Watchers Council – Library – Morning
Rowena entered the library carrying coffee in one hand and a folder full of printed pages under her other arm. She gave a quick wave to Dawn and Skye, secluded in a corner with a copy of Vampyres and Ghouls of Eastern Europe open between them. Then she crossed to the main table, where Willow was flipping through the pages of an old, faded diary. She walked up quietly behind Willow and reached around her to set the coffee down, making her jump slightly.
“Meanie.” Willow grinned. “Thanks. So how come I get mocha-y goodness and you only get…what is that?”
“Faxes from Robson,” Rowena replied, taking a seat next to Willow and spreading the folder’s contents around. “Everything about myth and folklore as a motive force. You know, once everything has calmed down, I’d love to do a paper on this. It’s fascinating.” Willow’s grin widened and Rowena blushed. “I’m a total geek, huh?”
“Yeah,” Willow said affectionately, “but you’re my geek and that’s the way I want it.”
Rowena smiled and began to sort through the stack of faxes. “How’s Kennedy, same as before?”
“She’s awake,” Willow said. “Mia was there, so I didn’t stay long, just said ‘hi’ and ‘glad-you’re-better’ and left them to it.”
“Awake already?” Rowena asked.
“The doctor said there’s no trace of any of the injuries from last night. She’s good as new. Already discharged from the infirmary.”
“Wow,” Rowena murmured, “that is fast, even for a slayer…I wonder if she did actually take some more serious injury from that fall? The doctor said she was very lucky not to…”
“Miraculous,” Willow agreed, mimicking Dr. Miller’s voice.
“Maybe she did, and healed before they even got her back here to do an exam.” Rowena shook her head. “Does she know? About the Kresnik issue, I mean?”
“Faith told Mia what we’d figured out,” Willow said, taking a sip of her coffee.
“So she’ll fill up Kennedy,” Rowena mused. Willow choked on her coffee. At first Rowena looked worried, then confused, before she started to blush. “I meant fill in Kennedy!” the blonde protested.
“Sure, I know what you meant,” Willow teased.
“Hey, my mind’s not the one in the gutter here,” Rowena countered, as she leaned over and whispered in Willow’s ear.
“Uh huh,” Willow said knowingly, before taking another drink from her cup. Rowena began to look at the faxes as Willow returned to her book. With a smile creeping to Willow’s face, she asked, without looking at Rowena, “Sooo, think you can fill me up later? I mean, fill me in. You know, more info on Eastern European vampires and such?”
Rowena looked over at Willow, then playfully smacked her on the back of the head with the faxes and muttered, “Smart ass.”
Willow softly chuckled in response.
Watchers Council – Kennedy’s Living Room – Same time
“No,” Kennedy insisted. “No, no way.”
“What do you mean no way?” Mia asked, remaining seated on the couch while Kennedy paced back and forth.
“No way, as in I’m not some fairytale sorcerer hero thing!” Kennedy exclaimed. “I’m not anyone’s Kresnik. I’m me, just me.”
“Ken,” Mia said, her tone soothing, “last night you jumped twice your height straight up that wall. I saw it with my own eyes. Then you scrambled up almost to the top of that building, like you were on a ladder. And most importantly –”
“Okay, I get it!” Kennedy scowled.
“–most importantly,” Mia went on determinedly, “you’re on your feet, without a scratch on you, when by all rights you should be flat on your back in the infirmary hoping you’ll ever have the ability to walk again.” Kennedy paused in her pacing, and sat on the coffee table just opposite her. “Don’t tell me I should be pissed off that you’re safe and well,” Mia said quietly.
“Sorry.” Kennedy hung her head. “Okay, you’re right, it’s…it’s just, this isn’t me. I’m not built for magic.”
“I could disagree there,” Mia smirked, tracing a fingertip over Kennedy’s knee. Kennedy managed a smile. “Anyway, you’re magic already,” Mia went on, “we all are, aren’t we? I’m pretty sure your standard-model girl can’t bench-press twice her weight, or sense when there’s a vampire within twenty yards. Or even lift that poleaxe of yours which, as I’ve said before, is just stupid big.”
