End Of A Chapter
The character of Clarence Odbody is borrowed from the film It’s A Wonderful Life
; all other characters are borrowed from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
. Some dialogue from ‘Innocence’, by Joss Whedon.Xander Harris, This Is Not Your Life41. End Of A Chapter
Jonathan said, ‘I’ve been thinking …’
When he didn’t say anything more, Amy told him that if he had any information he should come out with it.
‘Well, does anybody else remember Warren Mears?’
Both Morgan and Marcie thought the name sounded familiar, and Marcie asked whether Warren had been a student at Sunnydale High.
‘For one semester’, Jonathan said, ‘and then he went to the tech college—’
‘—at Dutton!’ interjected Dave. ‘I remember him now.’
‘Well, yeah, that’s right. The thing is, he and I used to play RPGs together—’
This time it was Nancy who interrupted. ‘Rocket-propelled grenades?’
Jonathan shook his head. ‘Role-playing games.’
‘Sorry. It’s my military knowledge.’
‘That’s okay. The thing is, Warren’s disappeared from Dutton without any explanation. Nobody’s heard from him, nobody knows where he is. Not since last month. And unexplained disappearances—’
Willow finished the sentence for him. ‘—might not be signs of vampire activity, but then again, they might be.’
‘And Dutton’s not far from here’, added Jesse.
Willow put down the book she’d been going through and looked at Jenny, and they both switched to searching the Web for news from Dutton.
Rupert came into the room from his office. ‘That was Sam Zabuto on the phone.’
‘Kendra’s Watcher?’ said Cordelia.
‘Yes, after I talked with the Council—’
‘And what a bust that turned out to be’, said Cordelia, and Buffy rolled her eyes.
‘—well, be that as it may, they got a message to Mr Zabuto, and now Kendra’s on her way here.’
‘I still don’t see that we need her.’
‘Perhaps, but she’s on a plane, and somebody will have to meet her at the airport.’
‘I got it’, said Oz, raising a hand.
Rupert handed Oz a piece of paper with the flight details and said, ‘I’m afraid he’s otherwise as little able to assist as the rest of the Council has so far been.’
‘Colour me unsurprised’, said Marcie.
Dave nodded in agreement. ‘The more I hear about your whole system the less impressed I am.’
Rupert looked awkward and Jenny said, ‘Don’t take it personally, Rupert. Nobody’s blaming you.’
A few other people half-muttered reassurances to Rupert and then Jonathan said, ‘There is one other thing I was thinking about.’
When he didn’t say any more, Buffy told him to go on.
‘Well, in RPGs …’
‘RPGs’, said Kevin with a snort. ‘Right.’
‘Go on’, said Jesse. ‘I wanna hear this.’
‘Sometimes magical or supernatural creatures are not affected by normal weapons, but they’re vulnerable to enchanted weapons, or weapons made from special materials, and sometimes they’re vulnerable to other special kinds of damage.’
‘So?’ said Kevin. ‘We’re already looking for possible vulnerabilities.’
‘Maybe you’ve got a list of special kinds of damage’, said Jesse.
‘Well, there’s acid, cold, electricity, fire, sonic—’
‘Sonic?’ said Cordelia. ‘You mean like sound?’
Jonathan cleared his throat nervously before going on. ‘You know how opera singers can shatter glass if they sing high enough notes? Sorta like that.’
‘Hey!’ said Buffy. ‘That’s kinda like when we had to tackle that She-Mantis thing and we used bat sonar.’ She looked round the room. ‘Before your time, for most of you. Sorry. In my early days at Sunnydale, when I didn’t have so much back-up to work with.’
Rupert returned to the subject of sonic weaponry, examining the potential of the suggestion. ‘I imagine a prerequisite for any successful attack on the Judge with an energy weapon would be a much higher level of power than a simple tape recording.’
Morgan had another objection. ‘Sonic energy could be difficult to contain. We don’t want Buffy to bring down the Judge and
the roof on her head at the same time.’
Jesse suggested going back to Jonathan’s list. ‘How about fire? We know that works against vampires.’
