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One Tin Soldier


by
D'Nalia



Part Twenty


The loud clang of the cell door locking behind him actually brought Owens a strange sense of relief. At least now he was safe from that lunatic Miller. When he'd recruited the former Initiative member there had been no indication that the man was mentally deficient. Owens shuddered as the memory of that insane laugh echoed through his mind.

Montoya, although he'd been turned into a vampire, was only vaguely threatening. Finn was too much of a boy scout to actually hurt an unarmed man. But Miller: Miller was truly scary.

It started with a smile. Nothing dramatic, just a curve to the lips. Montoya had asked where the Slayer was hiding and he, of course, had refused to answer. Finn had blustered, Montoya's face grew ridges and fangs and Miller just smiled. And every time he'd refused to answer a question, that smile got wider until Miller had actually started giggling.

That sound had made the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up. And the look in Miller's eyes... Owens could feel the skin between his shoulder blades crawl. He'd never been truly frightened for his life before, but he knew without a doubt that Miller would kill him if given half a chance. He might not be the most loyal man in the world, but he wasn't stupid either.

So he'd told them everything they wanted to know. He'd given up McIntyre, the Slayer, all of his informants, accomplices and locations, and contacts for all the other teams he'd been running. Owens could tell that little bit of information had surprised them, but at least Miller quit giggling.


~*~*~*~*~


The analysts had done their jobs with their usual efficiency. Less than twenty four hours after Riley Finn had met up with Graham Miller, all of the Intel Owens had given them had been checked and rechecked. Once the analysts had given their reports, the strategists had taken over. More information had been gathered, plans made and resources committed.

No one was willing to risk any of their information being compromised, so all the targets had to be hit at the same time. And for once, Xander and his Death Squad wouldn't be the primaries.

Xander was on the verge of gnawing on his own liver in frustration. Most of the squad was still on the injured list. Himself included. In fact, Wilson had threatened to put him back in the tank if he didn't stay in bed and behave himself. Xander was convinced that doctors had a God complex and said as much to Wilson. The Chief of Surgery just smiled, "Of course we do. We have to. If we didn't, we'd never be able to cut a man open, shove our hands inside and rearrange things."

There wasn't much Xander could say to that so he just pouted. Not that he'd ever admit to acting like a child. But it was damn hard to stay in bed when some of his people were going to be in harm's way.

Spike and Coffey were going with the team slated to take down the Slayer and the witches. Xander had argued, but Coffey had something none of the others could claim. She might not have ever been actively called, but she was a Slayer. A very well trained Slayer at that.

Between what her grandfather had taught her and what she'd learned in the Army, Buffy didn't really stand a chance. But just in case she got lucky, Spike was going to be her backup. And also because of her training, Coffey had asked to have a meeting with Xander, the General, Giles and Spike.

Xander quirked a brow at his new medic, and to date, the only woman on the squad. "Okay, Coffey, you have a captive audience, let's hear it."

Coffey rubbed her hands over her eyes and sighed, "I'm not really sure where to start, so I guess the beginning will have to do. My maternal grandparents emigrated from the Xing Nun Province in Western China right after they married. My grandmother is Chi Yung Ho."

Giles lurched forward in his chair when he heard the name. "Good Lord. I've read several of her papers. She's considered to be the utmost expert in Proto-Cuniform in the world." Seeing the glazed expression on Xander's face, he added, "Proto-Cuniform is an ancient language. It is believed to be the first written human language."

Coffey nodded, "Exactly. Back in the fifties, my grandmother went on a dig in Africa. My grandfather went with her. She found something there, something she never reported to the museum. It was a legend about a young African girl who had the strength of four men, who could track and kill the demons that killed during the darkness."

"Normally, she wouldn't have given much thought to an old legend, but her grandmother's sister had been a Slayer." Coffey looked up at Spike, her expression grave, "Spike killed her during the Boxer Rebellion."

Spike dropped his gaze to the floor, unwilling to meet Coffey's eye. "It's okay, Spike. It was a long time ago and my family has never blamed you. They appreciated your message." Seeing the confusion in everyone's eyes she added, "Spike sent a message saying that she had died well. They never blamed you, Spike. They blamed the Englishman who came and took her away."

