Aurelia and Giles walked into the library. The three potentials were eating breakfast at the table. "Sorry about the British invasion." Kennedy said.
"We've been up for hours." Molly said.
"4 P.M. London time." Annabelle added.
"Where are Xander, Willow, and Oz?" Aurelia asked.
"They went home to get ready for school."
"I can't believe you actually go to school." Molly said.
"Are you all right?" Kennedy asked. "You look…."
"Oh. I'm ok. I just got into a fight is all." Aurelia looked up at Giles. "You want to tell me with what?"
"Yes, Aurelia, but don't you think we should, uh, discuss this privately?" Giles asked, glancing at the three potentials.
"You mean, not in front of the potentials? There's really no time to coddle them, Giles." Aurelia noticed Annabelle take out a notepad to take notes.
"Uh, what you fought was a vampire, but it was, um, something more than that." Giles said, going to the bookshelf to retrieve a book. "It was a Turok-Han. As Neanderthals are to human beings, the Turok-Han are to vampires." He found the page he was looking for and placed it on the table. There was a drawing the creature Aurelia had fought. "Primordial, ferociously powerful killing machines, as single-minded as animals. They are the vampires that vampires fear. An ancient and entirely different race and, until this morning, I thought they were a myth."
"So, the First shows up…. and now this? Do you think it's a coincidence?"
"I think it's more likely that the Turok-Han is here as an agent of the First."
"Um, did you slay it?" Annabelle asked.
"No, it's still out there, somewhere." Aurelia said.
"What's it want?" Molly asked.
"All of us dead. But for now it looks like sunlight is keeping this Turok-Han away."
"So, until sunset, I suggest you get some rest." Giles said. "A few hours sleep will do a world of difference."
"No sleep today. I can't."
"Oh, come on, you're exhausted."
"It comes with being the Slayer. Somehow I don't think taking on prehistoric evil comes with a nap." Aurelia looked at the potentials. "I'm so sorry. I know you came a long way, and you want to get into it, but the best thing you can do right now is just sit tight and wait it out. I'm going go to home and change for school. I've got a class in the computer room today, so I'll try searching on the internet."
"How do you plan to research something as ill-defined as the First?" Giles asked.
Aurelia shrugged. "I'll figure something out."
At lunchtime, Aurelia headed back into the library to check on things there. Willow, Xander, and Oz were already there with Giles. They had a cake sitting on the table and big smiles on their faces. "Happy Birthday Aurelia!" They cried. Giles blew on his noise maker.
Aurelia smiled. "Thank you guys."
"We figured you should have at least a small celebration." Willow said.
"And there's even gifts." Xander said, handing her a small box wrapped in purple. "Ok, one gift, but it's from all of us. We all chipped in for it."
Aurelia opened the present and tears sprang to her eyes. It was a small, oval, silver locket with 'Forever' engraved on the front. "Open it." Willow encouraged. Aurelia opened the locket and found two tiny pictures inside. One was of her, Giles, Willow, Oz, and Xander. The other was of her and Cassius.
"Oh, you guys!" Aurelia wiped at the tears. "It's beautiful. Thank you!" She hugged her friends tightly to her. "I'll make sure to hide this in a special place so whenever I come back each lifetime, I'll always be able to have you all close to my heart."
Willow was crying too. "We just thought you'd like a reminder of this life. It's been a pretty crazy one, but I remember you once told me it's the best one you've had in a long, long time."
"Plus, the guy at the jewelry store said this silver would last forever." Xander said. "You'll probably have to have it cleaned every hundred years or so."
"It's the best present I've ever gotten." Aurelia said.
"Better than the rocket launcher?"
"Much better than the rocket launcher."
Oz and Willow were getting weapons from the cabinet in the book cage, Giles was pacing, and Xander was finishing up working on the window in Giles's office. The potentials were sitting at the table looking scared out of their minds. Aurelia sat on the counter watching everything.
"This day's almost over." Giles said, looking at his watch. "And the sun will go down in 17 minutes."
"Hey, junior slayers, don't look so worried." Xander said, coming out of the office. "I mean, sure, we don't know where Angel is, or how to fight the First, or if and when the super style vampire is gonna attack us all. However, library…." He flipped the hammer over once in his hand. "Boarded up."
"You'll be ok." Aurelia assured the potentials.
"Ok, or even better." Willow agreed. "It's like our guarantee." She turned to Aurelia. "Um, Aurelia, I just, I want you to know that I'm really sorry for letting you down. You know, here before with the magic going all aah and me going all eeee and everything getting all rrrr. I wish I could help out."
"No one expects you to make everything right."
"So, I can't do everything, but I should at least be able to do something."
"It's all right, Willow."
"But, you need help, Aurelia. I know you, and I know you'll never admit it, but you need help."
"I'll be ok. Ok, or better. It's like my guarantee."
"Hey, are we getting weapons?" Kennedy asked. "Trained fighters? Patton is coming? I've heard worse ideas."
"We'll be armed when the Slayer feels we're ready." Annabelle said.
"I feel ready." Molly said.
"You're frightened. You must learn to control your fear."
"Hey, you know what would help with that?" Kennedy asked, turning to Aurelia. "Weapons."
"Oh, I don't know about that…." Aurelia started.
