Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Same Time
Feeling another blast rocking the building, Becca looked at the door of Giles’s apartment. She took a step forward, then hesitated. Finally, clenching her jaw and setting her shoulders, she opened the door and walked out.
Watchers Council – Second Floor Stairway – Moments Later
Becca walked to the top of the stairs to see various demons fighting the watchers and slayers below. She also saw Bonnie, as the agent ducked trying to avoid the melees going on around her, slowly working her way toward the front door.
“Nuh uh,” Becca mumbled to herself. She took off down the stairs, hanging onto the banister and moving as fast as her feet could carry her.
The Machine – Same Time
With a shocked roar, the Engineer faltered and his power slipped, surging into the machine once more. His clawed hands blackened and blistered, the veins glowing as fires began to light within him.
Underground Cavern – Same Time
With a titanic wave of pressure, the boundary between one realm and the next snapped back, leaving the underground cavern in place of the otherworldly landscape. Those creatures that had been in the process of moving across the threshold collapsed as the edge passed through them. They were left sliced in half, limbs missing, some even half-entombed in the cavern walls, vomiting up blood as the rock fused with their innards. In the few seconds the worlds had touched, however, dozens of demons had safely crossed the threshold, and added their numbers to the Engineer’s army.
Watchers Council – Lobby Control Center – Moments Later
As the demons and Slayers continued to battle, Jeff scanned the area looking for Lily, his mother. He called her name repeatedly through the din of the fighting. Each call grew more frantic when she didn’t answer. He ran his eyes over the floor, covered in fallen watchers and demons, and recognized a pair of shoes. He rushed over and found that a large demon was lying dead on top of his mother.
“Mom?!” he called out as he tried to move the weight.
It was too much for him, and he began to chant and gave another push. This time he moved the huge demon aside with as much effort as a sack of potatoes. Using his magically-enhanced strength, he then picked his mother up and carried her from the middle of the chaos over to the corner of the lobby.
Bonnie tiptoed toward the door. She was only steps away when she felt a hand reach out and spin her around.
“Leaving without saying goodbye?” Becca asked.
Bonnie looked calm, but, without warning, she pushed Becca away, trying to make a run for it. She didn’t get far, as Becca reached out and grabbed her hair, pulling Bonnie deeper into the council. Bonnie turned around, as much as she could, and tried to scratch Becca’s face with her fingernails. She connected, but not enough for Becca to let go. Seeing that scratching wasn’t working, Bonnie pushed all her weight back into Becca, sending them both to the ground. It was enough for Becca to lose her hold and the agent jumped up first and ran to the door. Giles saw the door open and battled his way toward it. He looked over and saw Becca lying flat on her back.
“Becca,” he shouted and raced over, falling to his knees beside her. “Are you okay?”
“Damn it,” she said, her breath short. “I let her get away.”
“Don’t worry about her. She’s not important and…” Giles paused, seeming to realize all at once that Becca hadn’t listened to him. “I told you to go to my room.”
“And technically, I did,” she answered. “I just didn’t stay there, is all.”
Giles ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “What am I going to do with you, woman?” he sighed.
Becca moved to her elbows. “Just love me, I guess,” she answered with a grin.
Giles grinned too and motioned over to Andrew. “Fine, but stay with Andrew. You both could use protection right now. Agreed?”
“I can manage that…for now.”
Giles shook his head as he watched Becca get to her feet and jog over to the control center, where Andrew and Tracey looked happy to see her. Giles turned in the other direction to see Brell and Tram run through the front doors and join the battle. “No one listens to me,” he muttered. “I might as well retire now.”
The Machine – Same Time
Willow clambered to her feet as the Engineer grimaced in pain, clenching his fists against the burning as his energy was pulled from him. Again he managed to slow the passage of magic from him to the machine, holding it in check with all his might. Willow looked up, seeing the cavern’s ceiling fade into the tumultuous red sky again.
“Willow?” Andrew’s voice came from her earpiece. “What’s happening?”
“It’s gone,” she said to herself, then repeated louder: “It’s gone, it’s not connected to me any more.” She turned on the Engineer, raising her hands. A glittering aura formed around her, as if starlight was flowing over her. The dark demon looked down at her, rage twisting his features.
“Fight or die, huh?” Willow said. “Okay, now I’m fighting.”
