Three AM in the morning, the dead of winter--steam from the sewer grates flooded the streets. Broken lights and a moonless sky blanketed the city in deathly darkness. Cars didn’t drive through this area, this run down place only the insane or criminal dared venture. Behind spray-paint layered doors and boarded up windows, transients, drug users, and supernatural rabble-rousers mingled like a vile cocktail.
On one of these streets stumbled Shego, her clothes ruffled, her hair a mess, and a bottle of cheap, half-drunk liquor in her hand. Dirty walls and flyer lined lampposts kept her balance as she zigzagged around the sidewalk.
As if she wasn’t making enough noise, she let out an impressive belch and followed it up with a mangled rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
Two men poked their heads out of an alley. They noticed her leather jacket and booze, things both of them could put to good use. And what if they got a little pussy on the side too? That was a perk, a big perk. With predatory grins and anticipatory gleams in their eyes, they shuffled out of their hiding place…
… only to spy a mean-looking gang saunter out of an “abandoned” building. Led by a mohawk wearing lady, this cadre of pale-skinned, punk themed bandits numbered eight strong. Something was off about them, something like the ridged foreheads or huge fangs or ferocious snarls. The two men had seen people like this before and knew better than to mess with their prey.
“-ake one down, passzit ‘round, eighty seven of bottles o’ beer onna wa-”
Besides, death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a man.
“-six bottles o’ beer onna wall, eeeeeighty-six bottles-”
Like a murder of crows, the gang surrounded Shego. The burly ones with spiked collars cracked their knuckles; the lanky ones pulled out knives and chains. The leader? She stepped in front of Shego to close off all escape routes.
She made no attempt to hide her vamped out face. “Look what we have here: a pound of jailbait. Guess it’s gonna be a good night after all, huh boys?”
“Hey!” Unsteadily, Shego thrust her finger out, lost her equilibrium, and staggered around for a short, comical while. “I distinctly remember there being more sidewalk to walk on! Where’d it go?”
“Up your ass,” one of the gang members snickered, “And that’s where my dick’s going in, you cun-”
The sound of a bottle exploding jostled everyone within an earshot. It happened so quick not even the gang bangers knew what happened. Before they could even gather their wits, three of their number burst into ashes while the formerly easy kill scooped up one of the chains on the ground.
Undaunted by her flunkies’ demises, the leader rallied her remaining forces and dove at the whelp of a girl. Instead of tackling a body, she got nothing but air. Where did the girl disappear to? What was she doing here taking on all these vampires?
Two more puffs entered her ears, causing her to jerk her head around. Only two more of her gang remained and even they looked to be in a bad way. One guy--wielding a knife--took a stab at the girl. Fluidly, the fragile looking thing stepped into the thrust, peeled to side at the last second, grabbed a fistful of wrist, and snapped it upward with incredible force. The result? A horribly bent arm and a knife in an eye socket.
While their friend screamed, the two survivors glanced at each other. In about two heartbeats, the girl had taken out six of them. The odds of them joining the others? High. Choosing not to tempt fate, they turned around and sprinted away as fast as their undead legs could take them.
Two whispers flew through the air. The woman felt cold steel imbed itself in the back of her knee and the ashes of her last ally prickle her eyes just as she fell face first to the dirty ground. She rolled herself over in time to see the girl, who from this angle looked taller than Death, calmly (and very soberly) approach her.
Shego withdrew a stake from her pocket.
“Whoa, whoa, don’t need to get mean! I was just joking when I called you jailbait!”
Closer she got to the backpedaling vampiress, who, for all her backpedaling, just couldn’t do it fast enough.
“Look, don’t kill me. I… I… can make you powerful!”
Shego stopped and gave her a questioning glare. “Right. I’m just trembling at the sight of your pathetic awesomeness.”
“No! My boss, Kakistos, he owns this town! He could make you rich!”
“Lady, only the Red Sox own this town.” With a unnecessary kick to the jaw and a necessary stab to the heart, the mohawk wearing lady disintegrated, the signs of her passing a bloody knife and a pile of ash.
“Hmph,” scoffed Shego, “Kakistos. What kind of name is Kakistos?”
Kakistos. Sheesh. That pig still gives me the creeps.
Hate to interrupt again, but where are we going?
That would be a surprise.
We’re not in Middleton anymore.
