Still feeling slightly euphoric from the quick ten kilometer run and almost scaldingly hot shower, Kim looked around the small cafeteria, searching for any of the other women who'd also been dragged out of bed at 5 AM that morning by a sadistically cheerful redhead. She wondered if Ron had even gotten out of bed yet. The invitation to the early summer slayer mini-camp had been for the entire Team Possible. As she'd expected, Wade had declined but Ron and Rufus were somewhere in the complex, though they wouldn't meet up until lunch.
The camp schedule had been clearly laid out for them the night before when they'd checked in. With the exception of the instructors, all of the slayers attending the camp were new or untrained reserves. None of them were expected to become active slayers, except in an extreme emergency. Though it was never directly stated in anything the Council had sent her parents, Kim suspected that there were different levels of urgency. Determining which reserves would be brought for extra help in an emergency couldn't be that simple.
It was yet another thing on the long list of things Wade was researching for her. It wasn't that the Council was intentionally hiding info from them, Wade would tell her, but that anything in their computer systems that dated to before the destruction of Sunnydale was so badly organized that it was almost useless and often unreliable.
Even with those problems, Wade had already begun to put things into categories for her. There were things he believed she needed to know now, things she only needed to know if she ran into any number of a slayer's natural enemies, and things she would probably never need to know directly but he was compiling anyway for his own reference. All of which was extremely difficult with the current state of affairs.
And on top of that mess, the Council was working feverishly to move all of their remaining physical records online as soon as possible. Whenever Wade mentioned it, Kim could almost hear his desperate need to jump in and fix it all for them. Only the mountain of things he needed to do for Team Possible before school started in the fall was keeping him from applying his genius to the problem.
Comparing her schedule to Ron's, before they'd split up to go to their rooms on separate floors in the guest dorm, Kim had been dismayed to find out that they wouldn't see each other until at least lunch for the entire three weeks. Following the required morning run, she would be spending most of her time with Council instructors in what her schedule called ‘Slayer Physiology - the Basics‘ which appeared to include physical awareness training, slayer fighting techniques, and basic demon hunting skills.
Most of the physical training wasn't completely new to her but she'd already been warned that her hard earned fighting skills were actually going to put her at a disadvantage. Her training over the years had emphasized disabling her opponents, and attempting to do as little permanent damage as possible in the process, expecting them to return the favor.
But the goal of a slayer was to kill their prey as efficiently and as quickly as possible while staying alive themselves. Survival was more important than being able to trade Christmas cards afterward. She was going to have to unlearn a lot of ingrained behavior, paying special attention to learning when deadly force was the appropriate response to a problem. Even if she determined that it would be almost never, she still needed to be able to make that judgement call with confidence.
For semi-Watchers and slayer companions such as Ron and Rufus, the mornings would be taken up with how to deal with having a family member or friend who was now a slayer. So Ron's schedule was full of a bunch of things like ‘First Aid for the Accident Prone Slayer‘, ‘A Survival Guide to Living With a Slayer‘, ‘Slayer Feeding 101‘, and ‘Hiding Tips‘.
All of which were things that were intended to give him and Rufus a crash course in what Dawn Summers jokingly called ‘the care and feeding of cranky slayers’. She didn't envy them. They weren't expected to become experts but they only had three weeks to become at least familiar with what full time watchers took years to learn, most of which couldn't be found in some book.
And after a long discussion between Wade, herself, and Mr. Giles, several weeks before the trip to Cleveland, it had been decided that Ron wasn't just going to learn about slayers while they were there. The Council would provide him with a mentor, someone who could show him how to be more than the clownish sidekick, a role he'd perfected.
She wouldn't be directly supported by the Council, or Global Justice, and Team Possible wouldn't be hunting demons any time soon, but Buffy and Mr. Giles had made it clear that she needed some sort of support system, someone to give her advice and provide a bit of sanity checking. After Yori had provided them with reports on Ron from his time at Yamanouchi, he had been volunteered. He was obviously more competent than even he gave himself credit for. Team Possible was still hers but it was time for him to outgrow the sidekick role.
