THE FAMILY THAT SLAYS TOGETHER
BOOK 2: CALL TO BATTLE
LYLE FRANCIS PADILLA
(AKA "Mad Tom")
This is a continuation of my post-Chosen followup to my Buffy/Kolchak: The Night Stalker crossover Blood of the Night Stalker.
Although it had originally been considered a "satellite" building by the Old Council, the office that now housed the reorganized Council support staff was still quite spacious, and in refurbishing it, Edward Robson had actually made it more modern than the main building that had been blown up by Caleb the Preacher and the Bringers on behalf of the First Evil. The small new staff of about a dozen employees was on hand in the foyer of the building, as Robson drove the used van into the small parking lot, and his nine passengers disembarked and entered.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Robson smiled to his staff, "you all finally get to meet the remainder of the New Council, minus one member who is busy establishing operations in Cleveland, Ohio. Shall we all meet in the library?"
He led them into a large, bookshelf-lined room with a long hardwood table and enough padded swivel chairs to seat everyone with a few to spare. He took a seat at one end of the table while Giles took the other end; the local staff sat along one side of the table while the other new arrivals sat opposite them.
"By way of introduction," Giles began, "I'm Rupert Giles. I'm the other surviving member of the Old Council besides my old friend Mr. Robson." He gestured next to him. "Next to me are Mr. Carl Kolchak and his wife Joan. Some of you may have heard of Mr. Kolchak and believed until now that he was a fictional character, but he and his exploits are quite real, believe me. For those who haven't heard of him, he's a rather legendary vampire and demon hunter, as well as the author of a large body of work which had been invaluable to the Old Council. He was on their payroll for a time as a consultant, and now with the reorganization, is a full fledged member of the New Council. Mrs. Kolchak is a school administrator and teacher with several decades of experience who will be in charge of academics at the Joyce Summers Academy. Mr. Kolchak had been separated from his family for several decades, and it wasn't until a few months ago that we all discovered that his granddaughter was the Slayer. Which brings us to the next two ladies, Miss Buffy Summers and her younger sister, Miss Dawn Summers, the Kolchaks' granddaughters. Buffy was the one and only Chosen One up until the day the Sunnydale Hellmouth collapsed. Although Dawn is now one of the new Slayers, she has a special status, in that although she's a young lady of not quite seventeen, she's had a few years experience functioning as a Watcher. Next are Mr. Xander Harris and Miss Willow Rosenberg. Despite their apparent youth, they are now the most experienced living Watchers other than myself and Robson, with the possible exception of a handful of survivors out there who may not have been able to reestablish contact with us. In addition, Miss Rosenberg is one of the most powerful witches in the world and the person most responsible for empowering the former Potentials and turning them all into active Slayers. And lastly, our two most recently recruited Watchers, Mr. Andrew Wells and Mr. Anthony Vincenzo. Despite his youthful appearance, Mr. Vincenzo comes to us battle-tested; he's a member of the California National Guard and recently served a tour in Afghanistan as a helicopter crewman, and he's about to be promoted from Specialist to Sergeant, if I'm not mistaken."
Tony nodded to confirm this.
Robson gestured toward the other side of the table and began introducing his staff, starting with a couple in their late twenties or early thirties. "This is my brother Elliott and his wife Rose. They have a modest computer networking business, and for now I've put them on the payroll to run our computer network on this end. They're the people with whom Miss Rosenberg and Miss Dawn Summers have been working long distance," he paused and smiled, "to set up Virtual Platform Nine and Three Quarters."
"Oh!" Dawn and Willow both brightened, then extended their hands across the table to shake hands with the couple.
Robson then indicated a lean, white-haired man who was dressed in three-piece tweed despite the summer warmth. "The next gentleman is Mr. Gerald Overton, whom Mr. Giles knows well. He's come out of retirement after six years to become our head of research and head librarian." He moved on to two blond-haired teenagers, a boy about Dawn's age and a girl of about 14 or 15. "Assisting him on a part-time basis are his grandchildren, Gregory Overton Junior and his sister Heather. As Giles knows, their late father, Gregory Senior, was the Watcher of Molly Redmond, whom I believe most of you knew."
All from the California contingent except Tony nodded.
"Molly lived with us once she started training," Heather said with misty eyes. "She became like a sister to us."
"Buffy and I were with her at the end," Xander said solemnly. "I lost my eye in the same fight."
"Neither of us was sure we wanted to follow in Dad's and Grandfather's footsteps as Watchers as we were growing up," Gregory added, "but after both he and Molly were killed, we feel it's a calling."
