THE FAMILY THAT SLAYS TOGETHER
BOOK 1: HOME BASE
LYLE FRANCIS PADILLA
After the Sunnydale survivors had packed up and checked out of the Harwood Terrace, Buffy and Dawn led the small convoy in their Mercedes as the vehicles worked their way to the highway northward to Lake Keogh. Their grandparents and Giles had left the day before as there were some final preparations they needed to make at the lodge before the arrival of the main body. Next in line was the McDade family van; although Pauline remained adamant that Cyndi and Colette were to have no involvement with the Slayer world, Carl and Joan had invited the whole branch of the family to the housewarming of the new boarding school, with Carl promising Pauline that this was not a plot to entice his other two granddaughters into wanting to attend there. Next in line was Xander in his and Willow's new car. The two new vans carrying the Slayers were last, driven respectively by Willow and Andrew.
"So what do you think the surprise is?" Buffy asked Dawn after they'd been on the road awhile and were headed up into the wooded hills.
"Nobody said there was anything about a surprise," Dawn shrugged.
"Oh, come on, Dawnie! When it comes to trying to surprise us, Grandma has got to be the worst person in the whole world at hiding secrets. At least in terms of facial expressions and body language!"
"Three months ago, I would have agreed with you. But three months ago, we'd spent our entire lives believing she was a widow and that her quote-unquote late husband-- our supposedly deceased grandfather-- was named Kirk Wilson!"
"This is true!" Buffy laughed. "But she's been still giving off her usual signs."
"Well, let's just let her surprise us."
Presently, they reached the stone fence that marked the beginning of Carl's property, and as Dawn steered the car onto the driveway, they noticed a cloth tarp over one of the two short pillars that marked the opening in the fence. "I suppose that's part of the surprise, whatever it is," Buffy noted.
"That's a reasonable assumption," Dawn replied. Their assumption was confirmed as they came out of the wooded area and their grandfather's lodge came into view, and they noticed another larger tarp of the same material about two feet high and hanging above the full width of the main doorway. Dawn's eyes brightened and the impending surprise was pushed to the back of her mind when she saw Tony standing on the front steps with Father Phil along with Carl, Joan and Giles.
The vehicles of the convoy pulled up along the driveway and their occupants emptied out. Andrew and the Slayers, who had never been there before, stared and gasped with varying degrees of awe, as did Pauline, Matt and their three children.
"Good morning, everyone!" Giles called out from the front steps. "Everyone, please gather round!"
Buffy and Dawn stepped up next to their grandparents, with Dawn between Buffy and Tony, who reached out and held her hand.
"Welcome to the new Slayer and Watcher school and Council Headquarters," Giles continued. "By way of introduction, the gentleman to my left is the Reverend Father Philip C. Vincenzo, the pastor of Saint George Church here in Keogh City, who shall be our unofficial school chaplain. Next to him is his nephew and our newest Watcher, Mr. Anthony A. Vincenzo the Third," he smiled, "who also happens to be Specialist Anthony A. Vincenzo the Third of the California Army National Guard. He may seem familiar to those of you who were flown out of Sunnydale on the medevac helicopter. And yes, for those of you who've familiarized yourself with Mr. Kolchak and his papers, or the television adaptations thereof, Father Philip and Tony are respectively the son and grandson of Mr. Kolchak's late editor."
Carl took a step forward. "Buffy, Dawn, Willow and Xander, when you first came up here with Giles to see the place, you started referring to it as 'Hogwarts West'." He paused to let the laughter pass through the small crowd. "But as Joan and Giles and I said at the time, we'd already decided that there was only one thing that we were going to name this place." He and Joan stepped over and both grabbed hold of a cord attached to one end of the tarp over the doorway. "Buffy and Dawn," he smiled at his granddaughters, "could you please grab hold of the cord on the other end, and pull on the count of three?" They stepped over and grabbed. "One, two, three!"
The tarp fell away to reveal a large and shiny brass plaque over the doorway with raised Old English letters which read:
Joyce Summers Academy
Buffy and Dawn stared up at the plaque, and then both burst into tears as they rushed over and grabbed their grandparents and Giles in a group hug. "Thank you!" they both said.
"As we told you," Joan smiled, her eyes watering as well, "there was only one thing we could name this place!"
Pauline stepped forward, sniffling as she hugged her parents and her nieces.
Carl sniffled back his own tears, then cleared his throat and announced: "Everyone, welcome to your new home. Before we step inside, Father Phil will lead us in the dedication of our new academy."
