Jocasta’s Apartment – Evening
The lights in Jocasta’s apartment came on automatically as she came through the door. She held it open, with her hand on the door’s recognition coder, allowing Katherine to follow her in as the system recognized her as a guest, not an intruder. The Slayer took a few steps further into the living room, staring out at the night lights of the city through the large windows, as Jocasta disappeared into one of the other rooms.
“It’s a nice place,” she said when Jocasta returned.
“Thanks,” Jocasta smiled.
“You have house-plants?” Katherine observed, touching the fronds of a potted palm standing by the dining table.
“They’re just synthetics,” Jocasta shrugged, “but yeah, I like to have them here and there. It’s a nice change from the office. Can’t have anything there to distract us from our work. Speaking of,” she added, crossing the room to her computer’s main terminal. “Computer, access all private material not connected with current Council investigations. Return all records containing the term ‘three-fourteen’ as anything other than a time or a contraction of a date.” She turned to Katherine and added, “This is the boring bit of watcher work they never put on the recruitment vids.”
“Requested function will require seven hours to complete,” the computer replied. Jocasta tapped the “OK” button.
“Isn’t that…kind of long?” asked Katherine.
“I have a big collection,” Jocasta admitted. “Books sort of gravitate to me, and I don’t really have the time to highlight all the key words and so on. Also, the Council won’t okay the budget for me to upgrade this thing to a twelfth-generation matrix.”
“What sort of books?” asked Katherine, eyes brightening.
“Oh, you know, this and that,” said Jocasta casually, “I just keep them in the system here so the Council won’t keep trawling through them and telling me not to waste my time on them.”
“Oh.” Katherine seemed vaguely disappointed, until her gaze settled on a slim shape resting on a side table. “Is that…” she began.
“Yup, actual hard copy,” said Jocasta, picking up the book and handing it to Katherine, who took it with something approaching reverence.
“It’s been in the family for a while,” Jocasta explained. “My grandmother had the pages polymer-coated, so it won’t fall apart or anything. It’s just a Codex Daemonicus, nothing special, but…it belonged to…her.”
The accent on the last word caught Katherine’s attention, and from her expression it seemed she had realized whom Jocasta meant.
“So it’s true? You’re related to THE Willow Rosenberg?” said Katherine softly, brushing her fingertips lightly over a page.
“The one and only,” said Jocasta with a shrug, apparently uncomfortable at having brought it up.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean –” Katherine apologized, seeing the obvious upset it brought the redhead.
“No, it’s fine,” Jocasta insisted, before pausing a moment. “It just seems that whenever that name comes up people expect me to float objects or pull coins from people’s ears,” she joked. “I’m just me…and sometimes it feels like that’s not enough.”
“I kind of understand. I have a sister who’s a restaurateur. She owns about twelve places on the eastern coast. So my parents often ask when I’m going to stop playing around and find a real job like Andrea. Even if it’s not the same thing exactly…I know it’s not easy living in someone’s shadow.”
Jocasta gave Katherine an understanding smile. “Yeah, well…that’s her book. Of course the Council has the originals of most of the material she left, all the journals and so on, but, well, there aren’t even any notes in the margin or anything like that, it’s just a standard edition of the text. I guess they figured it wasn’t one of her important works.”
She glanced at Katherine, a glance that lingered long enough to become a stare, noting the careful way she turned the pages. A smile tugged the corners of her lips.
“W-what?” Katherine asked, looking up.
“Huh? Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to stare like that,” Jocasta said quickly, “just, well… you kind of look like you’ve handled real books before. Not just data pads, I mean.” Katherine gently closed the book and nodded, cautiously.
“I-I have a few,” she admitted, “um…not exactly authorized subjects. My old watcher gave them to me.”
“Not authorized how – magic?” Jocasta’s eyes lit up. “You’ve read magic?”
