Watchers Council – Hallway – Night
“I just wish I could have told him. About us,” Willow began in a low voice. Rowena listened, but then they both stepped slightly apart as Xander turned the corner.
“Hey guys,” said Xander.
“Hi,” murmured Willow. She gave a minimal smile, then pointed to the conference room down the hall. Without another word, she hurried there, Rowena and Xander watching her depart.
“So,” said Xander after a moment, “any idea what Giles is all hot under ye olde collar about?”
Rowena shrugged as they kept their casual pace. “Whatever Faith and Kennedy saw on patrol.”
“That makes sense!” Xander grinned. “Ah…listen…Rowena…”
“I don’t want this to sound too awkward or anything – although it’s probably waaayyy too late for that – but I was wondering if maybe we could go out for some coffee sometime?”
Rowena appeared unsure how to answer the request. “Well…”
“Or tea! The other hot tasty beverage you like.” He gave a nervous laugh, which subsided after a moment.
Rowena took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. “The truth is, Xander –”
Before she could finish, Xander cut her off.
“Just friendly tea,” he insisted. “I’d like to get back maybe to where we were before you left. Spend some time outside the Council walls. Okay?”
Rowena didn’t meet his eyes for a moment, but then turned back with what looked like a genuine smile. “I’d like that,” she answered.
“Good. And no strings,” he repeated.
“Agreed, no strings.” She smiled as they both headed into the briefing room.
Inside the conference room, Giles was looking his most serious. Kennedy and Faith sat in the front, and listening nearby were Robin, Dawn, Skye, Andrew and a newly-arrived Willow, as well as Jeff, Vi, Mia, and Lori.
“…I cannot over-emphasize how grave the situation…”
“Hey, guys!” Xander said as he walked in with Rowena. “What’s up? Another end of the world?”
“Not the world, no. Cleveland, possibly North America.”
“How so?” Rowena asked.
Giles turned to Rowena. “Kennedy and Faith saw seven Mizor demons while out on patrol.”
Rowena’s eyes widened in queasy terror. “Oh my God,” she breathed.
“Yes,” Giles said solemnly.
Rowena turned to Kennedy and Faith. “You’re sure? Absolutely sure, without any doubt?”
“Hey, from what Giles is saying,” answered Faith, “I really wish the answer wasn’t yes.”
“Seven? You counted seven?” Her voice rose an octave.
“Uh…Ro?” Xander said. “You’re kinda making me nervous here. I mean – demons are demons, right?”
Rowena looked at him with horrified eyes and slowly shook her head.
“Mizors,” Giles explained, “only swarm to reproduce and try to find a human being who can survive the process of being turned into a Mizor.”
“Like vampires?” asked Dawn.
“No, not like vampires. It’s more like a combination of infection and, well, surgery. Perhaps one out of every ten thousand or so will emerge as a Mizor. Everyone else dies. Quickly, if they’re very, very fortunate.”
“And how do they know who can become a Mizor?” was the next thing Dawn asked.
“They don’t,” was Rowena’s answer. “They just keep attacking people. That’s their only means of reproduction.”
“Who then die,” offered Giles, “screaming.”
Kennedy coughed. Everyone turned to her. “Okay, enough with the gloom and doom, people! Whatever they’re called, these things are monsters, right? So, we’re slayers! We slay ’em! The only question is…how?”
“Not that easy,” Vi said. She motioned to Rowena to explain.
“Right,” said Rowena. “No one’s ever managed to do it. As far as we know, Mizors are indestructible.”
Now everyone looked at Giles, obviously hoping he would contradict her. Instead, he wiped his glasses.
“Well,” he said after a moment, “that’s not necessarily true. One swarm of Mizors was successfully destroyed, but it’s not an option anyone would find desirable. Nor, quite frankly, feasible.”
“But,” said Rowena, “I went through every single reference in the grand archives for my thesis. There was no reference to –”
“The information was restricted.” Giles looked increasingly uncomfortable. “In time, I’ve no doubt you’d have achieved the seniority to read the files. It happened in 1945. A colleague in Japan managed to get word to London of three Mizors being sighted. The old Council pulled quite a lot of strings with the American government to respond. That’s why the first atomic blast was aimed at Hiroshima instead of Kyoto.”
Silence blanketed the room.