"Shall we all bow our heads?" Father Phil intoned. "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." He, the Kolchaks, Dawn, Tony, the McDades and those slayers who were practicing Catholics all crossed themselves.
"Father in Heaven," he continued, "we humbly ask you to bestow your blessings upon this new school and home, and upon those who shall live and learn within its walls and upon its grounds. May you bless and protect those who have chosen and have been chosen to be your warriors in your battles against the forces of darkness and evil. Guide them with your light as they walk in that darkness, that they may never stray from the path of your righteousness. Give them your strength, both physical and spiritual, that they may never falter or fear in the face of evil. We ask you to remember your daughter Joyce, in whose memory her earthly parents have named this institution. May she live in your Heavenly grace and light, and may her daughters Buffy and Dawn, and all others who come here to learn, teach and dwell, follow in her shining example of goodness, nurturing and love. In your name we ask, Amen."
He opened a bottle of Holy Water and sprinkled it all around the steps and doorway.
Carl, Joan and Giles then opened the doors, and Buffy and Dawn followed them and led the others into the foyer. There they found the unexpected remainder of their grandparents' surprise: hanging from the railing to the bedroom level and centered facing the front door was a large, framed 3 foot by 2 foot copy, finished on canvas, of their favorite studio portrait of their mother. To the right of it was a smaller but still enlarged copy of the last family portrait taken of themselves and Joyce about a year before her death. To the left was a photo of a twenty-something Joan and thirty-something Carl-- then as now, in a rumpled seersucker suit and straw homburg-- with a six year old Pauline and four year old Joyce. It was an enlarged, restored and computer-enhanced copy of the one old snapshot Carl had carried with him for four decades after he and Joan had separated.
It was considerably noisier indoors as the gathering became more compressed. "All right," Giles called out. "Slayers, please follow Xander, Willow and Tony straight ahead into the dining area where they will give out the room assignments and keys. You'll have about an hour to settle in before lunch is ready. Keep in mind, as we've said earlier, that right now we have enough rooms that each of you will have her own room with a few vacancies to spare. But we anticipate, depending on how many of the thirty or forty or so other Slayers around the world choose to join us after we've made contact, that we may have to double up the rooms as necessary, at least on a temporary basis."
It quieted down considerably as the Slayers and Andrew carried their luggage past the staircase and the kitchen, which was busy with a small crew of cooks that the new Council had contracted for the academy's dining needs from Carl's favorite local catering service. That left the extended Kolchak family, Father Phil and Giles in the foyer. It was then that Buffy and Dawn noticed that, standing behind Pauline and Matt, Cyndi and Eric were each carrying a large giftwrapped box.
"Buffy, Dawnie," Pauline smiled as she placed her hands on their shoulders, "we brought you guys a little housewarming present. We know that you lost just about everything you owned in Sunnydale. And we know that most of what you lost can never be replaced. But there were a few things that we were in a position to replace, and that's what we've done."
She took the two packages from Cyndi and Eric, which were identical except for the small cards with the sisters' names on them. She handed them to their named recipients. Both Buffy and Dawn found them to be quite heavy for their volume.
"Thanks, Aunt Polly," they both said, then ripped open the giftwrapping. Inside each box was a thick brown leather ring binder, the covers of which had embossed gold lettering which read, respectively, "Buffy Anne Summers" and "Dawn Joyce Summers". They each opened their binders and found that they were photo albums, beginning with the same photo of Carl, Joan, Pauline and Joyce, and then followed by more pictures from the same set with just the two girls and Joan, which were the ones that Joan had kept after the separation; following were more pictures of Joyce and Pauline as they grew up, and then several more various family pictures, pictures of Joyce and Hank's wedding, baby pictures of Buffy and Dawn, and several pictures of the nuclear Summers family as they grew, including all the school portraits. Dawn was particularly moved by the pictures of her early childhood; the whole issue of the monks of Dagon altering the past and the reality of her pre-teen existence had been resurrected and heightened by the destruction of their home, possessions and Sunnydale. The existence of concrete evidence reassured Dawn that the past had indeed been physically altered rather than her being part of some strange and super-powerful illusion.
"Your mom was so proud of both of you," Pauline said. "I don't think there's a picture that ever existed of either of you that she didn't send copies of to us and to Grandma. So all three of your cousins spent days just scanning and printing copies of everything we had."
"Thanks, everyone!" Dawn smiled tearfully, then hugged each of her cousins, Pauline and Matt individually, with Buffy quickly following suit.