“A little,” Katherine said, with a relieved grin. “She said I had a talent for it, but I haven’t done anything. I-I mean, slayers aren’t even supposed to read about magic –”
“Oh, forget that,” Jocasta said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “They’re just Council rules. They don’t like magic so they don’t want anyone else messing with it.”
“Um,” Katherine began nervously, “please don’t take offense at my asking this but…Why are you with the council? I mean it’s kinda obvious you have different ideals than they do.”
“Well it’s easier to create change from within than from outside. I think that’s why I’m cursed to middle management with Giles.” She gave a light chuckle and Katherine gave her a full toothed grin. “No, seriously, I think the Council isn’t what my ancestors intended, but maybe I can make it better somehow. Crazy and idealistic, huh?”
“It’s pretty endearing, actually,” Katherine told her sincerely.
Jocasta smiled broadly for a moment, just watching the other woman grinning at her. “Um,” she began anxiously, “would you like to see some more? I’ve got a third edition Realms and Farsight I requisitioned from the Gray Sector library, if you’d like to take a look? Over dinner? I kinda skipped lunch today, and you’ve probably got that whole slayer metabolism thing going, so I could heat something up if you want? A-and we’ll go over the details of that vampire after, see what we can come up with.”
“Thanks,” said Katherine happily.
Watchers Council – Command Council Chamber – Night
Giles stifled a groan of dismay as yet another bout of pointless bickering broke out among the Command Council. He quietly excused himself from the debate, leaving a notary to represent him, and made a subtle gesture to another bored Councilor sitting across the chamber from him. She, too, stood and detached herself from the argument, which had degenerated, again, to a matter of jurisdiction among the various Council detachments.
“Bloody fools,” Giles said as the other Councilor joined him in the corridor outside the Council chamber.
“Testosterone poisoning,” said Veronica Wyndham-Pryce flatly as they walked, “no offense.” Both fell silent as another watcher, an assistant Councilor, left the chamber and caught up to them.
“Ma’am,” he said, “Sir, the Council will be voting in five minutes –”
“Yes, all right, thank you,” Veronica said irritably. Giles glared off in the other direction, and the assistant Councilor took the hint and returned to the chamber.
“How are things out your way?” asked Giles.
“No different,” she answered. “With New York the new center of the Research Division, we’ve acquired all of the ridiculous bureaucracy that went with it.” Giles nodded. New York had recently become the new center of the Council’s research division, acquiring all the bureaucratic morass that went with it. “You might have noticed I’m the only New York Councilor here in person, the rest only had time to attend by video link.” She stole a sideways glance at him. “But I know what you’re really after. I managed a peek at the technical report before High Command classified everything. This vampire doesn’t look friendly,” she went on, with her habitual understatement. “Even after all this time, I don’t believe the Council has fully comprehended the danger a vampire could pose if its inherent weaknesses were compensated for.”
“The feeding unit?” asked Giles. “Jocasta – Miss Rosenberg – seemed to think it would completely replace a vampire’s need to ingest blood.”
“So it seems,” Veronica agreed. “You know most of our reliable data on vampire movements still comes from their feeding.”
“A demon that can pass for human,” mused Giles, “and won’t give itself away by needing to kill for food.”
“That’s not all,” said Veronica darkly. “The research unit seems to think the hybridization with other demon morphic types goes further than enhancing the vampire’s speed and strength. There wasn’t a lot of time to go over the report, and my division is having real trouble getting a timeline from High Command for a full examination in our labs.”
“They’d rather keep the rest of the Council at arm’s length,” Giles muttered to himself.
“Yes,” said Veronica, without missing a beat, “and from what little we could determine about its tissue, we think its cells might be translucent to ultraviolet light.”
“You’re not serious!” exclaimed Giles, obviously louder than he’d meant to. He glanced around, but the corridor seemed safely empty.
“Quite serious. Obviously, we’d like to examine your specimen to be sure.”
“I’ll authorize it personally,” promised Giles. “Do you really think these creatures can…?”
“Survive the sunlight,” finished Veronica. “So it seems.”
