Post and to bed.
You know the drill:
Up to Part 63 can be found here.
Part 64 (previous part) can be found here.
Part 65: Spotlight on Kennedy
Selected items from UNS Q&A session with Kennedy Sunocci, occupant of Taran United Watcher’s Council building, pre-founding, circa September 2003. Camlin Tikri reporting.
History tells us that Kennedy Sunocci was one of the Potentials present in Sun’dayl at the time of the Empowerment Spell who went on to become an important member of the surviving band during the early years of the Cleveland household. She was one of the leaders in training the younger Slayers, helped with recruiting, and formed close relationships with many of the Founding Lights, most notably Willow ca-Rosenberg who took the young Slayer under her wing as a confidante and lover.
Despite her significance behind the scenes, Sunocci did not particularly stand out in the field. She occasionally took the lead in various battles, but more often than not seemed relegated to a lesser leadership role because of the significantly greater experience of Buffy Summers-rah and Faith Lanoire-rah.
What makes Ms. Sunocci an interesting person for historians is that she was the only Potential present at Sun’dayl who actually quit active service as a Slayer, which she did at the beginning of 2008. Her reasons for doing so remain one of history’s great mysteries. Some historians have argued that the death of Violet Knowles-sen a few months before inspired Ms. Sunocci to re-evaluate her life. Other historians, who are less inclined to be sympathetic, have argued that she walked away from her duty when it became clear that she would not attain the same regard in the eyes of her fellow Slayers as Summers-rah and Lanoire-rah.
First-hand accounts of the time-period are muddy. The only thing the records are clear about is that the leaders of Cleveland household were grooming her for greater things and that her sudden decision to leave took them by surprise. However, Alexander Harris-rah and Lanoire-rah in their separate journals expressed sympathy for her decision, the proof many historians cite when arguing that the death of Hero Knowles-sen was the impetus for her departure. Others were significantly less understanding, which has served as fuel for those historians attributing more selfish reasons to her resignation.
What is known is that after Ms. Sunocci left the confines of Cleveland, she joined a Taran global relief organization called Doctors Without Borders where she served as an escort for physicians and medical supplies slated for war-torn regions.
Although she was no longer officially associated with the Cleveland group, she did unofficially serve as an informant. Whenever she found any undiscovered Slayers or discovered useful information and objects of note, she would inform the household, using ca-Rosenberg as an intermediary to do so.
Everything we know about Ms. Sunocci after leaving Cleveland comes through references in the journals of others. During her “wandering years,” as Wise Rupert Giles-rah phrased it, she kept a very low profile. Her decision to stay out of the spotlight is perhaps understandable, since the existence of Slayers were not common knowledge among the broader population during that period in Tara’s history.
Ms. Sunocci remained active in global relief for ten years, until her convoy was attacked by unknown persons during a mission in a country called Ch’chenia.
There were no survivors.
While perhaps there is no official record of the impact her life had on others, one can’t help but wonder how many people alive today are here because one Slayer walked away.
Was it an act of selfishness? Was it an act of cowardice? Or did it require an act of strength and courage to leave the relative safety of Cleveland and brave the world alone?
We may never know the answers to those questions, but perhaps Ms. Sunocci herself can give us a clue in this exclusive UNS interview.
UNS: Unh, ‘hey.’ So how are you feeling today?
KS: Bruised. Very bruised. And tired. And relieved. It’s a very long list.
UNS: So, how do you like being a Slayer?
KS: The juice is nice but…[shrugs]
UNS: You don’t like it?
KS: Why would you assume that?
UNS: You sound like you’re not sure.
KS: Look, you have to understand, the Council—I mean the old Council—caught me really early. I was something like 10 when I was told I was Potential and started training for the big day. Anyway, I’ve known half my life that I was going to get here, so it’s not like a huge shock for me like it is for some of the other girls.
UNS: [confused] That’s a little old for identification.
KS: Maybe where you’re from, but I remember it was like this huge deal for the Council. I mean the old Council. Sometimes they could identify a Potential and sometimes they couldn’t. But they almost never identified them before they got their period.
