Becky Wahlstrom as Julia, Norika Fujiwara as Mia and Harry Groener as Mayor Richard Wilkins III
Watchers Council – Dining Hall – Morning
Faith strolled into the dining hall and wearily took a seat at the main table. All of the senior staff, except Kennedy, were present and busy eating the morning meal. Andrew hopped up the moment he saw Faith and grabbed a tray of food from the service line.
“Thanks, Andy,” Faith muttered as he placed the full tray in front of her. Faith popped the lid off of a small bottle of orange juice and drained half of it in one gulp. Andrew returned to his seat and nervously pushed his eggs around on the plate.
“Rough night, Faith?” Giles asked, glancing at the Slayer.
“Pretty much,” Faith said. “All vamps, though. Demons have been scarce lately.”
“I fear that is not a good sign,” Giles said. “Experience has shown that a lack of trouble only means an exponential increase in trouble later on.”
“From what Tram and his wife said, the Presidium is gathering as many demons as possible. They’re here, but laying low, I’ll bet,” Willow put in.
“Have you heard from them?” Rowena asked. “Tram and Greet, I mean?”
Willow nodded. “I spoke with Brell a few days ago. He said the family’s settled in and even got the ‘spawns’ enrolled in private school.”
“A private school for demons?” Rowena asked, her eyes wide.
“Not only for demons,” Willow admitted. “But some private schools aren’t picky about their enrollment as long as the tuition is paid. Brell told me the expatriates from his world have a large network established to help new arrivals get settled and they all contribute funds for special needs, most importantly education for children, until the parents can start bringing in their own income. But with the influx of refugees lately, they’ve been a bit strained.”
Rowena’s face mirrored her shock and Giles smirked at her before turning back to the redhead. “Um, Willow, perhaps the Council should –?”
“Already taken care of,” Willow interrupted. “I arranged with Brell to make a sizable donation to the network for the refugees, as well as set up a trust fund to take care of Tram’s kids as thanks for all their help.”
Rowena shook her head in amazement. “The Old Council would never have done anything like that,” she said. “They didn’t believe in benevolent demons.”
“The Old Council’s not around anymore, is it?” Xander chimed in.
“Good point,” Rowena said as she smiled brightly at him. Xander returned the expression and both of them missed Willow’s pouty look.
Andrew looked up from his eggs. “So…today’s the big day, right?”
Everyone turned to him and each face mirrored the same blank look. Andrew squirmed in his chair and turned to Faith. “What time can we expect the new recruits?” he asked. “I was planning on making up a few platters of vegetable crudités and fresh fruit. Nothing like feeding the homeless with nutritious and healthy food. .”
He chuckled a moment at his own joke, but cleared his throat when he realized that no one was laughing with him. Instead he looked expectantly at Faith.
“Gee, Andy,” Faith said sarcastically. “I’d imagine they’ll show up after three when school lets out.”
“I didn’t know they went to school!” Andrew exclaimed.
Faith groaned. “They don’t, so stop asking stupid questions. They’ll show when they show.”
“If they show at all,” Rowena added.
“Yeah,” Faith shrugged and finished off her orange juice. “I’ll give ya that.”
“Even if they don’t,” Giles put in, “we still need to be prepared. These girls have, for all we know, been living under our noses this whole time and we never caught on.” Willow gave Giles a look that begged him not to debate her ability. He held up his hands and added, “Just an observation, not a criticism.”
“Well,” Willow began to avoid a debate, “That’s not all,” she added with a nervous glance at Faith. “Some of them…well, like Julia, I guess…might resent our efforts to help them, which they’ll interpret to mean ‘control’ them. They could get mighty pissed off at us and try to do some serious harm.”
Faith looked at Willow a moment and shrugged again. “I’ll give ya that one, too.” She paused for a moment then said, “I feel like this is my fault, in some weird way. We’ve been out on those streets for months now. You’d think we would have noticed something before now.”