“Bloody Hell,” muttered Giles.
Jocasta’s Apartment – Night
Katherine and Jocasta sat side by side on the lounge, close together and with a book open across their knees. Katherine was idly turning the pages, while Jocasta accessed her office’s files on a computer balanced on the books scattered over her coffee table.
“You know the odd thing about that vampire?” Katherine asked, as Jocasta finished the last bite of her dinner with one hand and manipulated her computer with the other. “The way I could sense it. When it was awake, it felt like it was asleep. I’ve sensed sleeping vampires before, when Sean’s had me raid nests during the daytime, it was like that… dull, faint. But when it was unconscious, once I’d gotten used to it, it was as if it wasn’t asleep enough.”
“You’re sure it was unconscious?” asked Jocasta, all her attention now on her companion.
“Sure enough,” confirmed Katherine, “I hit it with a stunner on full…it lost a layer of skin to discorporation as it was, I think any more power would have dusted it.”
“So it felt asleep when it was awake, and awake when it was asleep? Bizarro,” offered Jocasta.
“Not quite awake,” continued Katherine, “just…aware. Like it was dormant, but there was a part of it that was still…I don’t know, conscious in a way. It didn’t stop until well into the examination, when Sean started the neurological dissection, when its brain died.”
“That is…odd,” said Jocasta, stifling a yawn. “Sorry,” she grinned sheepishly, “I promise I’m not bored or anything, but, you know, early morning, late night…”
“I-I should go,” said Katherine quietly, not standing up quite as quickly as she might have.
“Are you tired?” asked Jocasta, jumping to her feet almost anxiously.
“A bit…Sean kept me up documenting the examination this morning, and it wasn’t really easy to sleep after that.”
“You shouldn’t go out tired,” said Jocasta hesitantly.
“I’ll be okay getting back to the Tower,” Katherine said with a small grin, “I’m a slayer, you know.” Despite her words, she hesitated at moving away.
“Stay here,” said Jocasta, with finality and an expression that suggested she was surprised at herself. “I mean, if you want to? It wouldn’t be any trouble, it’s a double bed, so there’s plenty of room. Actually it’s practically two beds…if you don’t mind? I could take the couch if you’d prefer, it’s no trouble –”
“No,” Katherine said, “no, it’s fine…you don’t have to sleep on the couch…” Jocasta blinked, then smiled broadly.
“You’re staying, though?” she asked.
“Yes,” Katherine nodded, “so long as it’s no trouble…besides, you’re a Colonel, I’m not going to disagree with a Colonel –”
“What? No, no,” Jocasta said hurriedly, “I didn’t mean it like that, I was just saying if you want to, you can –”
“Jo,” Katherine said, forestalling her apology, “it was a joke, I-I’d…I’d like to stay.” Jocasta paused, then grinned as her tension faded.
“Right,” she smiled, “sorry…nervous.”
“Yeah,” Katherine agreed, “um…me too.” They stood uncertainly for a moment, pondering the meaning behind their words, then Jocasta took a breath and motioned towards the hallway.
“I-I’ll go find you something to sleep in,” she said.
“Okay,” Katherine nodded.
Jocasta’s Apartment – Early Morning
Katherine woke and looked around, as if expecting something to be amiss, but all was quiet. She lay still for a moment, her head cocked, but silence filled the dark room. Then a low, frightened sound came from the woman on the other side of the bed.
Katherine slid closer, tentatively touching Jocasta’s arm where it lay, stretched out across the pillows. The Watcher was sweating, tense, showing all signs of being afraid.
“Nightmare,” Katherine muttered, as if finally recognizing the intangible danger she sensed.
“No,” murmured Jocasta faintly, turning her head to bury her face in her pillow. Katherine lay closer beside her and gently ran her fingers through her hair, as if to soothe her without waking her abruptly. Jocasta continued to mumble into her pillow for a moment, then suddenly rolled over and clumsily wrapped her arms around Katherine, clinging to her as if her life depended on it.
