Chapter One: Forgotten Faces
Dislcaimer and summary found with prologue.
AN: Well, got another chapter out. I'm glad you guys seem to be enjoying this and I hope you continue to do so.
Special thanks to those who reviewed,
onlimain, matthew, Xeleb, kimbclar, denserpentis, jammiesMM, Niraerlinn, Thewander, war, WhiteWolf, alexceasar, CPTSkip.
Thanks guys for letting me know what you thought.
Hope you guys like the new chapter, and I'll try to have a new one soon.
Summer was green and cool this year. Aside from the near constant rain that had fell during May, the sky had been relatively clear for most of June. Clear and beautiful, that was how most of the days had been lately, much to the instructors dismay. It made it difficult to teach a classroom full of children when they were all daydreaming about what they could be doing outside. It was even more difficult when the subject was History and the students were a bunch of antsy ten and eleven-year-olds.
Willow did her best not to sigh as she wrote on the board. A group of boys in the back were laughing with one another, whispering about how two of them had seen Lindsey Thomas, a sixth year Prefect, come out of the bathroom with her skirt tucked into pantyhose. While most of them laughed, one of the boys pressed his lips and chuckled nervously. Poor kid. Probably didn’t even know why he didn’t think that was funny anymore.
When she finished writing, Willow stepped away from the dry-erase board, checked her spelling, then turned back to the class. Instantly, the boys stopped laughing with one another and forged their best appearance of paying attention. Not feeling like dealing with them, especially on a Friday afternoon, Willow chose to ignore them and walked to the front of her desk.
“Who can tell me about the Pulse?” she asked, leaning against her desk.
One hand shot up into the air. “Professor,” a little girl with straight reddish-brown hair said, bouncing lightly in her seat.
Willow sighed when no one else raised their hands. “Yes, Hermione.”
Hermione was a good kid and very bright, but her dictionary-like with her answers gave most people headaches. Her parents had named her after the Harry Potter character and the girl seemed determined to live up to her namesake.
Sitting up straight in her seat, she said, “In 2009, terrorist set off a nuclear blast that wiped out nearly all computer programs in and around the United States.”
“Very good, Hermione,” Willow said.
The girl continued, “As a result, the United States went from being a super power to a third world country within a matter of months.”
Willow frowned. “Yes, thank you, Hermione.”
“Since then, an on-going massive depression has - .”
“Thank you, Hermione,” Willow said forcefully, stopping the girl mid-sentence. A crestfallen look fell on Hermione’s face, and Willow sighed again. Leaning forward, she said to her, “Let’s give the others a chance to answer, okay?”
“Yeah, brain,” a boy with dirty blond hair said from the seat behind hers. “Give some of us normal kids a chance.”
While the other kids laughed, Hermione blushed deeply and sunk in her seat. One sharp look from Willow was enough to shut them up. Crossing her arms, Willow turned to the boy who had spoken and said, “Okay, Jim. Since you’re so excited to answer, you can tell us the effect the Pulse had on the migration habits of the Tul’tun demon clans in North America.”
Jim blinked at her once. Then twice. “Um...It, uh...It effected the migration by, ah - .”
The soft chimes of the school bell saved the boy from having to answer. Without waiting for them to be formally dismissed, the children - except, of course, Hermione - gathered their belongings and were heading for the door before Willow said, “Remember, Mrs. Frederick wants you to read chapter seven and answer the questions on page 212.”
The few that heard her groaned, but raised no real protest. They were to ready to get out of class and protesting would just prolong their exit.
Turning back to her desk, Willow began to gather and organize the homework and school work she had collected that day for Mrs. Frederick. She was the regular teacher for World and Demonic History for all the grade levels and was one of the few original teacher from the old Watchers Academy that had survived the change over to the New Watchers Council. A short and stout woman, who was maybe five feet even with heels on, she reminded Willow and most everyone else at the Academy of some old military general who decisively didn’t take crap from anyone; not from the Council and certainly not from the junior Watchers and mini-slayers that she taught. It was a good thing too, since most of the slayers liked to test their limits with their teachers.
Willow was filling in for Mrs. Frederick because her son was getting married that weekend in Madrid. Since her own classes - Wiccan Magicks and Computer Science - were taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays, she didn’t mind helping out her fellow teacher. Besides, it was nice to work with the younger kids since WM was an upper course and Computer Science was optional for third years and up.
Most of the children were out the door when Willow said, “Jim.”
