“Ah, Ms. Summers, and I’m assuming this is… Faith?”
Shego froze at the library’s door. The morning started like a whirlwind, B getting ready for school and B’s mom being a typical parent and gracious hostess all in one. Without being pushy but still being firm, Joyce cajoled Shego into coming to school with her daughter to, in her words, “Talk more with Mr. Giles about your Slayer business.” Last night seemed like a bad memory for everyone, and just for a moment, for one measly morning, a ray of sunlight shined on Shego’s dreary existence.
Then Dr. Betty Director appeared out of nowhere.
Oh, the two recognized each other well enough. Between their unique styles and distinctive voices, either of them would have to be deaf and blind to not have their mental bells ring. Betty hid her surprise like the professional spy she was, but Shego…
Her heart raced. Her cheeks flushed. Her lips pressed together. Her nails dug into her palms. No, she didn’t hate this woman: didn’t know her well enough to hate her yet. However, it’d been months since Shego saw her last familiar face and seeing one now in this circumstance wound her up in all the wrong ways.
Giles picked up on the undercurrent right away. “You two have met I take it?”
“No,” Betty smoothly lied, “but my guess is that your new Slayer has much to explain about her Watcher.”
All those things Aines said about the Council, about backup, about GJ, and about investigating Kakistos came back into Shego’s mind. GJ, big business, secret stuff, never good, do not call unless in extreme emergency. “What about her?” she asked, cautious.
Trying to diffuse the situation, Giles put himself in the middle of the room. “Faith, it’s come to my attention your Watcher was not invited to the retreat. In fact, after an enlightening phone call with the Council last night, I found out that both you and her have been reported missing for weeks.”
“Not only that,” added Betty, “but a certain vampire my organization has been tracking disappeared in that same time frame. You wouldn’t happen to know one by the name of Kakistos, would you?”
That one, hawkish eye pierced Shego, daring her to escape this predicament, daring her to lie. From across the library, the head of GJ held shades of a sadistic hunter who caught her wild prey but wanted it to know its grizzle fate.
Like a wild animal, Shego fought back. “You want the truth?” she snarled, her fists on the verge of catching fire. “You said the answer yourself: Kakistos. The pig had his personal ‘Army of Darkness’ kill my Watcher in ways no one should ever know. So why am I here? Because I’m running for my fucking life. That sum it up for you?”
“Quite,” Betty nodded. “At least now we have a lead to go on.”
“That’s all we were to you? A lead? Aines is dead!”
“And you’re alive with Kakistos on your trail.” Casually dismissing Shego, Betty trained her attention on Giles. “The Initiative is prepared to offer assistance on this hostile. Tell me, what do you need?”
Lower lip bit and finger scratching the side of his head, the Watcher sucked in a breath to hold in his displeasure. “There be rub, I suppose. As Kakistos is an ancient vampire who is still terrorizing the world, I’d assume that whatever was done previously didn’t quite work. So no, I don’t have an idea what we’ll need but thank you for asking.”
Subtle slight unacknowledged, she brushed a speck of dust off her shoulder and moved toward the door where Buffy and Shego stood. “I’m sure Ms. Summers has many questions of her own she wants to ask without my company. Mr. Giles, you know how to contact me if the Initiative’s services are needed.”
As a parting gift, Betty Director gave Shego a slow, knowing smile before leaving like an exorcised ghost.
After a tense moment (wherein the trio left behind waited till the click of heels on cement faded away), Buffy blurted out, “What’s her deal with you?”
“How should I know?!” Shego shouted.
“Ladies, I don’t want to pick up where we previously left off.”
A father’s reproach graced that British voice and quieted the almost-bickering duo down. Both shifted their smoldering gazes to floor while muttering “Sorry, Giles” in concert.
“Buffy, go to class. We cannot afford valuable daylight lost to detention.”
The blonde opened her mouth to protest, but the unyielding look on her Watcher’s face clipped her rebellion short. Before her temper could get the better of her again, Buffy--without so much as another look back at Faith or Giles--stalked off to the class.
“You two certainly have a way with each other.”
“If by ‘way’ you mean the irresistible urge to pummel her, then yeah.”