With a rush, she released her magic, letting it slam into the Engineer with all its force. He roared in pain and rage as the starlight blasted through him, and as he convulsed the machine beneath him surged, tearing his own magic out of him. Willow began to speak.
“Bide ye the Wiccan Rede ye must,
In perfect love and perfect Trust.
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
An’ it harm done, do as ye will
Lest in self defense it be,
Ever mind the Rule of Three
Follow ye this with mind and heart,
Merry ye meet, and merry ye part.”
The rings spun faster and faster as he burned, the metal groaning in protest, glowing white-hot around the bearings. Willow scrambled back, raising her arms to shield herself from the heat as the sphere erupted in a sheet of flame.
The Engineer, bellowing in fury and disbelief, burned from within. Then, his form broke apart like ash and collapsed into the burning sphere.
Watchers Council – Lobby Control Center – Moments Later
Giles walked toward Brell and Tram as they entered.
“I thought I told you…”
He trailed off as he watched more blue demons entering through the doors in a steady stream. As they continued to pour in they raced ahead into the battle, helping the watchers take down their Presidium foes.
“Council helped us,” Tram explained. “Set up funds, give us goods to build new life here. Too late for Tram and brother to save old homeland, but we help you save new homeland. You give so much. Only right Brell people give some back.”
Giles smiled, on the verge of tears, and he nodded quickly. “Alright then,” he told them. “Work your troops toward the basement after we’ve taken out these demons here. Understood?”
Brell nodded. “Thank you, Watcher Leader,” he said, before he and Tram raced ahead to help.
Giles swiftly moved to the control panel and took back his headset over Andrew’s somewhat whiny protests. “Faith,” Giles said quickly. “Brell and Tram are on the way with a lot of blue help. Do you copy?”
“Copy that,” she grunted, before he heard her shout to the troops. “No killing the blue guys coming from behind. They’re playin’ for the home team.”
Giles quickly gave the headset back to Andrew, who put it back on his head. “I coulda told her that,” Andrew remarked, indignant. Giles simply glared at him and Andrew added, “But it’s, you know, okay that you did, Mr. Giles, ’cause, being the boss and all.”
Tracey leaned over to the stuttering man. “Nice attempt at a save,” Tracey teased.
The Machine – Same Time
Willow clambered higher up the pit wall, hauling herself up with whatever handholds she could find on the irregular surface. The fire at the bottom of the pit spread from the burning sphere and its rings and leapt up from the pool of oil beneath it, engulfing the central walkway above.
“Andrew,” she yelled desperately, “how do I drop the barrier and get out?”
“It’s not down?” he asked.
“If it was down, Andrew, I wouldn’t be asking now would I?” Willow said nervously as she turned away from the heat and stopped looking down.
“I don’t know!” he replied desperately. “I-I mean there’s nothing on the diagram that looks like a barrier. There’s just the sphere inside the pit, nothing else. What do you see?” he asked.
“Just the sphere!” Willow confirmed. “And a whole lot of fire, which, I should add, is just getting hotter.”
“It must be something else,” Andrew said, “something outside the pit.”
Instinctively, Willow began to look around.
Watchers Council – Lobby Control Center – Same Time
Julia arrived at the Council, opening the front door with a look of determination on her face. She stopped in her tracks as she saw the chaos inside. She pulled her gun from its holster and started to shoot at the demons.
Hearing the gunfire, everyone began to duck and scream. Julia took aim as Tram ran toward her. “No! Good demons!” he insisted.
“My ass,” she answered.
Giles screamed out, “Nooo!” as he ran to stop her.
But it was too late. Julia shot Tram between the eyes and he fell over to the floor, dead. Giles arrived moments later, knocking the gun out of her hands. The Presidium agents wasted no time in beginning their attack again after the diversion Giles had created, and soon the room turned to pandemonium once more.
“He was on our side!” Giles yelled. Before he could rant any further in his disgust, a vampire grabbed Giles. The watcher attempted to pull his way free and stab the vampire with his stake, but he just ended up twisting in a half circle. Julia reacted, pulling a stake from her inside coat pocket and dusting the vampire.
Giles’s breathing was labored as he turned around to her. “Thank you. Obviously you’ve sensed what’s happening here and came to help.” Giles paused only long enough to slash at an approaching demon with his sword, taking down his attacker. “But no guns and no dead blue demons.”