The Slayers moved into the rooms in the wings of the building, and the Council completed their own moves into the rooms at the next-upper level of the center section; Buffy and Dawn took two rooms with a shared bathroom, Willow took a third room on their side of the wide hall, while Xander and Andrew took the rooms directly across the hall from Buffy and Dawn, which still left three vacant bedrooms on that level; as Buffy had predicted, Giles had declined taking one of those rooms and Carl, Father Phil and Tony had helped him find an apartment in Keogh City proper. One of the first things everyone noticed as they looked out the lake side windows was a thirty foot motorized yacht moored to the end of the pier; the name on the bow read Night Stalker II, and it appeared to indeed have a fresh paint job. It was a very light straw-colored finish with a broad, black-bordered red band that encircled the hull just above the waterline, replicating the band around Carl's trademark hat.
After everyone had started a buffet-style lunch, Xander approached Carl on the back deck, cocked his head toward the pier and said, "You really weren't kidding! That yacht's your little one?"
Carl grinned and chuckled but said nothing.
"And the big one?"
"...would literally be the big fish in the little pond here at Lake Keogh," Carl continued to grin. "So I keep it at a marina in San Luis Obispo. I'll take everyone out on it one of these days after things settle down."
"Have you always had that paint job?"
"On both yachts," Carl nodded.
"Doesn't that kind of compromise the secrecy of this place as the new Slayer Central?"
"Not really. Both boats have had that paint job for years, the people around the area know me. A lot of them just think of me the way you first thought of me when I first told you and the girls who I really was." He laughed. "Some old rich eccentric who thinks he's Kolchak the Night Stalker!"
Matt walked up to them with a wide smile. "Dad, I can't believe this place!"
"Thanks. Glad you like it, Matt."
"It's almost too nice. Polly and I are going to have a hard time keeping Cyndi and Colette from wanting to come here."
Xander reached into his pocket and handed Matt an eyepatch. "Here. This is one of my spares. Any time they start to give you a hard time about not letting them come here, show it to 'em and remind them that being associated with Slayers and the Watcher's Council comes with a price."
"Thanks," Matt nodded.
Almost on cue, Colette jumped from the yacht to the dock and walked up to them. "Wow, Grandpa! This place is so awesome!"
"Here it comes," Matt murmured, bracing himself.
"Dad," Colette looked at him with puppy-dog eyes, "why can't I go to school here?"
Matt slapped the eyepatch into her palm. "Ask Buffy's friend Xander here!"
"As I was just telling your dad," Xander said, "being a Slayer or a Watcher comes with a price."
"But I already am a Slayer!"
"And you can come here," Matt said, "when you turn eighteen. Same for your sister. Not that your mom and I will be happy about it if either of you decide to."
"What?" Colette protested. "That's five and a half years from now for me!"
"It's okay, Honey," Carl said. "We plan on having a training program for girls of all ages. A lot of the new Slayers are already over eighteen. So the school will still be here when you turn eighteen."
"But why should I wait? Buffy was only three years older than I am now when she became a Slayer. Dawn may have just become a Slayer, but she was my age when she started getting exposed to all these vampires and demons."
"Because Buffy and Dawn," Matt replied, "and Aunt Joyce didn't have a choice at the time. We do!"
"Let me get this straight," Rona squinted. "You're Buffy and Dawn's cousin, the Kolchaks' granddaughter, and you and your sister are both Slayers who were called the same time we were. And you won't be going to school here?"
"That's right," Cyndi nodded. She, Rona, Vi and Tracie were gathered on the foredeck of the yacht as it floated in its moorings, with a handful of other Slayers also on board and milling around nearby.
"That makes a lot of sense," Tracie rolled back her eyes.
"My parents don't want us to have any part of it. For now. I plan on coming when I turn eighteen in two years. I guess my sister will too, when she turns eighteen."
"But your cousin was the original Slayer," Rona said, "and your grandpa's a legendary demon hunter. Seems to me that this is a family business."
"That's what we told our parents," Cyndi said. "But Mom and Dad are dead set against it. Especially Mom. I don't know everything about what happened the last time she was in Sunnydale, but from what I can gather, these evil thugs without eyes kidnapped her, and started to use her as a blood sacrifice until Dawn and Buffy and this Spike person rescued her."
"That about sums it," Tracie nodded.
"We were all there when it happened," Vi added. "Not the rescue, but the kidnapping."
"Which makes even less sense for your parents," Tracie said. "Why wouldn't they want you and your sister to learn how to protect yourselves from danger, like from the Bringers?"
"Mom just wants us to steer clear of this kind of stuff. Plus, the Bringers and the First Evil or whatever it's called are out of business anyway, right?"