“Buffy is just… possessive. She takes her duty as a Slayer very seriously.”
As far as Shego was concerned, “She could have my duty because I’m tired of it running my life.”
“I’m afraid duty isn’t something one can give away,” sighed Giles with more than a hint of understanding. “Duty finds us, and whether you like it or not, the Slayer’s calling has found you. I know you must feel helpless, but let us help you. You don’t have to face Kakistos alone.”
That was the idea, right? Get backup and off that ugly pig so Aines’ last moments wouldn’t haunt her dreams? It sounded so simple when all she had was a handful of bus fare and a far off hope of Sunnydale. Faith suffocated Shego, their lives maliciously intertwined. Overnight, everything became complicated, one lie covering up the last. With Dr. Director into the picture, the lies thinned, threatening to break at any given moment.
Slayer’s calling… If only he knew her story. This kindly Briton who’d done nothing wrong to her would be crushed.
“Faith? You didn’t do anything wrong. Even a Slayer is allowed to be afraid.”
Giles sounds nice.
That and then some. Maybe if GJ had people like him, it wouldn’t be half bad.
Which reminds me: where does Dr. Director fit into all of this?
You’ve got to realize that there’s people who need power. They want to control everything around them and they’re never having a good time unless they’re the focal point. Betty’s one of those control freaks and I was her new variable. Not surprising then, that after I left Giles’, the lady stalked me for a surreptitious heart to heart.
“You’re a long way from Go City.”
Shego suppressed a surprised yelp and its subsequent frustrated growl. For the past twenty minutes, she’d been walking through downtown Sunnydale with her head in constant motion, vainly searching for the set of eyes following her. The “who” and the “why” parts of the equation she had no doubt, but the “how” was the issue. Where was her tail? Up on the rooftops? Inside the stores? Lurking in a car? The search distracted her, so much so that she ended up on a lightly trafficked street that allowed for a perfect, innocuous meeting.
Score one for Betty Director.
“I wanted a change of scenery,” replied Shego as she focused on the alley where Betty’s voice came from.
“Sunnydale’s nice. A bit dry and very dangerous, but nice.”
“Look, I don’t want trouble from you. Just tell me why you’re even talking to me.”
Arms folded and expression neutral, Dr. Director stepped out from the shadows. “So long as we’re on the same side, ‘Faith,’ there will be no trouble. GJ has a vested interest in seeing Kakistos put down and I am not above tapping any resource to see that objective through.”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re disturbingly honest?”
“No, but I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Don’t,” Shego growled. “I’m not on anyone’s side. All I want is to see Kakistos dead, then I’m gone.”
“How about none of your business?”
“I do believe otherwise, ‘Faith.’ When a superheroine of no small renown disappears, I make it my business. Seeing you in Sunnydale and embroiled in this supernatural mess brings me a sigh relief as it lets me know you haven’t been wasting your time with pointless, teenage rebellion. I hate to see someone with your ability and potential go to waste.”
“What gives you the right to tell me what to do? It’s my life to waste.”
The conversation growing worse by the moment, Betty frowned at the continued hostilities from Shego. This girl definitely wasn’t the same one who’d left Team Go. Real life made her harder, more bitter, and vastly more cynical. Where once enigmatic requests sent her and her brothers leaping into action, this Shego questioned motives and refused to give up anything about herself. Convincing her to do anything required more subtle manipulation.
Betty changed tactics. “Perhaps we can form a working relationship-”
“I’m not interested in getting any deeper into this vampire stuff.”
“Of course. Your goal is Kakistos’ death and I have the resources to help you bring that about. We help each other, I pretend I never saw you in Sunnydale, and we both go away happy.”
What a mighty tempting offer. Shego actually considered accepting the shortcut and being done with everything. The sneaky gleam in Dr. Director’s eye stopped her though. There was something foreboding about that look, something that Aines referred to as “trouble inna worst way.” Was it the unblinking, unwavering stare? Maybe the dispassionate face or ramrod straight posture?
“Thanks, but no thanks. B and I can handle it. She isn’t the longest lived Slayer for no reason.”