“He gets the job done, though,” Kennedy grinned, but then her face fell, “or did until now, anyway. But that’s not really magic, that’s just being a slayer. We’re all like that.”
“Right, so now you’re a Kresnik too,” Mia suggested. “What’s the problem with that?”
“It’s not the same,” Kennedy insisted, “it’s – I’m a slayer, fine, but I’m not the slayer, and I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be the anything.”
“Why not?” Mia asked simply. Kennedy met her gaze, and sighed wearily.
“Because I screw up,” she said in a small voice. “That nickname Faith’s got for me-”
“It’s hard to keep track sometimes.”
“I know,” Kennedy grinned, “she just does it on purpose these days, I’m sure. Andrew says it’s so she’ll get ‘bonus XP for staying in character.'” She sighed again. “It’s true. I’m kind of a brat. I’m brash, loud. I say whatever dumb thing pops into my head some days, and do whatever seems like a good idea at the time.”
“You’re pretty good at picking the good ideas,” Mia noted.
“I do okay most times,” Kennedy admitted, “but then again, sometimes I just mess up – and it’s not just because sometimes I’m angry or depressed or not concentrating. It’s just, a lot of the time I think, ‘Yeah, this’ll work,’ and it doesn’t.”
“Sorry, but welcome to being human,” Mia said with a faint grin.
“Fine, if I’m a human,” Kennedy frowned, “or a slayer. If I screw up there’s always someone who’s got my back. That’s how it’s always been, and it works. One potential among many, one slayer among many – now I’m just one. If I drop the ball now, who picks it up and runs with it?”
She got up and began pacing again.
“Seriously, who in their right mind would give me the shot, if there was only one chance to do it right? Willow, or Faith, or you – you buckle down and do what needs to be done. I take wild shots, and they pay off, or they crash and burn. This Kresnik thing, I…what if I crash and burn? Seriously, when you’ve got one chance you don’t take a wild shot, you play the odds. I suck at that.”
“Is that really what you think?” Mia asked.
“It’s kind of borne out by the evidence.” Kennedy shrugged.
“Do you really think you’d be second-in-command of all the slayers in the Council if you weren’t reliable?”
“That’s why I’m second,” Kennedy said, “I get to go charging around like a maniac getting in over my head. Faith’s the leader, she’s the one the girls look to when they know it’s do-or-die. She’s been-there, done-that with the whole making mistakes and life experience thing. Me, I’m just…I’m still at the making mistakes stage, the screw-up stage –”
“Now, you listen to me!” Mia insisted, gripping Kennedy’s shoulders to stop her pacing back and forth. “You are not a screw-up, you hear me?”
“I know, I know,” Kennedy said, placing her hands over Mia’s, “it’s not that, it’s not a crisis of confidence thing…this is just how I am, and,” she added quickly, before Mia could protest again, “I’m not saying I can’t do anything right…but I’m a gambler. That’s me – risk big, win big. Or lose big. I mean, that Kadin woman, for example, that plan was a big damn risk.”
“And it paid off,” Mia pointed out.
“Right, but if it didn’t? Willow was there as backup. But now, there’s no Plan B. I fail, that’s it. Game over. Not just me, but the whole city – hell, maybe even the world. You saw what she did last night.”
“I sure felt it,” Mia admitted.
“I don’t want to be able to screw up that much,” Kennedy went on, “I-if it’s just me, fine, but it’s not just me. Millions of lives are resting on my shoulders and, if I drop it – head for the hills.” She fixed Mia with an intense stare. “I don’t want that power.”
“I’ll…I’ll tell you something,” Mia said after a pause. “I’m afraid of guns.”
“Huh?” Kennedy frowned, confused.
“I knew Julia had one, under her mattress,” Mia explained patiently. “‘Just in case,’ she’d say. It was like a comfort to her, but I was afraid of it. I…even back then I knew she was, you know, a bit…not so stable, really. I was always afraid that one day I’d need to talk her out of doing something dumb, and she’d just pull the gun and say no. And there’d be nothing I could do – wouldn’t matter who was right, or how persuasive I was, it’d be just, shut up or lights out. It wasn’t her that bothered me – well, not like that – but the gun, itself. It was like, power, just waiting, not caring who used it, or what for.”