“And that worked?” asked Robin, finally.
“Yes,” Giles replied heavily. “Yes, it did.”
“Well,” Xander began, “we don’t have any nuclear weapons handy, do we?”
“No, we do not. Even if we did, we wouldn’t have time to clear the city population. And despite our contacts, I don’t think the Pentagon would approve the nuclear annihilation of Cleveland.”
“Okay. That’s good. And bad.” Xander paused before continuing. “No, I take that back. There’s no good in anything you just said, is there?”
“Then where do we go from here?” Robin asked.
“I believe,” Giles said, donning his glasses like armor and beginning to pace, “the first thing to do is re-examine everything known about the threat, looking for some kind of weakness or vulnerability. Rowena, we have copies of the restricted data about Mizors and previous swarms here on computer. I’ll leave that to you. Willow…have you been in contact with Althenea yet?”
“We’ve arranged to have a long phone call in about an hour…”
“Good. But what we’ll need from her now is any hint, however slight, of something that might slow, or better yet, somehow stop the swarm. Faith.”
Faith looked up at him.
“We’ll need a team of experienced slayers to keep the Mizors under surveillance. If I recall correctly, the swarm proper doesn’t begin until enough of the creatures have gathered in one place. Is that right?” He looked at Rowena.
She answered, “Yes, that’s right.”
“Very well,” Giles continued. “Then the second task for all slayers is to try and keep any of the Mizors from joining the others. That, at least, will buy us time. Hopefully.” His face looked flushed, almost feverish. “Do not – I cannot emphasize this enough – do not attempt to engage them yourselves.”
“Maybe we should also see about finding an excuse to evacuate the city?” suggested Rowena.
“Is it really that bad?” Jeff asked.
“It’s shaping up to be, yes,” Giles answered, before turning back to Rowena. “However, evacuation, I fear, would do little good. Modern cities simply don’t have viable escape plans. And anything that would motivate citizens to leave on their own is likely to cause panic, even riots.” Giles’ voice sank low. “Still…”
“Giles,” said Xander, gaining his attention. “Do you want me to go with the patrols? I think I can handle shepherding a few flocks.”
“I think…” Giles hesitated rather a long time. He took a deep breath before continuing. “That would be a good idea. If Faith’s team isn’t able to stop them from gathering, the order of business will be to get everyone off the streets. I don’t want you engaging any demons, just helping the people stay inside.”
“Will do,” Xander said after a moment.
“Alright then, girls,” Faith said, standing up. “You heard the man. Let’s move out.”
Most of those in the room moved to leave. Willow gestured for Jeff, Andrew and the other members of her Coven to join her.
“There’s some kind of super spell we can whip up, right? Maybe teleport them all to Mars or something?” Dawn asked the small group. The question sounded fearful and uncertain. Skye took her hand and Jeff hovered.
Willow stole a glance at Giles. “I don’t know. We’ll see. I need to talk to Althenea.”
Rowena approached Giles, whose mind seemed somewhere else. “Giles,” she said, getting his attention. “I’ll need to know where the restricted data on the Mizors is.”
Giles blinked for a moment before replying. “Yes, yes you will.”
Courtyard – Early Morning
Nine Mizor demons made up the circle now, the original seven having been joined by another female and by a male with strips of black leather sewn across his face. So far, they weren’t doing anything but standing in a circle.
Mia, Faith and Xander watched all this from the entrance of the courtyard.
“Looks quiet now,” Xander whispered.
“Now,” emphasized Mia.
“Well,” Faith began, “they haven’t started their swarm thingy yet.” Just at that moment, her cell phone rang. Xander jumped, but the Mizors didn’t react at all. “Faith,” she said, putting the device to her ear.
Alley – Same Time
Lori had her own cell phone out, while Kennedy and Vi kept their eyes on the strange creature walking towards them.
“Okay, there’s what looks like a Mizor headed your way from Kenmore and Devilliers,” Lori said. “About a quarter mile.”
Faith’s voice was clear from the phone. “See if there’s any way you can delay it. Don’t fight the thing, just see if maybe there’s something to put in its way. Copy?”
The Mizor was now close enough to see clearly. Weirdly, the face might once have been beautiful. Certainly the features were lovely, almost classical. Yet a hairless scalp had been peeled open, with wires from her shoulders holding the long flaps of skin atop her head open. Both young women grimaced at the figure, which took no notice of them but walked past.
