Felicia Day as Vi, Elijah Wood as Jeff, Stephanie March as Bonnie, Asia Argento as Marie, Alicia Silverstone as Heli, Rhona Mitra as Alex Neel, Lindsay Felton as Skye Talisker, Brad Dourif as Brell and Thora Birch as Tracey
Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Michelle Rodriguez as Kadin Van Helsing, Jennifer Connelly as Althenea Dimmons, Robert Picardo as Dr. Miller, Bai Ling as Jhiera, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Yancy Butler as Sara, Emannuelle Seigner as Irene, Peter Horton as Stone, Idris Elba as Vaughan Rice, Susannah Harker as Dr. March, Bruce Spence as Tephros, Michele Merkin as Saida, Victoria Pratt as Francesca, R. Lee Ermey as Sgt. Zim, Jessica Biel as Lexa, Milla Jovovich as Sasha, Parminder Nagra as Sabina, Chiaki Kuriyama as Nozomi, Danielle Tricca as Haley, Ginny Holder as Liona, Aria Giovanni as Aria, Tyler Mane as Creed, Lawrence Makaore as Imbethit, Heather Graham as Kail, Jacqui Ainsley as Brighid, Jennifer Fisher as Angella, Mariska Hargitay as Dr. Tara Abraham, Persis Khambatta as the Fallen, Duncan Young as the Flayer and Francesca Buller as the Lover
Special Guest Starring:
Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Vor Hell Dimension – Catacombs – Spire – Moments Later
Creed and his demon soldiers walked slowly through the debris of their home, staring at the bodies strewn through the rubble. Pushing aside a part of the ceiling that had caved in, Creed reached the central chamber. He took in the gaping crater in the floor and the bodies of the demons who had fought there, still locked together in death.
“A Fallen was here,” he rumbled, kicking an ornately-armored Presidium soldier. “These are her guards.” He growled and savagely kicked the body, breaking open its armor. Then he subsided and slumped back against the remnants of the stone table.
“We never had a chance,” he murmured to himself. His troops stayed back, reluctant to enter the chamber. Creed picked one of the table’s tiny bones from among the debris scattered over the floor, studied it for a moment, then tossed it away.
Vor Hell Dimension – Formerly Gressil Hell Dimension – Volcanic Range – Same Time
“Robin, are you there? Robin? Blast.”
Giles broke off and slapped the side of his radio, hard. There was a crackle of static, then Robin’s voice.
“– minutes. Do you copy?” There was a pause, then Robin resumed: “Repeat, we see someone in the next valley, but no habitable terrain beyond that, we’ll meet them and head back. ETA thirty minutes. Do you copy?”
“We copy,” Giles said quickly. “Copy that, Robin. Thank you.”
“Reception’s going,” Robin added, before his voice dissolved in static again. Giles sighed, then stood up and made his way down from his position at the top of a ridge to the shallow valley below. Most of the Council’s team was there, with several dozen demons, half-sheltered from the occasional sharp gusts of wind by smooth overhangs of rock jutting from the sides of the ridges. The whole landscape was dark, bathed in the barest glimmer of deep green light, like being at the very bottom of the ocean.
Giles picked his way through the small crowd to where Faith sat near a handful of stretchers laid out on the ground. Marie and Lt. Matheson, the medic from Riley Finn’s unit, were treating the wounded. One fashioned an improvised splint for a watcher’s leg, while the other checked Francesca’s pulse.
“Everyone’s okay,” Faith said quietly, as Giles sat beside her. “Fran took a bump on the head, but she’ll be up soon. Nicholas’s leg will heal. Coupla Sabina’s slayers got kinda beat up covering our escape, but Marie says she doesn’t think it’s serious.”
“How are you feeling?” Giles asked. Faith shrugged and flexed her arm.
“Good enough,” she replied.
Giles examined her for a brief moment, as if trying to gauge the sincerity of her answer. “Robin and Dawn have another sighting,” he finally said. “They’ll be back in half an hour.”