“Don’t go,” she whispered to her dreams. Katherine carefully re-positioned her arms, holding Jocasta gently, just enough to keep her from rolling around again.
“Tara,” Jocasta whispered plaintively.
“It’s all right,” Katherine cooed, “you’re not alone.”
Jocasta’s breath caught, and Katherine frowned. Then the sound of her breathing resumed, steady and calmer, and she unconsciously shifted to bury her face in Katherine’s hair, just below her chin.
“Katie,” she murmured as she drifted back into a deep sleep. Katherine lay awake, gently caressing the woman’s arm and looking at the ceiling. She glanced over to see the crown of Jocasta’s head and a peculiar expression crossed her face.
“Deja Vu,” Katherine muttered softly. She widened her eyes, as if trying to shake the image free, before she too tried to return to slumber with a sigh.
Jocasta’s Apartment – Morning
Sunlight falling across her face woke Jocasta at last. She blinked in the daylight. She didn’t seem to notice for a moment how she had ended up with Katherine’s arms around her, as if shielding her. When she did, she slowly and gently extracted herself, holding her breath until she finally sat up. There was no sign of wakefulness from the other woman. A small, sad smile passed across her face as she stood and left the room. She paused only to pick up her clothes from where the building’s cleaning system had returned them during the night. Not looking back, she missed Katherine glancing over her shoulder, her features confused, but not unhappy.
Jocasta’s Apartment – Morning
“The search finished,” Jocasta said as Katherine appeared in the living room half an hour later. The Slayer smiled and busied herself in the kitchenette for a moment, returning with two cups of coffee. She handed Jocasta a cup, then sat back down on the couch and took a sip of her own. Jocasta took a seat beside her and switched on the computer on the table, regarding her coffee with theatrical skepticism.
“Hmm, could it be,” she wondered aloud, “or is that too good to be true?” She took a sip. “Yay, double mocha! Katie, I could kiss you –” with her eyes closed, she missed Katherine’s startled expression, “–and now that I’m all mocha-ed up and the brain’s working, good morning.” Katherine beamed at her, and after a slightly longer exchange of smiles than was necessary, Jocasta self-consciously turned back to the screen, thus missing Katherine’s eyes lingering on her lips as she took another sip of coffee.
“So, let’s see what we’ve got…Sort by date, priority to restricted files, ’cause they’d be more likely to have demon-y stuff in them,” Jocasta narrated as she manipulated the stack of holographic files the computer had compiled. “Now that’s odd…”
Katherine leaned over beside Jocasta and stared blankly at the complicated puzzle of cross-linked files hovering above the coffee table. Jocasta glanced down at Katherine’s thigh against hers, then took a breath and waved a hand through the display, clearing out most of the files, except for one.
“Look at the date on that,” she said, “it’s 130 years old! None of the other results were even in the same century.”
“What is it?” asked Katherine.
“Let’s see,” said Jocasta, opening the file. The file display was replaced with a representation of pages filled with handwriting.
“This is Willow’s writing,” she said in a low voice. “I recognize it. Well, so would most of the Council,” she added in a sarcastic undertone.
“It really makes you uncomfortable,” said Katherine softly, “being…compared to her?”
“I know it’s kind of an insecurity thing,” agreed Jocasta, reading and talking at the same time, “but…well, everyone sees the name Rosenberg and I feel like I’m supposed to be the Second Coming, only no one’s told me what to do. Giles gets the same kind of looks from people.”
“Because of Rupert Giles?”
“Yup. I guess it’s why we hang out together, everyone else looks at us and sees the descendants of the people who saved the world a couple of dozen times, not to mention rebuilt the Council from the ground up. That kind of thing sort of gets remembered.” Jocasta stopped reading just long enough to give Katherine a helpless smile, accompanied by a shrug.
“Is Giles the only one?” Katherine asked. “Who treats you like…like you, I mean?”