Afternoons were slightly better for all of them. They would get to spend time together on things like ‘Demon Spotting for the Novice Slayer‘, ‘Shades of Grey‘, ‘Teamwork and Apocalypses‘ and ‘Dream Interpretation for the Skeptic‘. All she had to do was make it to lunch.
Joining several girls she recognized from her run in line at the buffet, Kim tried not to stare at the large variety and quantities of food on display. Ron and Rufus were going to be in heaven, she thought, if they ever made it to breakfast. Kim loaded up her tray with more than she would normally eat in a day, her appetite kicked into overdrive by both the early morning run and the wonderful smells.
“Kim! Over here!” A voice yelled.
Looking around, Kim spotted Vi, the slayer who'd taken them on their run, sitting with Dawn Summers, a battered looking brunette she didn't recognize, and another redhead who'd introduced herself as Tracy during their run, and who must have been a foot taller than her. Reaching their table, Kim slid into one of the remaining seats.
“Morning.” Kim said, encompassing all of them with a quick smile before staring down at her packed tray. “This is way too much,” she mumbled as she picked up her fork.
“You haven't been a slayer for very long, have you.” the brunette said, putting down her own fork and winking at Kim, her eyes wandering lazily down from Kim's face to her plate. “After a year or two of slaying that will just be a light snack. And you'll still have that gorgeous figure, and the slayer sexiness that you've got now just gets better.” she said, her voice taking on a husky tone.
Kim's jaw dropped at the comment and the almost Shego-esque tone. She never really thought about her looks, even though she'd known for years that it wasn't just her athletic skills that had gotten her onto the cheer squad. “Slayer sexiness?” she echoed, looking at the other women at the table for an explanation. She could see that Tracy was just as confused. Vi just shrugged and popped a handful of grapes into her mouth.
“Kennedy, no flirting with non-girlfriendy redheads!” Dawn said, waving her fork at the brunette.
“You know she can't help herself. It's the red hair. Very Pavlovian.” Vi said, giggling. “Willow has her well trained. She worships at the feet of the Red Witch. Why else would she be here at the ‘redhead’ table?”
Kennedy mock glared at her before returning to her own breakfast.
“You're Willow's Kennedy?” Kim asked, remembering something Bonnie had said. She'd been hoping to meet Willow while she was in Cleveland, if only because Wade seemed to have been developing something of a geek crush on her. “Is she around? Can I meet her?” she asked eagerly.
“Nah, she had to go to a coven thing in London this month.” Kennedy said. “And I couldn't go, I've got to go Watcher watching next week.” she grumbled.
“I don't have red hair, I couldn't go either,” Dawn said a few minutes later, pouting. “Willow said her thing was redheaded witches only, though she might have been kidding.”
“You're an honorary member.” Vi said, patting her head in a patronizing fashion. “We had a ceremony and everything. Don't you remember?”
“You're just trying to butter me up,” Dawn said, shaking her head. “But it won't work.” She picked out a piece of French Toast and started piling different things on it.
“Do you have to do that?” Kennedy asked. “That is so wrong. Scrambled eggs, grape jelly, and pickles just don't go together.”
“You're just jealous.” Dawn said, putting another slice of French Toast on top. “I bet this one is worth millions.”
“Millions?” Tracy asked, staring in confusion at the two.
“There's big money in food. Just ask Kim! Her boytoy, Ron Stoppable, invented the naco. I bet he's rolling in it now.” Dawn said, winking at Kim.
“Err… well, Bueno Nacho does pay him royalties.” Kim admitted. “But he's not my ‘boytoy’ now, just a good friend.” she added with a blush.
“There you go Dawn. I bet the inventor of the naco is into experimenting with food. In all sorts of ways. And if Kim doesn't want him anymore…” Kennedy's voice trailed off.
Kim almost blushed when she caught the innuendo. Deciding to join in, if only in self defense, she told Dawn playfully, “You might have to fight Yori for him. She's been spending a lot of time with him lately.”
“The ninja chick? You can so take her!” Kennedy said, sliding out of her chair. “Or just sic Faith on her. No one can resist her, not even Buffy.”
Dawn gave Kennedy a disgusted look. “I did not need to hear that kind of thing while I'm eating.”
