Watchers Council – Conference Room – Evening
Willow entered the main conference room swiftly to find Rowena already there, reading the book in front of her with a frustrated expression.
“I’ve called Vi,” she replied to the unvoiced question in Rowena’s eyes. “She’s moving them out to another location tonight, but it’s only a matter of time before Becca hits them all when she doesn’t find them there.”
“What’s up?” Faith asked, as she entered behind Willow.
Willow held up a finger. “What’s wrong, Ro?”
“It’s this damn book. Where the hell is Giles, anyway?” she said, aggravated. “I can only read part of this passage. The rest…it’s in Sumerian, I think.”
“It’s okay,” Willow told her.
“No, it’s not,” Rowena answered, then let out a sigh.
“No, Dawn reads Sumerian,” Willow clarified, going over to the phone and dialing.
“Well, I hope she’s home. Otherwise my ineptness is costing us time.”
“It’s not your fault and we both know it,” Willow said to Rowena, before putting the phone back up to her ear quickly. “Yeah, Dawnie. I need you in the meeting room like ten minutes ago, okay?”
Willow quickly hung up and walked back over, as Faith asked again, “Life and death stuff, Will? What’s the deal?”
“Becca’s working for someone, or something, called Imbethit the Assassin,” Willow answered.
Faith’s eyebrows shot up.
“But she might not realize it,” Rowena added, holding up the book. “Or if she does, she might not for much longer. These Hunters obey a figure called Imbethit. One of the attributes of these Hunters is they can change whoever they want, or, more accurately, capitalize on who they truly are deep down.”
“Like mind control?” Faith asked.
“Yeah,” Rowena answered. “They prey on the person’s most innate nature and use it to make them their willing accomplices.”
“So,” Faith shrugged. “She bakes extra cookies tonight. Where’s the harm?”
Willow looked bewildered. “Faith’s gotta point. If that text is correct, then why is Becca all rampage-y.”
“I think everyone here knows that I respect Becca,” Rowena made sure to preface her statement, “but the woman can be vindictive, especially when it comes to protecting people she’s loyal to and loves. And right now she’s loyal to this Imbethit, just as his Hunters are. I watched her rip off Amy’s fingernail last year, and she had no qualms about cutting off her fingers if she’d had to. Becca might be demure at times, but when she’s pushed I’m sure she’s a hellcat underneath. And right now…”
“This Imbethit is pushing her buttons,” Faith finished.
“Exactly,” Rowena answered. “Imbethit uses someone from the inside, but not so inside that it might cause immediate suspicion. Becca is perfect for the role. She’s not an official part of the Council, but she is the love interest of the Council’s leading officer.”
“What else does it say?” Willow asked.
“That’s what I don’t know. This book is written in so many different languages to-to cover its tracks, I can’t read the rest. I don’t know how we stop her.”
“Here now,” Dawn said as she swept in the door, a little out of breath. Willow immediately slid the book toward her and pointed.
“What does this say?” the priestess asked.
Dawn paused for a few moments before answering. “The guest, I think it says guest, uh, the guest is bonded to the killer or assassin and…bonds are broken only by death or purification of spirit. Some kind of ritual, maybe? Anyway, let’s see, In our views, uh, no, experiences, in our experiences it is best to choose death, since the guest is empowered with enormous strength.“
“We’ve got strength on our side too,” Faith answered. “And if that doesn’t work, we can always tranq her.”
“No…the baby,” they all heard Giles say from the doorway. “You can’t put anything like that in her system.”
They all turned to see him still wearing his bloody shirt and sporting bandages on his stomach and shoulder.
“What the hell happened to you?” Faith asked, as she and Willow gently helped him to a nearby chair.
“Becca. The hospital wanted to keep me, but I wouldn’t stay,” Giles answered. He winced as he tried to get comfortable. “Where is she now?”
“She’s on her way to Vi’s hideout on Maple, but we’ve moved them to Sycamore,” Willow answered, her face showing more obvious concern for Giles.
Giles turned to Rowena. “Will she survive?” he asked.
“There’s a ritual, according to Dawn,” Rowena answered. “We were just getting to that part.” She looked expectantly at Dawn, who was still staring at Giles in shock.