Not correcting him, Julia looked at the fight going on around them for a long beat.
“Aww, damn it,” she hissed, taking the sword from Giles and running headlong into the battle, cutting through the Presidium population with every turn of her blade.
Underground Cavern – Same Time
Rowena looked around the cavern frantically, searching for any trace of a ritual design, a device, anything that could create the barrier trapping Willow inside the burning machine. Her eyes were drawn upwards as a tremor shook more debris free of the ceiling, and through one of the newly-opened gaps she saw a glint of metal.
“There’s something up there!” Rowena yelled, pointing. As another chunk of ceiling fell away, rebounding off the barrier enclosing the machine pit below it, a strange device was revealed. It looked something like a black cast-iron chandelier, with dozens of crystals in place of candles.
“That’s it!” she called, drawing Faith’s attention. “Up there, that’s projecting the barrier!”
Faith and Buffy both looked up to where Rowena pointed.
“Right,” Faith said with determination, snatching a crossbow from the ground and searching for a bolt. “B? Give us some room here,” she called.
Buffy nodded and motioned a few slayers to give the small circle cover. Mia sprinted across to hand Faith a bolt, and she loaded her crossbow and aimed it.
Her bolt clanged off the metal, leaving it undamaged. “Damn!” Faith swore, as another tremor shook the framework holding the projector and it began swaying. “Anyone got a heavier bow? Missile? Anything?”
“Giles, can you spare anyone?” Xander asked into his radio. “We need the missile launcher down here now!”
“What’s the word?” Rowena asked. He shook his head.
“Sounds like they’re plenty busy up there.”
Rowena’s face lit up. “Kennedy! We need you here, now!”
Faith watched as one of the slayers protecting the group, a blonde, swung a sword left-handed, ignoring her right, which was crushed and bleeding. “Heli, you okay?” Faith asked.
“I can still fight,” the girl insisted.
“Get Lyn and – where’s Eva?”
“I see Eva fall,” the slayer reported in a Scandinavian accent, “I don’t think she make it.”
“Hell. Skye, find her, see if she’s alive, help if you can. Dawn, go with her. Heli, take Lyn, go into the tunnels and clear ’em out. Go!” They scattered, dashing along the eastern wall of the cavern. Opposite them, those slayers still on their feet were locked in combat with the remnants of the demon army. The cavern shook again as a blast rocked the machine pit, sending metallic shrapnel ricocheting off the inside of the barrier.
“What’s up?” Kennedy asked as she arrived next to Rowena.
“Shoot that thing down, please,” she pointed.
Kennedy didn’t hesitate, but her shot missed by a fraction of an inch. “Lemme try again,” she said as Mia handed her another bolt. The second one connected, breaking two of the crystals, though the rest of the device remained intact.
Willow looked above her and saw the barrier melt for just a moment, before snapping back back into place as Kennedy’s third bolt missed.
“This might take awhile,” Kennedy told Rowena honestly.
“We don’t have awhile,” Rowena replied, fear in her voice.
Underground Cavern – Same Time
Vi tore through the approaching demons with cat-like speed and grace. For a brief moment Buffy smiled as she watched the compact slayer laying waste to the enemies that dared to enter her path. She struck down demon after demon that dared to come within a few feet of her. Buffy, however, wasn’t the only one noticing how much a threat Vi had become. Another unit of creatures began to approach, and Buffy tightened her grip on her sword.
“Look alive girls!” she shouted to her slayer comrades. Behind her, Kennedy as she continued to shoot at the crystals far above, oblivious to the battle around her.
Underground Cavern – Same Time
“Willow?” Xander called, pressing his palms against the barrier. He paid no attention to the sparks of energy that leapt from the contact.
“It’s getting kind of toasty in here!” she shouted back.
“Did anyone bring pitons, or something?” Faith hazarded.
“What about going up there?” Marsha piped up.
“You’re kidding, right?” Robin asked.
“No,” she said, pointing. A section of wall and ceiling had collapsed, revealing the steel girders behind them that supported the projector. The progressing cave-ins had buckled the metal dangerously, in places tearing away the supporting beams.
“That’ll never support a slayer climbing on it,” Kennedy protested.
“Not you guys,” Marsha pointed out, “But I’ll make it.”
“What’s she doing?” Willow’s voice echoed from beyond the barrier.