“Got it,” said Lori, in a trembling voice.
Courtyard – Same Time
“That’s a good idea, ya know?” mentioned Xander as Faith put her phone away.
“Blocking the way. I mean,” he pointed to the courtyard, “there’s only one way in here. And look – a great big garbage dumpster.”
Both Mia and Faith looked at the lone entrance to the courtyard, and then at the large metal dumpster.
“What the hell,” Mia shrugged.
They started to move.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Early Morning
Robin entered the computer room, but Rowena didn’t seem to notice. She tapped her pen absently on the legal pad of scribbled notes beside the keyboard, all her attention fixed on the monitor before her.
“Ro?” When she didn’t answer, he stepped closer. “Earth to Ro.”
She jumped. “Oh. Robin. Hi.” There was sweat on her forehead.
“I was helping the Coven do some research and decided I needed some coffee if I’m going to keep burning the midnight oil.” Robin paused and looked at his watch. “Okay, the four a.m. oil at this point. Want some?”
“Oil?” Rowena asked, confused.
Robin grinned. “Coffee.”
“Oh no. No, thank you.” She stared at him. After a moment, she asked “Have they found anything? Willow? The Coven?”
“They found out about a coven that tried to stop a Mizor swarm three hundred years ago,” he sighed. “The survivors left a detailed list of everything they tried, not one of which worked.”
“Yeah. And every single spell Willow had thought of using was on that list. Damn things just don’t react to spells the way anything else does.”
She nodded, jerkily. “Maybe Althenea will have some ideas.”
“Hopefully. I mean, there must be some advances in three hundred years, right?” Robin came around and glanced at her legal pad. “Any progress on this end?”
In answer, Rowena flipped several pages of her pad, revealing page after page of single words, diagrams, dates and the like. “My notes aren’t very legible ’til I’ve had a chance to transcribe them. But so far, the only information I’ve found is what we already knew. An atomic blast will destroy them, but nothing less than that will do more than slow them down.”
“Somehow,” replied Robin, “I doubt that the mayor would take kindly to someone dropping a nuclear bomb on his city. Especially now the Browns are back in the NFL.” He smiled, but Rowena just looked at him blankly. “Not to mention losing Jimi Hendrix’s guitar and ZZ Top’s Eliminator car at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he continued.
Rowena smiled back. It was a wan thing, but she made the effort. “Yeah, Becca would hate us.”
He reached over and simply touched her shoulder. In a very different tone of voice, he said, “We’ll get through this. One way or another.”
Rowena looked searchingly at him for a moment, then nodded.
“You sure you don’t want some coffee?”
Robin left her, and Rowena watched him go, every trace of expression draining from her features. Once the door was shut, she returned to the exact point in her legal pad she had been before and stared once again at the screen. Scrolling down, she read the reports, clearly not wanting to miss a single word. With her free hand, she wrote a name and a date on the legal pad. Her hand shook slightly as she did so. Then she went searching in the document again, breathlessly reading every word until she read…something.
She stopped, leaned slowly back, and stared with horrified eyes at the screen and at her pad. As she did, tears welled up in her eyes.
“No…” she whispered, putting her fingers over her lips.
She looked over her shoulder and around the room, before moving the mouse around and reaching down to pop out a floppy disk. Holding the disk tightly in her left hand, she moved her right index finger over the delete key, pausing for a moment before striking it.
Courtyard – Early Morning
After blocking the entrance with one garbage dumpster, Xander and the two slayers had managed to find a second one further up the street and used it to block the entrance as well. They were just pushing the second one into place when they spotted a strange moving figure down the alley, illuminated by security lights and the ambient glow from a street lamp.
“Heads up,” Faith warned, indicating the figure.
The three of them stepped aside as the creature approached. They could see it was female, or, at least, it had been female. She went right past them without so much as blinking. Vi ran up beside them from the direction the Mizor had come.
“Well,” said Faith to Xander with a grin, “ya gonna ask her out?” She tilted her head at the female demon.
“Very funny,” said Xander.
Faith snorted and turned to Vi. “What are you doing here?”
“Back up. Ken sent me. She and Lori are going to check the other blocks to see if more are on the way.”
