The Cosmic Network - The Reboot


Tracey Claybon

Not mine - Joss's, or DC's. The briefly mentioned characters aren't mine either - they belong to their respective creators as well. Upcoming songs by Led Zeppelin and Rush. Only the plot and the Rusty Nugget are mine.

This is not a romance or slash/femslash either - Like reading it, don't write it well enough to do it justice.

This is part of a series I'm starting. Each story will be mostly self contained - I hate loose ends... but they will not usually have chapters. If a story ends with a "cliffhanger" there will usually be another story to follow.

Part One - The Reboot

It was starting to rain steadily as Faith drove north on I-406 about 5 hours north of the crater that used to be Sunnydale, CA. That crater was one of the very last places she thought she'd ever return to - old history, time behind bars, and all else set aside... but she returned to the crater at Sunnydale because Angel had asked it of her. She owed him so much.

She shook her head, remembering the last time she'd come back to California.

Faith was co-senior slayer with Buffy and had been for the three years since the Scooby Gang had moved to Cleveland after the fall of Sunnydale.

She had returned to California only once, though - right after the battle between Angel with his Fang Gang and Wolfram and Hart, the evil law firm - Wesley had sent a message to Willow in Cleveland just before all hell broke loose but when the slayers and the Scoobies showed up to the party, it was almost too late. Angel had been very badly damaged fighting a dragon the Senior Partners loosed on Angel and his friends, Gunn had completely collapsed from blood loss and shock, Spike was almost as badly injured as Angel, and Illyria was even somewhat damaged after taking on the dragon when Angel couldn't continue. Wesley wasn't in the battle, and Spike let them know that Wesley had died in the beginning skirmishes of the Wolfram and Hart war only after the last battle was over. He also let them know that they weren't sure where Lorne was, either.

The reinforcements from the Slayers tipped the tide of the battle - after they arrived, the forces of Wolfram and Hart were routed, and the Slayers took the battle back to the headquarters and came after the Senior Partners - and won. After taking what was needed to heal their surviving friends and allies (and after Willow downloaded all the information from the W+H computers), the HQ was burned to the ground after the gates inside were sealed.

The surviving AI gang came back to Cleveland with the Slayers, where they pitched in to help with reorganizing the Council after Travers' fall from grace and sorting through the Wolfram and Hart information.

Faith had been content to stay there in Cleveland, slaying and sorting, but Angel had requested she go to Sunnydale, check to make sure there was still no activity at the crater, and recover a few things that were in an old lair of his that might prove useful in the Wolfram and Hart search. He trusted Buffy as well, but asked Faith because he felt she'd have less emotional baggage invested in Sunnydale.

Faith verified the crater was still inactive, retrieved Angel's artifacts and was on the first leg of the trip back when her trip was detoured. Apparently, a set of superheroes, the Teen Titans, had just concluded a major battle in San Francisco; the state patrol was diverting traffic around the city, just in case of danger, so Faith didn't get to go to San Fran, where she'd planned to spend the night .

I-406 was taking her about two hours out of the way on her trip, so she decided to go to a restaurant and youth hostel known as the Rusty Nugget she'd heard of on the state highway that would take her back on her route that served world famous strawberry pancakes and homemade sausage that the locals raved about... Faith figured that if she was going to be delayed, it might as well be worth it...

She drove into the parking lot of the restaurant and walked into the hostel. After paying for a night and stowing her gear, she walked over to the restaurant. After she sat down at a table, she relaxed, having already noticed there were no vampires or demons here. She people-watched as she ate her pancakes. One girl in the restaurant caught her eye - she was Amerasian, slender but athletically built, and looked to be about 16. She looked like she'd just lost everything and everyone that made life worth living. Faith and this girl were islands in a sea of chattering people, and mostly the crowd was respecting the girl's obvious desire for solitude.

The camaraderie of the crowd was broken suddenly as a group of five college-frat type guys came in from outside. They were obviously drunk and looking for trouble. Faith was somewhat out of view from the door the frat boys came through, so they didn't see her - but then they saw the girl.

They sauntered and slinked over to her.

