parts 33 and 34
Kendra sipped at her tea, thinking about Charles’ dream for the future. Humans and mutants coexisting peacefully. Mutants trained to use their powers to defend themselves and those who needed defenders. A school that would teach them their powers as well as reading, mathematics, history and sciences. “Most traditions that involve meditation are from the Eastern lands. Perhaps we should look to those places, or to the descendants of those lands for more staff? After all, if you can not get along with the neighbor who has brown skin, why believe that you can get along wit’ the neighbor who has skin of green, or blue, or purple?”
Charles opened his mouth as if to say something and then stopped, considering his words before speaking. “You raise a good point. Several good points. I may be able to find someone… perhaps you could also be watchful for possible new people for our school when you patrol?”
“Of course,” Kendra drank the last of her tea. She didn’t ask him what he would do when she eventually died. For now, it would do to think of the short term, while she was still here, still alive and helping defend and teach and offer suggestions. There would be time enough after her death for them to adapt. She just hoped that she could get some of the vital ideas in place first.
“What are the most vital ideas that you want in place, Kendra?” Charles asked. “And stop planning in expectation of your death.”
“The first is to teach that people are to be protected from monsters, and how to tell the monsters from the people. It is not as simple as appearances. The second is courage, how to find the determination to continue even when things are hard, or when you hurt, or when it looks hopeless – even if you will perish. Third is how to keep each other alive, tending of wounds, returning breath to those who had too much water, to encourage so that the mind and spirit are willing to stay. Meditation and specific weapons would be useful, but it is more important to have courage, an’ to be able to identify the monsters to stand against,” Kendra explained. She didn’t ask how Charles had known what she was thinking.
“What next, if we have all of that covered?” Charles asked, putting his cup down and leaning forward.
“Some practice in fighting and defending, so that when it is no longer play or practice or games, they do not freeze and falter. How to be creative and use their abilities and surroundings in ways that their foes will not expect. To value and seek understanding of those around, including, no, especially those who have different backgrounds. To remember that every person has their faults and their flaws, and no matter how hard you try, or how skilled you are, sometimes you fail. You may not be fast enough, skilled enough, strong enough to save everyone, to stop something. Even if you can’t save someone, you must continue, must forgive yourself. That they be able to forgive each other when their feelings are hurt, when the one they like does not like them that way, when they can’t prevent their friends or their family from being hurt. Not to ignore those who are not as strong,” Kendra remembered some of the things that she had learned, and things that she had seen among Buffy and her friends. Things that had hurt to learn, that could tear a group apart.
“To stand by each other even if they are hurt, even if they are angry at each other, lest their foes use that against them,” she whispered, remembering how it had hurt Buffy that her sweet Angel had gone, leaving the demon with his face, remembering how Xander had been so angry with Buffy because she could not kill the monster with her lover’s face.
“To grow up,” Charles offered.
“For some, if we can not offer them a safe place here, they may not have the chance to grow up,” Kendra looked at him, remembering the broken victims that she hadn’t been fast enough to save, remembering accounts of babies and children killed.
The expression on Charles’ face suggested that he hadn’t considered that. For a moment, he was quiet, before murmuring, “You have a good point. But as much as I wish we could do otherwise, we can’t save every endangered child in the world. I would have trouble even locating those who are not mutants, if they were far enough away. The idea that I might have to choose…”
“There are ugly things in the world. Your distaste for them will not be enough to make them go away. Instead, we should teach our students that they should try to help those around them. If enough people want to make the world better, safer…” Kendra let her words trail away, not wanting to admit that even if everybody that she, Charles or Erik encountered decided to dedicate their lives to improving the world, it would still hold ugliness, violence and pain.
“Little steps again?” He asked.
“Little steps can still result in long journeys,” Kendra replied.
“Perhaps I should let you get back to what you were doing before,” Charles offered.
Kendra slid the chair back, but before she stood, she remembered the mage from that morning. “Charles, there was someone who dropped in for a few words this morning. He called himself Doctor Strange, and claimed that he had a duty to protect the people of this area from magical danger.”
“A wizard? You have mentioned magic as real…” Charles poured himself more tea, and asked, “Do you trust this man?”
“I could tell that he is a powerful and skilled magic user. I do not know of any reason why he would not be truthful about his name, though I don’t know anything about whatever local magical community might exist. I was wondering if you might know more, perhaps enough to verify some portion of this? In my own world, some magic users felt the need to protect people, so his words are plausible. But I am not willing to trust him merely on his words and the fact that he is a powerful magic user,” Kendra admitted, forming an image of the man, complete with his vast red cloak edged with golden swirls and the highly distinctive clasp. She pushed that image towards Charles.