“The new colonel who covers the night shift for me is pretty relaxed,” Jocasta admitted, “but I catch him giving me ‘wow, she’s a Rosenberg’ glances now and then. A-and there’s you, of course.” She gave Katherine a sidelong glance.
“I-I’m happy with you like you are,” the slayer said quietly, immediately glancing away once the words were out.
“Kind of ironic,” Jocasta went on to cover her blush, “I avoided the Council all through school because I was sick of being treated like Willow Part Deux, and as it turned out, part of me was, after all. Working for the Council, I mean. A few years ago I wanted to be an AI architect, but once I started working here, it just…” she shrugged again, “this is what I feel good doing.”
“That’s good,” said Katherine. “That you’re happy, I mean…in the Council. I used to feel the same way, but sometimes I get a bit, I don’t know…” she trailed off. “It’s probably just Sean. He’s not really a people person, you know? I liked my old watcher better, she was…” Jocasta looked up as Katherine trailed off again. Katherine steadied herself.
“I felt like I belonged,” Katherine admitted, “like the Council was where I was meant to be. Miss Dimmons always made me feel good about what I am – a slayer, I mean. Sean’s more of a…a soldier, I guess. I’m thinking of requesting a transfer, but they don’t like slayers doing that.” She sat silent for a moment, then shook off her train of thought and looked at Jocasta, who hadn’t looked away while she had talked.
“Did you find anything?” she asked. Jocasta’s brows crinkled in confusion, and Katherine pointed at the screen.
“Oh! Yes,” Jocasta said, “yes. I think. It’s her diary, and there’s a reference to Giles, that’s Rupert of course, hearing about something called three-fourteen that was causing a stir among the demons. But that’s the only diary entry that the search turned up…maybe she used a different name for whatever it was. Computer, assimilate context and terminology associated with ‘three-fourteen’ in this file and retrieve matches from next…three months.” Katherine nodded absently.
“Unable to comply,” said the synthesized voice.
“What? Why?” Jocasta demanded.
“Specified files have been removed,” the computer answered.
“Re –” she bit off a protest. “Show me the files for Willow Rosenberg’s personal diaries, from two years prior to two years after this entry.” The display showed a series of files, stacked according to content and length. Jo trailed a finger through the holograms.
“They’re gone,” she said, genuinely shocked.
“Did you have the whole diary?” asked Katherine.
“Every last word,” Jocasta said, confused, “Watcher journals, her diaries from before the new Council…I never really read much of the personal stuff, but I’m sure all the Scooby diaries were there.” She saw Katherine’s expression. “It’s what they called themselves,” she explained, “Willow and the slayer who was her friend, and Giles and the others: the Scooby Gang.”
“Damned if I know,” shrugged Jocasta. “The files should be here…so they were taken for a reason. It’s all connected, everything’s connected. Computer, when were the missing diary files removed?”
“June 13th, 2128.”
“A year and a half ago…who removed them?”
“Files were removed by the authority of Watchers High Command.”
Watchers Council – Office – Morning
In the Council Tower, Jocasta flung open the door to her office, only to have her anger derailed by an even more vehement exclamation from within.
Giles looked up from the screen he had been shouting at and calmed somewhat at seeing Jocasta, with Katherine at her side.
“Dare I ask, or should I just go get you an axe?” Jocasta asked.
“The High Command has locked down the vampire you brought in, Miss Allison,” Giles explained, reversing the screen so Jocasta could read it. Katherine leaned into Jocasta’s shoulder to also get a look. “Apparently they feel they have more capable analysts than us, or the Research Division in New York. They overruled me when I tried to get Miss Wyndham-Pryce to have a look at it. Now the blasted thing has vanished from the database completely.”
“That’s not surprising,” said Katherine, earning a confused frown from Giles.
“We found a reference to ‘three-fourteen’ in my personal files,” explained Jocasta. For a moment he looked hopeful, but Jocasta held a hand up and continued, “But all the important material had already been removed by the High Command.”