The boy paused mid-step, causing several of the other children to nearly run into him. Pressing his lips, he adjusted the strap of his backpack - which matched his uniform down to the Watcher Council’s crest - and slowly walked towards Willow. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“That was very mean what you said to Hermione,” Willow said with her practiced teacher authority tone she had perfected over the years.
Jim ducked his head a little.
“You know just because she’s smart doesn’t mean she’s not normal,” Willow continued.
“I know,” Jim said. Cautiously, he asked, “Are you going to tell Mom?”
Willow weighed her options. On the one hand, she felt she should because she would with her other students. They had found that most of the kids whose parents taught at the school or worked in the Watcher’s Council thought that they could get away with more in the Academy because of who their parents were; so, when they acted up, the teachers generally alerted the parents to help them put a stop to it. On the other hand, it was Jim.
“No,” Willow said. “Not if you apologize to Hermione. But you better mister or I’m so telling on you.”
Jim sighed in relief then smiled brightly up at Willow. “I promise I will.”
She said, “Okay, well you better hurry up. Your next class is going to start and it might be good if you were, you know, there.”
Nodding, he headed out of the classroom. Willow went to the board and began to clean off the dates and information she had written, thanking the goddess that she didn’t have another class for the day. Teaching might be what she loved, but it sure was tiring.
“Showing favoritism, Willow. Oh, tisk, tisk. What would our dearly departed Principal Snyder say?”
Jumping, Willow swiftly turned around. A large, bright smile spread cross her face when she saw the tall, one-eyed man leaning against the door frame. Like herself, he was now pushing forty and had more than a few gray hairs, but that lop-sided grin and playful glint in his eye had not changed since high school.
“Xander!” Willow squealed, launching herself into her best friend’s arms. Pulling back, she held him by the shoulders and said, “I thought you weren’t due back until next week.”
“Yeah, well, it didn’t take as long as we thought to get that slayer settled in Kansas City,” Xander said, sitting himself down on top of the desk top. “You know, not the happening town it once was.”
Smiling wearily, Willow said, “She’s from Kansas City, so at least we didn’t have to worry about set up her papers.” Sitting down on top of the desk next to him, she asked, “Do you think that they’ll have problems with the Sector Police?”
Xander shrugged. “Not sure, but I warned her to be careful. If they catch her doing her slayer thing they might think she’s one of them.”
The smile on Willow’s face quickly turned to a frown. “Transgenic.”
The Watcher Council and slayers had faced a whole new set of problems since their discovery a few months ago. On more than one occasion since then, a slayer had been mistaken for one of them. So far, four girls had been ‘captured’ - most in the mid and north-west area. The girl they had stationed in Portland was even killed a few weeks back because the Sector Police had mistaken her for one of them after they witnessed her taking out a group of men who were trying to rob a liquor store.
Police and slayers had never been friends, but cops had never been much more than a joke to the girls. They dealt with different things, so, by theory, they should have very little contact with one another. However, the public was now on the lookout for all things strange, and the cops had to be ordered to keep them calm. Tiny, human girls who could kick ass easier than most people were able to brush their teeth definitely raised the weird flag, and the cops were now on the lookout for humans like that.
To bad there main problem were local cops. At least with the Feds and the other government types the girls could give the safe words and they would know better than to mess with them.
“Yeah,” Xander said. “So, is Buffy around?”
Willow raised an eyebrow at his tone. “Yeah. She’s teaching her sixth year class. Why?”
“Oh, because I picked her up something in New York,” he said, turning towards the door.
Following his gaze, Willow’s eyes widened when she saw the man standing in the doorway. He was older than both of them by ten years or more, and had no sense of youthfulness whatsoever. The years hadn’t been kind to him, he was much harder on the outside than Willow recalled. That boyish handsomeness of his she remembered was gone. Oh, she supposed he could still be considered handsome, but now it was more in that rugged way. And a good deal of his attractiveness came from the confidence he exuded.
Grinning, Riley Finn stepped into the classroom.
Willow gaped at him for several seconds before forcing herself to look back at Xander. He laughed in response and said, “What can I say? I wanted to get her a souvenir and it was him or one of those little Statue of Liberty in the gift shop.”
It was quiet that morning. Well, as quiet as it got in the middle of a city, at least. There was still lots of nose that she could make out, even without her enhanced hearing. A revving motorcycle engine as it speed through some dark, unseen street. An ambulance siren racing down another. She could even make out the faint sound of a whistle from one of the nearby factories, singling that one shift was ending and another would soon to begin. Everything sounded so...normal.