“We should have heard something sooner,” Giles agreed. “But it’s not your fault, Faith. For all we know, there could be a similar gang of slayers in every major urban center in the world.”
“Comforting thought,” Faith said. “How are we supposed to convince ’em to join us, then? Any ideas?”
“Um, maybe you can do some tricks, Willow?” Andrew asked. “I’ll bet they’ve never seen magic before. That might impress them.”
“Magic isn’t to be used frivolously, Andrew,” Willow scowled. “Or haven’t you been paying attention in the Coven lessons?”
Andrew blushed and returned his gaze to his plate, uncomfortable under Willow’s glare.
“Actually, Red,” Faith said after a moment. “That’s not a bad idea. These girls are all about the physical. If you show them you can kick their asses with just a few spells, they might respect that.”
“I don’t kick slayer ass,” Willow emphasized.
Xander and Giles both coughed and Willow turned her glare on them. “Okay, so I did one time, but…but I’m sure you guys don’t want to see me all dark-haired and veiny again.”
“No, but perhaps you can just stick to defensive magic,” Rowena suggested. “Leave the offensive spells for the bad guys.”
“I could do that,” Willow conceded. “Again, I’ll say there’s really not a good reason for it. Showing off isn’t part of the Wiccan rede.”
“No,” Giles agreed, “but if it helps sway the girls to our cause, then some good can come out of it. Your intent is simply to demonstrate, not to hurt or unfairly persuade anyone, Willow. I know it’s a fine line, but from what Faith has told us, these girls really do need our help. Showing them what you’re capable of can, perhaps, win them over to the good fight…Or at least…put the fear of Willow in them to try t-to go straight.”
“Evil scary Willow, huh?” the witch asked.
“No, that is not what I meant,” Giles insisted. “All we’re saying is that a show of force might make a powerful impression, and you are a force for the Council.”
Willow sighed. “I’ll think about it, Giles,” she finally said. “But I’ll reserve making that decision until the time comes.”
“Fair enough,” he said and returned to his breakfast.
Faith looked at her plate as the discussion died down. “Know what? I’m not really that hungry. I’m just gonna go work out before something big happens.”
As Faith stood up, she looked over at Robin, who had just been sitting quietly as he ate his food. Robin looked up and caught her eyes. Faith waited a moment, as if expecting him to say something, but when he didn’t, she turned on her heel and walked out of the dining room.
Watchers Council – Weight Room – Minutes Later
Kennedy grunted with the effort of lifting a dumbbell in each hand. The muscles in her arms bulged from the exercise, as sweat soaked the sleeveless Kent State athletic shirt she was wearing. Faith walked in and observed for a moment.
“You should add more weight to the left one,” she advised.
“Oh yeah?” Kennedy gasped as she continued to lift.
“Yeah,” Faith said. “You’re right handed, so you should work the left more. Even things out, ya know?”
With a final heave, Kennedy lifted the dumbbells one more time and then lowered them into the holding stand. She grabbed her towel and wiped her face. “Yeah, I know that,” she said, moving over to the bench press. “My watcher tells me the same thing all the time.”
Faith looked ready to press the point, but then joined Kennedy at the bench. “Lie down,” she said. “I’ll spot you.”
“Thanks,” Kennedy said as she sat on the bench and carefully adjusted her position. When she was ready, she nodded up at Faith, who helped her lift the heavy bar. When Kennedy nodded that she had it, Faith let go.
“You ready to talk?” Faith asked.
Kennedy was silent for a moment, appearing to concentrate on her task. Finally she asked, “Andrew talk to you?”
“Andy?” Faith said, her brow wrinkling. “No, why?”
“No reason,” Kennedy backtracked.
“Then let’s talk,” Faith said.
“You know what?” Kennedy said. “I’m cool. I think I’ve pretty much gotten things worked out.”
Faith watched her for a moment. “Something tells me you haven’t worked out jack. Come on, Slick…what’s up?”
“I told you, nothing,” Kennedy insisted. On her next lift, she strained against the weight and Faith moved to help her. Together they eased the heavy bar onto the rack.
