The Knights of the OneSummary: There is no Watchers Council, never has been. That doesn’t mean the Slayer has to fight alone.
Crossover: Stargate SG-1, but only in the sense that some characters from that universe appear here. No Stargates, aliens or parasitic snakes in this story. Also, I snuck one character from Marvel Comics as well. Again, though, just that one character, no further crossover.
Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story belong to me. I own nothing but the plot and do not intend to make any profit from it.
Note: Just something that came to me during quiet times at the office. Completed for now, but if people are interested I might be persuaded to write more.
Louis Ferretti and Charles Kawalsky gave each other uneasy looks as they entered the seedy-looking motel. They had stayed in worse places, true, but only if a mission required it or nothing else was available. That their old friend was staying in a place like this out of his own free will... it wasn’t encouraging.
They made their way up the steps and arrived at the room they were looking for. Without any further ado Ferretti knocked on the door.
“Jack? It’s Charlie and Lu! Come on, open up! Please.”
For a long minute it seemed that the room beyond was either empty or they were being ignored, but finally they heard the shuffle of feet and moments later the door opened. Both men managed to keep any trace of shock from their faces.
Colonel Jonathan “Jack” O’Neill (retired) was 44 years old, but right now he could easily have passed for sixty. Grey was liberally sprinkled through his hair, deep lines had been carved into his face. The dark circles under his eyes didn’t help, either.
“What do you want?” he asked, looking at his two old friends with bleak eyes.
Lu and Charlie were glad not to smell any alcohol on their friend’s breath, but the despair surrounding him was almost tangible. Two years had passed since the day his world had come crashing down. Two years in which he had lost everything that mattered to him. First his son, then his career, and finally his wife.
Charlie’s eyes widened as he saw the gun lying on the small table inside the room. Surely Jack wasn’t considering...
“Can we come in, Jack?” Lu asked, having seen the gun as well. “We want to talk to you about something.”
Jack hesitated a moment, then shrugged. “Sure. Got nothing else to do that can’t wait.”
They entered the room, taking a quick look around. According to their info Jack had been staying here these last four months or so, but there was no trace of the man they knew in this room. The only things that hadn’t come with the room were the open duffel bag lying beside the bed and the gun on the table.
“So what is it?” Jack asked, sitting down on the bed. The gun was still in his reach.
Lu and Charlie had talked tactics beforehand and both had agreed that Jack didn’t need any platitudes. There had been plenty of those already and they hadn’t helped. No, they knew Jack, or at least they knew the man he had once been. What Jack needed, now more than ever, was a purpose. A reason not to do what they feared he planned to do with that gun of his. And they had just the thing. They just needed to convince him of that.
“It’s like this, Jack,” Lu began, folding his hands in front of him. “Charlie and I have recently retired from active service. The reason for that is that we’ve found a new... calling, so to speak. And we would really like for you to come on board, too.”
Jack looked at him with no interest whatsoever. “I’m not in the market to become a mercenary, Lu. Didn’t think the two of you were the type, either.”
“Not mercenary work, Jack,” Charlie took over. “Something much more important. Something more important than any mission we ever did for Uncle Sam.”
Now there was a tiny bit of interest in Jack’s eyes. “What’s so important then?”
Lu shrugged, smiling. “Basically, we’re in the business of saving the world.”
Jack snorted. “Yeah, right.”
Charlie put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Jack, we’d really like to tell you more, but the problem is, well, you wouldn’t believe a thing. Not without seeing proof. Which we’d like to show you. Come with us.”
Jack looked at them both for a long minute. The gun on the table beside them was like a heavy presence in the room, even though no one looked directly at it. Through the haze of despair and depression Jack tried to judge the sincerity of his two old friends. Was it true?
Well, just one way to find out.
“Okay, let’s go,” he simply said, rising. Grabbing his duffle bag, he added “good thing I’m already packed. Where are we going?”
Lu and Charlie rose as well, smiling. “Los Angeles!”
The three former Special Forces operatives arrived in Los Angeles on the next day. Having showered and shaved, Jack O’Neill looked somewhat more human than just yesterday, though he was still far from his old self. His two friends had also been quite persistent in not telling him anything further, only repeating that he needed to see it for himself in order to believe.