“Damn,” muttered Giles. “I hesitate to ask this of you, Miss Allison, but is there anything about your watcher that might shed light on this?”
“I don’t know,” said Katherine. “He’s…he doesn’t really tell me anything. There’ve been times when he’s put me on the inactive list for days and gone off on his own assignments, but when he gets back he doesn’t say anything. But why would he be involved with vampires? I mean, he’s a watcher, he…even if he’s a, well…” she hesitated.
“Cold-blooded bastard?” Giles offered.
“– he wouldn’t be helping vampires,” Katherine continued, nodding her assent. “And why would High Command be a part of it?”
“If I knew that, I’d feel a lot better,” Giles shrugged. Then his face darkened. “Actually, I suspect I wouldn’t. Jo, what did you say they took?”
“Several months worth of Willow Rosenberg’s journals and notes, appropriated and sealed,” Jocasta said. “Not just from me, but in every data library I can access. I don’t think it was out of historical interest. They know what three-fourteen is.”
“What are our options?” asked Giles. “If High Command has their own agenda with this, we need proof before I can take it to the Command Council.”
“Simple,” said Jocasta, knowing it was anything but, “we go to where their data goes: the Progenitor File.”
Watchers Council – Computer Center – Minutes Later
“Yes, hello, how can I – no, not you guys, I always get in trouble after you guys come down here!”
“Nice to see you too, James,” said Jocasta brightly, dodging around the tech specialist whose sole purpose was to keep the Council’s massive data storage system functioning. He looked past her and saw Giles and Katherine, as well.
“Sorry to barge in,” Giles offered.
“You brought a slayer?” James protested. “They’re not even allowed in here, what’s… I’m just asking, no offense,” he trailed off in the face of a blistering glare from Jocasta.
“Just a piece of advice,” said Giles quietly, “stop talking now, please.” He peered around the gloomy technical suite and noticed a figure reclining in a contoured seat in the corner.
“Could we have a moment alone?” he asked.
“Anya, five minutes,” said James wearily. The woman stood up and Jocasta noticed her arm was partially disassembled from the elbow down, revealing a series of chrome skeletal structures and fiber bundles beneath the flawless skin.
“Okay,” she said, glaring at James, “but no playing with the Accounts Division files, and no downloading pornographic holograms.”
“Anya!” James protested, trying not to meet Jocasta’s stare. The woman deftly unplugged a data cable from her arm, the components of which then smoothly slid back into place, concealing any suggestion that she was other than human. With a stern glare, she left the technical suite.
“You know what the Hyperdyne series synthetics are like,” James said feebly, as Jocasta continued to glare. “They’re twitchy, and particularly the A-2s, and incidentally I don’t watch porn, that was just a misunderstanding –”
“James…” Jocasta said in a long-suffering tone.
“Sorry. What’s going on?”
“We need to access the Progenitor File,” said Giles.
“Okay, now you’re going to get me fired.”
“It’s important,” Giles added, “and I’ll take full responsibility.”
“Okay,” James argued, “that’s fine, except, that means we’ll both get fired, but that still includes me being without a job and possibly getting stripped of my tech rating.”
“Look who’s talking,” said Jocasta patiently. “I know you scan the confidential files that go through the databanks. You know the weird vamp that came in yesterday morning?”
“You mean the ‘resistance is futile’ one?” James chuckled and then looked from Jocasta, to Giles, to Katherine, seeing only blank expressions. “Oh come on! Literature was invented before this century, you know.”
“It’s very dangerous, and it’s not the only one,” Jocasta went on, ignoring him. “There could be lots more of them, all over the place, able to survive the sunlight and armed to their pointy teeth. I know you’ve gone around the Council’s rules in the past –”
“I didn’t do anything to the payroll!” interrupted James.
“– so I’m asking you to get us into that file,” Jocasta continued. “Some of the High Command may be involved with these vampires. We need to know, right away.”