Rupert looked dubious. ‘I don’t know. It seems a little too obvious.’
Nancy agreed. ‘Sonic weaponry’s the sort of thing a low-tech army wouldn’t have access to, but fire’s even older than forged weapons. They’d hardly have missed that idea if it was effective.’
‘Speaking of low-tech’, said Dave, ‘how is cold even a kind of weapon?’
‘If it’s extremely intense cold’, said Jonathan, ‘cold enough to freeze you solid.’
Angel broke a long silence. ‘You mean, like liquid-nitrogen levels of cold? Because if that’s an effective weapon, I think I know how we can use it against the Judge. Nancy, does your weapons knowledge include being a good shot with a rifle?’
‘Well … Since Halloween I have been out to the range a few times with my cousin Larry. I’m a pretty good shot.’
‘Pretty good? This could be important.’
Nancy hesitated before answering, and Buffy said, ‘So Larry shoots too? How good is he?’
‘Not as good as I am.’ Nancy took a deep breath. ‘If Angel has a plan that needs a very
good shot—I should be able to pull it off.’
Jenny and Willow, still at their computers, had been whispering together, and now Jenny looked up and spoke. ‘There’s definitely been a mysterious spike in the rate of missing persons reports in Dutton, and the pattern does look like it might be vampires behind it.’
‘Well’, said Amy, ‘let’s suppose Spike is
in Dutton, and he is
putting the Judge together there, what then?’
‘First he’ll need all the pieces’, said Rupert, ‘but for anything we know, he may already have them.’
Angel shook his head. ‘Spike isn’t big on patience. If the Judge is ready, he won’t be delaying.’
Buffy agreed vigorously. ‘That’s right. He doesn’t like to wait. If the Judge isn’t here yet, it’s because Spike hasn’t got him operational yet.’
‘That conclusion may not be reliable. Our research so far indicates that getting the Judge operational is a little more involved than assembling a jigsaw puzzle. His power will return gradually. With each victim he takes he will become more dangerous.’
Dave winced. ‘You mean, like they’re power-up modules?’
‘In that case’, Angel said, ‘Spike’s first move will be to take the Judge somewhere with plenty of people around.’
There was a moment’s lull as everybody reflected on this unpleasant thought, and then Marcie spoke.
‘So there’s still plenty of work to do. More research on the Judge, to see if we can confirm the effectiveness of snap-freezing as a strategy, which also means discussing all the details of Angel’s plan and whether it’s feasible, with Nancy’s input. Also we could use more detailed information about Dutton, geographical information, particularly if there are any likely places for the Judge’s out-of-town tryouts. As Kendra’s on her way here, maybe we could get her to go on a scouting mission—she’s got no job or school or family to tie her down in Sunnydale. I’ll go with Oz to collect her, make sure to give her a full briefing.’***
‘Okay, Clarence, I can see we’re moving on again, but before we do there is one point you might be able to clear up for me. Why would Spike want to turn Warren Mears into a vampire? I mean, if that is what’s happened. I don’t see Spike valuing Warren’s company.’
Xander heard an unaccustomed note of hesitancy in Clarence’s voice as the answer began.— ‘What’s that term? A flashback, I think this is called?’
‘Uh-huh’, said Xander. ‘I guess that’s why I’m getting this effect as if things are sepia-toned now, which can’t really be what’s happening, but never mind. I still recognise Spike, and Drusilla, and Warren. I guess those other two are just a couple of Spike’s vampire lackeys, and this is supposed to be their hideout in Dutton.’***[Spike]
‘I know I told you two Drusilla needed something quickly to keep her strength up, and I wasn’t expecting gourmet dining, but couldn’t you do any better than this?’[Drusilla]
‘Don’t be too angry with them, Spike, darling. There’s something—intriguing—about this one. He may not look like much, but his inner being … He could be useful to us, I know it. Couldn’t you? Let him speak.’[Warren]
‘Yes! Yes! I’ll be so useful to you! Anything you want! Only please, please …’[Drusilla]
‘That’s enough speaking for now. Don’t you see the potential, my love?’[Spike]
‘If you say it’s there, that’s good enough for me. At any rate, he can at least give us some information about this town, which may come in handy.’[Drusilla]
‘So I can keep him, then?’[Spike]
‘Anything for you, Dru. You can still get some nourishment out of him at the same time.’[Warren]
‘Keep me? Nourishment? What—’***
‘I’m glad that stopped before he screamed.’ Xander could taste an unwelcome memory. ‘I don’t need to hear Warren give that kind of scream ever again. But thanks for answering my question, Clarence, it does help to understand the story.’— ‘That’s what this is all about, Xander, helping you to understand, even if you don’t need every detail of the story for that.’