"And it's appreciated," Giles nodded solemnly. "As you may or may not know, I, too, had a parent and grandparent who were Watchers, and was hesitant about following suit. Your father would be proud of both of you."
Robson continued the introductions, gesturing toward a middle-aged woman with graying brown hair. Next to her was another woman in her early twenties who was obviously her daughter or other close relative, and then there were three other women of various ages next to them. "This is Mrs. Vivian Nicely and her daughter Dolores, Ms. Nancy Bernard, Ms. Marlene Roberts and Ms. Liz Myers. Vivian is the widow and Dolores the daughter of Mr. Jeremy Nicely, who was killed along with his Potential, Charlotte DeVasquez last year. Vivian is now in charge of our Human Resources section, such as it is, and Dolores and the other ladies make up our support staff. All the other ladies are close and trusted friends of the Nicelys." He nodded over to the last person on that side of the table, a tall and distinguished man in his early thirties with short auburn hair, dressed in a stylish summer weight off-white suit. He looked to most of the American contingent be something of a cross between Giles, and Pierce Brosnan playing James Bond.
"My name is Harry Tewksbury," he announced. "I don't actually work for the Council but will be working closely with you, and I'll explain my purpose here presently."
Giles nodded and smiled as he reached over and shook the man's hand. Over the phone, Robson had given him an inkling about Tewksbury's role. Giles, Robson, and the deceased Watchers whose relatives and friends now made up the British component of the Council, were all Field Watchers rather than part of the late Quentin Travers' inner circle, and that was probably going to be a big help.
"I believe the most important purpose of this visit," Robson then continued, "is simply for the British and American contingents of the Council to get to know one another. So I propose to have the British contingent return to their work stations while I take the American contingent and Mr. Tewksbury on a tour." He nodded, and everyone rose.
The elder Mr. Overton and Elliott and Rose Robson started the tour there in the combined library/conference room as the rest of the staff returned to their stations. The shelves that lined the room were filled in a manner that made Giles feel right at home; they had done as he had instructed them over the phone, and had gone to his house and moved his own personal library into the building. In one corner was a computer connected to a large flatbed scanner.
"As most of you are already aware," Rose explained, "there's quite a bit of overlap between Mr. Giles' personal library here and Mr. Kolchak's personal library, which now makes up the library at the Joyce Summers Academy in California. Our priority right now is to scan those books and documents here which you don't have at the Academy, and to EMail them to you as well as save them to our network server. As Willow and Dawn agreed to do the same on your end with those books and documents we don't have here. Eventually we hope to have everything scanned and on both servers as well as on CD-ROMs in a multiply redundant backup system."
Carl took that as his cue and opened his briefcase on the conference table, then pulled out a new and thick leatherbound book. "Excuse me, Mrs. Robson," he smiled. "But since I assume that keeping hard copies is part of that redundancy, I'd like to present this library with a fresh copy of my original, unabridged manuscript of The Kolchak Papers. I stress the unabridged part because it includes all the stuff that was edited out of the paperback tie-in to the movies and TV series, which has been out of print since the Seventies anyway."
He handed it over to Mr. Overton. "Why, thank you, Mr. Kolchak," the librarian smiled. "The Old Council's copy was rather battered about, but it was still sorely missed when Rupert took it back to America with him." Overton stepped over to the primary reference shelf and placed the book in a prominent spot in the center, the front cover facing outward.
He gave a more detailed show of the books and other resource materials in the library, after which Edward Robson led the Sunnydale contingent and Tewksbury across the hallway to a smaller room where Mrs. Nicely and her support staff had returned to their desks. There were several filing cabinets along the walls, except for a section of the back wall which was covered with a large-scale map of the world. Over forty small Post-It notes were stuck to the surface, scattered throughout the world.
"We not only have files on the Potentials who made it to Sunnydale and whose information Willow and Dawn were able to exchange with us," Robson said as he gestured toward the cabinets, "but we salvaged whatever files we could from the ruins of the old headquarters, on all the previously identified Potentials and the Field Watchers assigned to them. While we presume that the vast majority of them were killed by the Bringers, we're still holding out hope that a small handful of them managed to evade and survive. And after cross-referencing some of the hits that both Willow and the Westbury Coven got on their respective locator spells, as well as information that the seers in the Coven could glean, it appears that a handful actually did. Unfortunately, they're all in locations that are extremely difficult to get in or out of, presumably for the Bringers as well as ourselves, and also presumably which is why these Slayers and their Watchers have been unable to establish contact with us."
"Three of them," Giles said, "as of the last time we discussed this."