From where she was sitting next to the open window, Max closed her eyes and listened, allowing herself a brief moment to pretend that her life was normal again. That she was back at her and O.C.’s apartment, lying awaking in her bed after yet another night of restless sleep thanks to her shark DNA, and listing to the city from beside her own window. But she wasn’t anywhere near her old home. She was in Terminal City, trapped liked the other transgenic and transhumans, and so were O.C. and Sketchy and Logan.
Max tried not to sigh as she thought of them. They needed to get out of Terminal City and soon. Unlike her people, the ‘Freaks’, they weren’t resistance to the toxins. Eventually, they would get sick from them and they would die. If they didn’t starve to death first.
Provision were running low and would soon be gone completely. No food. No medicine. No way to survive. Not for much longer anyway. She could remember once hearing the saying that an army ran on its stomach, and her army’s stomach was empty.
What food they had had at the beginning of this whole mess had been rationed out accordingly. More food for the ordinaries, the pregnant women, and the kids, less for those who like herself could go for up to six days without it. It had worked for awhile, but they knew even that wouldn’t keep them sustained forever. At best, they’ll be able to go another two weeks before the food and Tryptophan ran out. At worst, they’d make it that two weeks only to have White and his Familiar friends come in and take them out because they’re no longer strong enough to defend themselves. So, short of some divine miracle that she really wasn’t expecting to happen, they were screwed. Sideways at that. And it was all her fault.
“Being the leader sucks,” she muttered. Tiredly, she rubbed her eyes. “Screw that, being me sucks.”
“At this point, being any of us sucks, Maxie.”
Snapping her eyes opened, Max glanced over her shoulder. “How did it go?”
Sighing, Alec stepped into her office. She knew that he was dirty and that God-awful scent that he was caked in was choking, but she didn’t care at this point. At least it proved he had actually been doing what he was supposed to be doing.
“Well, good in the way that the sewer grates we set up to block the tunnels are still holding up so the cops and Whites people can’t get in and slaughter us in our sleep,” he said, flopping down in one of the empty, tattered chairs in front of her desk. “And bad in the way that we still can’t get out to get supplies either.”
“Great,” Max said. “White still has the cameras on them?”
He nodded grimly. “No body gets in or out through them without him knowing. Hell, we can’t even check on the grates without him knowing.” Leaning forward, Alec said, “We’re running out of options here, Max. Yeah, they can’t get in, but we’re trapped. What we have is what we have and that’s running out fast.”
“I know,” she groaned. “But unless we just so happen to find a helicopter or the police just give up and go home and leave us in peace, I don’t know what to do about it. Cops are too scare to talk to us. White just wants us dead. Not to mention so does ninety percent of the rest of the country. So, what do we do? Because if you have any suggestions, I’m opened to them.”
Max knew that sounded desperate, but she couldn’t help that. A little side effect of actually being desperate, she supposed.
Alec frowned and slumped into his seat. “I wish I knew, Maxie. I wish I knew.”
Their school was a converted castle from the seventeen hundreds and it was massive. That wasn’t all that surprising. From the recent records he had been able to get a hold of, they had over three hundred slayers between the ages of eleven and eighteen - the ages of the children who attended this school. Then there was the equal number of Watchers they were training along right beside them. One Watcher to every slayer, that was a policy that carried over from the old Watchers Council.
Knowing Buffy as he did, it was probably a policy that she fought to keep, since one Watcher for a unit of slayers made more economic sense and for the number of Watchers they had began with. She would never go for that. Not with the kind of relationship she had with Giles. Every slayer needed their own Watcher, and she would see to it that they each got one.
From the corner of his eyes, Lydecker saw Willow was still sneaking peeks at him. He smiled lightly. It amazed him how many things about her and Xander hadn’t changed over the years. Oh, there were some vast differences, he wouldn’t deny that, but there were some things that weren’t. Just as Xander was still a joking, light-hearted being to the core, Willow still had that curious-but-trying-and-failing-to-not-make-it-obvious air about her.
Buffy’s ‘classroom’ - which was actually the recently added on gym - was empty when they arrived. Willow nor Xander had seemed surprised, though, and Lydecker really wasn’t either. At heart, Buffy would always be a California girl, which meant that she would take advantage of the uncommonly warm and clear English day. Sure enough, they found her supervising a group of sparing teenage girls.