Faith nodded. “Well, so far all we’ve got is a bunch of standing around, but be ready.”
Vi bobbed her head.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Same Time
Rowena locked the door, then hurried back to her desk, taking a moment to wipe the tears from her eyes. She carefully tore several pages from her legal pad, the ones she’d been working on. As she did so, her hands trembled. Then, she carefully ripped each page to shreds. The shreds themselves went into a metal waste paper basket.
That’s when she opened a nearby window. She returned to the waste paper basket and took a matchbook from her pocket and set fire to her notes. Her hands shook to such a degree that the first match simply would not light and she had to throw it away. The second one took several strikes. But it eventually did light. The tiny tongue of flame touched the shredded notes of her research on how to stop the Mizor swarm. Soon, the fire spread to all the remnants of legal pad paper.
She watched them burn, tears still pouring from her eyes.
“I can’t, I can’t,” she whispered. “I…I…” she seemed to hesitate, looking at the flames again. “I just can’t,” she repeated, still wiping away tears.
Alley – Same Time
“That’s not gonna work,” Vi said, pointing to the dumpsters as she reached Faith, Mia and Xander.
“It might,” said Xander.
Vi shook her head. “Believe me.”
As they spoke, the female Mizor reached the first dumpster. With one hand, not even breaking stride, she pushed it aside. The force of that almost-lazy gesture sent the dumpster careening down the alley fifty feet, until it crashed into the side of a building with enough force to leave a dent in the concrete. The dumpster itself split open.
“I believe you,” said Xander.
“How the hell do we slow that down?” asked Mia in a shrill whisper.
“More firepower,” said Faith, although she didn’t sound convinced.
“Xander?” Vi turned to him. “Maybe if you modified some guns, some really powerful ones, we could use those to slow them down?”
He nodded. “Maybe. It’s worth a try.” Just at that moment, the Mizor sent the second dumpster crashing to the side. “Or it might just really piss them off.”
Then they heard something new, an atonal humming from inside the courtyard. It seemed to be coming from more than one source.
“No way is this good,” muttered Xander.
“We have to find out what’s happening,” said Vi.
“Right,” agreed Faith.
All of them approached the courtyard entrance. Beyond it, ten Mizor demons were in a perfect circle. It became obvious within seconds that they were, in fact, the source of the humming. Each produced a slightly different pitch, and the volume level fluctuated dramatically. The result was a discordant cacophony that was enough to set teeth on edge. The four slayers and one young man watched and listened, but except for the humming, nothing else seemed to be happening.
“I have a bad feeling about this,” whispered Vi.
“You’re not alone,” said Faith.
The weird humming continued, pitch and volume changing so erratically no one could sense a pattern. When or if it might end was a mystery. Out of curiosity, each of the five humans in the courtyard maneuvered to get a better look. And the demons themselves continued to ignore them.
Vi reached out and took Xander’s hand. He squeezed it. “We better get you outta here,” she told him.
Mia got closer to the Mizors with a wooden stake in hand, as if ready to strike.
Xander moved along with Vi, but quickly looked back at Mia.
Mizors…three of them…grabbed Mia. She struggled, but it was like a kitten trying to wriggle out of a gorilla’s grip…filaments of metal or something emerged from one of the Mizors…the filament tips bored into Mia’s flesh, into her head…she screamed as she went into convulsions…
“No!” Everyone turned to Xander’s scream, including Mia. She still stood, the closest of them all to the unmoving demons. “Mia, get away from there! Now!”
The humming abruptly stopped. At the very same instant, all ten of the demons spun around sharply. At last, the Mizors seemed to notice them.
Mia broke into a run, but the filaments from the nearest Mizor shot out from its fingers. They crossed the distance and latched onto Mia, five of them striking her back. The slayer opened her mouth and gave a gurgling scream.
But Faith and Vi had moved as well. They were in place to grab Mia on either side. With a huge tug, they managed to pull her free. The filaments returned to slither back into the hand of the demon.
Mia fell forward. Faith and Vi bent over her as their fellow slayer began to shudder, then retch.
“I…I…” she managed to say before vomiting.
“We need to get out of here,” warned Xander. They looked up and saw all ten of the demons now had their glowing eyes fixed on them. Worse, they were advancing.
End of Act Two