Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Day
“I wish I could go,” Kennedy told Giles.
The watcher stood up from his desk and began to make his way around it to where Kennedy stood.
“I realize that,” he told her.
“She’s my best friend here. I should be looking, too.”
Giles took a seat on the edge of his desk. “As I said, I know you want to be out there, but the work ahead of us is dangerous. With Faith gone a-and the possibility of us not finding her, well… I need someone that can take her place. That person is you, Kennedy. If we’ve lost Faith, we can’t afford to lose you as well.”
“What about Vi? She’s a good slayer and –”
“And she’s not as good as you,” Giles answered. “I realize how far Vi has come, and she is an excellent slayer. But in all honesty, you are the best one we have right now, next to Faith.”
“Trying to use my ego against me, huh?” Kennedy said, giving a slight grin.
“Is it working?” Giles said, with a small grin of his own. Kennedy just snorted. “Seriously, I need someone to lead the slayers in this inevitable fight with the Presidium. If we can’t locate Faith, I need that person to be you. So putting you out there right now is far too dangerous and could be exactly what the Presidium wants. We can’t take that risk.”
Kennedy rolled her shoulders and put her hands in her back pockets. “I just wish I could do something.”
“Talk to Robin,” he answered. “We need to find out if he’s noticed any changes. Then perhaps we can speculate when the switch occurred. Even if we can’t uncover when the switch happened, it still might lead us to information about how this creature works. Can you handle that?”
“You mean touchy-feely stuff,” Kennedy answered.
Giles held back a smile. “You’ll do better than you think, in my opinion.”
Kennedy nodded. “Okay, Giles. Just…Find her!…Okay?”
“We will,” he said firmly.
Unidentified Building – Day
Mia nodded to Janet, who kicked with all her might. She sent the door in front of her crashing open. The room beyond held a group of men, standing around a table counting money. The men leapt back from a table and began to scramble as the Black Ops slayers began to pile inside, weapons drawn.
One man in particular drew a gun from under his shirt and raised the weapon to fire. Mia raised hers as well, but with him in her sights, she hesitated. Seeing what was transpiring, Janet raised her gun and sent a round into the man’s shoulder, but not before he managed to get off a shot. The bullet hit Mia square in the chest and she stumbled backward.
As the man fell to the floor, grasping his arm, the other slayers descended on him, disarming him and keeping him subdued. Janet raced over to Mia and looked at her.
“You okay?” she asked.
Mia looked down at the indention on her impact vest.
“Yeah,” she answered. “Might’ve cracked a rib though,” she added as she placed a hand where the bullet had struck her.
Another slayer came over, shaking her head.
“No Faith, ma’am,” she reported to Mia. “Just a buncha drugs, boatloads of cash and more tunnels and artifacts, of course.”
“Vats of blood, bones and other assorted creepy stuff for evil magic, I assume?” Mia asked.
“Looks that way,” she answered.
“Okay,” Mia nodded. “Round up the girls and get ready for the next hit.”
The slayer saluted and swiftly walked away. Janet took a step closer.
“Looks like Volano is officially the supernatural equivalent of a stockpiled weapons dealer,” she told Mia.
“And looks like we’re wasting our time here,” Mia replied.
“Why’s that?” Janet asked.
Mia let out a long sigh. “I don’t think we’re going to find Faith in Cleveland.”
“You think they’re holding her outside the city?” Janet asked.
“I think they’re holding her outside this world,” Mia replied flatly. Then she swiftly walked out the front door.
Unidentified Building – Moments Later
Mia walked over to Giles, who stood waiting by the van. She began to shake her head.
“I heard gunfire,” he asked, concerned.
“Everyone’s okay. I took a round in the chest, but I’ll live,” she answered with a grin. “No sign of Faith, but more signs that Volano is not our everyday gangster.”
“I have Willow researching now on what we’ve found so far,” he answered.
“Well, let her know we’ve got more of the same in here, too…but no Faith.”
Mia let out a frustrated sigh, and Giles put a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll find her,” he assured her.
“I’m glad one of us has faith…no pun intended,” she added after the fact.
Giles watched as she ripped off her greaves in disappointment and headed toward the back of the van.
Watchers Council – Coven Room – Same Time
Jeff and Willow sat in the Coven Room each looking through their own books, when he looked up toward the door.
“What’s taking them so long? They’ve been gone like a half-hour,” he commented.
“It’s only been fifteen minutes,” Willow said, without looking up.
Jeff looked over at the clock and then back at Willow. “Twelve,” he corrected her. “How do you do that?”
“Do what?” Willow said, looking up.