The girls moved and fought like the X5s. Punches were not pulled. Kicks were not held back. When these girls fought, they fought to win. Just like his kids would do.
“They’re part of the group of sixth year slayers,” Willow said, mistaken his studying gaze for an expression of confused wonder.
“Impressive,” Lydecker said, watching as one girl flipped another over her head and slammed her body into the ground. It was a move he had seen his kids use on more than one occasion, usually to end the fight. However, the girl who was just slammed into the ground rolled back onto her shoulders and leapt back to her feet, ready to continue the sparing match.
“Wait until you see the seventh years,” Xander said.
Before Lydecker could response, Willow shouted, “Buffy!”
She turned and looked up at them and Lydecker would almost swear it was twenty years ago. Like Willow and Xander, she was older now. Her dark blonde hair was cut short and dyed a lighter color, covering whatever gray she might have and adding a couple years of youth onto her face. It appeared natural enough for her, not like a baked bleach job had seen so many older women wear. She was paler than he remembered, though there was still a bit of a healthy color to her. Then, he supposed it was difficult to keep that California tan when one spent the past sixteen years in England.
Reaching up, she shielded her eyes so she could see them better and smiled. Lydecker didn’t know if she recognized him or not, but she seemed willing to come see who he was. She pulled one of the girls aside, said something to her, and then left the girl in charge of the others. Crossing her arms, the girl began to bark orders and critics as Buffy climbed the steep grassy hill to join them.
“Hey, you,” Buffy said, wrapping her arms around Xander. “When did you get in?”
“Just now,” he said.
“And you came straight to work?” She smiled playfully at him. “Did you catch something while you were in the States? Or are we dealing with another clone from another dimension...again?”
Xander grinned and said, “Nope, no clones or doubles or dopple-grangers or whatever Giles called them. I just figured I’d better stop by to see what I’m going to spend the next six months fixing because you let one of your training sessions get out of hand again.”
“Oh, that happened - what? - once?”
Willow raised an eyebrow. “You forgotten to add ‘a year’, Buffy.”
“I wouldn’t be talking if I were you Miss Seven-Classrooms-in-Two-Years,” Buffy chided lightly. “Remind me again why you had to change your third through fifth year magic class to theory classes only?”
“Girls, girls, girls,” Xander said, draping his arms around both girls shoulders. “Between the two of you I’ve got enough work to do around here to last until the next century.”
Willow and Buffy narrowed their eyes and looked at one another. “I think I’m insulted,” Buffy said. “Are you insulted, Wills?”
“Yes, I think I am,” she said just as coolly.
Somewhat alarmed, Xander quickly released the girls and backed away with his arms held up. “Hey, you know I love you guys, right?”
“Uh-huh,” Buffy said, smiling but still glaring.
“Aw, we love you too, Xander,” Willow said, her cool tone now replaced with a more lighthearted one.
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed, patting him gently on the shoulder before turning her attention to Lydecker. “Who’s your friend?”
Lydecker smiled wearily. So she didn’t recognize him. “Hello, Buffy. It’s been awhile.”
Scrunching her eyebrows together, Buffy titled her head as she studied him. Much like Xander, it took her a few minutes to realize who he was, and he had to keep himself from laughing at her surprised expression.
“Riley? What are you doing here?” she asked, clearly stunned. Then, she suddenly sighed and said, “Wait, let me guess. It’s big. It’s ugly. And you need me to kill it, right?”
“Not exactly,” he said. Glancing at Xander and Willow briefly, Lydecker weighed his options.
He hadn’t told Xander why he needed to see Buffy, just that it was important that he got in touch with her. His old friend had simply nodded and agreed to take him to her, trusting Lydecker without question. However, he was sure that the now middle-aged man thought that once he took Lydecker to Buffy, he would get his answers of why he was there and he would eventually.
Xander and Willow would be the first two people to find out what they talked about. However, Lydecker wasn’t too keen on the idea of telling them. Not at the same time he was telling Buffy, anyway. Handling a very brassed-off slayer was going to be hard enough. Handling a brassed-off slayer and her super Wiccan friend and her best friend/older brother type was something that Lydecker was not prepared to do. In fact, he’d rather face a room full of rogue X5s with a handful of nomlies and transhumans throwing in for good measure because he stood a better chance of getting out that room alive than with these three.