“But I’ve seen you,” Kennedy said quietly, “rescuing Ro, you were…fearless.”
“No, I wasn’t. Not during all the training, either. Guns still give me the willies deep down,” Mia answered. “But even if I’m scared as hell, I have to look confident to those other girls, so they’ll have courage and get the job done.”
There was a long pause, while Kennedy stared at Mia, and she calmly returned the stare, unflinching.
“You’re saying I’m afraid of this?” Kennedy asked finally, quietly.
“You saying you’re not?” Mia countered. It was Kennedy who broke the stare, looking down, away.
“No,” she said. “No, I’m not saying that.”
“Good because you’d be crazy if you weren’t scared. And I know you. You’re not crazy. But I also know that, in the end, you’re not a coward.”
Kennedy gave her a soft smile. “Say? You up for some gym time? I think best when I’m working out.”
Mia returned the smile and motioned with her hand. “Lead the way.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Later
“I need lunch,” Mia said a couple of hours later, standing away from the dummy she had been practicing kicks on.
“Be there soon,” Kennedy said, without pausing in her punching routine.
“Hey,” Faith called, entering the gym in her workout gear and approaching Mia as she headed for the door, “how’s Slick?”
“Thoughtful,” Mia grinned, “and not short on stamina.” She pointed to Kennedy, whose hands were a blur as she rained quick punches into her target. “She’s been doing that for two hours non-stop.”
“No kidding,” Faith raised her eyebrows, “well, you oughta be the happy girl tonight.” Mia rolled her eyes, leaving Faith to approach Kennedy.
“Hey,” she said, starting her warm-up stretches, “turned into any cool animals yet?”
“Har har,” Kennedy deadpanned, continuing to pummel the target.
“Let me know if you’re gonna try a panda,” Faith shrugged, “I always wanted to see one of ’em up close. My teacher once told me they look cuddly, but they’d rip my head off.”
“I can’t speak for all pandas of the world, but this one just might if she has to listen to any more animal jokes,” Kennedy countered.
Faith smiled and gave a soft laugh, making Kennedy finally grin.
“So,” Faith began, “aside from endless stamina and overnight healing, how’s life treating you?”
“It’s…complicated,” Kennedy admitted, looking serious again.
“I bet. Anti-magic girl gets magic powers, jeez,” Faith gave a bark of laughter. “That’s the kind of thing I hear Andrew springs on his RPG group that he keeps wanting me to join. I tell ya Slick, I’d be pretty unhappy if I got roped into some damned story without asking for it.”
“Pretty unhappy kinda sums it up,” Kennedy nodded.
“Still,” Faith shrugged, straightening up, “whatcha gonna do, find the storyteller and kick him in the teeth? Y’know what – hey, stop me if you’re not in the mood, yeah?”
“I could do worse than getting some Faith-counseling,” Kennedy admitted with a sly grin.
“What I’d do,” Faith went on, “I’d say screw the story, and just do what I do. There’s a vampire, I slay it. If some messed-up fairy tale logic says I get to use wire-fu and hit like a sledgehammer, fine. I’ll take that and hit that vampire in the face with it.”
“That’s…actually, that’s useful,” Kennedy said, turning to face Faith.
“I am a genius counselor,” Faith agreed. “So, whaddaya say we break out the heavy equipment and see what you can really do?”
“You’re on.” Kennedy grinned.
Watchers Council – Library – Day
“My goddess,” Willow said in bemused amazement. She and Rowena were sitting opposite each other now, each surrounded by dozens of bookmarked volumes and piles of printouts on vampires in folklore, myth and legend.
“What?” Rowena asked, looking up from a particularly gruesome woodcut in the Liber Ordo Malleus.
“Vampire watermelons,” Willow said blankly.
“Yeah,” Rowena nodded absently, going back to her reading, “Yugoslavia, Muslim Gypsies…”
“What do…I mean, they…how?”