Kennedy sat up and shook out her arms, the blood-filled muscles shaking from the effort. Faith handed her a water bottle and Kennedy drank deeply, allowing some of the cool water to splash over her face.
“Then let me take a guess,” Faith said. “Right now you’re feeling pretty useless. You’ve been suspended so many times, you don’t know if you’re coming or going. Your stupid, thoughtless actions have gotten yourself and others hurt. So maybe you’re thinking that the Council would be better off without you.”
Kennedy was silent, refusing to look at her friend.
“I know where you’re at, Ken,” Faith said softly. “I’ve been there. And I think you need to open up a little, maybe… because right now you’re feeling insecure. But I can tell you that the life you have here is better than being out there alone. You’re making a difference here. You’re needed here, even with all your dumb mistakes.”
“Thanks,” Kennedy said sarcastically. “The Council has Slayers coming out of the woodwork. What do they need with a screw-up like me?”
“I need you,” Faith said.
“You?” Kennedy said with a surprised chuckle. “Big bad loner Faith?”
“Yeah,” Faith admitted. “There was a time when I turned my back on my friends. When I finally realized what I had thrown away, I vowed never to do that again. I need all the friends I can get, Slick. So do you.”
Kennedy sighed. “I don’t know,” she said, standing up. “I’m just afraid that, one of these days, I’ll end up getting someone killed.”
“That’s the chance we all take,” Faith said, her eyes dark with memories. “At least you have the chance to choose the side working for good.”
“Yeah, but how do I know all my choices will be good for them?” With that, Kennedy turned and left the room in the direction of the showers.
“Hopefully you’ll know before it’s too late,” Faith whispered to the empty room.
City Hall – Mayor’s Office
Sunnydale, California 1999
Mayor Wilkins looked up as Faith walked into his office.
“Ah, Faith,” Wilkins said. “Just the girl I wanted to see.”
“What’s up, Boss?” Faith asked quietly. “Got another job for me?”
Wilkins paused for a moment and simply watched as Faith wandered around the office, looking at various objects. She picked up a box of hand cleaners and then put them back down again in a different location. Wilkins stood up and came around from the large desk.
“Faith,” he said in a soft voice. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’,” Faith moved sideways and away from him. “What’s up?” she repeated.
“Now, Faith,” he said in a kind, but stern voice. “This is me you’re talking to.”
Faith just shrugged and spun around until she had the desk between them. She sat in his chair and then held her hands up in a manner that indicated she had no idea what he was talking about.
“Then let me take a guess,” the Mayor said, thrusting his hands deep in his pockets and looking down at her. “You’re having second thoughts, right? Well, let me tell you something, young lady. You are far too spirited for that group of goody-two-shoes. What have they got to look forward to? Assuming they survive my Ascension that is, which I don’t plan on letting happen. But really, think about it for a moment…they’ll go on fighting evil, and they’ll win some, but more often than not they’ll lose. And eventually the price of those losses will cut too deep and some, if not all of them, will flip off the back end. Good might triumph over evil now and then, but evil’s always there. They’re fighting a losing battle.”
He paused and then smiled. “But you, you’re too smart to waste your real potential. With me, you’ll be the leader you were always meant to be…that you’re destined to be. All that power inside you will go for a worthwhile cause. Sure, some people will die, but heck! Everyone dies in the end. But you, my dear, will be making a difference, and I promise you won’t be taken for granted. I need you, Faith. You’re my shining star, and I’m going to see that you get everything you want and deserve out of this life. Scout’s honor!” He held up a hand in the traditional scout salute, a wry expression on his face.
As if flipping a switch, Faith’s bad girl attitude came to the forefront and her whole disposition seemed to change. “You were a scout?” she asked sarcastically.
“No, but I ate a few,” he laughed. “Now, close your eyes…I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Faith smiled happily and closed her eyes in anticipation.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Suite – Morning
Giles picked up his telephone and dialed a number from memory. He waited a moment and then his face broke out into a smile when he heard someone pick up the line on the other end of the call.