‘And I guess I’ve missed some more details while that flashback was happening, because I don’t know where this is that I’m looking at now, or how much time has gone by, or what’s happened in between, or what they’ve been doing about it. But the general idea seems plain enough, so let’s just keep going.’***
‘Fifteen-minute check’, said Nancy into her walkie-talkie. ‘Still nothing visible from here.’
A few clicks, and then first Angel and after him Buffy confirmed that they couldn’t see anything either.
‘Okay’, said Nancy. ‘Next routine check in another fifteen minutes.’ Then she addressed Kendra, standing on the roof beside her, instead of the walkie-talkie. ‘So far the calculations check out. We had to set up here in plenty of time, but getting this far from Dutton will probably take them a bit longer. I still can’t see how they could be on any other route.’
‘You are nervous.’
‘Dis is what I am trained for.’
‘I have a soldier’s training too’, said Nancy, ‘or at least the effects of it, no matter how weirdly come by. Training doesn’t stop soldiers from being nervous before combat, just like it doesn’t stop them being terrified in
‘My training is not dat of a soldier, but of a warrior.’
Kendra’s words could have sounded condescending, but Nancy heard in Kendra’s voice no condescension, just as there had been no anxiety. She responded without resentment, but with curiosity.
‘Warriors don’t get nervous?’
Kendra answered in a different tone of voice, one that sounded like an official announcement—no, more than that, a proclamation.
‘I am Kendra, de Vampire Slayer.’ For a moment Nancy thought Kendra’s words were supposed to be final, but then she went on, her voice now halfway between her sudden formality and her earlier more nearly conversational tones. ‘De Slayer is de Chosen One.’
At this point Nancy interrupted. ‘Not the One
‘Yes, dat is still strange.’ Now Kendra sounded almost like anybody else, except for the West Indian accent. ‘Mr Zabuto and Mr Giles both tell me that in all de history of de Slayer dere has never before been more dan one of us at a time. For years I trained to be ready to replace the Chosen One before me when she fell, and now I have met
her.’ Kendra’s pause must have been for reflection, because when she went on she said, ‘I have learned from her, about what my training means.’
‘Your training as a warrior?’
‘De Slayer is a warrior. It is not what she does, it is who she is. Dat is de inner meaning of my training, but I did not see it until Buffy showed me.’
Without otherwise shifting position, Nancy lifted her eyebrows for an instant. ‘That doesn’t sound like the way Buffy would talk about it.’
‘She does not say it. She lives it. I was deceived when I first met her by de frivolous way she speaks, but den I saw de seriousness at her core.’ Kendra flicked a quick glance at Nancy, before returning her gaze to sentry duty. ‘Dat is what draws and holds you and all de others to her. She shares her strength with you and dat makes her stronger.’
‘What about you? Do you have that, emotional bonds with other people?’
It took a moment for Kendra to reply. ‘I do not know. Perhaps I do now, wit’ one. I hope so.’ Again she paused for a moment before continuing. ‘In my training I was taught to banish emotion, to focus wit’out distraction on my purpose. Buffy has begun to show me another way.’
Nancy thought she understood. ‘She was much more upset than you about all those people who were killed by the Judge in that mall in Dutton, when Spike was testing him out and increasing his strength.’