Thanks for the update. I’ll check back with you when I need to know something completely and utterly useless.
Stop being mean to Ron.
Yeah, stop being mean to me!
But Princess, he’s so easy. It’s like shooting dead fish in a small barrel with a grenade launcher.
You know, I’m starting to sense a trend here…
“Kakistos? Ye sure? No shitting meh?”
Shego rolled her eyes and bit into her pizza. God, fighting always got her so hungry, but tonight, after going through all those vampires, she needed something more. Food was nice but not the cure to another hunger rising in her.
Blame it on the adrenaline, the thrill of victory. Blame it on puberty and the resulting sexual curiosity. Blame it on the fact that she’d left her girlfriend--the only person she’d ever been intimate with--back in Go City. Blame it on four months of intense training.
Blame it on whatever but Shego was horny. Hungry and horny, what a combo. Imagine ordering something for THAT at a drive-thru.
Aines smacked the dining table with her hand. “Faith! Will ya listen for once in yer life?”
“Yeah, yeah, Kakistos, khakis n’ toast, whatever. We got anymore Mountain Dew in the fridge?”
“Kakistos ain’t nothin’ ta laugh at. He’s old as dirt n’ stronger thannae mountain. Vampires dun earn the name ‘worst of the worst’ by sittin’ on their laurels.”
Was that a challenge? “Sounds like he’s never met a Slayer.”
“Oh, he’s met Slayers all right, met ‘em n’ ate ‘em. The Council’s got stories ‘bout how he turned our own ‘gainst us.”
Getting up from her chair, Shego sauntered to the kitchen in search of a drink. “You think I can’t handle him?”
“I dun think. I know ye can’t.”
“Then why the hell did you train me!” Her voice carried throughout the apartment, ringing with an angry clarity. “What have you been doing with me all this time? Isn’t fighting guys like this what I’ve been destined to do?” The refrigerator opened and shut roughly. “I will fight him and I will win, one way or another. I didn’t stay here to be second best to some old fart!”
“Ain’t no shame in bidin’ yer time.”
Shego reappeared, a can of soda in hand and a scowl on her face. “If you think I’m not good enough, then why don’t you call your backup? I’m sure the CIA will love using that guy as target practice.”
“We need proof.”
“We. Need. Proof. The Council dun like us pullin’ in our allies ‘less it’s needed.”
“This is bullshit,” groaned Shego, “First you tell me I can’t handle this guy, and now you’re telling me I’m not going to get any help unless I get his driver’s license, thumbprint, and birth certificate. You know, if this is how you guys work, I’m surprised the world isn’t overrun by demons and vampires yet.”
“We kinnae go jumpin’ willy nilly at every rumor!”
“‘We kinnae do this, we kinnae do that,’” Shego mocked, preening and prancing about like an immature version of her Watcher, “Why do you even need a Slayer if all you’re going do is send me after just-live-again vamps?”
As Aines worked herself up for a scathing reply, a deafening boom shattered the window next to her front door. Snarls and other voices came rushing into the apartment followed closely by flaming bottles and bullets. The television exploded and valuable tomes caught fire. From outside, streams of gasoline fed the starting embers, intensifying them into tall infernos. Another boom and the door knob splintered into scads of shrapnel and wood.
Both Watcher and “Slayer” made a break for the hallway. Four doors greeted them: the restroom, two bedrooms, and the training room. Shego went for the weapons cache in the training room while Aines bolted into the restroom.
Stakes. Needed stakes and crossbows and a sword. Yeah, a big, mean sword and a knife. The black haired teen scooped up the first available crossbow, a quiver of bolts, a pair of stakes, and stopped short of the first sword in reach. It wasn’t quite big enough. The next one over? Not nasty enough. And the next one? Just right.
Big and nasty and jagged and long, just the way she liked everything else.
“Aines?” Only now did she realize that her mentor didn’t follow her. Was she hit? No, couldn’t be, she was fine a few seconds ago.
Another boom, and this time, the apartment’s sturdy door fell over. Her heart racing a mile a minute, Shego loaded her crossbow and poked her head out into the hallway.
Her first thought was “Yuck.” Slithering through the fire like it was nothing, these weird snake people began invading the modest apartment. They had tails and bodies like snakes, but where they differed were the arms and head, both disgustingly human. They hissed and gnashed their oversized teeth, purple liquid (“Probably venom,” Shego noted) dripping to the ground.