“And I am that reason for her survival, ‘Faith.’ Do you think Ms. Summers is that different from the Slayers before her? How? By God, it’s the twentieth century and she still uses anachronistic weapons like stakes and crossbows. The truth is, the Initiative keeps her from being swamped by this town’s hellish underbelly. Why do you think I called my new arm of GJ ‘the Initiative?’ My preemptive strike force works with the Slayer to keep the world’s worst in check. Ms. Summers just happens to be the first Slayer I’ve supported in this way, hence her sterling track record.”
How many things did this lady have her hands in? She dabbled in the supernatural, the superhuman, and the mundane--anything else? Shego shook her head and backed away, unsure whether to believe the preposterous claims or… or… or what?
Seeing the retreat, Betty again closed the distance between them. “There’s an insane murderer after you. You’re broke, alone, and tired. I’m sure if I shared this bit of information with your family, you’d be back in Go City before lunch.”
The thinly veiled threat stopped Shego. “What do you want?”
Cooperation wasn’t the word. “You want me to throw myself at your feet and beg for help.”
“I’d accept that too.”
“Then you can go to hell.”
Instead of waiting for a reply, Shego rounded the corner and pulled off her own disappearing stunt. By the time Betty Director had gathered her wits after being rejected so, no sign of a leather wearing, dark haired girl remained. Oh, the girl hadn’t gone far, probably wasn’t hiding anywhere original either, but to spend too much effort looking for her reeked of desperation. Desperate wasn’t in Betty’s vocabulary, much less when she held all the cards in the situation.
Ok, background needed here. Sunnydale was one crappy town and I don’t mean just in a demonic sort of way either. Well, actually, sort of. The mayor of Sunnydale? Evil, evil dude. Cops? Incompetent or bought off. The high school principle? Pretty sure he was hell spawn by the way he acted. For the Initiative and B, there really wasn’t a lack of antagonists. You’d think that with GJ’s resources, a hotspot like that would be stamped out posthaste, but no, you’d be wrong.
Dr. Director was working on it though, right?
That’s why Dr. D calls you buffoon, buffoon. Think about it: Sunnydale being so messed up was a cash cow for GJ. Every trouble justified another wad of money to be thrown in to stop it all. Then you know what happens next? Betty skims a little off the top to “allocate at her own discretion.” Easy money--that’s why the Initiative set up shop in Sunnydale. They took down the small fish and let the big fish to swim free, at all times calling for more cash to fight against things they supposedly couldn’t touch.
But if Dr. Director never got any results, she’d never get funding.
Really? Then how come Betty can’t even keep Motor Ed in jail?
What does Motor Ed have to do with anything?
Everything. Can’t either of you see? What she did in Sunnydale she’s doing again in Middleton. Yeah, she’s fighting crime around the world, but she needs her hotspot. Contrary to popular belief, we villains aren’t planning to take over the world 24/7. Heck, there’s not even a lot of us to begin with! Don’t you think it’ll be an utter waste of time, money, and power if a global entity was made to do the job of each country’s law enforcement? Got any redundancy anywhere? GJ is that redundant entity, so in order to keep it going, in order to justify its existence, she rounds up trouble into one place, makes a big fuss about it, and watches the politicians sign her checks.
GJ does so many other things too! They help the United Nations, catch criminals hopping from country to country, and-
Never said GJ doesn’t do those things, but it comes at a price. Betty Director used up B’s life, sucked the joy right out of her. When you’re in high school, you shouldn’t have the weight of the world on your shoulders. And if you do? People should be doing their damndest to help you through it.
Kimmie, I don’t want what happened to B to happen to you.
“You work for that bitch?”
“Jeez, Faith, little warning next time?!”
A frazzled Shego--leaves in her hair, wrinkles in her shirt, and beads of sweat dripping down her forehead--jumped through Buffy’s bedroom window. Her way back to Revello Drive wasn’t quick or pretty, but the long way back gave her time to think and elude Betty Director… or was it to think about the elusive Betty Director? However it went, Shego came to the conclusion that GJ’s head hancho was bad news, bad enough to wonder why the Council even associated with them.