“Okay, good,” Faith nodded. “We’ll…we should keep low. Until we know more, like…where we are, what’s coming to get us. I’ve got girls on watch, but visibility sucks.” She gave a bitter laugh. “All in all, the mission’s not going so well, huh?”
“We’re alive,” Giles said. “In spite of all that’s happened, we still have a fighting chance, don’t you think?”
“Yeah,” Faith forced a smile. “Yeah, I guess.”
Elsewhere in the Volcanic Range – Same Time
“Hey!” Robin called to the figures struggling over the irregular terrain further down the slope. Dimly, he saw their heads turn toward himself and Dawn.
“Dawn?” a voice shouted back. The figures, three of them, changed direction and began moving upwards.
“Jeff!” Dawn yelled. “Are you okay?”
“We’re okay!” Jeff shouted, his voice easier to hear as the two parties neared. A few minutes of scrambling later, they met, with Jeff rushing to hug Dawn, while his companions, Andrew and Haley, paused to catch their breath.
“Hi,” Dawn said indistinctly, muffled by the shoulder of Jeff’s jacket. He released her and stepped back, blushing.
“Um, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t…I didn’t mean –”
“It’s alright,” Dawn assured him. “Under the circumstances, you know. I’m glad to see you too.”
“The stuff we were carrying is back there,” Andrew said, pointing down to the bottom of the valley. “We hid it as best we could. We figured it’d slow us down, and we could come back after we’d found someone else.”
“Good,” Robin said. “We could use it. We lost a lot in the evacuation – weapons, supplies…could’ve been worse, but as it is…well, best guess, we’ve got food and water for three days. No way of contacting home. We’ve got no idea where we are, even.”
“People got dumped everywhere,” Dawn said dejectedly, as the group began clambering down the slope. “Guess I wasn’t as good at controlling the portal as I thought.”
“You did good,” Jeff said quickly. “If it weren’t for you, we’d all still be back in the catacombs, captured or dead. I’m the one who should be kicking myself, not you.”
“How do you figure that?” Dawn asked, surprised. “What were you supposed to do, stop a whole army?”
“It started in the spire,” Jeff said. “It was Imbethit, it had to be. And I looked right at him – I looked right through him. I saw nothing.”
“Jeff, no one can see everything,” Dawn said gently. She lowered her voice. “Remember what Willow said, half of being a good seer is not driving yourself nuts over what you can’t foresee.”
“It’s not like that,” Jeff protested. “I didn’t just not see it coming, I saw it not coming. I mean, I…I saw the future perfectly, but it wasn’t what happened.”
“So the Presidium did a number on you,” Dawn said. “Sounds like their fault, not yours.”
“I should have seen it coming,” Jeff insisted. “I should have. I was right there, face to face with that demon. I should have seen what was going to happen. Anything, just a flash, a second of time…it would’ve been enough. I could’ve warned them.”
“Jeff –” Dawn tried.
“And none of this would’ve happened,” Jeff went on, muttering to himself. He caught Dawn’s wrist suddenly. “Did everyone make it?” he asked intently.
“Ethan isn’t here,” Dawn said quietly. Jeff released her hand and his shoulders slumped. “He was still alive when the portal closed,” Dawn insisted. “There were other ways out of the catacombs, the demons that came with us said so. He could’ve got out.”
“Everyone else?” Jeff asked quietly.
“Here, we think,” Dawn said. “We’ve got slayers out looking. We think everyone made it, it’s just that the scatter from the portal separated us a bit. Once we get back, we’ll see what we can figure out about where we are and decide what to do next. Giles isn’t up to much magic right now, and I think it’ll be a few hours before I feel like me again. You’re our best shot at getting a spell back to Earth.”
“If I don’t screw it up,” Jeff mumbled under his breath.
Earth – Watchers Council – Giles’s Apartment – Same Time
“You’re comfortable?” Buffy asked. Becca sighed and smiled.
“For the…” she counted on her fingers, “…eighteenth time, yes. I’m okay Buffy. I’m pregnant, not being attacked by demons.”