Kennedy laughed. “I'll catch up with you later, I need to get to the infirmary. You know how Doc gets bitchy if you keep her waiting.” Nodding to the others, she strolled out of the room.
“Kim, Tracy, you two should head over to the small gym. You wouldn't want to be late for your first Buffy speech.” Vi told them, getting up from the table herself. “I'll meet you there.” Waving to someone at another table, Vi bounced out of the cafeteria.
“She's very cheerful this morning,” Dawn said.
“She woke us up at 5.” Tracy said. Kim nodded, getting up and grabbing her tray.
“Ah…” Dawn laughed. “I think I'll stay here. I've heard my share of Buffy speeches.” Taking a bit of her odd sandwich she waved them away.
Sharing a mat with Tracy and several other women, Kim looked around the small gym. Curious about the backgrounds of the other members of her training group, she wondered if Wade would be willing to get bios of them for her. She suspected she would have it easy compared to most of the other women in the room. As far as she could tell from information the Council had made available to Team Possible, and that she'd managed to keep away from her parents and the tweebs, most of the skills taught here were enhanced versions of the things she already knew, but with weapons and expectations of mayhem and possible death.
She already spent a lot of her free time in the gym staying in shape for cheering and the missions Wade sent them on. In the early days of Team Possible she could get away with the exercise that came with cheerleading but as she got older she'd realized that she needed something more focused. In her chosen profession, where even a momentary weakness could be deadly, she couldn't afford to become sloppy.
The door opened, pulling Kim away from her thoughts. Looking towards the front of the room she watched in anticipation as Buffy Summers entered the room. When she'd met Buffy Summers that spring she'd seemed very approachable and not the distant figure she'd heard whispers about. Kim was used to being around confident and powerful women, from the scientists her father worked with, to her mother and Nana, and even Shego so she hadn't been intimidated by her take-charge attitude.
But now, seeing her walk confidently into the room, Kim could feel there was something different about her, something she hadn't noticed in her earlier encounters. Power, something chaotic and wild, seemed to radiate from her. Without a word, everyone in the room began to stand up at her entrance. Even though she wasn't alone, all eyes were now glued to her face.
“Good morning, slayers.” she said, waving them back down. Like a wave in reverse, they all returned to their spots on the mats.
Tracy frowned and raised her hand.
“Yes, Tracy?” Buffy asked.
“I thought we weren't all going to be slayers,” she said, nervously rubbing her hands together. “I don't think I'm ready for that yet.”
Kim, seeing the quick grin Buffy gave all of them, suspected the question wasn't entirely unexpected.
“One of the things I expect you all to learn while you're here is that, no matter what, you are all slayers.” Buffy said, addressing all of them, not just Tracy. “It isn't a job title or a profession. It's as much a part of you as your hair or your height. You can no more stop being a slayer than you can give me a few of those spare inches you have.” Buffy waited for the giggles from the younger women in the room to subside before continuing. “Even if you never stake a vampire again after you leave here in three weeks, you are still a slayer.” She looked each one of them in the eye before continuing.
“Our goal here is not to turn you into perfect little demon hunters. That's a years long process. What we want to do is to make you comfortable in your own skin again. Becoming a slayer changes you, both mentally and physically and if you don't learn how to deal with those changes you are a danger to yourselves and others.”
“Take a look around the room.” she said. “You are all unique in some way. Whether it's your backgrounds, your plans for the future, your personalities, or your ages, you are all different. Some of you are going to clash. You won't always get along with each other. But you all have something in common. You have been chosen to participate in the defense of our planet against evil. You are all descendants of Sineya, the first slayer.”
“For most of you this was a surprise. How many, before this happened, said ‘I want to fight, and probably die, in the struggle between Good and Evil?” She nodded when no one raised their hands. “Me neither. But how many of you are in professions that help other people? How many of you plan to be or already are doctors, cops, firefighters, or teachers?”
Kim looked around in surprise as almost everyone in the room raised a hand. Until today she'd never really thought about what kind of person became a slayer. She wondered how Bonnie, who always seemed to be motivated only by self interest, would have answered that question.