Nagas. Aines had a book about these guys, said something about them being mean, quick, and violent.
Had some pretty awesome pictures too but they didn’t do the real thing justice.
Shego took aim at the nearest demon and let a bolt go. She didn’t even stop to see where it went instead going straight to reloading and firing. She worked mechanically, methodically, but it wasn’t enough: the bolts failed to penetrate the tough skin and there were too many of them. Time for the-
Suddenly, the door across from her--the door to the restroom--opened. Shotgun in tow, a grim Aines leveled the impressive firearm at the incoming demons. For just a fraction of a second, every sound ceased. The nagas stopped hissing, the fire grew silent, Shego held her breath, and the commotion from the outside died down.
Then, thunder roared from the gun’s barrel.
The hallway was narrow. The nagas were large. The gun was powerful. The slug tore through the first demon’s hide and didn’t stop, not even when it hit the second, not even when it hit the burning sofa, but only when it met the wall.
Two writhing bodies fell over.
“You keep guns in bathroom!”
“Well, would ye ‘ave looked in there?”
“Then I rest meh case.”
More nagas appeared and again the shotgun mowed them down with frightening efficiency. “Get in meh room,” said Aines, “The fire escape’s there.”
Shego dropped the crossbow and reached for her sword. “How about the front door?”
“Put that away! Fight with yuir head, Faith! Bein’ brave ain’t no good if ye dead!”
“Why do you even care? I’m suppose to fight, not run!”
“I ain’t gonna have yuir blood on me hands for bein’ a fool! Stupid child, ye got a whole lifetime ta fight n’ only one chance ta die, doncha realize that?”
Sensing her Slayer’s indecision, Aines yanked her up by the collar and backed into her bedroom. She closed the door and locked it, not that mere wood could stop a demon but it’d slow them down. Shego begrudgingly opened the window and vaulted out the metal grating.
Second story--she could’ve jumped this height without breaking a sweat or a leg. Who needed these things anyway?
Halfway out of the apartment, Aines’ eyes widened. “Faith, behind ya!”
Shego spun around in time to see a vampire’s fist careen into her jaw. She stumbled back, but before she could act, the shotgun blasted a hole in the undead’s chest and sent him over the fire escape’s hand rails.
More vampires spilled down from the short building’s roof.
Nagas tore down the bedroom door.
A combination of those two waited at the bottom of the fire escape.
“And suddenly the front door sounds like a genius idea.”
While her enemies gloated, Shego schemed. During her time with Team Go, no death trap held her, no villain captured her, and no henchmen ever overwhelmed her. When there was a will, there was a way and Shego prided herself on never giving up. She was too good to lose, especially to lowlifes like these.
Shink went her sword as she unsheathed it: the vampire coming at her paused in fright. “Hang on.”
With a mighty overhead swing, the well-honed blade sliced through one side of the fire escape’s rusty, rickety supports. Since said support was bolted into the apartment’s exterior to keep it in place, relieving it of its duty turned the small platform into an impromptu swing. Doing her best Tarzan impression, Shego let out a gleeful yell as the swinging fire escape crashed into all kinds of evil things.
As it made its ascent, she shouted, “Jump!”
Always quick on her feet and mind, Aines forced herself to act, tucking and rolling (And gah! Did she just twist something?) as she hit the ground. She heard the sounds of her shotgun clattering on cement (Too far to reach because it skittered into a crowd of enemies) and Shego landing effortlessly, but both were overwhelmed by their attackers’ mass confusion and agonized grunts.
“We’ve got about two seconds to get out of here, Aines. Laying around? Not helping!”
Pushing back the tears, the blonde prayed to God that her hurting ankle was good enough to walk on. However, the barest weight on the joint collapsed her and brought on a new jolt of pain.
Concern taking over annoyance, Shego looked down at her teacher’s lower leg and bit back a gasp. A bone jutted out, not breaking flesh but making it known something wasn’t right. Redness engulfed the area and rapidly expanded it.
“Leave,” ordered the still prone Aines as she palmed a small book from her pocket. She flipped the tightly bound object to her charge. “Take me diary and get ta Sunnydale, California. Ye’ll find help there.”