“Okay,” Buffy nodded. “Okay…You’re sure waiting is okay? What if you get delayed on the way to the hospital? What if there’s an accident and a big traffic jam…I’ll have the helicopter fueled and ready to take off,” she decided. She crossed the living room over to the phone, but hesitated a moment later. “Is it safe for a pregnant woman to go in a helicopter? There’s not, like, altitude issues, or anything?”
“Not unless the pilot gets really adventurous,” Becca said dryly. “Buffy, calm down!”
“Sorry,” Buffy sighed. “I just want everything to go smoothly.”
“I know,” Becca said. “You’ve done a lot to make sure it will. Most women have to make do with their husbands, but I, on the other hand, I’ve got a three-vehicle motorcade and slayers riding escort.” She smiled, but her eyes became distant.
“I’m sorry he’s not here,” Buffy said softly, sitting on the arm of Becca’s lounge chair.
“Me too,” she admitted. “But it’s no one’s fault. I knew what I was getting into for loving Rupert.”
“I wish I could do something,” Buffy sighed.
“Is that what this is about?” Becca asked. “Buffy…they’ll be fine.”
“I just hate not knowing,” Buffy lamented. “I’ve always been the Chosen One… now I’m sitting here on my butt doing nothing while my friends are risking their lives. It doesn’t feel right.”
“You’re not doing nothing,” Becca pointed out. “You’re protecting this whole planet. In fact, I’m sure Rupert and the others wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing right now if it weren’t for you being here to hold the fort.” Buffy gave a wan smile, and Becca continued. “They’ll be back. Trust me. Hey, in all the weird stuff you’ve been through, hasn’t there ever been some legend about pregnant women having the gift of prophecy?”
“I don’t think so,” Buffy said, frowning. “Aside from slayer dreams…Some demons, supposedly insane people, shamans who’ve done a whole bunch of wacky substances…”
“Ah, my college years.” Becca nodded.
Buffy gave a small chuckle.
“It’ll be alright,” Becca continued seriously. “Even without Willow and Jeff, Rupert said he had the utmost confidence in the Coven, especially with Althenea’s help. So…all we have to do is sit…and wait.”
“Yeah,” Buffy said hopefully. “Hey, I’m supposed to be comforting you!”
“You could panic some more,” Becca suggested. “So long as it’s not out of misplaced guilt. It is pretty funny watching you squirm.”
“Oh, thanks,” Buffy nodded knowingly. “You’re doing wonders for my self-esteem.”
“I’m a helper,” Becca said lightly, while Buffy giggled.
Vor Hell Dimension – Volcanic Range – Later
A ragged cheer went up from the Council encampment as Robin led his small group over the rise and down towards them. They waved back and continued down. Robin and Haley carried two backpacks each, while Jeff, Dawn and Andrew struggled with heavy bags stamped with the Council Coven symbol. People rushed to help them, Haley’s team of slayers in the fore, along with Xander.
“Welcome back,” he said to Robin. “You’re the last. Ro and Mia got in a few minutes ago. They found Lexa and the rest of her team.”
“That’s everyone,” Robin said, relieved. “Well, that’s good. How’s Ro?” Xander shook his head with a sigh, and Robin nodded.
Volcanic Range – Same Time
“Hey.” Rowena held her hands together, looked up to see Faith standing in front of her and nodded at the rock beside her. Faith sat and looked at her for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” she said at last. Rowena looked up, confused.
“What?” she asked. “What for?”
Faith shrugged. “Us being here,” she muttered. “Willow being taken. Us getting our butts kicked. All of the above.”
“How is that your fault?” Rowena asked.
“I brought us here,” Faith said. “What do you want me to say? I blew it. My idea. Hey everyone, let’s go to Hell and start a fight! I’m sure that’ll turn out just peachy.”
“This is not your fault,” Rowena said sternly. “It was a good plan, and you were absolutely right. If we’d stayed on Earth, we’d never have had a chance of defeating the Presidium. They’d have waited until they were ready, then came at us with all of their forces, all at once. We’d have lost.”