“Right,” the junior watcher answered, slowly tearing her eyes away from his bloodstained shirt and turning back to the book on the table before her. “Give me a minute to see if I can figure out what we need to do.”
“What do you want me to do, Giles?” Faith asked, her tone indicating her impatience for action.
Giles paused for a moment. “She’s working with the assassins that arrived?”
“Yeah, but we don’t think she knows it,” Willow replied. “And chances are, they’re all heading over to Maple together.”
Giles paused again, then turned to Faith. “Go to the safe house on Maple. Bring Becca home. If you can kill these demon assassins, do so, but I want her capture to be the priority.”
“Bringing her back will take time and slayer power away from knockin’ out these assassins. Can we afford to leave Vi alone in the field that long if they decide to split up and search the city?” Faith asked.
“We don’t have a choice,” Giles answered.
Faith let out a heavy sigh. “Romantic date or not, can you call Ken and Mia to meet Vi?” Faith asked, looking at Willow.
“Absolutely,” Willow answered.
Faith gave Willow and Rowena an uncertain look and then a brisk nod before hustling from the room. Giles looked to Dawn.
“Let’s see about finding a way to fix this,” he said, motioning his head toward the book. Dawn slid the book towards him, grabbed a legal pad from the center of the table and came to sit beside him. She started jotting down notes as they worked together to translate the book between them.
Council Safe House on Sycamore – Later that Night
A host of demons were putting down their belongings and talking amongst themselves in the front hall of the second Council safe house, while Vi stood alone in the relative quiet of the kitchen.
“So, no back up?” Vi asked over the radio.
Safe House on Maple – Same Time
“Not yet,” Faith answered. Twenty other girls stood around her, looking out the windows. “Sorry, but I’ve got orders for us to get Becca home first. Will’s trying to reach Ken and Mia, so they’ll be on the way shortly…I hope.” Faith looked out the window and saw three figures outside. “Looks like our package has arrived, but we’re one light, so look sharp out there. Someone might be coming for you.”
Faith turned off the phone and turned her attention to her troops.
“You ten to the back. The rest of you come with me,” she motioned, leading the way to the front door.
Lakeshore City Park – Same Time
Kennedy and Mia both lay on the small hill, looking up at the constellations above.
“I’ve found this is really the only place you can see any stars. The city is just too bright, but over there, on the water…” Mia pointed as she spoke.
“Oh yeah,” Kennedy said, with a tone of dawning wonder as she smiled.
“See? There’s advantages to dating someone that’s had to sleep out in nature from time to time.” Mia grinned.
Kennedy rolled on her side and looked at Mia. “I’m finding out more and more advantages everyday.”
Mia smiled and Kennedy was moving in for a kiss when her cell phone rang. She let her forehead fall to Mia’s, who had begun to giggle. She opened the phone and gave a short, “Yes?”
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
Willow stood nervously with the conference room phone to her ear. “First, let me preface this call by saying I am so sorry. But we’ve got a situation.”
Lakeshore City Park – Same Time
“Don’t we always,” Kennedy answered.
Mia watched as Kennedy’s face moved from annoyance to concern to scrunching her eyebrows in confusion.
“We’re on the way,” Kennedy told her before hanging up. She rose and pulled Mia to her feet. “Duty calls. Vi might be in trouble.”
Safehouse on Maple – Moments Later
Faith looked out the window of the door to see three men walking toward the porch.
“Where’s Becca?” one of the girls asked to her left.
“Son of a bitch,” Faith muttered, grabbing her phone. After a few moments, she heard Vi’s voice. “Becca’s not here with them. She’s probably going to you.”
Before Faith could add more, the door crashed open and the three men morphed into demon form. In the first few seconds, multiple slayers went flying from the blows of the Hunters.
Safehouse on Sycamore – Same Time
“Faith?” Vi asked into the phone. “Faith!”
She could hear the sound of a fight and then something crashing, followed by…silence. She quickly hung up and put the phone back on her waistband. She paused for just a moment in thought.
“What is it?” Lori asked, coming over.
“We should move out I think.”
Vi nodded. “Yeah, let’s get everyone out the back door. Clem,” she called over. He looked up at her. “Bring the bus to the back street, if you would.”
“Sure thing,” he answered, handing his cheese snacks back to Brell.
“Trouble?” Brell asked, as he walked over to the two slayers.