Shego’s bravado disappeared. She’d never been this close to death before, this close to losing someone who, if she really asked herself, mattered. Many long nights she envisioned herself leaving this fake life behind and moving on to another city, another adventure. That was why she ran away from home, wasn’t it? To get away from all the responsibilities and live life as she pleased? She never imagined death happening, death to someone who helped her be free. This was suppose to be harmless fun because good guys didn’t die. Good guys won and lived to fight another day.
If anyone was going die, Shego expected herself to be the one. She wasn’t one of the good guys, she wasn’t fighting for some greater good, she was along for the ride, for the fun. Dying wasn’t fun.
“GO! Ye deaf, Slayer? Ya got a fuckin’ destiny n’ it ain’t ‘ere!”
Meanwhile, the two second window for escape came and went. Confusion settled down into bloodlust, and behind the bloodlust echoed a clapping.
“What have we here? A Watcher and maybe, just maybe, the new Slayer?”
The hordes parted to admit an ugly specimen of unlife. Muscle rippled from his arms and excessively long fangs protruded from his mouth. His fingers were fused together and he walked with a slight, natural hunch. Between his words, he took deep breaths and short pauses, as if he had to think over the language before using it. Then, there were his eyes, red with soulless fury and hellish malice. He didn’t so much as look at people as he pierced them, mangled them, and dared them to be defiant. His gaze spoke of many lives taken and the pleasure to make someone--anyone--his next feast.
The worst of the worst. The legend himself, Kakistos.
“Kill the Watcher. I want the Slayer.”
“No!” shouted Shego, but of course, the vampiric minions didn’t listen.
“Run, Faith! Run, ya wankin’, soddin’ tart!”
Her sword didn’t gleam in virtuous glory. She couldn’t defend her teacher, her friend, her Watcher. For every enemy Shego struck down, another three took the fallen’s place. Ashes and blood lathered the ground yet they still came, unafraid of death. Inevitable blows pushed her away from Aines, Aines who still screamed and pleaded for Shego to run.
Soon, the screams became unintelligible and bloodcurdling. Gleeful chuckles mingled with hungry, serpentine hisses. The shotgun’s distinctive thunder crack shook Shego’s soul.
About the only worse sound was the howling cry of pain following the shot.
The poor naga before her received her righteous fury. She brought the sword down and cleaved it straight in half, and behind it, Kakistos stood, arms folded and lips upturned.
“Slayer’s blood,” he said reverently while behind him, Aines’ death shrills weakened, “I haven’t had any in centuries. Watchers though, they’re everywhere. That’s when I let them,” he spread his arms out to encompass his army, “have their fun.”
Even from so far away, Shego heard bone snapping and a silence louder than life itself. Her dinner--pizza and soda--threatened to make its up from her stomach, but she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. She wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t break, she wouldn’t be weak, and she wouldn’t lose, not to him.
Wet ripping, flesh tearing, blood slurping, and joints dislocating. “It’s like music,” he growled, his countenance (if even possible) becoming more imposing by the second, “I wonder how you’ll sound… Faith, was it?”
Faith. It wasn’t her name. It was an identity, but right now, it felt more like chains. Shego hated Faith, hated Faith for being so arrogant, hated Faith for getting Aines killed, hated Faith for getting her involved in this Slayer junk. Faith took over her life and wouldn’t let go, not after how Aines died, not after tasting how real the real world was.
Shego wanted to run and hide but Faith wouldn’t have any of that.
They’d both gone too far to stop.
Instead of answering, Shego hurled her sword into Kakistos’ face and ran. She didn’t even have time to sit and relish in his agony and surprise: Sunnydale was the only word on her mind.
Sorry, but I’m going to have to pull over for a little bit. Got something in my eye.
A ten thousand on the gross-o-meter?
Ron, so not helping. Shego, are you ok?
It’s been a long time coming. What I’ve told the two of you, I’ve never told another soul and reliving it is just… just… crazy.
You don’t have to do this, tell us I mean.
I do. I’m building up to something and you need to know my side of the story. It’ll make your decision easier.
What are you talking about?
You’ll find out.
Hey! There’s a Bueno Nacho! You can pull over there!
You still want to eat after the ten thousand on the gross-o-meter?
Nacos make everything better.
Fine, but we’re only going to the drive-thru. Don’t want to be late.
Late for what?
For your hourly ass kicking if you don’t shut up.
- To be continued…