“We still might,” Faith pointed out.
“True,” Rowena agreed. “But we’ll go down fighting and not cowering,” Rowena answered. “You made the right call, Faith.”
“Oh yeah? Well, if we’d stayed, they wouldn’t have gotten Willow,” Faith admitted in a whisper, dropping her head. Rowena was silent for a moment, then took a deep breath.
“This isn’t over yet,” she said carefully. “But we knew the risks. All of us.”
“My risks,” Faith said angrily. “Ace was right. I’m not thinking straight. I’m not better yet, and…y’know, I don’t know if I ever will be. Compared to what happens when I sleep, or when I stop concentrating, I…just grabbing an axe and charging at a bunch of demons doesn’t seem too scary. Even if it should be. It’s easy – me, them. Not me and,” she tapped her forehead, “them, up here.”
“Faith,” Rowena said, “please, listen…I know it hurts, okay? Don’t ask, just believe me, I know. You want to be how you used to be, before they took that away from you and left bad dreams in its place. But they don’t control you, okay? You control you, no one else. You can take back what they stole.”
“I’m not sure,” Faith said quietly.
“I am,” Rowena replied. “You survived, and you’re alive. And just because it hurts now doesn’t mean it will forever.”
“You think?” Faith asked. Rowena simply nodded. “So what do we do now?” Faith added.
Rowena opened her hands and stared at Willow’s silver ring resting in her palm. “My suggestion?” she said, without taking her eyes off the ring. “We hit ’em where it hurts.”
Presidium Citadel – Panopticon – Same Time
Willow floated in the middle of the chamber, wreathed in magic and screaming, while the Lover watched in fascination. Arcs of energy, like strands of mist, whipped out of Willow and grounded themselves in the walls.
“You’re resisting,” the Lover said calmly. She waved a claw and the storm of magic slowed and faded, though not completely.
“Chalk it up to force of habit,” Willow gasped, catching her breath. The Lover nodded, then crossed the chamber and put her hand against the patterns carved on the wall. A strand of color leached out of them and swirled around her arm, allowing her to carry it over to where Willow hung in mid-air.
“Memory,” she explained. “Yours.” The magic turned black and flowed off her arm to form a human shape, finally solidifying into the image of Shadow.
“I was watching her torture you,” the Lover said. “You may be interested to know that it was this…distraction that drew me away from the Changeling wearing your slayer’s form. In my absence it was used unsuitably, leading to its destruction.”
“Is that so?” Willow coughed. “Sucks when people play with your toys, huh?”
“No matter,” the Lover replied. “Every plan must contain an element of flexibility, for nothing is certain. And you were far more interesting. Watching you waver, seeing the sweat trickle over your skin as the dark magic stirred inside you.”
“Seeing you struggle not to give in,” the image of Shadow added, “when you wanted to so much…”
“Get out of my head,” Willow growled.
“I’m afraid not,” the Lover said. “This chamber is becoming your mind. Everything that you are is being grafted into its structure, to facilitate what we will do here. To you. Nothing inside you will remain hidden.”
“I was so disappointed,” Shadow went on, “to die the way I did. I wanted it to be you. I wanted you to take me and rip me apart…you would have done it so lovingly…”
“Is there a point to this?” Willow shouted at the Lover.
“Should I not?” she replied, wandering idly through Shadow and around Willow. “You are mine, Willow Rosenberg. I can do anything I want with you…and it pleases me to be inside your mind.” She gave a little shrug. “And as it would happen, it is necessary. Call it exploratory surgery, prior to dissection.”
“You like my mind?” Willow growled. “How about this?”
A bolt of light erupted from the Panopticon ceiling and stabbed at the Lover. Where it struck it formed a vague, ephemeral image of Willow herself, blazing with white energy. The Lover’s eyes widened, then she turned away and banished the image with a wave.
“How quickly you adapt,” she commented. “It has been a very long time since any pursuit truly engaged my interest. Shall we play, then?”
