parts 5 and 6
“I did tell you I heal faster,” Kendra replied, watching Charles.
“Yes, but… I didn’t think you would heal that fast. You said it was something that happened as a result of being a Slayer? What exactly does that mean?” Charles leaned closer, his blue eyes sparkling.
“Let me tell you a little about where I am from, and remember that I do not know how much this world is like the one I am from,” Kendra began, shifting a bit in the chair.
“Of course. Some things would be easier to check than others. Go ahead,” he nodded, looking as if he wanted to take notes.
“The world is an old place, and in the beginning, it was ruled by darkness. Things that hunted and fought, killing for food or pleasure, preying on everything that was weaker than they were. The first humans lived in the shadows of these things, fearing them and hiding as much as they could. Somet’ing happened, and some of the most powerful of the dark things went away, leaving this world for others. The lesser monsters, called demons, began to multiply, no longer preyed upon by the greater, and
they feasted upon the humans. Some of them left… bits of themselves in their prey, and the humans changed. They became something else, new types of demons, and they hunted what had once been their families, feasting on them as did the others.” Kendra paused, seeing the horrified expression on Charles’s face. “This is the history I was taught when I was young. I hope that the history of your world is different, kinder.”
“It certainly isn’t the history that I was taught,” Charles stammered.
Kendra took up the history again, “The humans in those long ago days had tried many things to protect themselves. They had scattered, spreading into tribes and nations over the world, but that was not enough. Finally, many of the wisest leaders and the most powerful mages came together. They prayed for guidance and protection, and the mages cast spells to aid the prayers, and the first Slayer was Called. A woman, chosen to protect and defend humanity from the demons that would feed upon them. When one falls, another is Called, and so it has been from that day onwards. As long as the demons and vampires threaten humans, there shall be a Slayer.”
“How is a Slayer Called, and if a woman is fighting these demons, why didn’t they just gather up armies, or groups of warriors?” Charles asked, looking shaken. “And what of mutants? You said that a Slayer would hunt those who had once been humans…”
“No, it is not the same, Charles. You worry about mutants, but a Slayer is not intended to fight mutants, only demons. Slayers… many are born with the potential, but only one is called at a time. One chosen to defend the helpless,” She paused, her lips and throat feeling dry. “A Slayer is Called when one dies. When I die, there will be another… or there would be in my own world. I don’t know if it will be the same here.”
“How does a Slayer decide what is a demon though?” Charles was frowning.
“Simple, if they try to eat someone, they are a demon. If they try to force you to carry their spawn inside you, devouring your flesh until it is ready to emerge, it is a demon,” Kendra shrugged unclenching her fists. “In the depths of the Sahara, there are a tribe of nomads whose ancestors were changed. They have eyes like a snake, and can taste the barest trace of moisture on the wind. Their skin is patterned in blue and purple, like a snake. But they are human, and not demon, because they do not feed on people, but on the plants and game of the land. In the jungles of India, there are a small people who can change into brightly feathered birds, though nobody knows how or why. They feed upon flowers and nuts, and so they are not demons.”
“And if one of those blue patterned people were in danger?” His voice was low, as if he wasn’t certain he wanted to hear the answer.
“If I were there, I would try to help them. But I have never been to the Sahara,” Kendra replied. “I have been needed elsewhere.”
“Good to know,” he seemed to relax, and then looked at her, “really blue?”
She couldn’t keep herself from laughing.
End part 5.
It was a bit later when she decided to track down Charles again. Wandering around his mansion was good for stretching her stomach without danger, but with nobody else in the building, it quickly became boring. She’d practiced for a while in a room full of weight machines, annoyed that the weights wouldn’t go high enough to make her break a sweat. There didn’t seem to be anywhere inside to practice fighting, or any weapons to practice using. Why not talk to Charles?
Eventually, she found him in the library. What she hadn’t expected was that he already had company. A man with white-blond hair that reached his shoulders was next to Charles, the pair of them intently focused on a scattering of papers and animatedly gesturing at points. As she entered the room, the stranger looked up, frowning at her with his pale eyes narrowed.
“I did not know that you were expecting anybody,” Kendra murmured, wondering if she should just go back outside and go jogging again.
“This is my friend Erik Lehnscherr. Erik, this is Kendra, she’ll be staying here for a while,” Charles gestured at each of them when he introduced, smiling cheerfully.