“Faith?” Marsha pleaded.
She looked up at the sagging metalwork, then nodded. “Go for it, Blondie.”
“Somebody talk to me! What’s happening?” Willow insisted.
“Marsha’s going to shut off the barrier projector,” Rowena called down to Willow.
“She’s what?! I’m still your watcher, young lady!”
“I know!” Marsha called back. “I spent too much time breaking you in to get a new one now.”
“Dammit…someone cover her!” Willow shouted.
“Ken, that’s you,” Faith said. Kennedy nodded, and took the replacement crossbow handed to her. Mia offered Marsha the remaining supply of spare bolts. The trio sprinted towards the cavern wall, where Marsha began clambering upwards, using the gaping cracks as hand and footholds.
“Are you okay?” Rowena called down to Willow.
“Apart from being covered in gunk and getting a little too well done on the backside, I’m fine,” Willow called back.
“If it’s any consolation,” Rowena said, “I’m covered in gunk, as well.”
“Misery loves company, sweetie,” Willow replied.
Rowena smiled at the endearment. “Just hang in there, Will. We’re coming.”
Underground Cavern Ceiling – Moments Later
Marsha scrambled for a foothold as a ledge crumbled under her. She managed to reach one of the bent metal beams and hung onto it, swinging back and forth to flip herself up and onto the tangle of broken steel that had been embedded in the cavern ceiling. She rose gingerly to her feet and made her way forward, ducking to her hands and knees as the framework gave ominous groans. She rose again, taking deep, steadying breaths as the structure shuddered beneath her feet, and with arms out for balance she made her way forwards.
From the ground, she heard Faith say, “Look at her go!” but Marsha stayed focused on the beam in front of her as she took careful, yet quick, steps. She didn’t see that Faith was forced back into the action at the sound of Buffy’s distress call.
Marsha threw herself to one side as part of the structure gave way, tumbling down to smash against the top of the machine’s barrier. Hanging from one arm, she spared a glance down and got a dizzying view of Willow. The witch was tiny beneath her, staring up, clinging to the wall as the bottom of the pit blazed fiercely. A look of determination came over Marsha’s face.
She reached with her other hand for another beam, but it buckled when she tried to put her weight on it and broke free of its bolts. As she desperately looked around for another handhold, something whizzed past her. With a dull thunk, a crossbow bolt embedded itself at an angle in the ceiling.
“Hey!” she shouted, sounding strangely offended that someone in the battle might be shooting at her.
Another followed, and she looked down again to see Kennedy lowering her crossbow.
That’s when she noticed the location of the bolts. “Oh, hehe. Thanks!” she yelled, reaching for the protruding bolt needed to finish her journey. Finding that the tip was buried securely in the rock, she took a deep breath, let go of the framework behind her, and swung. All of Marsha’s weight was on the tiny metal spar. She reached for the second bolt, caught it, then flung herself forward, catching the edge of a beam as she fell.
The projector was barely five feet from her. She let go with one hand and drew a heavy knife from her belt, testing its weight.
“Is this thing going to blow up?” she yelled down.
“Probably,” Rowena’s voice echoed up to her, “so don’t hang around!”
“Great, now they tell me,” Marsha muttered to herself. With a snort of laughter she drew back her arm and flung the knife, spinning it sideways as it flew. It scythed through the crystals mounted on the projector, smashing a path from one side to the other. Blue and green lightning began to arc between the broken crystals, and the whole thing began to shake and emit a high-pitched while.
“Exit slayer, stage right,” Marsha said quickly, swinging back towards the embedded crossbow bolts. She reached the first, but as she swung towards the second a blast from the projector tossed her forward and she missed her grab.
“Marsha!” Willow screamed, seeing her fall. She tumbled wildly towards the burning machine pit, then smacked into the barrier and began to slide down its curved surface.
“Ow!” Marsha whined as she rolled end over end. Above her the projector gave another burst of flame, fragments of crystal showering down like hail.
“Marsha, move!” Willow yelled. The young Slayer flung out her arms to stop her roll, and in the instant she had her legs beneath her. The slayer lunged forward, towards the edge of the pit. With a blinding flash, the barrier failed, visible for a split second as a hemisphere covering the machine pit. Then it was gone, leaving Marsha again falling, head-first, just short of safety.