"We're sitting ducks without them."
"We're with the Slayer." Annabelle insisted. "Safe as houses."
"Do you see the place we're in?"
"It'll come straight for us, won't it?"
"We should give them weapons, Giles." Aurelia said, hopping off the counter and walking up into the stacks towards the back room. She walked up to the back door and opened it, breathing in the late afternoon air. It was almost dark out now. The Turok-Han would be here soon. But all Aurelia could think about was Cassius. Was he hurt? Was he calling for her? Was he being tortured? What was the First doing to him?
"Aurelia…." Giles said, walking up."How're we doing on time?" She asked.
"Sunset should be any minute now. Done everything we can. And don't worry, everyone here understands that you're calling the shots."
"I just hope I'm calling the right ones."
"You have all my faith. And they're depending on you."
"Giles, that's not exactly what I needed to hear right now."
Molly walked in, interrupting them. "Guys? Annabelle split."
Aurelia made her way through town, hunting for Annabelle. She was now in the industrial manufacturing complex just outside of town. She walked past a dumpster and saw Annabelle's body lying still on the ground. Aurelia took a moment to contemplate the situation, forgetting for a moment that the thing that had done this could still be there. And it was. The thing attacked her from behind, knocking her to the ground.
Aurelia crawled away to crouch beside the dumpster. She looked at the Turok-Han and then got up to fight with it. She kicked, he ducks. She punched, he blocked. He punched her in the face, then in the stomach, and she fell to the ground face first. He picked her up and tried to choke her, but she spit blood in his face, startling him. Aurelia managed to escape his clutches. She ran away to try and hide in the nearby factory.
Unfortunately, she wasn't making very a fast flight. The thing had managed to hurt her ankle pretty bad and she was limping as she went deeper into the building. There were vertical metal pipes and valves everywhere. She could hear the thing had followed her to the building and was looking for her. So, she grabbed one of the pipes and surprised it by coming from behind and smacked it in the head with the large metal pipe.
It didn't even manage to knock the thing down. It wrestled the pipe from her hand when she swung it at him again. It threw the pipe to the ground and punched her. When she bent over, it kicked her in the chest, sending her crashing into a metal support beam. It came at her again and she dropped to the ground to avoid its fist. She stood and it punched and kicked her, finally causing her to double over in pain as it punched her ribs. It punched her in the head, sending her to the ground again. It picked her up, backhanded her in the face, then punched her so hard she flew 25 feet across the room.
Aurelia couldn't do much as it ran toward her. She looked around and noticed a pulley hoisting a pallet of metal beams. She kicked a control lever for the pulley, sending the beams crashing on top of the thing as it came towards her. Still lying on the ground, Aurelia hid her face as they landed. She pushed herself up painfully and ran away slowly, still limping, but stopped and turned around. Her eyes widened as she saw the thing rising from the pile of metal beams, completely unhurt. It leapt out of the rubble and sprinted after her.
In no time at all, it caught up to her, grabbing her from behind, and throwing her into a concrete wall. She stepped back, still standing, as the thing literally crawled up the wall to gain momentum and height to kick her in the face, knocking Aurelia to the ground. It kicked her in the head again before grabbing her arm and throwing her through a concrete block wall. The last thing she saw was the wall crumbling down on top of her. The roof caved in and there was blissful darkness.
*************************When Aurelia woke up, she was laying in her bed. She could hear voices downstairs as she painfully sat up. She curled up into a fetal position against her headboard and assessed her injuries. She was beaten up quite badly, her face was bloody and bruised, her ribs burned with every breath she took, and her legs hurt in so many different places from the cuts and bruises on them.
"We could make plans as we always do, but the truth is, Aurelia was our plan." Giles was saying downstairs. "There is no back up."
"Giles, she looks bad." Willow said.
"She does. I'm afraid there may be internal bleeding."
"What does that mean? Will she…."
"Die? I don't think so. I don't know."
"What do we do if she can't fight, if she can't beat this thing?" Oz asked. Aurelia had heard enough. She got up, groaning and grunting through the pain and made her way out of her room and down the stairs.
"We're back at square one."
"Which square would that be, exactly?" Xander asked.
"I'm not sure. The First predates everything we've ever known, or can know. It's everywhere. It's pure. I don't know if we can fight it."
Aurelia walked in and everyone turned to look, seemingly unaware that she'd been listening. "You're right. We don't know how to fight it. We don't know when it'll come. We can't run, can't hide, can't pretend it's not the end, because it is. Something's always been there to try and destroy the world. We've beaten them back, but we're not dealing with them anymore. We're dealing with the reason they exist. Evil. The strongest. The First.""Aurelia, I…. I-I know you're tired."
"I'm beyond tired. I'm beyond scared. I am standing on the mouth of hell and it is going to swallow me whole. And it'll choke on me. We're not ready? They're not ready. They think we're gonna wait for the end to come. I'm done waiting. They want an Apocalypse? We'll give them one. Anyone else who wants to run, do it now. Because we just became an army. We just declared war. From now on, we won't just face our worst fears, we will seek them out. We will find them, and cut out their hearts one by one, until the First shows itself for what it really is. And I'll kill it myself. There is only one thing on this earth more powerful than evil, and that's us. Any questions?"