"The number's still holding at three," Robson confirmed. "Two of whom appear to be roaming around in the wilderness. Linda Sotomayor and her Watcher Ethel Randall, who are somewhere in the jungles of Colombia, and Martha Nachukwu and her Watcher Donald Briggs, somewhere in Rwanda."
"One in the middle of Drug Cartel country, the other in the middle of tribal civil war," Carl noted.
"Yes," Robson nodded. "Our third girl is a little more stationary but still just as tricky to reach, if not more so. Samiyah Haddad and her Watcher Hugh Campbell, who are in the village of Rashif, Iraq, which is between Fallujah and Tikrit."
"Right in the middle of Saddam Hussein country!" Tony mused.
"Not exactly the safest place in the world," Robson said dryly, "which of course places them on the back burner, at least for the time being."
"I believe this is where I come in," Tewksbury smiled.
"Yes, perhaps so," Giles nodded.
"Edward," Tewksbury said to Robson, "could I meet with you, Mr. Giles, Miss Buffy Summers and Mr. Kolchak in a more private setting?"
"Of course, Harry," Robson nodded. "We can go upstairs to my office." He turned to Mrs. Nicely. "Vivian, perhaps you can show the rest of the American contingent the rest of the building, and then work with them on coordinating the outreach effort for the remaining new Slayers."
Mrs. Nicely nodded, and then Robson led Tewksbury, Giles, Buffy and Carl up the stairs. His office was definitely professional and businesslike in appearance, and although it wasn't Spartan, it wasn't nearly as opulent as the library: a large metal desk with a wood veneer desktop, and the swiveled armchair behind it was no different from the others used for visitors, comfortable but chrome with cloth upholstery.
"The first thing I want to do," Tewksbury spoke up as they all seated themselves, "is to congratulate everyone on their survival following the practical annihilation of the old Council." He turned to Robson. "Especially you, Edward, considering the seriousness of your injuries!"
Robson smiled over toward Giles. "I have you to thank for that, Old Man. If you hadn't bandaged me up and called for an ambulance. Although I hadn't realized that when I called the Summers home after I regained consciousness, and I do owe you a tremendous apology for that!"
"Quite all right, Edward," Giles managed to grin and chuckle. "As the Yanks say, 'No harm, no foul!' Other than a few minor bruises to my posterior and my ego!" He glanced around and realized that the perpetrators of that incident were all absent: Xander, Dawn and Andrew were all downstairs, and Anya was dead.
"And so, on to my business," Tewksbury said. "Officially, I'm on the payroll of the Ministry of Defence. I'm not allowed to go into any further detail as to the wiring diagram beyond that. Let's just say that I'm the government liaison to the Council."
"Yes," Giles nodded, "I suspected as much. We'd heard rumors that there was such a position, but neither Robson nor I had ever met any of your predecessors. Nor had we ever been officially informed of the existence of such an office."
"There has always been an official representing the Crown assigned to interface with the Council or its forerunners, probably going back to the days of King Arthur and Merlin. But our role changed under the regime of Mr. Travers." There was a subtle underlying sarcasm in Tewksbury's tone.
"To an adversarial one?" Giles asked.
"Nearly so," Tewksbury nodded. "The role of my office used to be one of managing the government funding of the Council and providing government oversight, as well as getting the ear of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet whenever the Slayer or the Council needed intervention from the government. In fact, the vast majority of the Council's funding was from the government until Quentin Travers took over. Since the funding was done mostly through covert payments in Swiss, Grand Cayman and other numbered offshore bank accounts, it was quite easy for Mr. Travers and his inner circle to divert funds intended for the Slayer and Potentials' living expenses and Watchers' salaries to their own uses. So much so that by the time my predecessors became aware of what was happening and told them to cease and desist and to account for their diversions, they simply ignored us. And since these were all covert accounts, we had no means to do a proper audit, and their investments from the diverted funds had become completely self-sustaining. So the government just cut off their funding and nearly completely washed their hands of the matter. By the time I took over the position five years ago, my job had been reduced to that of a watchdog."
"A Watchdog to the Watchers?" Buffy quipped.
"In a manner of speaking," Tewksbury nodded. "My main job was to monitor the activities of the Council from a distance, through a few Council members willing to take me into their confidence." He nodded to Robson. "Edward here being one of them. In fact, Mr. Giles, we considered approaching you, but since you were the Watcher to the active Slayer and were in California most of the time, we figured you had too much on your plate."
"That I did," Giles nodded.
