give you more answers when you are older. Even now, I do not intend to lie to you,” Kendra promised.
“I suppose that will have to do,” Misty murmured. “Do you know if there are any others like me in the world?”
“There will be nobody else who is exactly like you. No other Misty,” Kendra began. “If you mean are there others out there who are blue with scales when they show their true face, others who can change the face the world sees, that I do not know.”
“Where did you learn it all?”
“The short answer is Jamaica. The longer one… I think the longer one will wait for when you are older,” Kendra smiled. “Charles knows, and he will be able to tell you that much even if I am gone by then.”
“I like having you around. Don’t die,” Misty insisted.
End part 26.
Kendra had felt oddly cheered by her talk with Misty. The topic had been grim, the memories that it brought up worse… Maybe it was the simple fact that Misty had said she liked having her there? That someone liked her company? Not that she was useful, or had a place, but that she was liked?
Oh, Kendra would like to think that some of the others liked her. She suspected that Ms. Weaver would be a good deal grumpier about her injuries if she didn’t like her. She knew that Mr. Kruchten enjoyed their discussions of weapons and history. Charles… best not to dwell on Charles.
The future might not be so bad. Even if she never found a way to return home, to her own time and place… What did she have to go back to anyhow? She had been valued as the Slayer, not as Kendra. With her gone, wasn’t that the same as dead? Wouldn’t there be another Chosen? There would still be a Slayer, two Slayers. Buffy and whoever had replaced herself. She had no family, no friends that would worry. To Mr. Zabuto, she was his duty and responsibility, not a cherished student.
No, it was better here. Though an explanation of how it had happened would still be nice.
Here she was Kendra first, and the Slayer second. Though she would admit to herself that it was just a tiny bit frustrating that even here she was a second Slayer, second not to Buffy but some Slayer in Prague. She tried to push that aside, wanting to focus instead on being Kendra, on learning who she was, what she liked and wanted. Other than Charles. It was best to focus on what she could discover and control, and relationships of that sort didn’t fall under that description.
Instead, she listened to music with Ms. Weaver, deciding that while she liked the sound of Elvis and his voice, much of his work seemed too much like a calculated performance. She quickly came to the conclusion that she adored jazz and the Blues. Country and gospel music didn’t particularly appeal to her, though some of the gospel choirs had a very impressive sound.
Brandon had introduced her to a few of the currently fashionable dances, and they were fun, good exercise and a nice way to practice one’s balance. She didn’t quite understand the appeal that they had for some, but she was considering adding dance to the general fitness practice. It would help get the students into better shape, help their balance and flexibility, and be something that could be done inside when it was cold or rainy.
Horse racing didn’t hold her attention. Oh, she could appreciate the power in the horses, and the dangers if one of the jockeys should fall, but it wasn’t entertaining for her. Nor was the gambling that went with the races.
To an extent, she justified these explorations as exploring the city, getting a better idea of where she would need to patrol and hunt when her arm was finally healed enough to permit such activities. There was a measure of truth to such claims. But it was also about figuring out what she liked, what appealed to Kendra, not to the Slayer.
It was a task easier said than done.
She had slipped from Kendra the Slayer to Miss Kendra the physical fitness instructor easily enough. She had found unexpected satisfaction in planning lessons, and in teaching Jean and Misty meditation. While becoming part of the staff, achieving a measure of camaraderie with the other teachers wasn’t quite as simple, she was making good progress with that as well. But Miss Kendra the physical fitness instructor was still not just Kendra. She’d spent so much of her life identifying herself by her task, her role that it was hard to find herself.
Not that a thing being difficult had ever stopped her. It only meant that it would take longer.
Kendra sighed, running her finger over the mostly healed wound on her arm. While healed enough to resume patrolling, she would still have to be more careful with that arm. Unless it was a matter of life or death, she would try to avoid anything particularly strenuous with that arm, or getting it covered with any sort of demon blood or slime. Ms. Weaver – Kendra didn’t feel quite right about calling the woman Dorothy just yet, though the nurse had told her that she was welcome to use her name – had given her permission to resume ‘normal activities, as tolerated’ and added, ‘not that I think you’d wait if you felt something needed done.’
It just went to show that Dorothy Weaver was getting to know Kendra quite well. Her estimation of what Kendra would do was spot-on.
“Kendra? Do you have a few moments?” Charles was standing there, his clothing a bit rumpled and a few tiny burn marks and scrapes along his hands. The scent of welding and scorched metal clung to him.