“Know everything,” he answered.
Willow snorted. “It’s not magic. It’s been about five minutes since you asked the last time…Jeff, you have to remember to have patience. I’m sure that Dawn, Skye and Andrew are looking as fast as they can for the other indexes.”
Willow went back to her book and Jeff bit his lip nervously.
“I was thinking,” he began, “What about if I did a seer spell? Kinda like I did to locate you?”
“And put you back in the hospital again? The place where you should be now, but I agreed to let you help? No thanks,” Willow answered.
“But it worked the last time and –”
“And it was dangerous, and nearly killed you. And you were at full strength then, which you won’t be again for another week at least. Jeff…I agreed to mentor you, but that’s got to run both ways. I can’t teach you if I can’t trust you to accept it when I tell you no.”
Jeff let out a sigh, and nodded.
“I hate feeling helpless,” he said.
“You’re not the only one,” Willow admitted. “We’ve got a lot in common, you know?”
“Besides big girly eyes?” Jeff muttered. Willow swatted him on the shoulder, but they shared a grin.
“I was the same as you are now when I started out. I wanted to help, I wanted to…be one of the people who fight the good fight. Be a hero. And,” she sighed, “I’d seen people hurt, and killed. Jesse, Miss Calendar, Buffy and…the list goes on, and it’s not a happy list. You know the feeling.”
“You wanted to keep it from happening again,” Jeff said.
“Yeah,” Willow agreed. “I wanted to keep what I had, my friends, my family, keep them safe. So when I realized I had real potential as a witch, I was like… you know the beginning of Spider-Man, where Tobey Maguire’s leaping across rooftops and beating up the school bully, and all that?”
“I remember what happened next,” Jeff said somberly. “Great power, great responsibility…”
“Stan Lee got it right,” Willow agreed. “I hurt everyone I loved – Tara, Dawnie, Buffy, Xander… I used the power without realizing why I wanted it so badly. And there are times I’d…I’d give almost anything to be able to go back and say to myself, just stop. Stop and think.” She chuckled sadly. “Course, if I’d seen another me, I probably would’ve thought I was vampire-me and staked me, so, not such a great plan anyway.”
“So I’m the second chance?” Jeff asked. “To get it right this time?”
“No,” Willow said. “No, you’re your chance. I want to help you make the right choices, but for your reasons, not mine. And make sure you know what your reasons are. Do you just want to help Faith, or do you want to be the one who saves the day?”
“Why not both?” Jeff asked. He met Willow’s patient stare, then slumped. “Okay,” he admitted, “maybe you and Stan Lee have a point…I do want to help Faith though.”
“I know,” Willow assured him. “Of course you do, I never doubted that. Just let me help you.”
“Alright,” Jeff said.
“Good,” Willow nodded. “Now we’ll try a limited seer invocation, you set up the circle and I’ll start chalking up the runestones.”
“We are going to do a spell?” Jeff asked, confused. “What was all that for then?”
“To make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons,” Willow said. “And to make sure that when I say stop, you stop, no heroics. We’ll be doing a much more limited application of the magic, no harmonic emotional resonance and definitely no semi-lethal augmenting. Just the basics. We’ll see what we get, and work on it from there.”
“You trust me to do this?” Jeff asked.
“I wouldn’t be mentoring you if I didn’t,” Willow replied.
Underground Tunnels – Same Time
A quartet of demons marched through the labyrinth of rocky tunnels, eventually reaching an intersection.
“Search and destroy,” ordered their leader, taller than the others by a head, and with metal barbs woven into his thick hide. “The human must not reach the city above. It is Her order.”
The guards set off down three of the adjoining corridors. Their leader watched them for a moment, then drew his steel flail and set off down the fourth. Behind him, Faith let go of her grip on the tunnel ceiling’s irregular stalactites and dropped silently to the floor. She drew her swords from the crude straps, fashioned from strips of demon skin, that bound them to her torso. With a few quick steps, she was behind the demon leader, pulling his head sharply back and slicing his throat open.
The demon managed only quiet gurgling noises as Faith lowered his body to the ground and swung astride him, holding a sword at his sliced throat.
“The surface,” she growled, “which way? Point.” She waited a second, in which the demon only stared at her and gurgled, then she leaned back and drove her other sword point-first into his leg. With a quick twist, she severed the limb, using her body weight to subdue the frantic jerking of her victim. Then she looked back at his terror-stricken face.
“The surface,” she repeated.
The demon scrabbled on the dusty ground with a claw and managed to point to one of the tunnel mouths. Without pausing, Faith lifted the sword at his neck and swung it down, decapitating him. Then she was gone, racing along the tunnel.