“Hello, dear,” he said warmly.
Becca’s Books – Same Time
“Hi, Rupert,” Becca said, her face unknowingly echoing Giles’s happy expression. “How’re things going?”
Watchers Council – Giles’s Suite – Morning
“Fine,” he said. “We’re just waiting for our guests to arrive. I rang to find out if you needed me to pick you up tonight?”
Becca’s Books – Same Time
“No, I have to meet the boys at the hall early so we can get set up. Do you want to meet me there?” she asked.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Suite – Morning
“I’d be delighted to help,” he responded. “I can add ‘roadie’ to my curriculum vitae. I’ll be there early then…yes, tonight.”
With a smile, he hung up the phone and then chuckled. “Roadie?” he asked himself. “Giles old boy, you’ve got it bad.”
Cleveland City Street – Same time
A large group of girls stomped off the Cleveland RTA bus and gathered at the nearest street corner to the Council building. Several of the passengers inside the bus appeared relieved as the driver pulled away, but, used to such occurrences, if the girls noticed to any degree they gave no outward sign.
“That it?” one of the girls asked Mia as they walked down the street.
“Yeah,” Mia said.
“It’s big,” the girl noted. “Are they really who they say they are, Mia? How do we know they’re not gonna just put us in some foster homes or somethin’? I been there before and I ain’t goin’ back.”
“We’ll just go in, check it out and then leave,” Mia said. “After that, then we’ll decide.”
“But what about Julia?”
“What about her?” Mia asked, her eyes glaring at the girl. “I’ll worry about Julia. You just keep alert while we’re in there, okay?”
“Okay,” the girl said, and the other girls nodded in agreement.
Watchers Council – R&D Workroom – Moments Later
Willow watched as Xander inserted a steel bar into the lathe and turned on the machine. Both of them wearing safety goggles, Xander began to work the bar as Willow observed over his shoulder. After a few moments, Xander turned off the lathe and removed the bar. He handed it to Willow, pointing out the clean hole bored through the bar.
“Wow,” she said. “Impressive what a few grand can buy.”
“Yep!” Xander said proudly, patting the machine lathe fondly. “This baby is all that anyone could hope for…I’m getting far too excited about this hunk of machinery, aren’t I?”
Willow gave him a grin. “Don’t be silly.”
“Thanks, Willow,” he said sincerely. “It’s good to know I can be my geeky mechanical self around you.”
“No problem,” she said. “Just as long as you don’t only make hole-y steel rods with it, I’m sure the Council will get its investment returned in full.”
Xander laughed and hung his goggles on a hook next to the lathe. “So, are you looking forward to Becca’s gig?” he asked.
“Yep,” Willow smiled. “All with the excitement and anticipation here.”
“Me too,” Xander said. “Is Becca any good? As a singer, I mean.”
“Oh yeah, she’s great. Her band is better than the Dingoes, actually,” she answered with a broad smile.
“You seem extra excited,” Xander said with a cheery grin.
“Yeah, I am,” she answered with a thoughtful look. “I think it’ll be good to blow off a little steam… have fun with the gang.”
“But no vamps, right? Because last time I went to one of Becca’s shows, it ended in much dusting and property destruction,” Xander quipped.
“I’m sure everything will be fine and a good time will be had by all,” Willow told him soundly. “So are you going with And–?” Willow cut off as the buzzer from the front entrance sounded over the intercom. She looked him in the eye worriedly. “Company’s here,” she said and he nodded.
“Let’s bring it on,” he replied as he followed her out of the room.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
In the lobby, Willow and Xander met Giles, Rowena and Robin coming from the upper level of the main building. Over a dozen girls, most of them dressed in dirty, cast-off clothing, filled the lobby. Willow looked at all the girls and asked, “Where’s Julia?”
Mia came forward and faced the watchers. “Ain’t here,” she said. “Faith around?”
End of Act One