“You have been working on your scanning device?” Kendra offered a smile, wondering if he’d taken up another project. It wasn’t uncommon for engineers or inventors to have more than one project, especially if one was troublesome…
“Actually, I’ve got it working. When it’s activated, it connects to my searching ability, and projects the locations onto a map. The range is rather limited at the moment, and I want to make some improvements…”
“You only just got your device to work, and already you want to make it better?” Kendra chuckled.
“Well…” His cheeks took on a pinker cast, and Charles fidgeted a moment before he nodded, “Yes, I want to make it better. With better mapping abilities.”
“Best make certain this version works and is stable before you tinker more with it,” she cautioned. “Though if it is working, perhaps I can see if it will scan for me?”
For a long moment, Charles was quiet. “As much as I hope that it won’t pick up demons or vampires, you’ve convinced me that they are out there. Hiding my eyes and pretending that I don’t know won’t make them go away.”
“Pretending that you don’t know could get you or someone else killed,” Kendra corrected.
“Ouch…” Charles shook his head, as if chasing away dreams. “I don’t know if it will work for you, but it should be safe for you to make the attempt.”
“You do not like what a Slayer must do. You feel uncomfortable at the very idea that a Slayer is necessary,” Kendra mused, watching his expressions. “I do not need to see into your thoughts to tell that, Charles. It is clear to anyone who can see your face. You want to think of the best that this world has to offer, and to pay less attention to the darkness around us.”
“I want tomorrow to be better than today. Is that such a bad dream?”
“Not at all. But you will not reach your dream without understanding the dangers of the world. People and events will become barriers and obstacles. If you are not prepared, if you do not expect them, how will you cope when they appear? You must be ready for those students whose families now fear them for being different, for those who now fear themselves. For those who are angry and afraid of what is happening, and want to lash out, at themselves, at those around them, at the whole world. For those who will try to hurt those who are different. For those who will try to hide. Just as you must be prepared for academic tests, luring in new teachers and students, and for eventually letting them go back out into the world as adults.”
“Much the way a good driver needs to be prepared for the road turning, or for the chances of the driver ahead stopping, or an animal darting into the road?” Charles arched one eyebrow, managing a weak smile. “A school is a great deal more complicated than driving a car.”
Kendra nodded, hoping that his comparison wasn’t some sort of veiled commentary on her driving. She was doing much better, and hadn’t caused any damage to the cars… Well, maybe a few minor scratches to the paint, and there had been an incidence of demon slime. “Philosophy is complicated. Schools are complicated. Beginning new things is always a bit complicated. You are starting a new school with a philosophy…”
“All right,” Charles raised his hands, palms facing her. “I yield, I get your point. Now why don’t we see if you can search for demons with my scanner.”
Despite Charles telling her that she’d won, Kendra didn’t feel any better as she followed Charles to the area of the basement that he’d set up for his scanner. No longer taking up part of the library or one of the back rooms, he’d moved his project to a specially grounded room with its own generator to ensure both sufficient power and to minimize the chance of causing problems for the rest of the building.
Settling into the cool metal chair, Kendra swallowed. The harmlessly simple chair that had seemed so practical on the blueprint now reminded her very much of the electric chair. She looked at the bulky helmet and for a moment wanted nothing more than to stand up and away, to say that she’d changed her mind, the old traditional methods had worked well enough in the past. But that was her fear talking. A Slayer was not supposed to be ruled by her emotions, not lust, not anger, and certainly not fear. With a slow breath, Kendra pushed back her fear. “Give me de helmet.”
Feeling the cool metal surround her head, Kendra closed her eyes and focused. She was the Slayer, it was her destiny to defend people from demons. She reached out with her senses, feeling for them, alert for the slightest hint of evil, of danger… of this machine doing anything beyond unsettle her.
There was the oddest feeling, as if she was picking up an echo in her mind. The echo felt colder, almost metallic, and Kendra could swear that she tasted iron. But just at the edge of her range she could feel something, a dark, hungry presence. Not a vampire, but some sort of demon… possibly two demons close together.
“There’s a purple mark on the map,” Charles spoke in a low voice. “Can you tell what it is?”
“The edge of me… my range. Some sort of demon,” Kendra sighed and let her senses return to her surroundings. “It was one, perhaps two demons, something hungry and of nasty temper.”
“It looks like your working range with the scanner is a little under half of mine,” Charles observed.
“But it will project onto the map, so others can help me prepare for the area,” Kendra countered.
“I definitely need to improve the sensitivity of the next version,” Charles was still frowning at the map display. “Kendra, please be careful when you go hunting.”
“Of course I’ll be careful. Life is just starting to be enjoyable.”
Kendra was half way towards where the purple mark had been, loaded with a variety of weapons, before she realized that she was smiling.
End part 27.