“Do what often? Stake vampires? Hang out in demon bars? Get into bar fights?” Buffy asked as she and the general headed back toward her hotel.
“How about all of the above?”
“Occasionally. Used to. Not so much anymore. I've moved to a nice, quiet town.”
“Someone's been busy,” she acknowledged. “The main attraction was UCCS but the lack of 'night life' was a definite plus.”
“If you were rating towns by 'night life,' how would you rate Colorado Springs?”
“On a scale of one to ten? It would probably rate a two. I've staked a couple of out-of-town vamps but haven't come across a nest yet. The local demon population is pretty harmless. The live and let live type. Now my old hometown, that was a solid ten.”
“Vampires in every cemetery?”
“And in the abandoned mansions, the warehouses, the sewer system.”
“Between the sewers and the other tunnels under Sunnydale, a vamp could get just about anywhere in town without catching any rays.”
“Aren't they supposed to be asleep during the day?”
“Do you go to bed as soon as the sun goes down? Anyhow, they weren't the only things down there. Some of the more conspicuous demons prefer to stay out of sight so they tend to stay underground in populated areas.”
“How many other places are that bad?”
“Luckily very few, most places are pretty quiet, like Colorado Springs. Sunnydale was built on top of a hellmouth, sort of a portal to a demon dimension. It acted as a magnet for all things bad.”
The pair came to a stop at an intersection. Since several other people were already there waiting for the signal to change, Buffy didn't answer right away. When the “WALK” signal flashed, she and the general quickly crossed the street, putting some distance between themselves and the others.
“We closed down the hellmouth permanently a couple of years ago.”
“So, not an earthquake?”
“Not really, more of a mystic-quake.”
“And who would 'we' be? The Traverse Foundation or the Council?”
As they neared a particularly well-lit area, O'Neill caught a glimpse of smile on her face.
“At the time I wasn't part of the Travers Foundation. Quinton Travers and I had long history of not playing well together. And the Council, lets just say that they were pretty much out of commission at that point.”
“Not going tell me.”
She recognized that it was a statement and not a question but she answered anyway. “Nope. It's a need to know kinda thing and you don't need to know.”
O'Neill tried another tack. “Okay, how did you get involved with this? And what are you?”
“Willie told you, I'm a slayer or more precisely, a vampire slayer. How did I get involved?” The slight smile vanished as if had never been there. “Destiny, fate, genetics, really bad luck, take your pick. Thousands of years ago, some wizards used magic to create the first slayer. She was given the power to fight the vampires and the demons that roamed the earth. When she fell, another girl was chosen. I was fifteen when I was chosen.”
“For crying out loud,” O'Neill sputtered. “Fifteen?”
“Slayers are always called young, usually around fourteen or fifteen. There are records of some being called even younger, the youngest that I'm aware of was almost eleven. The only qualifier seems to be that they've at least hit puberty.”
O'Neill mulled this over. When added to Willie's comments about a witch activating the slayers at Sunnydale, a very unpleasant picture began to emerge.
“Willie said something about most slayers dying before they turn twenty.”
“Most only lasted a year or two, so if you were called at fifteen, chances were pretty good that you would long dead by twenty.”
“You're over twenty.”
“And I didn't make it to seventeen.”
“I drowned when I was sixteen. A master vamp did a major nibble and while I was in shock he pushed me into a pool of water face down. Some friends found me and did the CPR thing. We thought it was just another near miss until a new slayer arrived in town.”
“You have a lot of near misses?”
“Occupational hazard. The other team plays for keeps. In addition the the run of the mill beat downs, I've been drugged and left for demon chow, stabbed with my own stake, nearly drained by another master vamp, and shot.”
Despite the warm September night, Jack saw her shiver.
“The new slayers, the ones the witch activated?”
“Willie talks too much. Most of them are still alive but there are always casualties.” She sighed as an image of Dawn's friend Amanda crossed her mind's eye. “Slayers are the front line in an unending war. Right now, the odds are better than they've ever been but we still lose people.”
“You lose children.” Children who were not that much older than his dead son.
“We inherited the system, we didn't create it.”
“But you changed it didn't you? You found a way to activate all of them,” he charged.
“Yes. We, I, found a way.
“That unending war? We were losing big time. Something happened a couple of years earlier that upset the balance between good and evil. Potential slayers were being hunted down and killed in an attempt to destroy the slayer line. Once the last slayer was dead, the big bad was going to open the hellmouth wide and there wouldn't have been a damn thing anyone could done about it. Humanity would have been wiped out. Activating the potentials was our best chance to save the world and it was the only way to save any of them. As Potentials, they weren't any stronger or faster than any other teenager. As Slayers, they had a fighting chance.”
“You couldn't undo it afterwards?”
She shook her head. “Once a Slayer, always a Slayer.”
“They're just children, little girls.”
“Not anymore. They are Slayers.” Buffy turned her head towards the general. “Don't stop, we've got company.”
“Wondering when you would notice.”
“They aren't vamps or demons.”
“So, just muggers?”
“Yeah, or gangbangers unfortunately. Vamps I can kill, these I have to take down without causing major damage.”
“Make that we have to take down,” he corrected. “And I think moderate damage is probably in order.”Colorado Springs
The waiting had been killing him. He had a brief respite when he finally drifted to sleep around three in the afternoon. He was still sleeping when Cassie let herself into his apartment.
Cassie shook her head in exasperation when she found him, still in yesterday's clothes, asleep on the couch. Her mom and Uncle Jack were right. He really did need a keeper.
“Daniel, rise and shine.”
“What,” he slurred.
“Rise and shine. How late did you stay up this time?”
“Um, what time is it?” he asked as he sat up.
“What difference does that make? You pulled an all-nighter again. You're supposed to take it easy. Brightman's going to be pissed.”
“Only if she finds out. You're not going to tell her, are you?”
Cassie giggled at the poor lost puppy look on his face.
“I will if it happens again.”
“It won't. I promise.”
“Right.” She plopped down on other end of the couch. “So, why were you up so late? History Channel tick you off again?”
“No. I was waiting for a phone call.”
“No. The letter you found was from the daughter of an old friend. I was trying to get in contact with her but she had just left on a business trip. Her sister said she would pass a message on for me if she could.”
“And that was so important that you stayed up all night hoping to she'd call you? You do have a telephone in your bedroom you know.” She leaned forwarded. “What's the real story?”
The telephone rang.