"Hey, sweetheart, you look like you lost your man - maybe one of us will do..." one of the more wasted boys said.

She ignored them at first.

One of the other boys said next, "maybe she wants all of us - I heard Asian chicks..." his voice trailed off, but Faith had heard enough.

Before she realized it, she was behind the boys. "Leave her alone and get out."

The boys, startled by the interruption, turn, but seeing Faith, their swagger returned. "Hey, maybe you wanna take her..." one starts to say.

Just as Faith prepared to wipe the smirk off his face, the girl says, "Let's take this ... outside."

The boys hooted and hollered, tossing out bawdy comments, and the girl looked at Faith - like a kindred spirit. They grinned at the same time, and followed the guys out side...

Ten minutes later, the two girls came back inside the restaurant. They sat at Faith's table. From the closing door, the sounds of groaning and then a truck door slamming and the beginning of tires squealing were heard as the drunken idiots took off to lick their wounds, hoping no one will notice that they got their tails handed to them by a pair of slight, little girls...

"I noticed you really didn't need my help, but I couldn't just let them insult you like that... you were minding your own business, and didn't deserve to be treated like that. I'm Faith."

"Thanks for your help. I'm... Cassie."

"Don't know about you, but I'm starving again... Sl... er, fighting like that makes me either h... um... hungry... I'm buying. Interested?"

"... Yes, thanks..." Cassie looked a bit surprised that a total stranger was helping with no ulterior motives, but after watching Faith closely for a moment, she relaxed and accepted the food and drink.

The two girls talked over the pancakes and realized how much they had in common. Faith mentioned some of the work they were doing, without giving away too many secrets - her instincts told her Cassie might be just what they needed for the Slay-schools the new Council had begun in Cleveland. All that was left was to convince Cassie...

But it really wasn't difficult after all... Cassie had reasons to want out of California right now.

Cassie excused herself and went outside the restaurant a moment, dialing a number she hadn't called in six months. After three reroutes Earthside and one through the JLA satellite connection, the call connected in a penthouse at a clocktower high above a gothic architecture lover's paradise also known as Gotham City.

The owner of the apartment picked up the phone. "Hello? Cassie, is that you? How are you? Where...?" Barbara Gordon started the call tracer she'd had set up awaiting this call, and also activated a urgent signal to Robin, Batman and Nightwing

"Hi, Oracle", Cassie said. "Don't worry about me, I'm fine, but I'm going to be out of touch for a while. I got a job offer, and I'll call again when I'm settled. I can't deal with ... HIM or with Tim right now. Tell Dick, Jason and Jean-Paul I'm fine, and I'll be back when I'm ready... bye..."

"Cass - Batgirl, please, wait... Don't go..." CLICK.

10 minutes later, a large shadow disengaged from the myriad shadows that had fallen all around the clocktower with the fall of the veil of the night. Batman had arrived at Oracle's tower. Three more figures quickly melted in from the shadows within minutes of the first.

The three men found Barbara seated where she'd taken Cassandra Cain's call, face tear-stained... before they could ask, she answered the unspoken questions.

"I didn't get anything from the trace except that she was in California when she called. All she said was that she'd call when she settled, she'd gotten a job offer and to tell you three" - she gestured at Dick Grayson, and the recently returned Jean-Paul Valley and Jason Todd- "that she was fine... she said that she wasn't ready to deal with YOU" - she looked at Batman, who looked as uncomfortable as he ever did - " or with Tim yet. Bruce..." She looked up at him, as Batman took off his cowl.

"How do we get her back here? She's family..."

Just after the phone call concluded with Gotham City, Faith and Cassie drove off down I-406. About 2 hours after they left, a group of seven teens and 4 college-age adults arrived at the Rusty Nugget. A tall young man with intense dark blue eyes and a shock of black hair walked inside. He politely asked the waitress at the Nugget if she'd seen a young, Amerasian girl in the area and showed the waitress a picture. The waitress said to the young man, "She said if you came by, to give you this note..."

Tim took the note and walked back outside to his friends, the Teen Titans. He opened the letter with his friends surrounding him.

"Dear Robin,

After all that's happened, I need a break for a while..."