“And the rest of you?” Buffy asked. Not sure how to respond, Kim could feel more than a few eyes on her. “The need to help is ingrained in all of us. It's part of being a slayer. How many of you have found other ways to help people, to make the world a better place?”
Kim raised her own hand, uncomfortable with the sudden attention. There had been a few in her group who'd recognized her that morning before their run but they'd seemed to be willing to accept her as just Kim, future college student. The next three weeks would be much easier if it stayed that way.
“Before the end of camp you are going to know each other very well.” Buffy told them. “You'll know each other's dreams, strengths, and skills. You'll know who you can work with, and who you can't. I believe you'll find the process worth it. Any questions before we get started?”
The room was silent for a moment before everyone spontaneously started to clap.
“Good.” Buffy reintroduced them to the other woman who'd come in with her. “Vi will be your guide through the next three weeks.”
Kim sat quietly in the back of the small black SUV as they returned to the Council complex. The Cleveland Hellmouth had not been what she'd expected. She wondered if the slimy, oily feeling would ever go away. Rubbing her hands together and against her pants, she couldn't see or feel anything.
“You've been slimed with the big stinky evil.” Vi told her, looking over her shoulder as they waited for the light to change. “Too bad it's all in your head and won't really wash off. The magic geeks have come up with all sorts of words to describe the feeling but the classics are still the best.”
“How do you get rid of it then?” Tracy, the tall redhead asked the older slayer who'd just taken them on their first ‘slayers only’ field trip to the Hellmouth.
“You do get sorta used to it after a while. And before that, adrenaline burns it off pretty quickly.” Vi said. “Of course, the fossils don't even notice it anymore.”
“Fossils?” Jody, a tiny brunette shorter than even Buffy, asked, frowning.
“Buffy and Faith, though you didn't hear that from me.” She grinned at some private joke.
“It's like being able to sense evil, isn't it?” Kim asked. “Some of us have it stronger than others?”
“Yup. Exactly like it.” Vi said, as she put the SUV back in motion with the green light. “We have a scale based on how long you spend in the shower after your first trip to this Hellmouth trying to wash it off. Rona has the record so far. She spent two hours in the shower that first time.”
“Rona?” Tracy asked. “She's one of the slayers from Sunnydale isn't she? Have we met her yet?”
“She doesn't come to Cleveland if she can help it.” Vi told them. “She runs a hunting team out of LA.”
“Oh.” Tracy said.
Kim wondered what a slayer hunting team was like but before she could ask she heard the distinctive beep of her kimmunicator. Blushing at the sudden attention from the others, Kim pulled it out of her pocket.
“Talk to me Wade.” she said. “Didn't I have this turned off? You know I'm not taking any missions while Ron and I are in Cleveland.”
“You did say that,” Wade said, agreeing with her. “But this one's special. I think you'll make an exception.”
“What's the sitch?” Kim asked, not bothering to lower her voice, knowing her curious companions were listening in and would hear their conversation unless she turned on the privacy shield, something she'd never tried in a moving vehicle. And no matter how talented Wade was she wasn't ready to do that test right now.
“Shego and Drakken are in Cleveland.” Wade said.
“What would bring them here?” Kim asked. “There isn't anything special about Cleveland.” She heard Vi cough loudly. Looking up, she noticed that they were no longer moving. “Well, except for the Hellmouth, but Drakken is all about taking over the world with science. He wouldn't know what a Hellmouth was if he fell in it. Is there some secret weapons research lab in Cleveland?”
“A couple.” Jody spoke up. She shrugged nonchalantly at Kim's surprised expression. “Sorry, science geek here. I start a summer internship at one when we're done with camp.”
“That's not where Drakken is.” Wade said. His face was replaced by a vaguely familiar scene. “Sorry.”
“Where is that?” Kim asked. “Tell me it's not…”
“It's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Wade said. “Looks like he's going for something specific.”
“The Hellmouth.” Kim groaned. “We were just there.”
Without any prompting from Kim, Vi quickly turned the SUV around, the tires screeching with the sudden movement.
“Where's Ron?” Kim asked. “How soon can he meet me there?”
“Yori picked him up for their date a couple hours ago.” Wade said. “They're still at least an hour away.”