She gestured, creating an image of the Master. Willow gritted her teeth, struggling against the invisible bonds that held her suspended, as the ancient vampire approached her. As he reached for her neck, a wave of gold formed behind her, and for a second Buffy was there, driving a stake through him from behind.
The Lover nodded, and gestured again.
Volcanic Range – Later
“All done?” Xander asked, as Andrew shut his spell book and gave an exhausted sigh.
“It’d better be,” Andrew replied. “These aren’t powerful, but they’re sure as heck tiring.” He lifted a silk cloth from the gauntlet in the middle of the circle he had drawn on the rock and looked at the metal object thoughtfully.
Kadin, who had been observing them for a perch on a nearby boulder, suddenly spoke. “What is that thing, anyway?”
“It’s a weapon,” Andrew said.
“Well that might have been handy a few hours ago,” Kadin muttered.
“It’s made for Earth,” Xander explained. “It wouldn’t have worked here if we’d tried.”
“It still might not,” Andrew said. “I’ve done my best, but…this really needs Willow. She’s the one who did all the work on it since the New Delhi branch sent it to us.”
“So, what does it do?” Kadin asked. “Super-strength? Death ray? Another one of those freaky armor things?”
“It’s called the Hand of Myneghon,” Andrew said. “You put it on, and basically enormous amounts of havoc ensue.”
“We saw another one like it once,” Xander added. “Lots of zappy power in it.”
“Throwing lightning, gotcha,” Kadin nodded. “That Raiden chick did her fair share in the evacuation.”
“The Glove was a prototype,” Andrew continued, pointing to the strings of runes etched in the gauntlet’s surface. “It’s described here. Myneghon kept trying to create the things until he got it right. The one that turned up in Sunnydale was the last stage before this. According to the inscription, it wasn’t properly able to focus its energy. What this does… we don’t know, actually. Willow wanted to figure it out before anyone put it on and tried to use it.”
“And when you use it,” Kadin said, pointing to the gauntlet, “those spikes around it, they… stick into your arm?”
“Yep,” Xander nodded. “Recurring motif for this Myneghon guy. Magic for piercing enthusiasts.”
“Actually, it’s quite safe,” Andrew said. “The spikes don’t puncture so much as merge with the flesh they intersect, which is what gives the wielder direct control of the artifact…at least, that’s the theory. I think that’s what the inscription says.”
“Thanks.” Kadin smiled, patting the gleaming rotary crossbow on her lap. “I’ll stick to the old family heirlooms, if it’s all the same.”
“To each their own,” Xander nodded. “Keep it close. If Giles and Ro are cooking up what it sounds like, we’ll need all the help we can get.”
“Faith!” Sabina called from high on the ridge. “Company!”
Faith scrambled up the rocks, with Kennedy and Mia on her heels. Reaching the top and looking where Sabina pointed, they caught sight of shapes moving in the far distance. Mia unhooked a night-vision scope from her belt and peered through it.
“Demons,” she said. “A dozen…I think there’re more behind them. They’re looking back down the slope behind them. I think…Faith,” she said quickly, handing the scope to Faith, “check that. Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
Faith stared through the scope, frowned, then gave a relieved sigh.
“Creed,” she said. “What do you know? The son of a bitch must be indestructible.”
“Do you think it’s really him?” Mia asked. “What if it’s another infiltrator?”
“Then the Presidium’s found us and we’re screwed,” Faith said casually, handing the scope back to Mia. “But I’m going to try being an optimist. Can’t hurt at this point.”
Volcanic Range – Moments Later
“It’s good to see you again,” Giles said, extending his hand to the towering demon. The other leaders of the Council and their allies gathered around them on the rocky slope above their makeshift camp.
“Yes,” Creed said, carefully taking Giles’s hand and releasing it. “It is good. But we must leave this place.”
“Trouble on its way?” Faith asked.
“Parts of the Hub were removed,” Creed explained. “It can only have been the Presidium’s forces that took them. The few mages I had with me are familiar with the Hub’s workings, and could discern its last point of destination from what remained. But the Presidium will doubtless decipher what they have captured, and seek to finish what they have started by killing all here.”