“Sorry B,” she muttered, “didn’t think you’d freak on me again, but hey, I’ve been wrong.”
The blonde, who was engrossed in a biology assignment, slammed her pen down and glared. “We are so not going there.”
“Fine, then tell me why you work for that bitch.”
“Who are you talking about?”
“Betty Director, who else?”
“She just showed up one day,” Buffy said, well aware how useless the answer sounded. “Since her people dust a few vamps, I decided to keep her around. Kinda like you, actually.”
Score one for the a heartless dig. So the cheerleader wanted to get personal, huh? “You play tonsil hockey with her too? Something about the older women turn you on too?”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed that dangerous bit, the prideful Slayer in her salivating at a chance to give as good as she got. What little common sense remained made her say, “I don’t want to talk about last night, F.”
“Did she get further than second base?” Shego, smelling a weakness, closed in on her companion. “What is it about her? That holier-than-thou attitude? The secret agent outfit? Maybe the eye patch?”
Whereas a weaker person would’ve lashed out, Buffy pulled her rising temper back. She ignored her tensed body--coiled like a high tension spring--and took a deep breath. Her mother’s words, the conversation about Shego’s watcher, the fight last night, all of it reminded her of being out of control like Angelus. Slayers fought demons, not other people, especially not other Slayers.
“Why?” preened Shego. “Am I interrupting something important? Were you busy fantasizing about-”
“I swear, Faith, if you don’t get out of my room, I’m going to jab a stake in your eye.”
Closer and closer the dark haired girl inched. Her spat with Dr. Director keyed her up, anxious energy needing release. The Kiss on the Couch stirred naughty thoughts, all of them revolving around Buffy screaming in ecstasy. The sexual urge stripped Shego of her slim self-control, and for once, caught up in the moment, she didn’t care.
Her desires took over. Consequences disappeared from thought. The bottom line? It felt damned good and what felt damned good should never stop.
Shego smiled wickedly. “Jab a stake in my eye? Kinky and just a little disturbing. Is that what gets you off? Dead people?”
Angel’s memory spurred Buffy to action. She exploded forward and tackled Shego, the force propelling the both of them onto the bed. Having anticipated the move, Shego flipped the blonde over, straddled her hips, and dove in for a kiss. Against her will but not her recently unattended libido, Buffy harshly responded in kind. Her bucking and squealing and struggling simmered down into low moans and sensual writhing. Her mind prattled about the wrongness of this situation, about how she brought this on herself, about how she should’ve seen this coming. Meanwhile, Shego… Shego enjoyed feeling the girl beneath her give in. She relished in the silky smooth lips and let the sweet moment drive away Betty Director’s diatribe.
Last night came back with a mean role reversal.
However, unlike last night, Buffy’s mom didn’t barge in and gasp, “Oh my lord.”
“Mom!” Or that’s what Buffy tried to scream. Shego wouldn’t get her tongue out of the way, and Joyce, overcome by shock, simply stepped out of the room. The door closed with a soft click and the encounter continued on its merry way. Embarrassment slipped from both girls’ consciousness, replaced by the need warming their souls. Eventually they parted to breathe, and in that short break, Buffy gathered enough of her wits to turn her head away.
Shego chuckled at the token rebellion. “You loved it.”
Buffy’s universe consisted of her basest desires (sex) and the nearest thing to slake those thirsts (Faith). No reply came from the blonde, not even when fluttering kisses dotted her cheek nor when sinfully soft skin nuzzled against her neck. Ragged panting, though negligible in measures of decibels, dominated the room. She didn’t love it; she needed it.
“Do you want me to fuck you, B?”
Please use me? Please rip off my clothes? Please shove your fingers into me? “Please, not with Mom around.”
Mom was quite the killer of libidos, not to mention Shego had no intention of explaining herself to anyone, much less Ms. Summers. To think, for once, stopping short was prudent. “Bronze,” she breathed into Buffy’s ear, “10 o’clock. You want me? Come and get me.”