“If you keep a watermelon without eating it for ten days after Christmas – pumpkins too, I think – they can become vampiric. Not a very widespread belief, doesn’t happen a lot.” She frowned at what she was reading.
“But…no teeth?” Willow asked, staring at the book in front of her with absurd fascination.
“No, they just roll around…growl occasionally. The old Council used to have a pair in a glass box in its vault; some watcher in the Eighteenth Century brought them back from a trip to the Balkans out of curiosity.” Willow looked up, fixing Rowena with a withering stare.
“You’re making this up,” she accused.
“Ask Giles,” Ro said distractedly. Willow frowned at her expression.
“What’s up?” she asked. “You’ve got doomsday-face.”
“I’m a little worried,” Rowena said carefully, “I’ve been cross-referencing the various Kudlak stories. It’s difficult to tell anything with any degree of accuracy. There’s gray areas where the records refer to a ‘vukodlak,’ an older Serbian term, and that’s mixed up with werewolves as well as vampires – probably the shapeshifting…”
“But…?” Willow prompted
“As a rule, according to what I’ve read, a Kudlak isn’t that much of a threat. They’re evil and predatory, but instances of them actually killing people are few and far between. Mostly it’s non-lethal feeding, during sleep, causing illness, or they kill livestock. They’re just – they’re village vampires, they can’t do that much damage, or they’d run out of village.”
“But ours has killed twenty-six people already, including the freighter crew…” Willow mused.
“And they were killed not long before the crash,” Rowena added with a frown.
“You’ve got a theory?” Willow asked.
“I’ve got a bad theory,” Rowena replied.
“As in, bad in terms of scientific practice and working empirically from evidence, or bad like –”
“Like ‘that’s no moon, it’s a space station’ bad.”
“Thank you, Obi-Wan,” Willow noted.
“God, I’m going to kill Andrew,” Rowena sighed. “Okay, consider this: in a village of, what, fifty people, a Kudlak is a fitting threat, it makes a good story without going over the top. A few people falling sick, a few animals being killed, and a village that size is looking at a tough season.”
“Fair enough,” Willow said.
“But now the Kudlak is in a major city with over two million people,” Rowena went on. “What if it, I don’t know, scales up?”
“Scales up?” Willow wondered.
“The Kudlak brings death, famine, disease – to an isolated village, losing a crop can mean famine, ten people catching the flu is an epidemic. To a modern metropolis, those hardships in proportion… it could cause disaster on a biblical scale.”
“You’re right, that’s space station bad,” Willow said. “We’ve got to kill this thing.”
“Kennedy has to kill this thing,” Rowena corrected.
“I’m gonna go see how she’s doing,” Willow said, rising from her seat.
“I’ll come with you.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Minutes Later
Willow and Rowena entered the gym to find a crowd of slayers, watchers and trainees clustered around the sparring mats, murmuring excitedly. The rapid thuds of blows hitting training pads could be heard from among them.
“What’s going on?” Willow asked Andrew. “Is Ken here?”
“See for yourself,” he said, standing aside. Heli, bandaged around her stomach, made some room on his other side, allowing Willow and Rowena to see the group working out on the mats.
Kennedy was at the center of five slayers, Vi, Marie, Janet, Lori and Mia, each wielding long training staves with heavy pads wrapped around each end. They were fighting as if their lives depended on it, sweating heavily, and to all appearances doing their level best to pummel Kennedy into submission. For a second Willow was outraged at the inequality, the brutal level of force being thrown into the five-on-one melee, then it became clear that Kennedy was winning. Moving so fast she was literally blurring, the lone slayer at the center of the combat was ducking, weaving, leaping so quickly and precisely that none of the padded staves even touched her. Unless she deliberately blocked a blow, that is, which she did now and then with her forearms and shins, with almost casual ease.
“She knows Kung Fu,” Andrew murmured, peering over Willow’s shoulder.
“If I hadn’t been raised Jewish,” Willow said, stunned, “this’d be a really good time to say –”
“Jesus,” Rowena breathed.
“Thank you. How long has she been fighting like that?”