Vi stifled a laugh. "Evil is never out of business."
"And sometimes, you just can't run away from who you are," Rona added. "Believe me, we all tried."
That evening, after everyone had dinner and the McDades left and returned to Glendale, Giles called a meeting in the lounge. "I trust everyone is happy with their living quarters for now," he began. "Everyone will have a few days to settle in and familiarize himself or herself with our new environs, but don't get too comfortable. Because I plan to utilize everyone for the next phase of our operations, which will involve some extensive travel over the rest of the summer."
There was a murmur of excitement among the Slayers. There had been talk about everyone possibly going on trips all over the world, and for a group of mostly teenage girls who had spent the last several months cooped up in Sunnydale fearing for their lives and dying of cabin fever and claustrophobia, even the freedom of a luxury hotel in Glendale hadn't been enough of a relief for most of them.
"As most of you already know," Giles continued, "the primary task at hand is to find the other new Slayers out there all over the world. I've overheard some of you referring to this as a 'round-up'. I, however, would rather think of this as a 'recruiting drive'. Just as all of you were free to leave Sunnydale before the final fight at the Hellmouth, each one of these other new Slayers is free to decline to join us and to go about her merry way."
Buffy stood and moved up next to Giles. "All of you got a chance to meet my cousins Cyndi and Colette. Some of you have expressed to us how shocked you were that two of my cousins who are also Slayers won't be attending here. Well, since they're both minors at this point, that's a decision my Aunt Polly and Uncle Matt made for them. That's also what you can expect from the parents of some of these other Slayers, and from some of the Slayers themselves. Keep in mind that almost all these other Slayers were never identified as Potentials and therefore had absolutely no contact with the Old Council. Some of them may have had Slayer dreams, but other than that, they probably have no idea what the heck happened to them three weeks ago. We have to find them and let them know."
"We, of course," Giles said, "would like each of them to join us here at the Joyce Summers Academy to train them up properly, just as you will be trained-- and had been trained, for those amongst you who had Watchers. But we want to avoid any coercion or pressure. We want to make it a soft sell. And you, their sister Slayers, are the best sales people and recruiters." He paused, turned toward Willow and said her name.
Willow stood and joined Giles and Buffy. "I've been busy in touch with the Coven in Westbury, England. We've been running repeated locator spells all over the world to find all the other new Slayers. For some reason none of us can figure, the number has been fluctuating, somewhere in the mid thirties to low forties. We've had hits in twenty-six different countries on every continent except Antarctica. We're working out a plan to have everyone cover as much of that ground as possible this summer before formal schooling starts here in September."
"Which brings us to the secondary task at hand," Giles said, "and the thirty-one of your sister Slayers or Potentials who didn't make it out of Sunnydale alive. And their next of kin." Everyone lowered their heads reflexively. "A large plurality were American, I believe because the American Potentials had less distance to travel to Sunnydale, while evading the Bringers. But the remainder still hailed from fourteen different countries on every continent except Antarctica and Australia." He paused. "As head of the New Council, it is my fervent intent to eventually make a condolence call to the next of kin of each of those we lost. But I can't possibly do it all this summer. So I'd like you all to help me by making visits, particularly to the next of kin of those to whom you were particularly close among our dead, in coordination with visiting your own families and contacting the other new slayers. Since these are such daunting tasks, nobody's going to go solo except while you're visiting your own homes and families. Dawn," he turned and nodded to her.
"We're going to be breaking up into teams of no fewer than three," Dawn said to the group as she stood. "These teams will cover a given continent or other geographic area both in terms of finding and contacting the other new Slayers, and paying condolence calls. Willow and I have been divvying up the globe with respect to where the new girls appear to be, and where the next of kin are. So over the next few days, think about who you're comfortable with and who you'd like to be teamed up with, and what part of the world you'd like to go visit, and let me or Willow know and we'll try to accommodate everyone as best as we can."
She had tried to convinced herself that the nightmares had started after the strange figures in the robes had come after her, but she could still swear that she'd had the first of the dreams weeks before the attack, that the dreams were premonitions that may have saved her life by causing her to run at the first sight of them. But then again, the most vivid of the nightmares were about the figures in the robes. Those and the ones about the young man. And even those were contradictory and confusing: either she was locked in a death struggle with the young man, or locked in some passionate, intimate acts with him. In the death struggles, she was either in a religious Asian temple of some kind, and the young man had long light brown hair and a flannel shirt and wool pants with suspenders; or they were in a moving subway train, the man had short, platinum hair and he was wearing black jeans and a black vest with nothing underneath. But it was unmistakably the same man, lean, muscular, average to tall height with high cheekbones. In either case, she always managed to wake up just before he killed her. But the intimate dreams were also with the same platinum blond young man and even more vivid, and that troubled her: Leslie was barely fifteen, had lived in the small town of Knutsford, Ontario all her life, and had never even gone as far as Second Base with a boy.