Kendra responded almost as if Nancy’s words had been a rebuke. ‘I fight de war against vampires and demons at all times, never stopping, and I am ready to put everyt’ing at stake for de people I am defending, even my life. But in war dere is always death. I can never save dem all. Perhaps your school principal was important to Buffy?’
‘I doubt it. We hardly got a chance to know Principal Wetherby—I mean, we don’t even have any idea what he was doing at that mall in Dutton. But he was the third principal in a row we’ve lost like that since Spike showed up. I think that brought it home to Buffy.’
Kendra nodded, then shrugged. ‘Still, dat is war.’
‘I know. Soldiers learn the same thing. Buffy wanted you here next to me with a plan that gives me the best chance of getting away clean, and she doesn’t want me taking any risk if I don’t have to, but there is still some risk and I know it. You and Buffy may be the Chosen Ones, or the Chosen Two, or whatever, but the vampires are enemies to all of us and this is my war too.’
‘De plan is a good plan, and your part in it is rightly chosen. Dat weapon you have, de rifle, it is not one that Slayers are trained in.’
At Kendra’s words, Nancy felt the familiarity of her weapon. She didn’t shift a muscle; when she’d got prone, she’d made sure to take a position she could hold. ‘I know it inside out. I’ve shot with this one before, at the range, with Larry. He got hold of it for me tonight.’
‘I t’ink I have not met dis relation of yours, dis Larry.’
‘No, you haven’t. Larry’s history with Buffy is—it’s complicated. I don’t know how he’d feel about being part of the team. But he knows about the war we’re fighting, and he knows it’s for him too.’
Kendra accepted this silently, and then turned to another subject that had obviously piqued her curiosity. ‘Did he also get you dose other t’ings? Dey are more strange to me.’
‘You mean the night-vision goggles? No, that was … Wait! They’re coming!’ She thumbed her walkie-talkie on. ‘I see them! Three cars, four—I don’t know how many, but coming fast!’
Buffy’s voice came over the walkie-talkie, confirming she’d understood the message and then asking Angel whether he was ready. When he said he was, Buffy acknowledged his message and gave the word for going into action.***
When Buffy got up on the rear of the barricade they’d constructed, she could see the approaching cars even without night-vision goggles; there was enough light for that, as they’d expected. The barricade wouldn’t hold them for long if they wanted to come through it, but that wasn’t the plan.
The first car stopped, the passenger door opened, and out came the thing, the thing from her dream, the Judge. He was real, and he looked just the way she’d dreamed him, big and blue and ugly.
‘Hi!’ she said. ‘Glad you could make it. We’ve heard so much about you.’
Already Spike and Drusilla were out of the car as well.
‘It’s her!’ shouted Drusilla. ‘The Slayer! Goody!’
‘Go on!’ shouted Spike. ‘What are you waiting for!’
Buffy, remembering what Giles had said about range, had waited only long enough to be sure she had the Judge’s attention and then jumped down from the barricade and started to run along the planned route. With one quick sideways flick of her head, she saw him start lumbering after her, raising one hand in a gesture that didn’t look like it meant well for her. She kept running and the Judge kept coming, just the way they’d planned; he crossed the right spot—and then Angel stepped out of the shadows and lobbed the heavy barrel right at him.
The barrel collided with the Judge, who looked down at it and said, ‘What is this thing? No weapon forged can stop me.’
‘That’, said Buffy, ‘is why the weapon isn’t being aimed at you.’
She had barely finished speaking when she heard the crack of Nancy’s rifle. The barrel burst and immediately the vapour spurted out, surrounding the Judge, who was frozen solid in an instant, just as advertised, without even a chance to speak again.
Behind her, Buffy heard the sound of Angel’s running steps. She knew he was on his way to collect Nancy and get her to Giles’s car and safely away.
Then her attention was wrenched forward again to an outburst of hysteria from Drusilla, sinking to her knees.
‘No-o! No-o-o! My beautiful present! Oh Spike, what will we do now?’
‘Dru! Love!’ shouted Spike, half-turning to her, but he snapped back to focus on Buffy as she charged at him.
‘Hello, Spike! Didja miss me?’