“Not soon enough.” Kim grumbled. She didn't begrudge Ron personal time, especially when they were officially on vacation from missions for another week. At least he was with Yori and not one of the Cleveland slayers. They would eat him alive. But still, facing Drakken without him felt strange. “I can take care of Shego or Drakken on my own, but not both.” she said to herself.
“You've got us.” Vi said. Jody and Tracy nodded eagerly.
“These aren't demons. You can't kill them.” Kim said. They nodded at her warning. “Wade? Do they have anyone else with them?”
“It's just the two of them.” Wade said. “They must have left the syntho-drones at home this time.
“Okay, we'll take care of it.” Kim said. Shutting off the kimmunicator she shoved it into a pocket, just as Vi stopped the SUV next to the loading dock in back of the Hall of Fame.
“How do you want to do this?” she asked, looking back at Kim. “I'm assuming these are people you run into a lot.”
“Yeah. There aren't that many mad scientist super villains.” Kim said as she climbed out of the SUV. “Enough to keep Team Possible and Global Justice in business but they aren't dripping out of the woodwork like they are in the comic books.”
“Andrew will be so disappointed.” Vi said, laughing. “How do you normally deal with these two?”
“The blue guy, Drakken, is easy.” Kim said. “He's only dangerous because he's so bad at planning. He doesn't think things out too well and they blow up in his face. He's like a little kid playing at being a villain.” She added. “But dangerous. Ron usually stops him.”
“So can we just knock him out?” Jody asked, joining them at the door.
“Yup. Just watch out for whatever weapon thing he's using.” Kim said. “I'll take care of Shego.”
“Anything we should know about this Shego?” Vi asked.
“She's Shego.” Kim said, noncommittally. “She likes to pretend she's evil but we figure she's really in it for the fighting. She's really good. I can usually stop her but she's also really strong.”
“How strong? Slayer strong?” Vi asked, unlocking the door and ushering the others inside.
“I'm not sure. I haven't really fought her since the whole slayer thing happened. She's been avoiding me.” Kim admitted. “She can also throw balls of plasma.”
“Plasma?” Jody asked, her eyes seeming impossibly, almost anime-ishly big in the dim light. “You mean like fire?”
“Kind of.” Kim said. “It's some kind of mutant thing she got from a comet.”
“Hopefully there's only one of her,” Tracy murmured as they slipped into the main lobby.
“She has brothers,” Kim said quietly. “With issues from the same comet.”
“Brothers? With this plasma power thing? Are we gonna run into them also?” Jody asked nervously.
“Nope. They have different powers.” Kim said, lowering her voice to barely a whisper at Vi's glare. “They're also superheroes.”
“No way!” Tracy said. “Why's she a supervillain then?”
“Not sure but things were a bit tense between them the one time I met them.” Kim muttered. “I was ready to do something uncivilized to them myself after only five minutes in their company.”
“Enough.” Vi hissed. “Tracy, you and Jody take care of the blue guy. He's in the Elvis room. I'll keep an eye on the kid while she deals with the other one.”
“I'm not a kid.” Kim grumbled. “I've been doing this for years.”
“Whatever.” Vi said, rolling her eyes, “I'm still responsible for you. Now go!”
“Hey Kimmie. It's been a while.” Shego said from her perch above them as they entered the lobby from the back. “No Stoppable?”
“He had a date.” Kim said.
“He ditched you? Poor Kimmie. Who are your new playmates?” Shego asked, her hands starting to glow.
“This is their turf. They don't appreciate trespassers.” Kim said, ignoring the Ron comment and looking for a way to get up to her. Her grappling hook hadn't seemed appropriate for a vampire hunting patrol so she'd left it in her room, along with most of her other gadgets.
“Tough!” Shego said, smirking.
Following an impulse, Kim raced towards Shego. Not bothering with the steps, she jumped up onto the railing and ran along it, her feet finding purchase quickly and without thought. Shego's surprise lasted only a few moments but it gave Kim immense satisfaction to see it just before she propelled herself from the top of the railing right at her foe.