The dreams had started and the attack had occurred after the news that the town of Sunnydale, California had collapsed due to an earthquake, a town she was pretty sure she'd never heard of before, but which had been incorporated into her dreams as well; she remembered standing next to the edge of an enormous crater as a "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign fell over into it. But somehow, even though the news said that there was nothing left but rubble, instinct told her that heading toward Sunnydale meant, if not safety, then at least getting some answers.
"Dear Mom and Dad," she'd written in the note she mailed just before crossing the border at Niagara Falls. "I haven't run away. At least I haven't run away for the reasons that most girls my age run away. I'm not pregnant, I haven't gotten into drugs, or anything like that. And I'm not mad at you. But I'm in danger, and you and Kenny and Larry might be too if I don't get away. I can't really explain why I'm in danger because I don't really know why. I don't even know how I know exactly, I just know. I can't tell you where I'm going, but I promise you I'll call you when I'm safe. You can call the police if you want, but I don't think they can make me any safer..."
Once across the border, she managed to use her ATM card to withdraw most of her savings in US dollars and was now working her way westward along Lake Erie. Her newfound instinct also told her not to take long, direct legs on her trips that might make her more predictable for interception and leave her trapped aboard a train or bus with her pursuers. And the same instinct told her that Cleveland would be a relatively safe place to stop overnight. Again, a little something from the recesses of her dreams.
Once at the Cleveland bus terminal, she asked around about the nearest youth hostels in town. She found her way to the nearest hostel only three blocks from the terminal, only to find that it was full up; the next nearest hostel was another eleven blocks away near the waterfront. The sun had set by then, which wasn't good.
Following directions from the clerk of the first hostel, she found herself walking down a deserted street in the industrial section of town, among factories that had closed hours ago. Leslie seldom left Knutsford, and never ventured into the cities like Hamilton or Toronto except with her family or on well-chaperoned school trips, so the experience in a strange city on the other side of Lake Erie would have been frightening enough under ordinary circumstances. Now it only heightened the terror she'd felt nonstop since the hooded figures appeared. The general idea of stopping in Cleveland had felt right according to her new instincts, but now those same instincts had her tingling.
And then they appeared, in twos and threes, out of the alleys between the buildings on both sides of the street ahead of her; there had only been five of them when they accosted her back home, and now there were a dozen, moving forward to encircle her. Her instincts told her to run: the last time, by some miracle, she'd outrun the five attackers, and she knew she could do it again. But as she turned around, she saw that there were six more behind her, and they moved up to close the circle.
Her new instincts had failed her! Leslie thought she was headed for safety and had instead jumped right into their nest...
END BOOK 1.
To be continued in Book 2: Call to Battle.
FEEDBACK/REVIEWS ARE INVITED. PLEASE KEEP 'EM COMING!
Once again, my apologies to anyone following this story for taking so long to update. I'm going to shoot for posting the first chapter of Book 2: Call to Battle before the end of 2005. If you have Book 1: Home Base on Story Alert, you may want to put me on your Author Alert list as Book 1 is finished and Book 2 will be posted as a separate story.
SunflowerLynx: Just keep following this series. Everything in due time. Keep in mind the title of this entire series!
Unitarian Jihadist: Right back at ya about the demographics. Judging from your work Caliban's Daughters, especially the way you view Dawn's existence, you and I think alike. Must be a generational thing! ;-)
Also, ever since I became a BtVS fan, I've always considered Buffy (as opposed to The X-Files) to be the true heir to the original 1970s Kolchak: The Night Stalker in terms of the perfect blend of horror and comedy. So I wanted to do a Buffy/Kolchak crossover storyline which establishes Buffy Summers as the literal and metaphorical descendant and heir to Carl Kolchak. In addition, I always felt that Kolchak and Gail Foster should be reunited someday (particularly as Carol Lynley has always been one of my all-time favorite actresses), albeit logic dictated that her name be changed as explained in Blood of the Night Stalker and Chapter 1 of this book. I hope I have done so effectively.
To anyone posting reviews of this chapter, please revisit this space as this is where I'll be responding to your comments and feedback, at least until Book 2 is up.