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Chapter Fourteen: Kennedy
Fan Fiction: Never Look Back
Chapter Fourteen: Potential Problems
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 4:35 PM (GMT)
"This is just like summer camp," Kennedy groaned, and slumped back onto her bed with her pillow over her face. Not that it helped any; with forty-three girls sharing one large dormitory space, things were just a little noisy.
No, scratch that, she thought. It wasn't even like summer camp. At camp she got to ride, hike, canoe, play tennis, water ski, swim... it didn't matter how many girls she had to share her showers and sleeping space with, she could spend most of the day outdoors doing whatever she wanted. Best of all, for those precious weeks she was free of her parents, her Watcher and her rigid daily schedule. This place, on the other hand, was more like her idea of Hell.
It already felt like she'd been here forever, and it had only been four days. Some of these girls had been here for weeks. Whatever else you could say about Travers-- and Thera had said plenty-- the guy did plan ahead. As soon as those lawyers in L.A. had magicked the Hellmouth away from Sunnydale, he'd started reeling the Potentials in hand over fist. Thera had dug her feet in so Kennedy wouldn't miss her high school graduation, but most of them had been uprooted without so much as a by-your-leave.
The bunk shuddered suddenly, interrupting Kennedy's thoughts, and the springs below her squeaked. She pulled the pillow off her face and frowned across the room at the clock on the wall-- 4:39-- then rolled over on her stomach and let her head hang down over the edge.
"'Manda?" she asked, shaking the curtain of long, brown hair out of her eyes. "I thought you had training 'til six. What's up?"
The lanky fifteen-year-old blinked up at her, biting at the edge of her lip with a worried expression on her face. "I'm not sure. They just came and told us-- Rona and me-- that our extra training was cancelled for today and that we should go back to the dorm."
"That can't be good." Kennedy frowned, then lifted her head and glanced around at the other twenty-one bunks. Most of them were occupied-- more than usual for this time of day. Amanda and Rona weren't the only Potentials with little or no training prior to coming here, and some of the younger ones spent long hours in the library doing extra schoolwork. For them to suddenly all be here at this hour of the day meant the Watchers had some kind of lecture planned, or pep talk, or something else mind-numbingly boring.
"Do, um, do you think it has something to do with that girl they brought in on the stretcher?" Amanda asked, hesitantly. "The one in the leather pants? She looked kinda familiar to me, but I couldn't remember where from. And they said all of us were here, already. So she can't be another Potential."
On the next bunk, a red-headed girl-- Kennedy thought she'd been introduced as Vi-- heard Amanda's speculation and swung around toward them, dangling her legs over the edge of the top mattress. "Oh, you mean the girl they took up to the second floor when we were all supposed to be at lunch? I saw her! And I think I know who it is."
Her voice dropped to a hush, and she darted her eyes from side to side before continuing as if checking for eavesdroppers. "It's the Slayer. You know, the second one. I heard she's been in jail or something; I guess they decided they need her too, for whatever it is we're all here for."
"The second Slayer?" Kennedy objected, frowning at Vi. "That can't be right. Thera must have given me The Speech a thousand times and it clearly says..."
"One girl in all the world, yeah, we know." Vi's bunkmate, Annabelle, walked up the aisle and plopped down on the lower mattress. "Are you still going on about that, Vi?" she asked, sounding bored, then unwound the towel from her damp hair and fished around in her toiletries case for a brush.
Vi didn't get the chance to answer. The doors to the hall all opened at once, and three tweed-clad young Watchers with clipboards started walking down the aisles, checking warm bodies against their lists. Kennedy frowned at them, then glanced back to the doors in time to see an older man in an expensive suit walk in, followed by a pair of nannies and the four youngest Potentials, who were all under the age of five. They'd been kept away from the rest others until now, but Kennedy had heard them crying from time to time when she walked by the nursery on her way to the cafeteria. They didn't look much happier now. Behind them all trailed a mousy-looking woman with glasses and a sloppy bun who kept wringing her hands as she glanced around the room; there were smudges under her eyes, as if she'd been crying and hadn't had time to do a good repair job on her makeup.
"This can't be good," Amanda whispered from the bunk below, unconsciously repeating Kennedy's earlier words.
Kennedy frowned in agreement, then straightened her spine and gave all her attention to the man in the suit. He'd gotten a microphone from somewhere, and he had that air about him that said 'Guy in Charge'. 'Guy in Charge with a Stick up his Ass', actually, but she didn't care so much about that as someone finally telling them what was going on.
The nannies settled their four small charges on the one spare bed-- forty-three girls in twenty-two bunk beds had left one mattress over-- then filed out of the room, ignoring the other occupants. A moment later, the guys with the clipboards finished counting heads and took up positions at the end of each row, giving solemn nods to their leader to verify that everyone was there. The man accepted each nod with a minute tilt of his head, then tapped the microphone to be certain it was on and cleared his throat in preparation to speak.
"My name is Richard Wyndam-Pryce," he began bluntly, "and you are all Potential Slayers. For some of you, this is all very new; for most of you, however, you have trained in this role for many years. Tonight, for all of you, that will change."
He took a deep breath, then continued, with the air of a history professor beginning a boring, but necessary, lecture. "In 1998, Buffy Summers, the active Slayer, was drowned in a pool of water at the hands of a master vampire. She was revived shortly thereafter, disrupting a good many prophecies in the process; one of the consequences of that incident was the Calling of a second Slayer. For... many reasons... this information was kept on a need-to-know basis, but we have moved beyond that now. The most recent Slayer of that line died not an hour ago, and one of you will be Called to replace her."