UNS: I, unh, I didn’t know…I guess…so how did they find a Slayer when she was activated? Scratch that. How did they find Potentials because it’s pretty obvious there wasn’t a screening system in place.
KS: [thinking] My Watcher…I mean, the Watcher I had back in New York before he was…[shakes head] Sorry. It’s hard to talk about him. He was in London for a meeting when they were all slaughtered. I still miss him. It’s not bad like it once was but sometimes I just want to turn around and ask him…sorry. [smiles] That wasn’t your question. You question was: ‘So what makes you so special Kennedy Sunocci that they picked you out of the pack so early?’ Right?
UNS: Well, not exactly…
KS: See, my Watcher told me that they kinda knew where the Slayer lines were. Not all of them because a lot of that stuff gets lost, you know? Families move, or you think families die out, wars happen and all information gets cut off, that kind of thing. Anyway, they had a pretty good idea about Slayer lines in, say, Europe. Less of a better idea in North America and Asia. None at all for real hotspots like some countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. So that’s how they could sort of figure out who Potentials were, by tracking families. But once a Slayer got called, no more hiding even if they didn’t know where she was when she was just a Potential. The seers would go a little ape and start pointing at maps. Next thing you know, one Watcher was winging their way to wherever to train the new girl.
UNS: That doesn’t exactly sound like the best system they could’ve devised.
KS: Like our system is so hot now? We’ve got so many Slayers running around that seers, and covens, and other Slayers don’t even know where to look first. Plus, the Council records—I mean the old Council—were all destroyed, so we don’t even know where to start.
UNS: You’d think it would be easier now that there’s so many Slayers.
KS: Willow tried to explain it once to me. She said it was like during the day there’s only one sun. Everyone can see it. It’s got no competition. When you say ‘the Sun,’ everyone knows what you’re talking about. You don’t have to call it Sol or some other specific name because there aren’t any other suns around. But at night there are a million stars and while you can sometimes pick out a really bright star or a really interesting group of stars, you have a hard time picking out one particular star and unless you devote your whole life studying them you probably wouldn’t be able to name all of them, let alone find them even with a map. Plus, you have to look really hard because sometimes the thing you think is a star is really a planet.
UNS: So what you’re saying is that when there was one Slayer, she was the sun in this universe. Now that there’s many Slayers, it’s actually harder to find them because they can get lost in the crowd.
UNS: Is that why you’re ambivalent? Because you’re just one of many instead of the one and only?
KS: [frowns] At first I thought that was it. But I look at Buffy and I don’t think being the One was such a great thing for her, especially since she was all, ‘I’m the only one who can do this!’ back when I first met her. Looking back, I think she was being unfair. Seems to me that she had a lot of people around her who could do lots of things. Now, it was true there were some things only she could do, but you have to wonder if having it hammered into your head that you’re the only girl in all the world isn’t part of it.
UNS: But she wasn’t entirely alone. There was Faith.
KS: Yeah, but think about how Slayers got the job before May. Someone had to die if you wanted the job, right? Along comes Faith. She finds out that there’s another Slayer that’s blonder and richer than she is. Buffy, on the other hand, gets a constant reminder that she died just long enough for Faith to get the big nod. Oh, wait. I think there was someone between them. Anyway, the point is Buffy had to die for it to even get to Faith, see what I’m saying? That could not have been a whole lot of fun for either one of them.
UNS: But that’s all changed now.
KS: I wonder sometimes, though. We’re all Slayers until we die. It’s just hit home, well, to me anyway, that ‘until we die’ probably isn’t going to involve Social Security or collecting on the Slayer 401(k) plan.
UNS: Social security? For oh won kay?
KS: Retirement for the over-65 set.
UNS: Ahhh. Well, that’s not always the case…
KS: Again, maybe where you’re from. But we’ve got one Slayer who’s died at least twice before she was 25. Another Slayer who’s hit comaville and was out of action for awhile before she went off to lock herself up and stare at her navel. So, I gotta think that Slayers, as a group, probably have a pretty tight sell-by date.
UNS: [grudgingly] You do have a dangerous calling.