Straightening his jacket, Lydecker said, “Could we go somewhere and speak.” He glanced at Willow and Xander. “In private.”
“Ah, another Black Ops thing,” Xander said to Willow. “What do you say, Wills? Should we go ahead and start the research party?”
Sighing, she turned and headed back to the school. “I’ll get the books.”
“And I’ll get the snacks,” Xander said, walked beside her.
Lydecker frowned. He didn’t know if there would be any useful information in their books or not, but at least they left them alone.
“Come on,” Buffy said, nudging her head towards the school. “We can talk in the kitchen.”
Drawing in a deep breath, Lydecker nodded and followed her.
Large rain droplets splashed against the windshield of the parked car that sat just outside the well guarded gates - on both sides - of Terminal City. Even for the beginning of summer, the air was chilled and the rain was cold, but that didn’t seem to stop the protesters from lifting their signs and chanting their pathetic little rhymes about getting rid of the mutant freaks. They had even put up one of their now infamous burning Xs, which actually had a handful of protesters gathered around it in order to keep warm.
There were Sector Police literally crawling all over the place. Since the small riot that had occurred two weeks ago, which was started by some unknown ‘protester’, security had increased. Instead of watching the mutants like they were supposed to be, they were having to watch their own.
Normally, they would have not bothered, letting the protesters tear the mutants apart or vice versa - but of course laying the blame on the Freaks. However, that was hard to do when there were as many media people scurrying about as there were Sector Cops. A military state or not, if the wrong person caught the wrong thing on tape and managed to get it out, things could get very bad for them. Just what they didn’t need was sympathy for the beasts. Not if they were ever going to be able to get rid of them for good.
Ames White sighed and picked up his cup of coffee from the cup holder.
A month. Those Freaks and their bitch leader had held themselves up in that hollow for month. He knew they could survive for awhile because they surely had provision stored up, but he had no idea they would be able to make it as long as they had. By his calculations, they shouldn’t have had enough food and drinks to sustain them for this long, not with the number of people who were now living there. Plus they had to take into the account the Tryptophan that all the X5s had to take to keep their seizures under control. They shouldn’t have had enough to last them all a month because there could have been no way for them to know that they would be locked inside for that long.
Though he was throughly aggravated and sick of the whole mess, Ames let a ghost of a smile cross his lips as he entertained the fantasy of the Freaks turning on the bitch 452. This was all her idea, after all. They were hungry, she couldn’t provide for them. They were sick, she couldn’t do anything to help them. They were tired, she couldn’t give them rest. By all rights, they should have turned on her by now, done something stupid that would allow him and his men to march in there with guns blazing, damn the consequences. But they hadn’t, not yet, at least. Still it was only a matter of time. As long as he and Conclave kept the negotiations from taking place, they could keep that hope alive. He could entertain that fantasy and wait for the day that it became reality.
A Sector Cop went up to a group of protesters - and homeless people by the looks of their clothes - and ordered them to leave immediately. They moved along without much protest, shuffling off in different directions. One woman caught Ames’ attention, though.
She was older, maybe his senior by about a couple of years, but still had a youthful appearance to her. A few gray hairs could be seen about her temples, but not enough to be overly noticeable. She was pretty, even when compared to someone ten years younger than her.
Ames could tell she worked out, even though the bulky clothes she wore. Mainly because she walked like a fighter, proud, unafraid, and challenging. Maybe that was what drew his attention so much to her. Everyone else here, including the police, were afraid. This woman...she wasn’t.
If she were younger, he would swear she was Manticore. The way she moved, the way she looked...But she couldn’t be. She was to old. If she were, she would probably be an X2 or X3, an none of those looked normal enough to pass as human. So, no, she couldn’t be Manticore.
Then, when she passed in front of his car, she glanced over and locked eyes with him, and Ames just kept himself from going for his gun. She looked at him with contempt and no fear, silently challenging him to try and harm her and laughing because she knew he wouldn’t dare.
Damn. She’s worse than that Manticore scum. She was a slayer.
The question was, what was a slayer doing there? Or, more importantly, was she there on Watcher Council business or just stopping by to see the Freak show?
He couldn’t chance it, the Conclave had to know she was here. If the Watcher’s Council decided that this was a matter that involved them, the Conclave would need to act quickly before they took over. Because if they did, he had no doubt it would be war.
AN2: Okay, I know some of the stuff about the slayers is kind of confusing, but I promise it's going to be explained. K. :)