Blinking, Charles commented, “That is a memorable individual. Was he floating? I will have to see what I can learn.”
“It is something that some magic users can do,” Kendra sighed. “Perhaps I will learn more on a future patrol, something that will help determine if he can be trusted.”
“Perhaps,” Charles agreed. “Please be careful on your patrols.”
“As much as I can,” Kendra offered.
Leaving the library, Kendra found her mind filled with questions. That mage, Doctor Strange. The child-vampire that had slipped away with that couple. Vanessa and her friend Annette. The Watcher friend of Mr. Kruchten, who might be arriving to see if she was really a Slayer. The other Slayer, currently in Prague, unless that one had been slain. Misty and her questions about when and why Kendra had learned to fight. Jean who’s friend had died. Wondering what sort of monsters she would find tonight. Wondering what new students would come to the school, and what unexpected abilities they would possess.
End part 33.
Kendra left early for patrol, armed a bit more heavily than normal. She had been feeling twitchy, and while it could simply be nerves and too many questions, it could also be her Slayer-senses giving her a warning. A little extra caution was better than not being prepared, so Kendra had loaded up on the weapons, and thrown a long jacket over everything to hide the weapons from a casual glance. She found herself hoping that morning would see her chuckling about getting paranoid and over-cautious in her ‘old age’.
As she walked along a street, she admitted that this would be much easier if she had connections with the locals. People who would listen to rumors and watch for strange events or disappearances. People who could help her identify trouble-spots and possible problems before they became disasters. Granted, it was usually the job of a Watcher to establish and maintain such contacts…
“I must make do with what I have, rather than wishing for what I do not have,” Kendra reminded herself. “And if I am not happy without something, perhaps I should work to gain that, rather than complaining.”
The first problem that she ran into was a pair of ghouls stalking towards a homeless man, one that reeked of unwashed body and cheap alcohol, slumped in a pile of rags and papers. It was obvious to Kendra that the ghouls figured the man to be easy prey, though she wasn’t certain if he was asleep, passed out from his cheap alcohol or perhaps even dead. No matter, there was no need to let the ghouls attack a corpse. She might feel otherwise if they would only attack corpses, but ghouls like that were perfectly willing to attack weak or helpless prey, such as the elderly, the wounded, the very drunk or small children.
A pair of knives let her take them out easily, the sharp steel cutting though their grey skin, all of which had the slightly swollen and uneven mottling of water-swollen aged corpses, the sort that were almost ready for the flesh to fall away in a disgusting muck. Their large eyes gleamed in the darkness, and they hissed showing muzzles full of sharp triangular teeth. They tried to strike at her with their bony, yellowed talons, attempting to rip her flesh from her bones to add to their feast. But while they were willing to strike, they were neither strong enough nor fast enough to be a great danger to her, so long as she was properly awake, not terribly injured, and had something to use as a weapon.
Before long, the ghouls were dead, not quite cut to pieces. If she’d taken a sword, then there would have been chunks of ghoul to dispose of, but she’d felt that the greater concealability of the knives outweighed the increased damage permitted by a sword. Without more than a bad feeling, she wasn’t quite willing to risk being caught carrying a sword in a place with no knowledge of the monsters and no understanding of her status. The whole absurd prejudice against darker skin would only be another problem. No, best to avoid problems with the police. After a few moments thought, she opened a manhole cover and threw the ghouls’ bodies down into the sewer. The stench of the sewage would cover the scent of the ghouls decomposing, and who in their right mind would go searching the sewer and discover the bodies?
The homeless man didn’t stir through the whole fight or her disposal of the bodies. It made Kendra wonder if he was in fact already dead. For a moment, she pondered the man before deciding that she wasn’t going to check. If he was dead, it would only be another minor tragedy that would go unnoticed in the city. If he was alive… well, perhaps he was still a minor tragedy in the city.
Kendra had no idea how to help the man or others like him. She could keep ghouls or vampires from eating him. But she had no idea if there were more health problems than a habit of drinking too much alcohol, if there were disasters or failures in his life that had driven him to the street. She couldn’t give the man restored health, a productive job, or a loving family. All she could do was keep the external monsters from eating him. He was on his own against the monsters of ill health and memory, which could be more vicious than any vampire or demon that she fought.