“About an hour and a half,” Faith said from the sidelines, “I’ve had girls swapping in and out as she wears ’em out. And she’s not fighting, she’s just defending. She can’t actually fight back for real.”
“Why not?” Ro asked.
“Because she does that,” Faith said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. In the corner of the gym were a pile of the very solid, very heavy padded targets used for the most serious training – or at least, what was left of them, after they had been hit so hard that their dense padding had ruptured and their wooden inner cores had been reduced to splinters.
“What’s this?” Giles asked, approaching from the doorway.
“Kennedy has entered bullet-time,” Andrew replied, as Giles took in the scene with astonishment.
“How many more Matrix jokes you got?” Faith asked.
“I’m good for three more,” Andrew said. “Then I’ll have to start on the sequels, and I’d just rather not go there.”
“Is she…” Giles peered at Kennedy, trying to follow her motions. “How is she doing that?”
“We started out one-on-one,” Faith shrugged, “then it sort of snowballed…I’d throw in more, but we’re not really trained for more than five-on-one. The girls’d start getting in each other’s way and it’d just be easier for her then.”
“Ask him about the watermelons,” Rowena prompted Willow.
“What about the watermelons?” Xander asked, walking up behind the pair. “Yikes,” he added, seeing Kennedy.
“Hmm? Oh, yes,” Giles grinned at the memory, “Phar Lap and Seabiscuit.”
“What?!” Willow exclaimed.
“We used to close off a corridor in the vault and race them,” he went on, smiling faintly, “something of a student watcher tradition in those days.” Willow stared at him for a moment. “What?” he asked. “Sometimes we were starved for entertainment at the academy.”
“I don’t believe this,” she eventually said. Then she shook her head, before tugging on Faith’s arm. “Can she spare a minute?”
“Sure,” the senior slayer said, nodding. “Ken! Wrap it up!”
In a blur of motion, Kennedy kicked Vi’s and Lori’s staves from their hands, snapped Marie’s in half with a resounding crack, snatched Janet’s away and used it to knock Mia’s upwards, where it buried itself end-first in the ceiling. Kennedy high-fived the other slayers, touched Mia’s shoulder affectionately for a moment, then tossed her borrowed staff away and crossed the sparring floor to Faith.
“Willow,” she said, “news?”
“Nothing yet,” Willow admitted. “At least, nothing anyone’s found and reported, so it looks like it spent the rest of last night lying low.”
“I’d say ‘licking its wounds,’ if we’d given it any that lasted more than five seconds,” Kennedy scowled, sitting on a weight bench. Willow sat with her, as the general crowd dispersed.
“You did good,” Willow insisted, “last night, a-and just now…Andrew was making Neo jokes –”
“Original or sequel?”
“Wow,” Kennedy nodded, “he doesn’t pull those out for just anyone. It’s kind of…I just do it, you know? No thinking, just, if I want to be fast, I’m fast, if I want to hit hard, I hit hard.”
“That’s great,” Willow smiled. “You’re all okay with this? The whole sorcerous powers deal – oh wait, Mia did tell you – tell me you already knew. I didn’t just ruin it for you, did I?”
“Relax.” Kennedy grinned. “I got the news. I ranted, then spent a few moments raving. But Mia and Faith took turns playing guidance counselor, so I’m, well, dealing.” She sighed and stared off blankly. “Honestly though, I dunno…fighting is one thing, I’m used to fighting, but…do you really think I’m gonna have to do real magic to beat this thing?”
“Well, yes and no,” Willow said quickly, “not magic like I do, or the Coven. No rituals or spells –”
“But still magic?” Kennedy persisted. “Mystic sorcerer stuff, right? I’m not gonna beat her until I can match her, power for power? She turned into a dog, Will.”
“I know it’s difficult,” Willow said.
“Do you? Sorry, that came out harsh,” Kennedy shook her head, “but I mean…God’s honest truth, Will, I’m afraid. I’m just a normal girl, how the hell am I supposed to cope with changing into an animal?”
“I do understand,” Willow insisted, gently taking Kennedy by the chin. “The first big spell I did, I was scared witless. I shouldn’t even have been doing it, it should’ve been Miss Calendar, only…” she hesitated, and shot an apologetic look at Kennedy. “…only that was after she was gone, and there was only me.”