“Maybe,” Vi answered, as she watched Clem walk out the front door. “Let’s get everyone in a single line and lead them out the back. Okay?”
“Yes, Red Slayer,” Brell answered, going back into the living room to organize everyone.
Vi walked to the back door and opened it, only to find Becca standing there.
“Leaving so soon?” Becca asked, a moment before her fist connected with Vi’s chin and sent the slayer to the ground.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Xander and Andrew each held a box, while Dawn, Skye, Willow and Rowena put in various items.
“I think that’s the last of it,” Willow told them. “Dawn, Skye, can you go get the ice?”
“Sure thing,” Skye said, as they dashed from the room.
“I hope Dawn’s Sumerian is accurate, or we could have some psycho woman running rampant in the Council,” Xander told them.
“Have a little faith. It’s me, and if this doesn’t work then…” Willow paused.
“Then what?” Andrew asked innocently.
“I wing it,” Willow replied.
Safehouse on Sycamore – Same Time
Lori watched Vi fall, but she couldn’t do anything to prevent the blow. She ran from the front of the house to the back where Becca stood. She stopped just short of the older woman.
“They told me the story, Becca,” Lori began, hands outstretched in what she hoped was a non-threatening gesture. “You’re confused right now, and no one wants to hurt you here, okay?”
Vi tried to get her feet again, but Becca kicked her in the stomach, sending her back to the floor.
Safehouse on Maple – Same Time
Faith watched as three girls fired their crossbows at once into a single demon, but he kept charging, casually pulling the arrows out as if they were nothing more than an annoyance.
“Gimme that,” Faith said, taking a crossbow from another girl who was loaded and taking aim. She fired a shot at the demon, hitting him in the eye just as he was about to strike one of her slayers.
He stumbled back and howled in pain as another slayer took out his other eye with another bolt.
“Go for the eyes!” Faith yelled to her girls.
Safehouse on Sycamore – Same Time
Lori tried to step closer, but Becca charged and grabbed her by the throat, then tossed the slayer to the ground. Becca then began to open the drawers in the small kitchen. Thinking fast, Brell came up behind her and grabbed both of Becca’s arms to pin her in place. She reared her head forward and then back, slamming into Brell with enough force for him to lose his hold. She turned to him, knife in hand, and stabbed him in the stomach.
As she ran toward the living room, the demon refugees began to scatter, trying to avoid her haphazard swings in their direction. In the kitchen, Lori crawled over to Brell.
“Are you alright?” Lori asked.
“Brell be fine. Help others,” he told her, then he went over to check on Vi.
Becca’s attention was suddenly caught by the sight of Lori rising to stand in the doorway. “You just don’t give up, do ya?” the older woman asked. She raised the knife in preparation for a throw.
Then a sudden loud crash from the front door caught everyone’s attention. They all turned to see Kennedy standing in the broken doorway, with Mia behind her. “Let me tell you right now, Becca,” Kennedy declared, “I’m cranky and hormonal too. So we can do this the easy way or the easier way.”
Vi, rubbing her chin, now stood beside Lori in the room’s other doorway.
Becca wore a determined expression. “Imbethit’s will –”
“Is interrupting my date,” Kennedy finished with some annoyance. “So either get in the van nicely, or I drag you there. Those are your two options.” Becca screamed and charged toward Kennedy. The slayer rolled her eyes. “Fine. Have it your way,” she muttered.
Mia stepped in front of Kennedy as Becca raised her arm to strike. The Asian slayer grabbed Becca’s wrist, forcing the weapon to fall. In an instant, Mia had the woman on the ground and in a prone position.
“Damn,” Kennedy whispered, obviously impressed. “Guess I don’t know everything you can do yet,” she added in a louder voice.
“Special ops and all that,” Mia answered with a grin.
Safehouse on Maple – Same Time
As the Hunter fell dead at Faith’s feet, the senior slayer looked around the room.
“Man, I need a raise,” she grumbled. “Okay, girls,” she told the group. “Time to go clean up the other mess on Sycamore.”
Safehouse on Sycamore – Same Time
As Clem and Brell helped load the refugees on the bus again, Lori took Brell aside.
“Are you sure you’re fine?” she asked him. “She drove that knife straight into your gut.”