James was silent for a moment, his gaze moving between the faces staring at him.
“You know only the Chairman of the Council is authorized to open the Progenitor File,” he explained. “If I let you in, it’ll set off alarms all over the place. It’s got security systems that don’t even show up on my scans. I don’t even know what’s inside that file.”
“You can’t do it?” asked Giles bleakly.
“I didn’t say that,” answered James quickly, with a wounded expression. “I’ve got a few bypass tricks up my metaphorical sleeve in the system. This is really that important?”
“It really is,” said Jocasta. James looked at Giles, who returned his gaze levelly, and then at Katherine, who nodded hopefully.
“Oh-kay,” he said, turning to his keyboard with a determined expression, “you need to be in the main conference room on Level 40 in exactly ten minutes. That’s where the file can be accessed. I’m going to trip the building’s maintenance fault grid right before I open the file, that should keep everyone confused, but not forever. You’ll have maybe fifteen minutes before security figures out something’s not right on your level, so whatever’s in that file, get it and get out fast.”
“Thanks James,” said Jocasta sincerely.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he warned, “there’s no guarantee here.” He smiled grimly. “If we all end up in the same correctional battalion in the army, I’ll let you know what I did wrong.”
Watchers Council – Level 40 Conference Room – Ten Minutes Later
The conference room looked no different than any other – more luxurious than the ones on Jocasta’s floor, perhaps, but hardly significant. A row of slanting windows let in the sunlight and gave a panoramic view of the city. Jocasta walked from seat to seat, glancing down at the screen projectors in front of each one. With no data to display, they remained inactive.
“This is the right room?” Katherine asked.
“Perhaps it’s taking longer than he thought to open the file,” Jocasta suggested. “Giles?”
“Fourteen minutes,” Giles answered.
“We’ll give him until twenty, then –” She stopped as the room’s air conditioners gave a shuddering whine, then shut down. The lights flickered, dimmed, and then returned. A low hum vibrated through the room. Jocasta, still studying a screen, heard Katherine let out an exclamation of surprise, and looked up to see her spinning around, in a defensive stance, as a portion of the room’s wall behind her shimmered. Before their eyes a whole segment, including a window, reverted to a grid of green projector lines and dissolved, revealing a passageway beyond.
“That’s…” Katherine started hesitantly. “It’s outside the building…it can’t really be there, can it?” Giles stared at the corridor suspiciously, while Jocasta quickly crossed to one of the remaining windows and peered intently at the city beyond.
“It’s a projection,” she said. “The whole view, it’s all false.”
“Ingenious,” Giles muttered, “who would look for a hidden room beyond the outer wall of a tower?”
“That’s not really the city?” Katherine asked, staring at the view through the windows.
“It must be relayed from outside,” Jocasta said. “Look, lean in close, you can just see where the parallax layers are flickering…”
“Jo, Miss Allison?” Giles asked, indicating the corridor.
“Oh, yeah,” Jocasta said sheepishly. “Well, it’s not often you see a projection that detailed.” Katherine offered her an indulgent look.
Giles led the way through the corridor and into the room beyond. The walls were dotted with screens, system read-outs and diagnostic displays. In the center of the room was a console featuring a variety of monitors, all showing data integrity and transfer diagnostics continually in progress, maintaining a massively complex array of information. But nowhere was there any sign of an interface to allow the information to be accessed.
“Anticlimax much?” commented Jocasta, staring around for any sign of a suitable display. She turned to the outer wall, facing one of the screens. “Hello?”
“Hello,” said a female voice from behind her. Jocasta jumped, startled. She spun around, dimly noticing Katherine and Giles’s looks of astonishment, to find the room occupied by a fourth person, a woman who was virtually identical to Jocasta herself. After a moment’s confusion, she noticed that her mirror’s clothing was outdated, and there was a strange, blurry look to her.
“Wh-who are you?” she asked shakily.
“I’m Willow Rosenberg,” the woman answered happily.
End of Act Two