After a short breakfast they headed into Los Angeles’ industrial district and parked in front of a nondescript warehouse. Several other cars and two small trucks were also parked nearby. The three men headed into the warehouse through a side entrance and into a wide-open space which had apparently been converted into some kind of training centre. Mats covered the floors, a small obstacle course was set up in one corner, free weights were set against one wall. Jack had been in dozens of places like this, improvised staging areas for whatever mission was currently being prepared, so he felt right at home.
Then he nearly tripped over his own feet, though.
In the centre of the warehouse space four people were fighting. It was too vicious to call it sparring, as he could easily see that no one was pulling any punches. Three of the four combatants were men in their late thirties to early forties, probably military despite their civilian clothing. All three were going all-out, using different fighting styles. Jack recognized Krav Maga, some form of Kung-Fu, Savate and Jeet Kune Do, all of them used in mixtures that practically screamed Special Forces to anyone with the necessary experience. Within ten seconds Jack could easily see that all three men were very good at what they were doing. In his current state he wouldn’t have lasted ten seconds against any of them.
What made his jaw drop, though, was the fourth combatant on the mats. The one the other three were clearly attacking. He needed a moment to process everything, mostly because said combatant was moving so fast that it was nearly impossible to get a good look, but his initial impression was not wrong.
Combatant four was a girl. Not a woman, a girl. She couldn’t be any older than sixteen at the most, probably younger, looked to be barely five feet tall, and couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds soaking wet.
And she was kicking ass.
Jack had never seen anything like it. The girl moved like a dancer and with a speed that left these clearly highly trained and experienced men hitting nothing but air time and time again. What was even more incredible than her speed and dexterity was her obvious strength. What blows she didn’t dodge, she blocked, taking hits on her arms that should have set her back ten feet by sheer physics alone, but didn’t move her at all. And when she struck back and hit one of the men with a roundhouse kick, said man – who was at least six foot six and 220 pounds – went flying, literally flying. How was that even possible?
He kept watching, unable to look away. Not only was this girl incredibly fast and strong, but she had the technique to match. Jack saw her use at least three different styles he recognized, plus at least two others he had never seen before, all of them flawlessly woven together into something that really did look like a dance, but was highly effective as well.
Jack also revised one of his earlier observations. The three men weren’t pulling any punches, but the girl clearly was. He saw it in the way she never fully extended her arms when punching and slowed down somewhat on her spin kicks... and she still sent men at least twice her mass flying.
“Impressive little minx, isn’t she?” Lu asked from beside him, clearly enjoying to see his old friend completely flabbergasted.
“She is incredible. I’ve never seen... she must have been trained right from birth or something to...”
“Not quite,” Charlie interrupted him. “As a matter of fact, our girl here didn’t even know how to throw a decent punch as little as... is it two weeks now, Lu?”
“Tomorrow, I think. We started on a Sunday.”
Jack looked back and forth between them, sure he was being bull-shitted. Even if that girl was some sort of mini-Supergirl and could bench-press Special Forces guys with ease, there was no way anyone could become so good a fighter in but two weeks. But neither of his old friends seemed to be joking.
“How...?” he started, not sure how to continue.
“It’s a bit of a long story. Come on, let’s leave these guys to their trashing while we introduce you to the man in charge.”
They left the training area and went into what had once been the manager’s office of the warehouse, now converted into what was obviously some kind of war room. Maps were spread across one table, while stacks of books and several computers were set up nearby. Two people were present, one a woman in her mid-thirties with flaming red hair, the other a man in his fifties, nearly completely bald, but with the kind of hardened look that clearly spoke of a man who had spent more time in the field than behind a desk.
“Jack,” Lu began the introductions, “these are the people currently calling the shots around here. Ladies first, this is Natasha Romanov, formerly of the KGB. And the gentleman to her right is Hans Wagner, formerly of GSG-9. You might have heard of both of them. Natasha, Hans, this is Jonathan O’Neill, formerly of the United States Air Force.”
Jack was flabbergasted once again. Of course he had heard these names before. GSG-9, the German anti-terrorist unit had a great reputation world-wide and Hans Wagner, better known as “Eisen-Hans”, had been one of their top operatives in the seventies and early eighties. Jack had even worked with him once, if but indirectly, when he had been on a mission in East Germany.
And one could hardly work a month in black ops, much less the decades he’d spent doing that, without coming across the name of Natasha Romanov, better known as the Black Widow. Before the fall of the Soviet Union she’d been the bogey man of every Western intelligence agency. Rumor had it that she had defected shortly before the USSR came crashing down, but ever since then she’d disappeared off the grid.