Watchers Council – Library – Same Time
Willow walked into the library to find Andrew, Skye, Dawn, Tracey and Rowena looking through a single book on a table. A tiny smile appeared on Willow’s face and she pointed to the one book.
“Boy, at this rate you guys are gonna be here all day,” she quipped.
“Or not,” Tracey countered, motioning to Andrew.
“Says here that the stuff Black Ops found isn’t just your average All-American voodoo,” he explained. “This is heavy hitter magic.”
“Meaning?” Willow asked.
“Chances are Volano didn’t come up with this on his own,” Dawn answered.
“Right,” Skye added. “This spell configuration goes back centuries.”
“What’s it used for? Cloaking or something?” Willow asked.
“Or trans-dimensional travel, depending on what you want,” Rowena answered.
“So instead of using a Delorean, they’re using ritualistic circles of bones?” Willow asked.
“Essentially,” Dawn and Skye both said at the same time.
“Or…” Andrew proposed. “Someone’s been needing a backdoor from one world to the next. And that means…”
“Faith doesn’t live here anymore,” Rowena finished. No one at the table said anything for a few moments. “Anyway, where’s Jeff?” Rowena asked.
“Still in the Coven Room,” the redhead answered. “We tried a foresight ritual, just a basic one. He thought he saw Faith for a second, but the margin of error on the spell is pretty big. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.”
“How’s he handling it?” Rowena asked.
“Frustrated,” Willow admitted. “But coping with it, so, all in all, just like the rest of us. At least he let me get through the Spider-Man analogy without complaining about organic web-spinners for twenty minutes,” she finished, shooting a glare in Andrew’s direction.
Rowena picked up the book and handed it to Andrew.
“Why don’t you guys all head downstairs and give him an update while I talk to your High Priestess?” she asked. As the group cleared out, Rowena closed the door, and the distance between her and Willow. “How you holding up?”
“Oh I don’t know. I woke up from a nightmare. Went to visit my prodigy student who’s in the infirmary, only to hear gunshots and find Faith dead on the floor. Then only to find out it’s really not Faith but some Terminator-like replica, only to finding out that Faith might be alive but we have no idea where, only to find out she’s probably in another dimension that would be a suicide mission to visit,” Willow answered in one breath.
Rowena gave her a sympathetic grin. “You’re babbling.”
“I think my day is babble-worthy at this point,” Willow countered.
“Got me there,” Rowena agreed. “But I meant after everything with Shadow.”
“Oh, that,” Willow answered. “You mean aside from pulling a magic spell out of my ass to stop Robin, that kinda had everyone freaked that it actually worked, while wondering if I was gonna get black-eyed psycho…Other than that, I’d have to say good. At least the ritual with Jeff didn’t wind up burning down the building, so you know, bright side there…”
Rowena smiled and pulled Willow into a hug. “Let’s just try to take things one hour at a time. What do you say? Might cut down on the babble.”
“I thought you liked my babble,” Willow pouted.
“When it’s good babble…like trying to describe how nice I looked in that silk blue slip the other night. Not bad babble because you’re worried.”
Willow pulled away slightly, but stayed in Rowena’s arms. “I am worried…We have to find her, Rowena.”
“We will,” she answered with conviction, before giving Willow a light kiss on the lips.
Watchers Council – Robin and Faith’s Apartment – Later that Day
Kennedy and Robin sat in the living room, across from each other.
“So, nothing out of the ordinary lately?” she asked.
“Not at all,” he replied. “Just last night we…you know. I mean, it was Faith. I could have sworn it was Faith.”
“Maybe the switch happened today at some point, then?”
“I was with her all morning. She talked about maybe trying to contact her sister and about the new cycle she bought. Then I dropped her off at Xander’s workshop. There wasn’t any time,” he argued. “It had to have happened before then, but honestly…I couldn’t tell you when because this…thing…it knew everything – about us, about her, about the Council, about…everything.”
Kennedy sat for a moment computing what Robin had just said.
“But I’ve got a question for you,” he began.
“Shoot,” Kennedy answered.
“I’m her lover. You’re her best friend. Why the hell are we sitting here chatting?” he asked her point-blank.
“Well…I have my orders from Giles,” she countered.
“I don’t remember it being put to a vote,” Robin replied. “I say we get out there and look, too. If Faith is alive like you say she is, then we need to find her.”
Kennedy rubbed the back of her neck. “Damn it, Robin,” she finally said. She let out a heavy sigh. “Fine. Get your coat.”
End of Act Three