KS: See, the thing is, I knew this in my head. [taps finger to temple] Of course I did. From the time I was 10 I trained to fight, I was grilled in Slayer lore, I knew the whole thing backwards and forwards. I wasn’t so hot on demon identification, but that’s what a Watcher is for, right? To help you with the book stuff so you can do the Slay stuff.
UNS: You still haven’t said why they identified you so young, I mean, at least by the standards of this time period.
KS: Part of it was because my grandparents, my mother’s parents, were right off the boat. Straight from Italy. So they had a pretty good idea about my family, see? Also, the seers were 100% sure I was going to be a Slayer. I may have been a Potential, but according to my Watcher, I was voted ‘girl most likely to stake’ by the seers. They figured I was next in line right after Faith.
UNS: But Faith never died…
KS: And I just got older. By the time I ended up in Sunnydale, I was almost convinced that I never would be Called. Throw in that my Watcher had been murdered by those bastards and I was pretty pissed off at the world.
UNS: You wanted it that bad? Even knowing what you knew?
KS: Are you kidding? Half my life I kept thinking: ‘When I’m the Slayer, things are going to be better.’
UNS: Things? What kind of things?
KS: [shifting uncomfortably] You know. Things. Just things.
UNS: That doesn’t tell me anything.
KS: It’s stupid. Even I know it’s stupid.
UNS: Try me. I’ve heard some pretty stupid things in my career.
KS: [slyly] Including here.
UNS: Sorry. I can’t reveal my sources to protect the guilty.
KS: Thought so.
UNS: You’re getting off track.
KS: Okay. Fine. It’s like this: my parents separated when I was young. My dad was a big ol’ workaholic building up the fam business and mom wanted a husband instead of a mogul. So, it was one of those no-fault things. No good guy, no bad guy.
UNS: Must’ve grated. Slayers tend to like their battles black and white.
KS: [shrug] Maybe. I dunno. Faith does okay with grey, hell, she is grey. I mean, was grey. I’m not real clear on the whole story. And I have to admit, Buffy had a lot of people in her crew that did some pretty questionable things over the years, so I wouldn’t say that’s true when you look at the details.
KS: Look, I know you think it’s true, but you don’t live with it 24/7, know what I’m saying? Do we like clear-cut bad guys if someone’s getting Slayed? Hell, yeah. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything worse than offing something that doesn’t really deserve it. Or worse, someone getting killed in the crossfire, so, yeah, black-and-white for the Slay. Applying it to the rest of your life? Doesn’t happen for people who aren’t Slayers, so why should it happen for us?
UNS: Duly noted.
KS: As for my parents, well, happened when I was young. It was a good divorce, if there’s such a thing. Shared custody. Mom stayed in the same town so I wouldn’t be switching schools every six months. I could see my dad whenever I wanted and sleep over. So, it wasn’t so bad. Even when dad got remarried and mom got remarried, still not so bad. Could’ve done without the stepsiblings, but, hey? What can you do?
UNS: [doubtful] So what would you want to fix?
KS: Looking back? No so sure about that. Looking back, it wasn’t all that bad. I mean, there are problems and there are problems. I guess I was so focused on the problems that I thought they were problems when they were just problems.
KS: Mountains out of molehills.
KS: Ummm, small piles of dirt?
UNS: Got it.
KS: So one day, while my parents are oooing and gooing over the respective stepsiblings who are still in tadpole stage, along comes a Watcher to tell me I’m special. I’m like, ‘Hah! I knew it! I’ll show them!’
UNS: Show who?
KS: Everyone! That I’m special!
UNS: Just a general announcement.
KS: Well, not as much, because you have to keep it a secret, right? Although my parents knew. This Watcher figured that combined with the fact I was so young and that my parents were sharing custody he should bring them in on the act. Man, you should’ve seen their faces when they were told! I was special! Certainly more special than the stepsibs, right?
UNS: [surprised] Your parents were happy about this? That’s very enlightened of them. Even in my time not all parents are happy with the news. We’ve had some instances where parents try to sabotage…I should stop talking now.
KS: Hate to say it, but that’s not a big reveal. That sounds a lot like human nature.
UNS: [surprised again] That’s enlightened of you.
KS: Yeah. Hard won. Getting to that.
UNS: You will?