Outwardly? Sure. Inside? Scared out of my mind sounds more like it. Strike that, try “driven into the ground and beaten by my own stupidity.” I’d worn out my welcome in Sunnydale: Dr. Director was on my case, Giles was digging into my time with Aines, Kakistos was setting up shop, and there was no way B’s mom was going to let me stay another second under their roof. I’d royally screwed up from every conceivable angle, so I decided to get my sorry self back to Go City. I figured five or six hours was enough time to scrap enough cash together to let me survive till I charged back into my hometown. Had to get out while I still had a chance, you know?
Then why were you meeting Buffy at that club?
Hello? This is me we’re talking about. B was to be my last hurrah before I tucked my proverbial tail between my legs and never left the sight of my parents ever again, kinda like a last meal before an execution. Turned out giving into my sex drive would be one of the worst decisions of my life.
Stop Kimmie, sarcasm doesn’t suit you.
Oddly enough, the Bronze suffered through a slow night. A pair of bartenders minded the few regulars milling about, the dance floor remained devoid of dancers, and only a handful of the booths were occupied. That abandoned quality made hiding--or at least blending into the surroundings--difficult at best, which was bad considering how Shego had no intentions of catching either Giles’ or Dr. Director’s eyes a few hours before skipping town. She didn’t feel like explaining herself or seeing the carnage that would be left behind in her wake. Giles would’ve probably taken it well if his fatherly demeanor said anything about him, but Betty Director was another story. GJ was another epic.
Then again, the little risk was worth the reward, no?
Shego grinned at the thought of her and Buffy finishing what they started this afternoon. The blonde practically begged to be fucked, all sweaty and moaning and panting. They could’ve closed the deal, but Mrs. S picked the wrong time to come barging in. How come moms always knew when to stumble into any given situation and stop it in its tracks? Why, Shego’s own mom had that nasty talent too!
Whispering the word despite herself, Shego couldn’t help but imagine the hurt she’d caused her family, especially her parents. What a twisted journey this turned out to be, everything from freedom to vampires to being hunted to now… now… now just an overload of lies. Life was suppose to get simple after she escaped Go City, but dealing with Avarius’ hijinks and the nonstop media coverage of Team Go sounded trivial compared to living hand to mouth.
Superheroes had it easy; poor people had it tough.
“You’re not drinking.”
Shego blinked and turned her eyes toward a solemn Buffy. “Why would I be drinking?”
“Figured you to be the rebel kind of girl.”
“I need a clear head tonight. There’s this wicked blonde who wants a piece of me and I’m not about to disappoint.”
Sliding into the seat across from Shego, Buffy ignored the little come-on. “We can’t keep doing this, Faith.”
“Getting cold feet after you all but dry-humped me earlier in the day? Didn’t take you for a quitter.”
“I’m saying we can’t be at each other’s throats or in each other’s pants all the time.”
“Well, I’ve got a little clarification there, B. See, we’ve never been in each other’s pants, so why don’t we get started so we learn how to stop?”
“That’s way I live: get some and gone.”
“I’m not going to be another notch on your bedpost.”
“Hey, if you don’t want to do the morning after thing, I can deal.”
Exasperation once again dawned on Buffy. “I am not sleeping with you,” she groaned. “Get it through your head!”
Just so happen the music chose that moment to stop. The good news? The sparse crowd only caught the “Get it through your head!” part. The bad news? A gang of vampires smashed through the front door and made a beeline for the Slayers. The smart-mouthed comment died on Buffy’s lips as a foolish guy jumped from the bar and threw himself into the fray. The foolish guy’s friends followed suit with no regard for life or limb.
And Shego recognized the foolish guy as Riley Finn, the college kid she pick pocketed the night before.
Shaking off her momentary shock at someone actually helping, Buffy grabbed Shego’s hand and pulled her into the fight. Neither stopped to ask questions--they fought, Buffy to protect the innocent and Shego in a mad dash to the exit.
There was a bus leaving for Go City in an hour. These vampires ruined the moment with Buffy and stood in the way of her escape. Something was going to pay.
Letting out a guttural roar, Shego swung a barstool into the undead charging her. A series of gruesome cracks preceded falling bodies, but instead of taking up a defensive position, she advanced into the swath of enemies. A stake from her jacket replaced the bent barstool’s remains, the deadly weapon thrusting about and leaving dust behind. Innocents screamed, unwittingly making themselves inviting targets to the slathering vampires. Shego used the distraction to barrel out of the Bronze and-
Run into the slimy, scaly chest of a naga.