Robin leapt from the edge of the pit, catching her in mid-air. The pair of them landed heavily on the sloped wall and began to roll, but an arm reached out and grasped Robin’s hand. Willow chanted and held on as if her own life depended on it, despite the weight of two bodies hanging from her, until Robin managed to get a foothold against the wall, just below the witch.
Xander and Rowena scrambled down into the pit, with Kennedy right behind them. Collectively, they hauled Willow up and helped her out. Seeing Rowena had Willow securely in hand, Kennedy and Xander went to help Robin and Marsha. Slayer and Weapons Master together managed to carry Marsha up onto safe ground before hoisting Robin up behind her.
“I’m okay,” Willow said in a dazed voice, as she and Rowena reached the cavern floor. She tried to stand up, but her legs wobbled, and only Rowena’s quick grab kept her from falling.
“Okay, but maybe not a-okay,” she admitted, as Rowena held her, hugging her fiercely.
“You’re alright?” she whispered as she pushed Willow’s hair out of the way and examined her face.
“I’m alright,” Willow replied. “But where’s Marsha?”
She saw Xander and Robin helping the young slayer out of the pit. Xander picked her up and carried her. A pained look was on the girl’s face, but she was alive.
“I’m okay,” the young slayer said quickly, noting Willow’s concerned expression.
“Okay but for a broken leg,” Robin added. “Sorry about that. If it means anything I’m in a world of hurt now too, kiddo.” He was leaning heavily holding his knee, obviously badly bruised or broken from his fall.
“Better than a busted head,” Marsha noted. “Brell!” The group turned to see the demon sprint over to them, nervously eyeing the fighting still going on nearby.
“Help her,” Rowena said, and she and Brell together supported Willow as they made for the tunnel entrance. Rowena groaned and Willow turned to her.
“Your rib,” the witch said, moving away.
Rowena grabbed Willow’s hand to keep the witch’s arm around her shoulder. “Nothing more drugs won’t fix,” Rowena smiled. “Let’s get you out of here so the slayers can do their job without us interfering any more.”
Xander and Marsha followed alongside them.
“Need a hand?” Robin puffed as Faith staggered over to him, carrying Marie. She set the young woman down with the other injured slayers in the corner.
She turned back and watched him trying not to put his weight on his leg. “You’re hurt, aren’t you, Ace?”
“I’m fine,” he brushed it off.
“Stand up straight,” Faith challenged.
Robin tried to appear like he was standing on both legs. Faith shook her head. “Men. You lie like dogs. Get outta here,” she said. She gave him a quick kiss and pitched a thumb over her shoulder.
“No, let me help the others,” he insisted.
“Well, start by ordering some watchers to get their asses down here. We lost comms,” she said, showing him a frayed wire that was still connected to her ear. She popped it out and tossed it casually to the ground. “I’m sure Andy and Giles are freaking right about now.”
Robin looked over to where Faith had put Marie to see a pair of injured Slayers, one with a broken arm, one painfully holding her ribs, standing guard over a half-dozen unconscious girls. “You’ll be okay?” he asked Faith.
“No problem, Ace.” She grinned. “Go get them help and then get yourself bandaged up.” She turned back to look at the rest of her troops. “This won’t take long,” she assured him.
“Faith,” he said, making her stop in her stride toward the slayers. “I love you,” he said sincerely.
She gave him a wicked grin. “I love you too, Ace. Now go on. This could get ugly…for them,” she said, nodding toward the demons.
With a smile, he began to leave the cavern.
Faith walked over to the remaining slayers and pointed to Kennedy, Buffy, Mia and Vi. “You four stay,” she said. “Everyone else, grab an injured slayer and get upstairs. Understood?”
With much relief, the slayers quickly went to the corner to see who they could help and began to file out. Faith and her company formed up around her, glaring defiance at the last remnant of the Engineer’s army. The demons, a fraction of their former number, were wounded and bloodied. Some were looking more nervous than ferocious as the slayers casually advanced, step by step, toward them.
“Anyone got anything witty to say?” Faith asked, picking up another axe from the ground to add to the one already in her hand.
“Sorry,” Buffy replied, “I used up all my best lines years ago.”
“Ah, well,” Faith shrugged, “let’s just kill ’em and tell everyone we said somethin’ real clever first. Girls?”
The slayers charged ahead.
End of Act Seven