And then there was no time to think. After two weeks of sparring with women who made her feel like an amateur, Kim knew she was possibly in the best shape of her life. Where fighting with Shego had in the past had felt like she was only one step from disaster, no matter how prepared she'd been, this time she struggled to keep a large grin off of her face at the fun she was having, now that keeping up with Shego felt effortless. She didn't think Shego would appreciate being taken so lightly.
The fight seemed to take on an almost surreal aspect when she started hearing Vi in the background coaching her, pointing out the flaws in her and her opponent's moves, much as she'd done for the two weeks. A month ago she might have been annoyed at comments from the peanut gallery but today she let Vi's words flow into the back of her consciousness, following her advice when it made sense.
The upper level of the Hall was too cramped for their usual battle style. Kim was finding herself using some of the newer moves she'd learned from Vi and the other slayer instructors. They were more appropriate for tight spaces, though she was a little concerned that they were deadlier than her usual style. If she could just get Shego out into a more open area it would work out much better.
Dodging a high kick, Kim lunged forward under a swinging, flaming fist and grabbed Shego around the waist.
“Getting a little grabby there, kitten.” Shego whispered into her ear.
“Grab this!” Kim said, twisting and heaving with all of her new strength. “Hope you can fly.” she said, spinning around and letting Shego go as she faced out into the lobby one story below. Kim rushed over to the railing right behind her. If she did it correctly, Shego would be waiting for her down below. If not, she was going to have to call an ambulance.
Using the railing once more, Kim slid down to the lobby, Vi close behind. Standing in the middle of the lobby was Shego, eyes flashing as she looked back and forth between Kim and the two women standing guard over an unconscious Drakken over near the main door.
“You could quit now.” Kim said, coming to a halt just out of range of Shego's lethal fists.
“I haven't even begun.” Shego said, her expression grim as she threw plasma balls at Kim for the first time that evening.
Kim dodged, tumbling out of the way. Rebounding off of the nearest wall, she aimed for Shego's head with a deceptively light kick that just barely brushed past her foe's face, throwing her off balance as she backflipped out of the way. Kim kept up the pressure, using the momentum of her missed kick to bounce herself over the top of Shego's head.
“Kim!” Vi shouted. “Finish it up. We need to get back for the debrief.”
“Taking orders now, Kimmie?” Shego gasped as she ducked under another kick. “Do they know you're a control freak who doesn't play well with others?”
“It's all about the potential, Shego.” Kim said, quickly blocking a plasma drenched fist, using her slayer enhanced speed to touch Shego only long enough to avoid getting burned. “I had it, you didn't.” Smirking at the confused look Shego gave her, Kim sped up her blows, forcing Shego to keep up with her to avoid being pulverized.
Even with her increase in speed and strength, Kim had the sneaking suspicion that Shego should have been able to keep up. This was probably the only time she would be able to dominate Shego so badly in a fight. Next time they met Shego wouldn't be so off balance and wouldn't hold back.
In the back of her mind was the question of just how much Shego had been holding back in the past. The previous winter it had taken a combination of Wade's research and a lot of videos of Shego in action to convince her that Shego tended to reign in her strength when they fought. So she needed to finish this now while she had the upper hand.
Focusing on her goal the way they'd been teaching her, Kim reached inward, towards that center of energy she could almost taste it was so close. In a burst of kicks and punches, too fast for a normal person to follow, Kim bored through Shego's defenses, wearing her down faster than she could recover. With one final kick, Kim knocked Shego off of her feet, where she lay out of breath, struggling to get up.
“Here.” Vi threw a pair of handcuffs at Kim where she stood over Shego. “She can't get out of these.”
Squatting down behind the exhausted and barely conscious Shego, Kim quickly closed the cuffs around her wrists. “Sorry about this.” She whispered, giving her foe's shoulder a surreptitious squeeze.
“Next time Princess.” Shego growled, letting Kim pull her to her feet. Stumbling over to Drakken she kicked him several times. “Get up.” She told him, giving him another kick. “Our ride is here.”
Nodding briefly to the SWAT team cautiously entering the lobby, Vi led Kim and the others back out to the SUV. Kim sat silently, deep in thought, for the rest of the trip back.