“We’ve had no success trying to contact Earth,” Giles admitted. “Our best hope would be to move somewhere else within Vor, somewhere the Presidium won’t find us so easily. We need time to prepare more powerful spells to breach the dimensional rift.”
“Remnants of Azaradel,” Kail suggested. “When Presidium took it, anchor machines attacked. Now it fractured. Very difficult to follow by portal if we there.”
“Azaradel is tortured,” Tephros argued. “We cannot be sure of its time shape.”
“Time runs at a different rate there?” Jeff asked.
“Time is shattered there,” Tephros said. “Part of the process of conquest for the Presidium is to undo each dimension’s natural time and force it to exist at Vor’s own rate of time. Azaradel was damaged in the process – time moves fast and slow, forward and backward.”
“A portal there could do anything,” Dawn warned. “Even if we establish it, the tiniest fluctuation during casting and we could literally cease to exist.”
“Better take risk than stay here and be slaughtered,” Kail snarled. “We succeed, we survive. We die, we die on feet. What other choice we have?”
In the silence that ensued, Rowena spoke, quietly but clearly. “We’ve got this.” She held up Willow’s ring.
“What is that?” Creed asked.
“There’s a spell inside it,” Rowena explained. “It’ll lead us to Willow, wherever she is.”
“Your witch?” Creed asked. “Where is she?”
“They took her,” Faith spoke up. “The Presidium – they sent a raiding party, ambushed her, and took her. Alive.”
“Brighid unlocked the magic trail,” Giles added. “She believed that this spell leads to the Citadel.”
“Brighid is here?” Creed asked.
“She’s dead,” Rowena said quietly. The demon looked up, and seemed lost in thought.
“You would do this?” he asked eventually. He looked down at Rowena. “You would go to their capital, knowing what might wait there? Knowing that, most likely, no force we can muster can defeat its defenses?” He fixed her with a stare. “Knowing even that your mate may well be dead already?”
“What you ask worse than madness!” Kail burst out. Creed silenced her with a look, then returned his stare to Rowena.
“I’ll go alone if I have to,” Rowena said, meeting his gaze without wavering.
“You don’t,” Faith added. She looked at Creed and his demons. “My warriors are going to the Citadel.”
“What do you think you will achieve there?” Creed asked cautiously.
“The Citadel is the center of Vor,” Giles said. “Logically, it’s the only place from which a spell to unite the disparate hell dimensions could be cast. Such a spell would be tremendously powerful – even for a group of mages such as the Presidium, maintaining it would require equally tremendous effort. If we were able to introduce even a small disharmony into the spell’s standing wave, it could be enough to trigger a collapse.”
Creed looked at Tephros. “Is this possible?” he asked.
“What the Presidium has done should not be possible,” the demon mage replied. “Yet it is done.”
“We’ve got this saying,” Faith said, patting Creed on the elbow, which was as far up his arm as she could easily reach. “It’s worth a shot. What it means is, what’ve we got to lose? If we stay here, the Presidium hunts us down and kills us all. If we go to them, we stand a chance of shattering this world they’ve created. Take your pick.”
“The Council’s branches have agreed to make the attempt,” Giles added. “On our own, our chances are infinitesimal – but if it must be, so be it. With your help, your mages and warriors, our chances are increased.”
“But still very very small chance, even impossible,” Kail frowned.
“Listen, lady,” Faith said, rounding on her, “I’m not interested in chances. If you want to talk impossible, try escaping a Presidium fortress city some time. We do this, or we run away with an army on our ass…I’m gonna fight.”
“Brell is going,” Brell said, stepping out from behind Xander. “Chances are poor either way. Brell rather walk this road with watchers and slayers. It is better.”
“Yes,” Creed nodded slowly. “It is better.” He looked to the demons at his side. “Summon all who follow us, have them cast portals to come here. Ignore secrecy, tell them openly what we will do. By the time the Presidium learns of this, we will be in their domain regardless. Tephros, inscribe the circles – bring every mage, gifted and witch with any power at all. Kail, my bodyguards are at your disposal. Gather your weapon caches and bring them here.” He watched as his demons went about their tasks, then turned to Giles and the others.