The snake thing, with its venomous fangs bared, hissed into Shego’s face. An earth shaking uppercut sent the creature airborne, end over end, and tumbling into many of its compatriots. Despite the awesome hit, Shego didn’t even have time for a wiry grin as a vampire kicked her from behind. More enemies piled on, each body shielding more and more of the waning moon above. Her mortality loomed as thoughts of so many possibilities snuffed out by her dim-witted, hormone driven self and a mountain of monsters. Breathing became hard amidst the crushing weight, the act not helped by cheap shots and slashing claws. Before long, only darkness and pain encased Shego in a hellish form of sensory deprivation.
Hell. This was probably what it felt like too: helplessness, agony, hopelessness, and hoarse whispers of “You die now, Slayer.”
Desperation kicked in, overriding her begrudging sense of inevitability and the desire for secrecy. A green glow blazed like a furnace, obliterating the shadows and silencing whispers. Vampires burst into ashes; nagas squealed and writhed. Her powers long suppressed flashed one brilliant time and burned through her prison, her death sentence, Hell itself.
Overhead, the moon loomed.
A comforting breeze tussled her hair.
Shego shambled to her feet, well aware scores of (stunned) demons still stood nearby. Concentrating the flaming aura into her fists, she leveled her cruelest glare at them. “Who wants some?”
A few vampires shuffled backwards. They eyed her fearfully, first at her scowl then at the infernos heeding her command. For many, this was the first time in their undead lives that they couldn’t charge forward, that whatever remained of their soul screamed in blind terror. True, Slayers killed legions of them, but even Slayers were flesh and blood. None bathed themselves in green fire which burned worse than the holiest of waters.
“Faith, where do you think you’re going?!”
Of course, Buffy yelled those words a second before she tumbled out of the Bronze’s doors. When she did though, her mouth hung open like everyone else’s. In her eyes wasn’t so much fear as there was awe, the same kind of awe she showed at Willow’s minor witchy powers or Oz’s sheer destructiveness while in wolf form or Giles’ unflappable demeanor. Glowing green hands? Surprising, but far from unexpected on the Hellmouth.
“I’m getting out of here, B. You can have your Slayers and vampires because this adventure stopped being fun a long time ago. I’m done playing games.”
Another voice--this one a shade above a growl and a good bit more intimidating--rose above the mumbling commotion amongst the vampires. “You will be done when I feast on you Slayer, and not a moment sooner!”
And with that declaration, Kakistos shouldered his way through his minions. His cloven hands clutched and forced the muscles on his immense forearms to ripple. He strode with an impassioned fury the devil himself would approve of. The closer he came, the bigger he seemed, his very countenance seeming to swallow up the night. He gave no pause, neither to chastise his hesitant army nor peer at the fire bathing the streets in an unnatural hue.
Except for the scar covering his right eye, he appeared as if summoned from Shego’s nightmares.
Bolstered by their master’s presence, the vampires and nagas resumed their attack. From the wall of sound made by howls and hisses, Shego heard Aines’ dying screams echo. Each step pounding against the pavement resembled the Watcher’s bones snapping. Each figure added its own brushstroke to return her to that horrible night. It was all coming to a head, her lies, her heroism, her fears, her freedom, her responsibilities.
It was time to choose what she wanted.
To live a lie? To become Faith and never be Shego again? How about heroism? To help Buffy bring an end to the proclaimed “worst of the worst?” Would she give in to her fears and let Kakistos have his way? Could she even beat him if she tried? Responsibility? There to own up to every wrong done and then the will to make it right--did she have that capacity to not only stand up to her charade but also carry the Slayer’s burden?
Ah yes, and then there was freedom. Freedom from it all, the responsibility, the heroism, the lies, the fear. Shego loved and needed freedom; Kakistos stood in her way. Conclusion?
Kakistos had to go.