“But you did it?” Kennedy asked.
“I didn’t want to,” Willow admitted. “I’d done small stuff, you know, just having fun, playing around, and it seemed cool and exciting and…and not just another boring day being boring old me.”
“Since when were you boring?”
“About grades one through eleven,” Willow shrugged. “But magic was fun, like a new toy, and then suddenly it was real. And if I didn’t do the spell, people were gonna die…even after a couple of years of being Buffy’s best friend, that was kind of a shock to the system. It’d never really been me, not on purpose, but then…well, it was me or nobody.”
“And it turned out to be great?”
“Heck no,” Willow shuddered, “it was the scariest experience of my life to that point. And like I said, Buffy-best-friend of two years’ standing, so ‘scariest experience of my life’ means something. But I’d done it, and…and afterwards, I knew I could do it again, if I had to. In spite of the scary.”
“Like Mia,” Kennedy mused. “But there’s a lot of scary here. Sparring’s fun, but turning into a giant bat?”
“You do what you have to do,” Willow shrugged, “because you’re like me. Whatever it takes to fight the good fight. Plus, you’d make a cute bat. Those big ears, cute little furry cheeks –”
“Or a frog. Green skin, hoppy legs,” Kennedy offered, as Willow wildly shook her head. Kennedy smiled. She and Willow sat in companionable silence for a moment.
“So, how bad is it?” the slayer eventually asked.
“How what is what?”
“You’ve heard bad news. You’ve got doomsday-face.”
“Apparently it’s contagious,” Willow grumbled. “There’s reason to believe the Kudlak being here might bring on some kind of biblical-scale catastrophe, if it’s left unchecked.”
“Never a dull moment in the Watchers Council,” Kennedy quipped. “So, beating her brains out with haste would be good. Well, I’m not going to stand on my pride. I could use my old watcher’s help.”
“I’m not old,” Willow protested. “I’ve got an idea though. You being the Kresnik makes you and the Kudlak natural enemies – you’re destined to confront each other, or something like that. A lot of the old folk tales say the Kresnik can hunt the Kudlak, so –”
“Maybe I can tune my vampire-sense to her specifically?” Kennedy finished. “I’ve never been good at that stuff – line-of-sight, fine, but pretty much everyone can do that. Some of the girls, though…” she sighed. “Marsha, she was like a radar.”
“Taught her everything she knew,” Willow offered, with a kind of melancholy pride.
“You reckon you can help me?” Kennedy asked.
“It’s worth a shot. Wanna grab a Jeep and go hunting? I’ll round up Rowena and get the keys.”
“I’ll get the weapons,” Kennedy said, standing.
“Hey, Xander!” she called. The young man said a parting word to Vi, who he had been talking with, and fell in beside Kennedy and Willow as they left the gym.
“A-hunting we will go,” Kennedy explained. “You got anything that’ll slow this vamp bitch down?”
“I’ll break one of the Xander Specials out of storage.” Xander smiled. “Ten bucks says your Kudlak won’t get up again, folklore or no folklore.”
“You’re on,” the slayer grinned.
“And don’t worry about Larry, I’ll have it back together in no time. Hey,” he added, “do you want me to do you one of the Black Ops armors? I could modify one pretty quickly, wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of extra protection.”
Kennedy thought it over.
“Thanks, but no,” she said. “I’ve got a better idea.”
“Cool,” Xander nodded. “Oh, Will – what’s this about watermelons racing?”
“Huh? Oh, Goddess,” she groaned, “ask Giles, I can’t deal with that. Lobby, ten minutes?”
“Okay,” Kennedy nodded, as Willow headed down the corridor back toward the main building.
“I’ll go get your weapons,” Xander said. “The usual assortment?”
“Thanks,” she answered.
Xander headed for his workshop, while Kennedy got a few strides towards the Slayer Dorm before she stopped.
“Wait,” she said to no one, “racing watermelons? What?”
Watchers Council Lobby – Ten minutes later
Xander walked up to Willow and Rowena, carrying a weapons bag, a shockproof container and the remote camera.