“Our numbers will be few,” he warned. “And the Presidium’s forces at the Citadel, even against a surprise attack, will be formidable.”
“We’re ready,” Giles said resolutely. “We’ll fight to the death, if we must.”
“Why do you do this?” Creed asked, appearing genuinely curious.
“I have a wife and a child on the way,” Giles replied. “So I must.”
Creed considered his words, and then nodded. “Then let us go.”
Volcanic Range – Later
Small portals glittered in and out of being across the range, each bringing a handful of more demons, all of whom slowly converged on the Council’s location. In their encampment, the slayers were donning their fighting outfits and checking their weapons. Watchers were loading crossbows and rifles and the remnants of the Coven were preparing a final circle.
Kennedy, clad in her leather bodysuit from neck to toe, spoke briefly to Faith. She then left the slayer group and walked toward Rowena. The blonde watcher sat in silence next to Bonnie, both of them loading crossbow cartridges.
“Can I talk to you?” the slayer asked. Rowena looked up, surprised, then nodded.
“Something happened during the evacuation,” Kennedy said. “When we went into the Spire to find Mia and her team, and Xander…Vi got ambushed by some of those rock borer demons. They surrounded her, and I charged in…I didn’t think at all, I just did it.”
“Did what?” Rowena asked.
“Smashed them to bits,” Kennedy said. “Grabbed them, hurled them at each other…I mean, those things were big –”
“I saw them,” Rowena nodded. “Garthim demons. What about it, though? Surely slayer strength, combined with the natural adrenaline –”
“Nuh-uh,” Kennedy shook her head. “Not that strong. And I know what I felt.”
“What did you feel?” Rowena asked.
“It was…the Kudlak thing again,” Kennedy said slowly. “It felt the same. I just wanted to fight like that, and…I did. No thought, just ability.”
“Did you see another vampire?” Rowena asked, surprised. “Here, I mean?” Kennedy shook her head.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “I got caught up in its magic, and that ended when I killed it, right?” Rowena nodded. “Okay, only, this is the thing – I got out of the tanker when it blew up after it died. The magic should’ve died with it, shouldn’t it? Only it didn’t.”
“There might have been a slow attenuation,” Rowena said thoughtfully. “The process of shedding the magic surrounding you may not have been instantaneous –”
“Or maybe I’ve still got it,” Kennedy said flatly. “Maybe ‘the process of shedding the magic’ met Kennedy’s stubbornness and lost, and that’s how I got out of that tanker in one piece.” She paused. “Well, about thirty pieces, actually, with feathers…but alive.”
“Well, that’s highly theoretical,” Rowena said. “I wouldn’t like to make any firm decision without more research…” she glanced at Kennedy’s wan expression. “Or I could just say, yes, it’s possible. You think you still have those abilities?”
“Dormant,” Kennedy said. “Very dormant. It took Vi nearly being torn to bits for me to dig that deep. I need you to help me.”
“How?” Rowena asked.
“Find some way to boost me,” Kennedy replied. “This fight’s going to be all or nothing, and doubtless it’s going to get real desperate real fast, but it’d be a whole lot better if I didn’t have to wait until it was that desperate before I started kicking heads. If this mojo is inside me, there must be a way to bring it out. Right?”
Rowena stared off into the distance thoughtfully.
“Well,” she said, “theoretically…perhaps. The power was demonic in origin – not evil, you understand, just demonic in the species sense, that being the distant ancestry of vampires, regardless of subspecies…it may be some combination of being here, in a hell dimension, plus, as you say, the desperation of the situation. So perhaps, if that magical structure is still inside you, an infusion of energy into it –”
“Whoa, whoa,” Kennedy said, holding up her hands. “Just a yes or no answer here, okay?”
“It would need a lot of demonic magic,” Rowena said.
“We’ve got a lot of demonic mages,” Kennedy countered.