Brell lifted his sliced shirt to show nothing. “Can’t kill Brell with knife,” he told her. “See? Brell okay.” He smiled his disconcerting, yet oddly reassuring smile at the slayer.
At the front of the house, Faith walked over to the van, which was visibly rocking back and forth. Ken and Mia sat on the bumper, occasionally bouncing from the jarring.
“Someone gettin’ some action in there?” Faith joked.
Ken smiled and shook her head. “No, just the crazy woman trying to escape. Wanna be the one to ride in back?”
At another hard bang on the van’s back doors, Faith said, “Not particularly, no.” Kennedy and Mia smiled and looked at each other as Faith walked back to her girls.
“Hop on the bus, Gus,” she told them. “I gotta ride shotgun home. You guys head along with the refugees for the rest of the night.”
Collectively they nodded and started to walk away, while Faith walked back over to Kennedy and Mia.
“Ready?” Kennedy asked.
“Let’s do it.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
The front doors of the council slammed open. Vi, Kennedy, Faith and Mia each held onto their portion of Becca, who was screaming and fighting all the way in.
“Oh, Honey! We’re home,” Faith called out.
“Bring her in here!” Willow called out from the Coven Room. “Put her in the tub. Submerge her, all the way.”
As the slayers moved through the lobby, Willow directed them inside, where a large tub full of water waited. Giles rose with a helpless expression as the slayers struggled with their human cargo.
“Easier said than done,” Kennedy said in a strained tone. Becca’s head thrashed to where Kennedy had her shoulder and the older woman bit her hand. “Urghhh,” the slayer groaned. “Hurry this up would ya?”
“We’re trying,” Vi answered, as she and Mia tried to control Becca’s thrashing feet.
Once over the tub, Faith said, “Now!” and they all collectively lowered her into the tub, pushing her underwater as she continued to thrash. Water sprayed over them.
“Geeze, that’s cold,” Mia said, as she continued to press down on Becca’s legs with Vi.
Willow sprinkled something in the water and began to chant under her breath. Suddenly, as Willow stopped chanting, Becca’s body stilled. “Pull her up!” Willow yelled.
Faith and Kennedy each took a shoulder and pulled her above the surface. Becca took a huge breath and began to cough.
“Is she okay?” Andrew asked from the far side of the room. “Did it work?”
“Becca, are you alright?” Willow asked.
Becca looked confused. “I’m cold,” she answered.
Willow closed her eyes and smiled, releasing the breath she held. “Let’s get you out of there,” the witch told her.
Becca absently nodded as Kennedy and Faith helped her to her feet and out of the tub. When she turned, she saw Giles with a small grin and his arm in a sling. A confused look came over Becca’s face, closely followed by one of horror. “Oh God,” she muttered.
Giles walked over and put his hand behind her head, kissing her dripping forehead. “It’s alright. You’re alright now.”
The rest of the room turned away, as Becca began to cry.
“Let’s get you bundled up,” Giles said softly. Willow took a towel and wrapped it around Becca. With a nod of thanks from Giles to Willow, he and Becca walked together out of the room.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Later that Night
Dressed in a bathrobe, Becca leaned against Giles’s good shoulder as he stroked her hair in silence. Becca cleared her throat and said, “I think maybe I should leave.”
“I don’t want you staying alone tonight,” Giles told her mildly. “So the answer is no.”
“No, Rupert. I mean leave for good,” Becca replied. Giles paused and acted like he was going to say something, but stopped. “And obviously from that silence you agree,” Becca added.
“No,” Giles replied slowly, “I just don’t want to say this wrong. It’s too important.” He paused again, then sighed. “I understand why you don’t feel safe and you want t-to go. I do…But…I want you in my life. I want this child in my life. So all I can do is beg that you-you put your insecurities aside for the moment a-and look at the whole and not just one part.”
Becca rose up and turned until she could look into his eyes straight on. “Wait a second. You think I want to leave because I blame you for this?”
“Heavens no,” Becca replied. “I suggested leaving because I can never say I’m sorry enough. You might never trust me again. My god, Rupert, I almost killed you tonight. Why would you want to keep me in your life?”
“Love,” Giles answered soundly. “I love you Rebecca, probably from the first day I met you. A-And despite what happens, I always will…I don’t blame you for any of this tonight. So please…stay. Not just for tonight, but forever.”