As Kendra walked along the alleys, her senses alert for vampires or demons, she wondered how other Slayers had handled such things. Had they seen the homeless of the large cities as just another part of the city’s trash, as some sort of pitiable vermin, or as more victims? Had they sought to protect them as much as the farmers and craftsmen? Had they ignored them as a problem for others to solve? Had they even paid them any thought at all?
“Perhaps he will leave the streets some day and do something else. Perhaps he still has a future, instead of just more days and nights like this one,” Kendra whispered. It didn’t really help.
That was when Kendra spotted a trio of young vampires stalking after a pair of men in work overalls. Her guess was that the men had jobs in factories or warehouses, and they looked like they were tired and not paying enough attention to their surroundings. It was obvious that the vampires considered them easy prey, and Kendra could feel their hunger and the vicious evil bubbling beneath their skins.
Those vampires were too focused on their intended prey to sense Kendra creeping up behind them, a stake in her right hand and a knife in her left. To their misfortune, Kendra had decided that they would be a good way to express her frustration with the issue of the homeless man. Said venting involved killing the vampires in a fashion that could almost be described as brutally quick.
As the third vampire fell to ashes at her feet, Kendra could feel the eyes of the men staring at her. One man was as dark as she was, while the other was lighter, though she couldn’t tell if the light brown of his skin was a result of ancestry or spending time in the sunshine.
“What were those… they had sharp teeth… red eyes…” the brown man was pointing at the ashes. “They looked… but they couldn’t be…”
“Were those vampires?” the tan man took a step closer. “They looked like vampires.”
“But there aren’t vampires,” the brown man protested. It sounded more like he was attempting to change reality rather than arguing about what he’d seen. “There can’t be. Because they looked… they were…”
“Going to eat us,” interrupted the tan man. “I don’t know if they were vampires, but they had sharp teeth and they were going to eat us. But she killed them.”
“They were vampires, and they did plan to eat you,” Kendra agreed.
For a few moments, the men spoke only in profanity, swearing at and cursing the heaps of ash. They even kicked at the ashes, scowling and glaring and insisting that they weren’t supposed to be a late dinner for some over grown mosquitoes. Not the most creative of reactions to nearly being eaten, but normal and far healthier than just sitting or standing there twitching or repeated denials that this couldn’t be happening.
“I don’t want no rejects from a bad horror movie eating me,” scowled the darker man. “How do we kill the bastards ourselves? We can’t always count on you saving us.”
“These weren’t the only ones, were they?” the tanned man asked.
“Fire or sunlight work well, but there are difficulties with either. A small lighter such as you might use for cigarettes might start them, but unless you start their back or their head they would have time to put out the fire. Removing their heads or wood through the heart will kill them. Holy water will burn them, and enough will kill them,” Kendra offered. “Remember that they can not enter a home without an invitation, but they can enter bars, factories, warehouses and hotels.”
“The movies talk about crosses and mirrors, sometimes garlic. How’s that work in the real world?” the darker one asked.
“Garlic does no more to them than it would to an attacking dog. They do not reflect, so a mirror may help you to identify them – windows or still water at night work as well as a mirror. Crosses burn them, but I do not think they would be enough to kill a vampire,” Kendra explained.
“How ‘bout a crowbar? Or a loading hook?”
“A vampire is harder to injure than a human. Unless you could remove the head, destroy the heart, or keep them trapped and exposed until sunrise, they will only hurt them and make them angry,” Kendra shook her head.
“Do they fly? Or turn into bats?”
“No vampire that I have ever fought was capable of either,” Kendra assured them.
“So we might have a chance, now that we know.”
“Remember that a vampire is stronger than they were as a human,” Kendra warned. She didn’t want them to become overconfident and be killed because they thought they could take a vampire in a fistfight, or a fight armed with a crowbar. “Though a hard blow to the back of the head will render a vampire unconscious.”
“Do they breathe? How can we tell if they’re really out or just faking?”
“I suggest kicking them. If they try to attack, they were faking. If they do nothing, then they are unconscious,” Kendra suggested with a small grin.
“Normally it’s not right to kick someone when they’re down,” the tan man murmured.
“If they want to eat me, then the rules don’t cover them,” the darker man insisted. “Thanks for killing them before they could eat us, miss.”
“You are welcome,” Kendra smiled and turned to leave. “Try to be careful, cities always have many vampires.”
As Kendra continued along the alley, she had to admit that it felt nice for someone to say thank you.
end part 34.