If Jack had had any inkling about this being some sort of joke left, it was gone now. These were two of the most dangerous individuals on the planet.
Welcome, Herr O’Neill,” Wagner said, his German accent so thick that Jack suspected he was just having fun with it. “I’m very glad that you have decided to come to this... job interview, you might say.”
“I had some free time to spare,” he said, though he was clearly still in the process of overcoming his shock. “So... job interview, yes? What kind of job are we talking about?”
Wagner gestured for them to sit down around the conference table in the middle of the room before he began talking.
“I am sure you have seen the young lady training outside,” he began. “Notice anything interesting about her?”
“You mean apart from her apparently being Superman’s little cousin and her outclassing highly trained Special Forces fighters with ease? Nope, didn’t see anything.”
Sarcasm was always his weapon of choice in tense situations.
“Ms. Summers out there is a very special girl, Herr O’Neill. Now some of what I will tell you know will be hard to believe, but I hope that having seen what she can do will help you keep an open mind. Ms. Summers is the latest in a long line of warriors that have kept this world safe since the dawn of humanity.”
“Safe from what?” Jack asked.
“Why, from the monsters, of course. Vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, just about every critter or creature you’ve ever read about in the fairy tales, plus a huge load of others you’ve never even heard of before.”
Jack’s first reaction was to ask the old guy what he was smoking, but he kept his mouth shut. Open mind and all. Still... vampires? Demons?
“I can see you’re having a hard time with this. Not surprising, most people do. Let me tell you a story, Herr O’Neill. Now I must warn you, the first part of this story is little more than a working theory, put together from bits and pieces we have assembled over time. We do not profess to know the full truth, but here is what we do know:
“The world, Herr O’Neill, did not start out as paradise. Quite the opposite. For a long time it was ruled by creatures that, for lack of a better term, we call demons and devils. Creatures for whom the early humans were cattle at best. Over time the more powerful of these creatures died out, though, thereby levelling the playing field somewhat and allowing humans to multiply and thrive. Still, the demons were the bosses on planet Earth and would probably have remained so for eons to come.
“At some point in the distant past, though, a group of shamans called the Shadow Men came together and got the idea to start fighting fire with fire. Living in an age where a sharp stick was the pinnacle of weapons technology, they turned to the mystical and, as near as we can tell, managed to imbue a girl with the strength, speed, and resilience of a demon, thus creating the one and only human being who could actually go toe to toe with the monsters and win.”
A sad look came over Wagner’s face. “We have no way of knowing, but I doubt the girl in question was a volunteer. Anyway, from what we know the girl fought, she killed, and eventually she died in combat. And when she did, the power the Shadow Men had imbued her with went to another girl. And when that girl died, yet another was chosen. And so on and so forth.
“Eventually these girls, these Chosen Ones, managed to push back the demons, allowing humanity to become top dog in this world. Each of these girls fought alone, with little or no support, and died in battle, all so humanity would see another sunrise.”
Jack still felt disbelief, but even more than that, he felt angry.
“What kind of monstrous system is that? A girl, just one girl, alone...”
“Believe me, Herr O’Neill, we have all had pretty much that exact same reaction. To be fair, we assume that these Shadow Men did support her in some way at the start, but from what we have been able to gather they were all wiped out a long time ago.”
Wagner leaned back, stretching his neck. “Now we come to the part of the story that is not theory, but history. It started in Gaul, 52 years BC. A group of Roman Legionnaires, part of Caesar’s troops in battle against Vercingetorix, had been separated from their comrades and ran afoul of a nest of vampires. Most of them were killed. They all would have been if not for the intervention of that generation’s Chosen One, who came to their aid. All the vampires were destroyed and five Legionnaires survived. The girl, whose name was Fabala, was grievously injured in the process.
“The Legionnaires, grateful for her aid, nursed her back to health. At that time Fabala had been the Chosen One for but a couple of months and all she’d had for guidance were her instincts and the dreams every Chosen One has, which allows them to share, to a certain degree, the memories and experiences of their forebears. Seeking to further help their saviour, the Legionnaires decided not to return to Caesar’s armies, but instead to stay with her. They trained her to fight properly and they fought at her side. Over time they recruited other warriors to their cause, soldiers they knew or met during their battles. Fabala survived nearly ten years before she finally fell, saving the world.