KS: It’s been on my mind. But back to the ’rents. They were surprised, but I thought they were happy for me. I mean, my dad! My dad does nothing by halves. When he goes for something, he goes all out, which is where I get it from, I think. He brought in only the best gym equipment into my wing in his house and made sure that I always had the latest and greatest. He consulted with my Watcher to make sure he hired only the best trainers, y’know, for learning different fighting skills. This one time, he brought in a sword master from Germany to teach me. Another time, he brought in this monk from China to teach me hand-to-hand. Another time he hired this guy who trained the Olympic archery team to teach me to use a compound bow. If my Watcher said I needed it, I got it.
UNS: But that’s great! Oh, wait. What about your mother?
KS: Well, she kind of agreed I should move my main address to my dad’s since that was where all the training equipment was. I could still drop in anytime I want, so nothing changed there, except…
KS: I could see she didn’t like it. Which got me all defensive because, hey! I was special! I deserved the best! [silence] I mean, I still love my mom, but we…our relationship isn’t great. She couldn’t really deal with it then, she definitely is having a harder time dealing with it now that I’m actually a Slayer. She dealt with me being a lesbian like it was no big deal, but I don’t think she ever got the Slayer part.
UNS: So becoming a Slayer didn’t fix things with your mother.
KS: [softly] No. It really didn’t.
UNS: So you were close to your father?
KS: I wouldn’t say that. I mean, he did everything he could to make sure I had the best and greatest, but still a workaholic. Sometimes I think he loved his damn construction business more than he loved anything. [chuckles] Man, you should’ve seen him when he met Xander, one eye and all. They just started talking drywall and they were yakking for hours.
UNS: [nods] So Alexander is like your father?
KS: [laughs] Not even! [thinks about it] Hunh. Maybe a little. Except I think Xander’s a workaholic when it comes to Slayers and not so much with building things, which is probably why…forget it.
UNS: So, your father really liked Alexander.
KS: Are you kidding? He thinks Alexan—I mean Xander—is a mini him. When he came to visit us when we first got to Cleveland he said to me afterwards, ‘Kenny, that boy’s got a head on his shoulders. Keep your eye on him Kenny, he’s going to go far, just you watch. He may not have the book smarts, Kenny, but he’s got the sense and the heart to go with it.’ Then when I told him about how Xander saved my life back in Sunnydale, maaan. He’s all about Xander. Always asks after him. He says, ‘Kenny, if you had any interest in boys, I’d tell you to schtup him and get yourself knocked up before someone else realizes he’s a diamond.’
UNS: [laughing] Oh dear.
KS: [grinning] That’s my dad. Like I said, he never does anything by halves. When he loves you, he loves you all the way. [grin disappears] Funny how I had to become a Slayer to figure that out, hunh?
UNS: So one thing got better.
KS: Depends on how you look at it. See, Giles showed up on my doorstep when no one else was home. I was kind of moping, see? Because my Watcher and I had been talking and it was looking more and more that being a Slayer was just going to pass me by. My dad’s all, ‘Buck up Kenny! Your grades are good. We can get you into Harvard or Cornell. How about NYU? You’d like NYU. Don’t you worry.’ Except I didn’t want to be just another rich girl from Long Island hunting for a degree. I wanted to be a Slayer. Period.
UNS: Your mother must’ve been relieved.
KS: Hard to tell. Like I said, my relationship with mom is not the greatest. I think she was, but being a Potential was something that we tended not to talk about.
UNS: I see. Go on.
KS: So, Giles shows up with other Potentials in tow and he gives me the lowdown. My Watcher’s dead. There are Bringers on his tail. We gotta go. I leave a note, grab my cell, and take off with the clothes on my back.
UNS: How did your father react?
KS: I called him from the road. He’s like, ‘Kenny, come back. I know some of the best bodyguards in the business. What’s this Giles guy going to do for you? Nothing. I can keep you safe.’ And I’m like, ‘Dad, I gotta do this.’
UNS: Sounds like your father wanted to protect you.
KS: Which was annoying. I mean, he spent years preparing me to be a Slayer, well, paying for it anyway. It wasn’t like he didn’t know, right? So, anyway, we get to Sunnydale and I do my thing. I’d call dad and mom every once in a while to let them know I was still alive.