Spike gave a roar of rage and frustration, and Buffy slowed, circling round him, waiting to close.
‘Slayer!’ he yelled, and threw himself at her, but they had barely started exchanging blows when the entry on the stage of another actor was announced by a thump of boots contacting the ground as somebody jumped down from above.
The action slowed just enough for Buffy to register the situation. The vertical angle of Kendra’s arrival had taken all the vampires by surprise; Buffy was the only one who was prepared for it. But when Spike saw that Drusilla could be threatened, he reacted immediately, turning from Buffy to rush to Drusilla’s aid.
‘Dru! Love!’ he shouted again, but he never reached her. He had completely forgotten about Buffy, and was unprepared when she ran five steps, snatching a stake from her belt as she did so, and hurled herself into a leap which brought both feet into his back just above the hip, tumbling him to the ground.
As Buffy raised her stake high for the finishing blow, she had just enough time to flick a sideways glance at Kendra and see her positioned like Buffy’s own image in a mirror, each poised with stake in hand over a vampire pinned to the ground.
Then both Slayers turned their eyes back to business and both stakes came down.***
Angel had hurried Nancy and her rifle into the back of Giles’s car and slammed the door behind her, then without missing a beat started running back towards the fight. He rounded the corner and saw Buffy and Kendra both rising from the ground and brushing dust from themselves. Beyond them, he saw half a dozen vampires, or maybe more, all of them taking to their heels.
‘Buffy?’ he said.
Buffy looked in the direction of the fleeing vampires first, then at Angel. ‘Angel?’
‘All well at my end’, he said, knowing how important it was to Buffy to hear it. Then he said, ‘Spike? Dr-Drusilla?’
Buffy gave the very slightest nod. ‘It’s done. It’s finished.’
Angel looked at her and then gave two long, slow nods of his own. Buffy walked up to him and placed the palm of one hand gently against his side.
The moment was interrupted by Kendra calling to them to give her a hand. She had recovered the tarpaulins and the ropes from where they’d stashed them earlier and was hauling them towards the frozen remains of the Judge.
Buffy and Angel joined her and they set to work. With three of them on the job, it didn’t take long. Soon they were ready to leave, each one hefting a bundle of tarpaulin fastened with rope, containing broken pieces of the Judge.
‘Do you t’ink dis is enough to make it safe?’ Kendra said to Angel.
‘It should be okay for now. Maybe later we can break it up more, if that seems like a good idea, make more parcels, just so long as we’re careful not to spill anything.’
‘It is a pity all dose other vampires escaped.’
‘They’ll be drawn to the Hellmouth energy’, said Buffy. ‘I guess they’ll keep me busy for a while, but I’ve had a little change of pace and it’s not like anything I’m not used to.’
‘You, and Angel, and all de rest. You have built a good team, Buffy.’
Buffy locked gazes with Kendra for a moment. ‘But none of them are Slayers.’ They walked on in silence for a moment.
Angel said, ‘Kendra, are you sure you don’t mind taking all the responsibility for secure disposal of these packages—I mean, apart from the one we take care of here?’
Kendra shook her head. ‘Mr Giles had a long conversation with Mr Zabuto. It is not as easy for you to travel, because of de sun. I am still more used to working alone. And you should be here in case dat Ms Calendar learns more from her clan about your curse.’
‘If she does’, Buffy said, ‘we’ll be sure to pass it on to you. We’re going to keep that line of conversation open ourselves from now on, ’cause I don’t think we can count on the Watchers Council to do that.’
‘I t’ink you do not have much respect for de Watchers Council.’
‘I’ll respect them when I see them do something that deserves respect. Remember how they never told me, or Giles, that you’d been called? Remember how they never told you, or your Watcher, that I was still alive and Slaying? I think Marcie’s right, and Dave too, that the system could do with some changes.’
‘De Slayer is not supposed to go against de Council.’
‘And you don’t like it?’ said Buffy. ‘It’s not like that, Kendra. We haven’t got any plans to go against the Council. We’re just going to do a little more of our own thinking around here.’