“Fabala knew from her dreams and had told her comrades that a new Chosen One would rise upon her death. It was a much bigger world back then, though, and it took the former Legionnaires nearly five years until they finally located the next Chosen One. Or rather, the then-current Chosen One. The girl in question, a Celtic girl called Juna, had been chosen less than a year at the time. None of them knew how many girls had been chosen in between, only to quickly perish in battle.
“They did not let this discourage them. They trained Juna and fought at her side. When their numbers shrank due to age and loss, they recruited others to their cause. Always experienced warriors, those who had seen the horrors of battle or been exposed to the monsters. When Juna died years later they searched for the next Chosen One, and the one after her, and so on. This continued through the age of the Roman Empire, through the Dark Ages, until this very day. Ms. Summers is the Chosen One of this generation. It happened three weeks ago. We found her two days later.”
He fell silent, looking at Jack.
“And now... what?” he asked. “You’re training this little girl out there to fight monsters? You plan to send her into a war that will kill her, only for the next to be chosen?”
Wagner nodded. “Believe me, Herr O’Neill, I know exactly what you feel. When I was first told all this more than twenty years ago, my first impulse was to go and dismantle this monstrous, inhumane system. Girls like Ms. Summers out there should be worrying about school, about boyfriends, and what to wear to the prom. They shouldn’t have to learn about fighting styles, battle tactics, and weapons. They shouldn’t have to battle monsters.
“The problem is, Herr O’Neill, that this will never happen. Not for Ms. Summers, not for any of those who will be chosen after her. Whatever power determines who is the next Chosen One, it is out of our hands. And once chosen, these girls can never have a normal life. Their instincts scream at them to go out and protect the innocent, protect the world. And worse, the monsters are actually drawn to them. They can’t not fight, Herr O’Neill. Once chosen, the only way out is death. Believe me, all of us, all the way back to those first Legionnaires in Gaul, have sought some way to change this, to spare these girls. And all of us have found that the only thing we can do is to prepare them as best as we can, to stand by their side for as long as we can, and try to give them as normal a life as is possible between battles.”
“It’s all true, Jack,” Charlie said, reminding Jack of his presence. “We didn’t believe it at first, either, and then we wanted to kill these guys for a while. We were recruited nearly a year ago and we knew and met Ms. Summers predecessor India. She died three weeks ago. It’s not easy. It just about tore our heart out. But India died protecting the world. She died making sure that the sun would rise tomorrow. And we owe it to her, and all the girls before her, to make sure that Ms. Summers out there gets all the help we can give her.”
Jack should his head, still having trouble processing all this. “Okay, let’s assume this is all true, then why are you doing it this way? Why don’t you go to the government... any government and...“
Wagner shook his head. “No less than three Roman emperors, five Popes, a dozen kings, three chancellors and two United States presidents were at various times in the know about the existence of the Chosen One, Herr O’Neill. Not once did that end well. The Chose One represents power. Both her own and that of the things she fights. Politicians, no matter in what age, crave power. Power that is needed to make sure the sun rises tomorrow. The world can’t afford to have its Chosen One be subject to some politician’s agenda. The world can end in a single night, Herr O’Neill. I’ve been there; I’ve seen it almost happen a dozen times these last twenty years.”
He stood, walking around the table. “Do not be fooled, though, we are more than the few people you see in this warehouse. What started as five Legionnaires in a killing field in Gaul has become a band of comrades that stretches around the world and across all divides. If necessary we can support the Chosen One with hundreds of men and women, all experienced in battle, all willing to die to help her. That, Herr O’Neill, is what we are asking you to be part of. This is a war that has started thousands of years ago and I am quite certain that it will never end. There will never be a final, decisive victory. But every day we survive, every day the sun rises again, is a victory. And every day that we help this girl out there survive, is also a victory.
“Will you join us?”
Jack thought long and hard. He was far from convinced that everything he had been told here was the truth. He was still angry that he was basically being asked to train a teenaged girl for a war that she should never be asked to participate in. But if it was true... and if something he did could make sure that this girl out there survived long enough to get gray hair and maybe some day die of old age...
He stood up, faced Wagner, and took his hand.
“Call me Jack!”
Wagner smiled. “Very well, Jack. Welcome to our little Knighthood. And now I believe it’s time I introduced you to the Chosen One, Buffy Summers.”
Jack snorted. “Buffy? Okay, now I am SURE you’re bullshitting me.”