“Pleased to meet you,” Kendra murmured, not certain that it was anywhere near the truth. Something about the way he was looking at her, as if he was measuring her and finding her somehow lacking…
“Charles, if we shift this here, it will amplify an existing ability, and the energy requirements will be reduced significantly,” Erik taped the pages on the table.
“Yes, but what we need is… well, some way to copy the results,” Charles mused, frowning at the pages. He looked up, giving Kendra a small smile, and then returned his gaze to Erik’s finger.
“What is it supposed to do?” Kendra moved closer, looking at the papers. Some sort of strange helmet with wires, and a large ball-observatory thing, if she was reading them correctly.
Erik gave her another one of those glances, and looked back at the table, as if deciding that she wasn’t worth answering.
Kendra abruptly remembered why this period in time had been unfortunate for America. Segregation hadn’t been a minor matter of where children went to school; it had been a greater issue of individual worth. Anger burned in her, sharper than the sword that Angelus had stabbed her with. “If this has to do with your concern for mutants, I think you’re already doomed to fail, Mister Lehnsherr.”
Charles sat up, blinking in confusion. He looked at her, clearly trying to figure out how to say… something and failing.
Not so with Erik Lehnscherr. His disapproving frown had changed to a full-fledged scowl, and he demanded, “What on earth do you mean by that?”
“You know nothing about me, and you are dismissing me as if I can not follow what you are doing. As if I am a person of lesser understanding and worth because I am not the same as you. You only know that I am a woman, and my skin is darker than yours, and you judge me. If you can not move past something as simple as the color of my skin, how can you ever expect people to move past abilities that not everyone has?” Kendra glared right back.
His glare intensified, and a bit of metal floated up, darting towards her like an angry bumblebee.
Kendra grabbed the object and slammed it into the table, glaring back. She had fought demons and slain vampires, she was not afraid of some arrogant tinkerer in a library. “Do not attack me for pointing out your actions.”
Both of them stared, and Charles stammered, “How... at that speed…?”
“I offer my apologies, Miss Kendra,” Erik was looking particularly pale, and he slowly sat down. “To think that after suffering so much because of others judging based on appearance or heritage that I would make the same mistake…”
Charles looked at her hand. “What did… is your hand all right?”
Kendra lifted her hand, looking at it carefully. Her fingers tingled a bit from slapping into the table, but she was fine. Where her hand had been, a small lump of metal had been embedded in the wood of the table, a few small cracks radiating from it along the wood grain. “I apologize for your table, Charles.”
His gaze dropped to the table, and Charles blinked. “Oh. The table isn’t a problem… I see what you meant by being stronger than you look.”
Erik made a noise remarkably like a muffled snort as he stared at the piece of metal. “Perhaps I should apologize for underestimating you?”
“You are forgiven,” Kendra replied, feeling her cheeks grow warm. Settling herself in one of the chairs, she pointed at the pages, “Now, what is that supposed to do?”
“One of the things that I can do is… search? Sense?” Charles paused, struggling for the right word. “I can detect a mutant within a certain distance around me. We’re hoping that we can build something to extend that range.”
“And then we can find them, and help them learn to use their abilities,” Erik finished.
Kendra nodded, understanding why they might want to do something like that. “But how does it work? Does it simply amplify that ability? Could someone else use it to do the same, or to sense for something other than mutants?”
“That’s the idea,” Charles agreed. “That it will simply magnify the existing ability, and hopefully enable a display of some sort to help figure out where. To let someone else figure out where, that is.”
Kendra nodded, understanding what he meant. Then, her mind jumped to the idea of using something like that to search out nests of vampires and demons before a night of hunting… If the different sorts could be made to show up differently, then a Watcher could even identify them ahead of time. Her mind came to an abrupt halt at the realization that this world might not have Watchers, and might not even have demons and vampires. “When you have a working version, I’d like to try it.”
Charles winced, “Should I hope that it doesn’t work for you?”
Erik blinked, looking at the two of them. “Why would you hope that it doesn’t work for her?”
“I do not detect mutants,” Kendra offered. “What I detect… is dangerous. He is not hoping the machine fails, he is hoping that there is nothing for it to find.”
“Exactly,” Charles agreed.
“I am not so optimistic as to not want to make certain.” Kendra’s voice allowed no argument.
“Then perhaps we’d best keep working on this,” Erik replied. “The sooner we sort out where the wires and cords should go, the sooner we can try again to build one.”
End part 6.