“You all ready to go?” he asked, handing the camera to Rowena. “You know how to work this?”
“How hard can it be?” she shrugged. “Fox News manages nine times out of ten.”
“Yeah, but they never tell you both sides of a story,” Xander quipped. “We’d like to be a little more accurate with the facts here. Okay, a lot more accurate.”
Rowena grinned. “I’ll get it, don’t worry,” she told him, before turning to Willow. “Are we set?”
“Just waiting for Ken,” Willow said.
“Let’s go then,” Kennedy called from the other side of the lobby, emerging from the connecting corridor. She was wearing all white – white leather boots, white pants, a skin-tight white sleeveless top and a white leather jacket. Mia followed a few paces behind, stealing appreciative glances at her girlfriend every few seconds.
“Nice,” Xander nodded approvingly, which earned him a slap from both Rowena and Willow at the same time.
“Got the idea from Faith,” Kennedy explained. “White, the Kresnik’s color, right? If some vamp’s gonna dump folklore on me, I’m gonna take it and shove it down its throat.”
“Nice to know someone listens to me,” Faith said, descending the stairs.
“Yeah, but I get the feeling I look like the King of Rock and Roll – not sexy, pelvis Elvis but Las Vegas lounge lizard Elvis,” Kennedy said, looking down at her attire.
“Looks good to me,” Mia said with a leer.
“I’ll second that,” Xander said, earning another slap from the watchers on either side of him. “Owww,” he finally complained.
“I’m coming, too,” Faith said, as she finally made it over to the group.
“Uh, guys,” Rowena spoke up, “there’s only so many seats in the Jeep.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll take my bike. You’re not going out there without your senior slayer, even if I’m not The One. So c’mon.”
“Kinda cold isn’t it?” Xander asked.
“Yeah, if you’re a wimp,” she teased. “Let’s ride.”
Skyscraper Rooftop – Sunset
The last amber rays of sunset vanished from the horizon, leaving the city bathed in the harsh fluorescents of its artificial lights.
At the top of one of the city’s tallest buildings, the change from dusk to evening brought with it a faint silvery glow from the weak moon, illuminating rooftop areas that had been submerged in deep shadow while the sun passed.
From one of them, the Kudlak emerged, stalking purposefully to the edge. It stared down the dizzying height at the ant-like people moving about the streets below, while the wind whipped viciously at its coat and hair.
Without hesitation, it stepped over the edge of the roof and dropped out of view.
Street Corner – Same Time
Several blocks away, Kennedy stood on a street corner with Willow and Mia on either side of her. Rowena remained in the Jeep, parked nearby, while Faith had parked her bike on the pavement and was leaning against a lamppost. She twirled a stake in her hand whenever she was sure no pedestrians were near enough to see it clearly.
“Okay,” Willow was saying, “now, try feeling your way outwards, like… imagine a kind of field around you, and just try to see it moving out like a ripple in a pond, away from you on all sides. Don’t push yourself, just relax and let it happen, it’s moving out, down the street ahead of us, behind us, taking in more and more –”
Kennedy’s eyes suddenly snapped open.
“It’s awake,” she said, turning.
“You’ve really got a knack for this,” Mia said to Willow.
“Wasn’t me, I hadn’t even got to the detection part,” she shrugged. “Okay, back to the Jeep –”
“Too slow,” Kennedy said quickly. She strode to Faith’s bike and swung her leg over it, kicked the engine into life and took off down the street.
“Hey!” Faith yelled. “That better come back without a scratch,” she grumbled, as she and the others scrambled into the Jeep.
Public Bus – Same Time
Tired commuters filed onto the bus, and put their change into the box without the driver really paying attention. It was only when someone stood in front of him, saying nothing and not moving, that the driver looked up.
“You got fare or not?” he asked, irritated.
The Kudlak opened its mouth and its spear of a tongue unraveled and pierced the man’s throat in one swift motion. As blood spattered the windshield, the vehicle’s other occupants screamed and started clambering over each other, trying to escape from the monster.
End of Act Three