Shego channeled every emotion fluttering around in her soul and turned it all into one thing: anger. Anger released her from her frozen state. Anger tuned out the lingering misgivings. Anger allowed her to meet Kakistos without so much as a gasp at his horrific features.
Kakistos rumbled forth like an enraged bull while Shego dove and wove like a snake. Green fire sprayed into a deadly shower but proved ineffective as the bulky creature seemed to blink out of the way at the very last second. Here on moment, there another, Kakistos swung his meaty fist into Shego’s head. She escaped the decapitating blow by sliding under the legs of a random and very unfortunate vampire. Pow! Head and body separated, both disintegrating into dust. Shego snared the tail end of a confused naga, lit the beast ablaze, and pushed it toward her nemesis like a flaming shield. While other vampires cowered and being burned, Kakistos gave a sneer. His massive leg thrust clean through the squealing naga’s chest and connected with Shego’s shoulder. Not to be deterred, she spun with the blow, bringing her gleaming hand around to get a fatal shot in.
Only Kakistos moved faster, batted her arm, and sent the fireball careening into the Bronze. The two struggled, vampire gnashing for a bite and false Slayer dancing about to avoid being his nighttime snack. Whereas Kakistos held the advantage in strength and speed, Shego used her lithe frame to slip between strikes and around attempted grapples. Like an old master toying with his favored pupil, the ancient thing matched her technique for technique then ratcheted the intensity up. Sheer force of will allowed Shego to keep up, but were it not for her powers and his fear of them, she would’ve been dead long ago. Fierce and relentless, they battled back and forth, unlucky undead mauled or incinerated by their stray attacks.
But Shego, for all her training and powers, tired. Without a vampire’s constitution, her body slowed an infinitesimal beat. That was enough for Kakistos to clench a cloven hand around her neck.
The worst of the worst grinned. “I have you now, Slayer.”
“S… She… Shego.”
His one good eye squinted. “What?”
Shego gathered herself and croaked out, “Shego, not Slayer.”
Befuddlement melted into disbelief as the girl’s body lit up as bright as a star. The green flames he avoided earlier raced up his arm and through his body. His infamously toughened hide refused to carry a fire but that didn’t stop Shego from pouring it on. The temperature skyrocketed around them, street pavement bubbling and releasing its tar while metal signs drooped like the eyes of sad children. Kakistos’ clothes--a meager vest and some dark pants--seared away. Pain of a new variety lanced at his twisted consciousness and caused him to let go a panicked roar. His pincher-like hands released his prey but his prey didn’t release him. More fire erupted from Shego to form a cocoon of destruction.
Witnessing their master’s agony, Kakistos’ army ditched all pretenses of bravery and ran for their lives.
Piece by piece, his body darkened to a char. It started at his hand, spread to his arm, then encased his torso. Soon, his screams went quiet, his legs stopped kicking, and his remains crumbled to nothingness.
Still buoyed by adrenaline, Shego turned around to see her fleeing enemies and a roughed up Buffy. The dark haired girl smiled, half sad, half grateful. “Thanks, B.”
This was it: the end. Kakistos died, Aines was avenged, the bus to Go City left in thirty minutes, and police sirens grew close. Safe to say GJ had to be somewhere near. Time to leave and put this miserable chapter behin-
A steel-like grip clasped onto Shego’s forearm. “You’re leaving? Just like that? What about those people in the Bronze? We have to save them!”
Not a hero anymore. Never again. “Screw ‘em,” replied Shego, pulling away from the blonde. “I don’t care.”
Down the fire brightened street she ran, exhaustion driving her to find somewhere safe. A look over her shoulder showed Buffy charging into the Bronze with no regard for life or limb. More power to her, more power to the heroes, but never again will Shego herself ever do it ever again. Doing the right thing required too much effort and sacrifice. In the end, was the effort and sacrifice worth it? Nope, not by a long shot. Let the damned fire department do its job for once. Let those people save themselves instead of screaming and waiting for a hero to come by.
As she rounded the corner, Shego heard a massive roar and felt the ground shake, almost as if a building had just come down.