"I should also mention here that the US government also contributed substantial money to the Council after the relationship between our two countries normalized following the War if 1812. They had a liaison to my office rather than directly to the Council, and I understand that this person worked variously out of the US Department of War or Defense and the State Department. When Mr. Travers and his cronies started their shenanigans, the US stopped its funding as well, and their resources and their liaison person were absorbed into the Initiative, with which I believe you're already familiar."
Giles, Buffy and Carl all nodded in concurrence.
"At any rate," Tewksbury continued, "the duty position of myself and my predecessors became a nearly adversarial watchdog position, with the general attitude that the Council, as corrupt and fraudulent as they had been, were still functioning adequately enough to accomplish their mission without our financial support. Had they ceased to function in their intended capacity or had taken any actions which we deemed harmful to the interests of the UK or civilization in general, our job would have been to take whatever action was appropriate and necessary to terminate their organization and organize a new one. Ironically, although they came awfully close to it, Travers and his regime never crossed that line, and The First Evil was the one who did the terminating."
"You mean you guys were getting ready to kill Travers and his regime yourselves," Buffy said, a statement rather than a question.
"That was the most drastic option on a continuum of actions that were on the table," Tewksbury nodded coolly. "All dependent on how far over the line or how far out of control they went. That's all moot now, of course." He smiled before continuing, "And the Prime Minister and the government are most interested in lending their support in your rebuilding and reorganization."
"I couldn't tell you over the phone," Robson said to Giles, "but Harry was quite instrumental in getting the Old Council's assets unfrozen so quickly."
"And we're ready to resume government funding," Tewksbury continued, then turned to Buffy and Carl. "And the Prime Minister is willing to approach your President about having the US government resume its relationship with the Council."
That raised everyone's eyebrows.
"This goes all the way to the top," Buffy gulped. "To your Prime Minister and our President."
"They both know what really happened in Sunnydale," Tewksbury nodded. "That's a large part of why your government has treated it as a natural disaster from the start, rather than a terrorist act. What exactly your current President and past presidents and prime ministers have known about Slayers and the Council over the centuries is not exactly known. But after Travers and the Old Council were blown up, and we determined that Edward and Mr. Giles had survived and were in charge of what was left, we brought the Prime Minister up to speed, and the Prime Minister spoke to your President. And now our government, and very likely your government as well, are ready to resume the support and more amicable relations with the Council as we had before Mr. Travers."
"Sounds good to me!" Buffy smiled.
"Yes, Mr. Tewksbury," Giles nodded.
"Call me Harry, please," he replied. "And shall we make it Rupert?"
"No, just Giles. No 'Mister.'" Giles smiled. "Anyway, Harry, we're certainly grateful for any assistance, but right now our immediate needs are not financial. However, we do have situations with two of our Slayers that perhaps you can still help us with. Perhaps Edward has already briefed you on at least one of the two."
"Your Chinese Slayer in the mental ward," Tewksbury nodded.
"That's one," Giles nodded back.
"Apparently the psychiatrist whose assistance Edward has enlisted is better qualified to solve the immediate problem of her commitment than I am at the moment, but if we require her being released to a British hospital, we can assist with that when the time comes. Miss Chao having no identity at the moment, we can arrange for documents making her a British subject." Tewksbury paused. "And your second problem?"
"Admittedly a much stickier one," Giles said. "I can't quite envision any intervention you can arrange except through the Prime Minister and the President. Our number-two Slayer in seniority after Buffy is an escaped convicted murderer and a hunted fugitive. Fortunately, for the moment, she's out of the jurisdiction of the state where she was convicted and from where she escaped. But I don't know how long she can stay underground."
"Yes, that is rather sticky. I suppose the Prime Minister might get the President's ear and persuade him to grant a pardon, but that does seem like a rather large favor this early in the game."
"I agree," Giles nodded. "But I thought there would be no harm in asking."
"I'll see what I can do," Tewksbury nodded.
The remainder of the meeting was short and full of what Buffy found to be dull discussion on the actual details of the government funding mechanisms. When they adjourned to rejoin the rest of the American contingent and Robson in the administrative office, Dawn and Willow had mildly worried looks on their faces.
"Giles," Dawn spoke up, "we've got another problem. Tracie just called..."
"Is she still at home in New Jersey?" Giles asked.
"Yes," Willow nodded, "and she's met with the new Slayer we said was in Lakeland, New Jersey."
"So what's the problem?"
"It turns out that Lakeland, New Jersey is where the Camden County Youth Center is located," Dawn explained. "That's the fancy name for their juvenile jail. And the new girl's locked up there."