The room erupted in a chaotic chatter of shocked whispers at that statement. Vi's fierce exclamation-- "I knew it!"-- carried clearly to Kennedy's ears, and despite the tempting hope that she might finally get to be the Chosen One instead of an almost-was, something about the situation felt very wrong to her. This Windbag guy was very obviously not telling them that the dead Slayer had actually been here, in the building.
Kennedy believed Vi on that score; the girl seemed a little excitable, but not the type to make this up out of thin air. Had the Watchers killed her? Why? And what did Thera know about this? Kennedy hadn't seen her Watcher since their arrival.
Mr. Wyndam-Pryce waited a moment for the whispering to die down a little, then raised his hand and cleared his throat with a polite little "Ahem." The Potentials fell silent again, and he continued his little speech. "We have asked you to gather here in order to determine the identity of the next Slayer as quickly and easily as possible. Please, do not attempt to fight the process. Just relax, and when you awaken, you may be sure that the world will be a much more exciting place." He smiled thinly at them, eyes glittering, then handed the microphone to the female Watcher who had come in with him.
Shit, Kennedy thought. They were going to be put to sleep? Was it just her, or did that seem a little weird? Wouldn't it be obvious soon anyway, when the new Slayer started showing more strength and speed than the others? Or were they just doing this to see if one of them would have Slayer Dreams? That didn't seem right; they could wait 'til tonight for that, too. She glanced quickly around at the other Potentials in the room to see if anyone else was having the same kind of thoughts, but the faces nearest her were all bright with suspense and excitement.
A rustle of sheets filled the room as the girls began shifting into comfortable sleeping positions. Kennedy went right along with them, but she couldn't quite let go of the unease that coiled in the pit of her stomach, so she slipped a hand under her pillow and curled it around the stake she kept there. Thera had enchanted it for her graduation gift, infusing it with a complex spell designed to thwart vampire thrall and other low-level compulsions, and maybe, if she was lucky, it would keep her from going completely under now. She had the feeling that she really should be awake for whatever happened next.
The level of noise dropped again, until the silence was broken only by the susurrus of breathing and the sniffling of one of the littlest girls. Kennedy kept clutching her stake, waiting on edge for the woman with the microphone to begin putting them to sleep, but the quiet kept holding until she was ready to bolt up into a sitting position again and demand to know what the problem was. Then, finally, someone spoke.
"The charm has taken effect," a male voice said, barely audible without the microphone's aid. "You may begin."
"Very well," the mystery woman murmured, in a husky, tired voice. She sounded as though she had the entire weight of the world on her shoulders, and it leant a grim, solemn air to the rhythmic foreign words that followed. Kennedy didn't recognize the language, but it sounded old and non-European, and the amplification of the speaker system made it echo strangely in the large, open room.
An electric feeling began to build up in the air as each phrase rolled off the woman's tongue. Kennedy realized abruptly that the others must all be out already-- whatever 'charm' had put them asleep had done a quick and quiet job of it. They could never have all stayed quiet through this. It felt like the calm between a lightning strike and the thunderclap that followed, when the back of your eyelids burned with the afterimage and the scent of ozone was sharp in the air, and you were bracing for the big noise that was going to come rumbling down over your head.
Then the spell came to a close. And... nothing happened. Kennedy tensed her grip on the stake even further, feeling the carved crosses on the handle press into her sweaty palm, and tried to keep her breathing quiet, but the strange charge in the room didn't release, or explode, or anything. It just quietly dissipated, until the only thing noticeably out of place was the racing of her heart.
"Ah... Lydia?" The man in the suit spoke up again, sounding more than a little perturbed.
"I read the spell as written, sir," the woman-- Lydia-- answered wearily. "Every word."
"And yet nothing happened," came the clipped reply, in acid, condemning tones.
"I read it correctly, sir," Lydia replied, with a little more confidence. "The fact that there was no result simply means that there is no Slayer here."
"That is not possible!" he declared, loudly.
Kennedy couldn't keep her eyes shut any longer. She peered out through her eyelashes, trying to keep still so that no one would notice, but she had to see what was going on. The view didn't disappoint. Lydia, hair still all askew and glasses slipping on her nose, stood resolutely in front of the senior Watcher, who was gesturing vehemently with his hands. A vein bulged in his forehead, and his face was turning very red; it totally compromised the distinguished salt-and-pepper look he'd had going earlier.
"We have every single Potential Slayer in this room!" he continued, heedless of the interested attention of the junior Watchers still standing near the exits. "And Faith is dead! There has to be a new Slayer. That was the whole point of this exercise! You must have done something wrong!"
"No," Lydia said, and then suddenly smiled. "No, I didn't," she repeated, in tones of growing wonder. "She said something about trusting the Powers..."
"Bugger the Powers!" Mr. Wyndam-Pryce yelled, then turned on his heel and strode toward the doors. "Smythe! Gorton! I want an update on the Summers' girl's team, and Percy, find out where my son is!" The doors slammed shut behind him, and his voice dwindled as he stormed away from the room.
"Holy shit," Kennedy whispered, pressing her face into her pillow to muffle the words. She had no idea how to process what had just happened here.
From the sound of the hysterical laughter coming from the front of the room, Lydia had no idea, either.
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