On the bus to Go City, I heard over the radio that “an unidentified high school student from Sunnydale was critically injured when a local nightclub caught fire and collapsed.” The ultimate irony? B was the only person inside because beefstick n’ friends (Remember, the horny dude I pick pocketed the night before?) ushered everyone out. B didn’t know; hell, I had no idea. I guess the silver lining, if there was one, would be that I didn’t kill anyone because of my careless selfishness.
What about Buffy?
Third degree burns. Broken ribs. Punctured lung. Coma. It wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say, with Buffy’s life hanging by a thread, I had another reason to examine and hate myself. I couldn’t imagine looking anyone I knew in the face, so the closer I got the Go City, the more depressed I became. I was convinced the whole entire world knew I’d started the fire and that I’d just inadvertently taken out the Slayer. I dreamed of Betty Director strutting around town and slapping wanted posters of me on every street corner. And guess what folks? True to form, I chickened out. On the border of New Mexico and Colorado, I hopped off the bus and never got back on.
Where were you exactly?
In the town of San Acaio, Colorado, a part of Conejos County.
We’re in Conejos right now: I saw a sign a few miles back.
You’re a sharp one, Princess. But here’s the real kicker: do you know what’s so special about this struggling, bump-in-the-road, backwater hole-in-the-wall?
It has two signal lights?
It’s west of the Rio Grande River?
It’s Global Justice’s headquarters.
You’re telling us a town with two signal lights is GJ’s HQ?
Not the town itself, more like the mountain right next to the town. I have to give it to Betty for setting down her roots there: I sure as heck wouldn’t have suspected a thing if I didn’t run into those guys from WEE.
What were you doing hanging around WEE? When did you even have time to meet up with them?
Pumpkin, that’s the point. I didn’t. Call it dumb luck or fate, but I swear to you, when I got off that bus, the last thing I wanted to do was find GJ’s base. I kind of… fell into the information. You see, there’s one restaurant in San Acaio, and it just so happen that while I was ordering some breakfast, I overheard talk about GJ from this group by the window. Actually, I take that back: I heard one man by the name of Dr. Drew Theodore P. Lipsky talk about GJ.
Who’s Drew Theodore P. Lipsky?
Ron, that’s Dr. Drakken.
And you get pissed he always forgets your name.
Hey, at least I don’t call him buffoon!
But buffoon suits you so well.
So not the drama, you two! Can we just get back to the story? What does Drakken and WEE have to do with anything? Why are you bringing us here? What’s the sitch?
Impatient, aren’t ya? Well, turns out the people he sat with were from WEE, and WEE was in town to steal something from GJ. Those guys hired Dr. D to supply them with all sorts of cool gadgets… only Dr. D wanted to see more of the action and less of the lab. Being the untactful nimrod he is, he ruffled these WEE people’s feathers by: 1.) talking about their “secret plan” in a public place, 2.) demanding he break into the base with these guys to prove GJ “is not all that,” and 3.) being a general nuisance and overall liability.
And that’s the end… or rather the beginning. That’s how Dr. D and I hooked up: he wanted to stick it to his former buddies and I needed cash. It was easy money too because for months, all I fought were superhuman demons whose senses and reflexes were even more unreal than machines. Stepping back into the “mortal realm” felt like going back in time to preschool and beating the snot out of the three foot fat kid who used to bully the entire playground. I tripped up those WEE imbeciles and ran circles around the whole facility before dinner came around.
Drakken had you break into GJ out of spite?!
Yup. Makes you understand why he and Gemini never team up, doesn’t it?
That’s crazy! That’s-
Ten thousand in cash after I came out with a disc full of GJ’s most current operations. Of course, I made a copy for myself and read it over in my spare time. How else do you think I know so much about Betty and her insidious little manipulations? It would’ve taken me a lifetime to puzzle out all of her reasons and conspiracies. Princess, I’m not pulling any of this crazy stuff out of thin air: it’s real. Which reminds me, we’re right on time.
On time for what? Why are we parked at a Humongo Burger? Must… not… give in to… burger temptations…
Give your ironclad stomach a rest, will ya? Your infamous nerdlinger should be here any moment, so keep your appetite in check.
Wade’s here? Why?
Wait, Wade can drive?
That and then some. He’s going to help me bring down GJ.
To be concluded…