The general plan was that the Slayers who had survived Sunnydale were to go out in groups of three or more to track down and "recruit" those other new Slayers who were not in Sunnydale when they had been called. However, Tracie Guzman had just turned eighteen, had trained with a Watcher for over four years before his disappearance-- since they were from New Jersey, Giles had dryly commented that he wasn't sure if the disappearance was due to the Bringers or the Sopranos-- and her family lived in Trenton, less than an hour's drive from Lakeland according to Mapquest dot com. So she had managed to convince Giles and Buffy that she could handle finding and recruiting the girl whom Willow and the Westbury Coven had both determined to be in Lakeland, all by herself. There was no need for the other two Slayers on her recruiting team to cut their vacations short.
Both Willow and the Coven had consistently found a stationary "hit" in Lakeland with all their locator spells. The seers in the Coven further gleaned from their visions that the new Slayer's name was probably Iris Honey or Honea or something similar, and that she was living in a huge sky-blue building at the intersection of County House and Woodbury-Turnersville Roads in Lakeland. Mapquest somehow couldn't find that exact intersection, but after following the general directions to Lakeland through stretches of older suburban strip malls, woods and farmland, she found herself on Woodbury-Turnersville Road driving past some older County Government buildings including what appeared to be a hospital. Although she'd passed some residential neighborhoods and apartments or condominiums along the way, this was definitely not a residential street. But shortly past the hospital and a 4-H Club horse ranch, she found the intersection of County House Road and the huge blue building. Not an apartment or condo, but windowless and looking more like a warehouse. But there were a couple of basketball courts toward the rear of the building, and the whole area was surrounded by a chain-link fence over 20 feet high and topped with barbed wire. A plain wooden sign at the driveway showed a rather innocuous name: "Camden County Youth Center."
By the time Tracie parked and went through the front door, there was no mistaking the fact that this was a jail. A uniformed guard behind a bulletproof glass window greeted her in the small anteroom. "Yes, can I help you?"
"I'm here to see an, uh, Iris Honea," she replied.
"Visiting hours start in about a half hour. Please have a seat or come back later."
The half hour gave her enough time to collect her thoughts about the situation. A few other people had gathered in the anteroom by the time the guard announced the start of visiting hours. When she was called to sign in, Tracie quickly decided to enter "personal friend" in the space for "Agency/Purpose of Visit" space rather than "Council of Watchers." After the guard buzzed her in, he asked her to leave her purse with him while a second guard ran a metal detecting wand over her body and then escorted her down a hall to a small room with two chairs and a table and left. A few minutes later, the second guard returned with a short but rather huskily built, round-faced girl of about fifteen or sixteen with medium-light brown hair tied back, wearing what appeared to be the jailhouse uniform of sneakers, gray sweatpants and a blue T-shirt imprinted in white with "CCYC". The husky girl did a doubletake and turned white when she saw who was waiting for her.
"Tracie!" she gasped. "I know you! Your name is Tracie!"
"And you're Iris," Tracie replied. "I know we've never actually met, but..."
"But I've seen you in my dreams! You and a bunch of other girls. In a house. In Sunnydale, California where they had that earthquake."
"Yes," Tracie nodded. "You're one of us. You're a Slayer."
Iris doubled over and burst into tears. "No! I didn't mean to do it! I just wanted him to stop!"
"No, no, no! That's not what I meant!" Tracie said. "Your dreams. Were there vampires and demons and other monsters in your dreams?"
Iris blanched again, hesitating before nodding her head.
"Those are real," Tracie continued. "Vampires and demons are real, and there are a small number of girls in the world who've been given special powers-- superhuman strength, fighting instinct and quick healing-- to slay these demons. There used to be only one girl at a time, but then the one girl who had the power figured out a way to empower all of the potential Slayers, including you."
"Last month," Iris nodded.
"Yes. There was a race of super-vampires that was about to break out of Hell through a Hellmouth portal in Sunnydale and take over the world..."
"Oh, God!" Iris broke down again, crying even more loudly. "That's why it happened! That's why I'm locked up here!"
"What happened?" Tracie frowned.
"I killed my father!"
The Camden County Youth Center in Lakeland, New Jersey exists as described and is about a mile from my home. As a school psychologist, I have on occasion had to evaluate inmates there who were from the school district where I work.
Any similarities to any real persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Yeah, right! (Actually, the juxtaposition of a real life incident a few weeks before Chosen aired, involving a teenage girl and and her abusive father, and the brief scene in Chosen where the chubby girl gets her Slayer powers just before she's about to get hit, was impossible to resist!)