Becca gave him a sad grin and nodded as he pulled her into a warm embrace. She sighed as she leaned against him and he quietly went back to stroking her hair.
Presidium Citadel – Panopticon – Same Time
The Lover watched patiently as, in the morass of images surrounding her, Willow cleared up the remnants of the cleansing ritual in her Coven Room. She barely acknowledged the creature that appeared in the chamber’s doorway and bowed subserviently.
“Highness,” it said in a melodious, yet expressionless, female voice, “his Lordship, the Flayer, humbly requests your presence in the Apparitarium.”
The Lover smiled to herself and waved a hand, dispelling the Panopticon’s images. The minion fell in behind her as she strode out the doorway and through the Citadel’s labyrinthine passageways.
“‘Humbly requests’?” the Lover asked over her shoulder with some amusement. “Those were not his exact words, surely.”
“His exact words were…disrespectful,” the minion admitted, dipping her head further, as if it saddened her to say such a thing. The smile on the Lover’s dark lips curled a fraction more.
She reached a tall doorway and dismissed the minion with a gesture. Entering alone, she walked to the center of a vast circular chamber, one half of which was molded from the Citadel’s usual blue-black stone, slick with an oily film. The other half, which the Lover faced, was polished to a perfect mirror finish, the concave surface warping the reflections in it.
The Lover’s lips parted a fraction, releasing a thin mist that hung in the air in front of her. She raised a claw and, with a few casual strokes, inscribed a complex pattern in the mist. The pattern promptly vanished once the final stroke was made. The mirrored half of the chamber blurred, colors blossoming beneath its silver surface, and, in seconds, the image of a landscape formed.
Far away, on the horizon of a plain of broken gray-green rock, an inferno blazed through the ruins of a city. The sky, already dark with clouds and blue starlight, was fouled by plumes of smoke, rising from the horizon in every direction. Distant shapes wheeled and soared through the clouds, and in the haze from the fires inhuman silhouettes moved.
Nearer the point where the landscape became the Citadel’s chamber, a platform had been erected, fashioned from bones still slick with blood, with tatters of flesh hanging from them. Around it, dozens of demon warriors knelt, patiently awaiting the word of their master. The Flayer stood atop the platform, quietly conversing with a handful of massive, battle-scarred demons in ornate armor. He turned, and his subordinates moved to the far edge of his platform and knelt, keeping their heads bowed as the Flayer spoke.
“The Galas hell is conquered, as you see,” he said, “but a Triad has been lost, its instrument recovered alive and cleansed, and its prey escaped. It was following those who fled to Earth. Do you still regard these pet humans of yours as fascinating?” He snarled the last word contemptuously.
“Indeed,” the Lover said, ignoring the Flayer’s tone, “their abilities are, by the standards of such beings, impressive. The Triad proved to be a most enlightening test.”
“My warriors are not tests,” the Flayer growled. “The humans try my patience, and Imbethit –”
“Has other children,” the Lover interrupted. “He will not miss a single Triad. And the humans are under my aegis. Your warriors are not to move against them without my consent.” The Flayer held her gaze for a moment, then nodded curtly.
“Yes, Highness,” he muttered.
“The refugees are of little concern,” the Lover continued. “Their leader was recovered during an attempt to escape to the Malcissus hell. The Shaper is eviscerating him now. I will gather his thoughts afterwards.”
“The creatures of this hell are very hierarchical,” the Flayer noted. “An example should be made of their leader.”
“What remains of him will be delivered to you alive,” the Lover agreed. “Do as you see fit, and prepare Galas to be added to our whole.”
“Yes, Highness,” the Flayer said again. “And the humans?”
“Are my concern,” the Lover finished, “not yours.”
Galas Hell – Same Time
The Flayer stood rigid as the image of the Lover faded from view, his heavy brow furrowed in thought. The winds whipped up across the plain, carrying the distant sounds of infernos blazing and huge creatures roaring and braying. Then with a low growl, he turned and gestured for his subordinates to follow as he marched through his troops.
End of True Colors
Next on Watchers…
The gang dress up as Clue characters for Andrew’s Halloween costume party, but everything is not as it seems and the festivities threaten to go dreadfully wrong.
Click here to read “Red Herring” now!