UNS: They must’ve been relieved when you got out alive.
KS: Yeah. They were. I remember the first night after Sunnydale collapsed. We stopped in this hotel, so I called my parents to let them know they I was alive. They’d been going crazy trying to find out what happened. So, my mom’s crying so hard she can’t talk and has to give my dad the phone. My dad’s, ‘Kenny, come home.’ Then I lay it on them. I’m a Slayer.
UNS: Why do I think this isn’t a happy ending?
KS: Again, depends on how you look at it. My mom’s still sobbing, so only my dad knows at this point and he goes really quiet. I tell him I’ll call when I get settled, but it’s looking like Cleveland right now. He makes me promise to keep in touch before then.
UNS: So what happened?
KS: We get to Cleveland and my parents fly out. Some of the other parents did too, I mean, the ones that survived any Bringer attacks anyway. My mom, well, you could see she was pissed off. She didn’t like anything. She didn’t like the other girls. She didn’t like the fact we were still looking for house. She definitely hated Buffy and Giles. Xander she was convinced was a perv. And Willow? Fuhgeddaboutit. I mean, she did try. She tried so hard. I could see her trying. But she just oozed dislike ranging to hate about the whole thing.
UNS: What about your father?
KS: Dad was cool. He was checking out the whole deal. Spent a lot of time just talking to everyone to find out the long-range plan. He calls it due diligence.
UNS: He wanted to be sure you knew what you were doing.
KS: Exactly. Plus, I think he was worried that I was joining a cult.
UNS: So he came around.
KS: Even helped. He yanked some contacts back in New York who put him on to some real estate people here to help us find a place. Hooked Giles up with some lawyer pals of his to help track down Council funds. Helped Xander find some building inspectors to make sure the properties we were looking at were good. Talked to Robin about what he needed for training and helped pick stuff out. I know dad kicked in the down payment for this house since Giles was still fighting about the money at the time. He probably ponied up the money for the equipment we have. I know he stuffing money in Xander’s pockets for some of our weapons purchases. Stuff like that.
UNS: Nothing by halves indeed.
KS: No kidding. Not that anyone complained. Faith and Robin took a gang of us and we gave dad a demonstration of what patrolling was like. Xander took him out for drinks a few times. Willow even gave him the ‘my intentions are honorable’ talk. Everyone made him feel welcome.
UNS: He must’ve been thrilled.
KS: I thought he was.
UNS: He wasn’t.
KS: Well, I didn’t get clued until the day he left, y’know? I was in his room while he packed just talking about this and that and he turns around and looks at me, y’know? Just looks at me, and he says, ‘Kenny, promise me you’ll be careful.’ I’m like, ‘Daaaaad.’ He grabs my hands and gets on his knees in front of me and he says, ‘I know you’re a big tough Slayer now and you can break your old man in half by just breathing hard, but you’re still my girl. I need to know you’ll be careful.’ It hits me right then what he’s saying. He’s telling me, ‘Don’t die.’
KS: Sad. I know. All these years…I’m an idiot. [shakes head] He didn’t like the Slayer thing any more than mom. He was trying to buy my way out it. Give me the best, prepare for the worst, and hope like hell it passes me by. And when it didn’t…
UNS: Worst nightmare come true.
KS: Worst nightmare come true. [pauses] Funny the things you see, you know? You work so hard to get something and when you get it, poof! It isn’t what you thought. And you can’t turn around and blame someone because, guess what, they told you all along it was going to be like this. Except, they didn’t tell you that when you become a Slayer that affects more than just you. It’s like finding out that Lois Lane stays up nights worrying about Superman. You can’t look at being a Slayer the same after that.
UNS: So, things didn’t get better.
KS: [shrugs] They didn’t get better. They didn’t get worse. It just got different. [pauses] My dad hugged me so tight at the airport when he left. I remember when he’d crush the breath right out of me when he’d do that, and then he’d give me a noggie while I complained. I didn’t even lose my breath this time. It didn’t even hurt, but I still complained about the noggie. Stupid the things you miss.
UNS: I don’t understand.
KS: Maybe, deep down inside, I still just want things to be better.