"And that is when my family started researching Slayers. Who they were and why they were chosen. Why were only young girls chosen? My Grandparents are still researching, but they've learned a lot. And the clay tablets Grandmother found in Africa gave them some vital pieces of the puzzle. After a lot of arguing, my Grandfather took a copy of the tablet to the Watcher's Council. He wasn't very well received." Coffey choked down a laugh, "My Grandparents are still arguing about it, actually. Grandfather still maintains that telling the Watcher's Council was necessary. Even if it did get him thrown in jail. Grandmother, well... she has some interesting suggestions on what the Watcher's Council can do with themselves."
Coffey shook off the memories of the time with her Grandparents and looked Xander in the eye, "Girls are chosen because they are the opposite of vampires. Females bring life into the world, vampires bring death. It's all very metaphysical, but when it comes right down to it, Slayers have to be female. Specifically girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Each Slayer is a reincarnated vampire."

Everyone started talking at once. Coffey couldn't get a word in edgewise until the General let loose with an ear-piercing whistle. "Let Sgt. Coffey talk."

Coffey threw General Marshall a quick grin in gratitude before continuing. "The tablets say that upon death, each vampire is offered a chance at redemption. Those that accept are reborn as Slayers. And they take a lot of their supernatural abilities with them. Speed, strength, heightened sight and hearing. Once a female hits puberty, their hormone production goes into overdrive. That allows them to handle the physical stress brought on by being a Slayer. But here's the kicker, puberty also triggers a Slayer's vampire early warning system." Seeing the dawning realization on Giles' face made Coffey grin. "That's right. Cramps. I don't know if active Slayers can smell the vamps or what, but when they get near one, their hormone production increases again. Thus the insane urge to buy stock in Midol. But it wasn't meant to be a lifelong obligation. At the age of eighteen, a Slayer is supposed to find her replacement and train her for a period of one year. During that year, both have all the abilities of a Slayer. At the end of the training period, the first Slayer is released. This time is known as the Testing.

After the new Slayer takes over, the original Slayer's hormone production goes back to normal levels. This includes gaining something no active Slayer has. A fight or flight response. Slayers are stuck in fight mode."

Glaring at Giles, Coffey said, "The Watcher's Council has perverted the Testing. After the age of eighteen, the metabolism changes, it starts to slow down and the hormones level out. Slayers can't handle the physical stress for long after that age. I think that's what happened to Buffy. Her body is straining trying to keep up. The forced production of those hormones causes changes in the brain chemistry and will eventually cause permanent damage."

Coffey's dark brown eyes were pleading, "If we can take her alive, I believe my Grandparents can help her. Grandfather trained me and Grandmother taught me. They know how to release her. I believe, with time, they can return her to normal."

Xander's heart started to pound, "What about that whole 'at death' thing?"

Coffey shrugged, "Automated system. They are fighting vampires. And kaka occurs."

Xander grimaced, but nodded in agreement, "Who would they transfer it to?"

Coffey grimaced, "I can take it for awhile, not long. Just until we can find the next Slayer in line. Then Grandfather can take several of the Slayers in waiting and start training them. The first thing he taught me was to control my anger and to never let it control me."

Giles face was same pasty white it had turned when Coffey had revealed the truth behind the Testing, but he had a duty to his Slayer. Giles pushed aside the guilt he still carried over Buffy's Testing and offered his help. "I can find out who has been identified as the next in line. The Council keeps very detailed records on that score. As well as the location of every other girl marked as a Slayer, who their trainers are, or if they are still unattached. However, the Council will fight every step of the way."

"Let me worry about that, Mr. Giles," Marshall growled.

Spike half-smiled, still feeling vaguely guilty about killing a member of Coffey's family. He liked the chit, and his Childe really liked his fellow medic. "Suppose the nephew could help. He is a member of Parliment."

Xander felt hopeful for the first time in a long time. "Coffey, do you really think your Grandparents can pull this off?"

Coffey shrugged, "He raised me and I didn't turn out too bad." A slight frown crossed her face, "and the fact that he can kick my ass any day of the week probably doesn't hurt."


~*~*~*~*~


Owens was in that pleasant state between being asleep and being awake when he heard it. A soft sound. One that was growing progressively louder. His eyes flew open to see Miller leaning against the bars of his cell, giggling. "Hi. Did you miss me?"




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