“It would be dangerous,” Rowena continued.
“We’ve got a lot of that, too,” the slayer shrugged.
“I thought you hated magic?” Bonnie asked, finally speaking up.
“I wasn’t asking you,” Kennedy snapped.
“Sorry,” Bonnie said, dropping her gaze back to the weapon in front of her.
“Look,” Kennedy said to Rowena, leaning close to her and dropping her voice. “This scares the pants off me, okay? I’ll admit there were positives to being uber-mojo-girl the first time around. But all in all, I’d love to just put those experiences in my mental scrapbook and not revisit them for real. But they’ve got Willow, and…” she paused as Rowena’s expression hardened. “Hear me out,” she said quickly. “I’d never have let anyone take her from me. Never. But she left me, and…I wish she hadn’t, but she did, and if I’m gonna say I love her, you’d damn well better respect that. And I do still love her, even if it’s not going to happen between us, and I’m not going to let anyone take her from you. She didn’t leave you, so damn anyone who tries to take her away. Okay?”
“Thank you,” Rowena said, her eyes glistening.
“Don’t get mushy,” Kennedy warned, zipping up the neck of her suit. “You’re still picky, stuck-up and monumentally annoying.” Kennedy smirked for a moment, before looking serious again. “But you’re hers, she’s yours, and the Presidium’s going to have to go through me if they want to mess with that.”
“Monumentally?” Rowena asked with a grin.
“You want me to cite examples?” Kennedy retorted. “Come on, let’s go get your girl back.”
Volcanic Range – Moments Later
“Tricia and Lainee will stay with the watchers,” Faith was saying, as slayers and watchers bustled about her. “They’re not one hundred percent movement-wise, and you guys need someone to watch your backs. They’ll have the heavy crossbows. Mia’s team will go with Kail’s Immortals. They’re what’s left of the ones we started training with firearms anyway, so at least they’ll know what’s what.”
“How much ammunition do they have remaining?” Giles asked.
“Fifteen clips, ten grenades per girl,” Mia replied. “All but one of the F2000s passed check, we’ll take a P90 each as backup, and leave the rest with you. If things go ugly, they might buy you some time. You remember your training?”
“I remember those things kick like a mule,” Robin said.
“Hostile demons kick harder,” Faith shrugged. “Creed is going with six battle groups of the people he’s managed to scrounge together, we’ll be assigning a slayer group to each one under the branch commanders. Girls,” she said to the six slayers from the Council’s international branches, “find Creed, he’ll assign you. He knows which of you is which. Me, Ken, Vi and Marie will be with Creed’s HQ unit.”
“What about us?” Kadin asked. The other warriors the Council had gathered stood about her.
“You’re with us,” Faith said. “Now listen up, this is not a stand-up fight, and we are not going to get bogged down in a front line melee. There’s about fifty of us, along with a few hundred demons, and we’re expecting thousands of enemies, if not tens of thousands. We are assassins, got it? Wherever they’re weak, wherever a gap opens up, that’s where we go. We stick the knife in, twist it good and hard, and then fall back, before they know what hit ’em. Hit and keep running.”
“What if they don’t give us anywhere to run?” Sara asked.
“Then keep hitting until they do,” Faith replied flatly. “Any questions?”
“What are our odds?” Irene asked quietly.
“Don’t worry about odds,” Faith told her. “If anyone’s feeling depressed, swing by me in the next few minutes and I’ll tell you what it’s like being hunted down on your own by the Presidium’s hellhounds. I’ll take this any day. If I managed to escape, I’m certain every girl here can do this, because you’ll all have something I didn’t…back-up.”
She took a breath and looked around the assembled slayers and fighters.
“Now, one rule. Keep our magic people alive. They’re the ones who are gonna bring this baby down. Our job is to give them the chance, any way it takes. Listen to what our watchers are telling us, keep your eyes open, think for yourselves but watch each other’s backs. That’s the trick to stayin’ alive.” She turned as Andrew tapped her shoulder, listened as he whispered in her ear and nodded.
“This is it,” she said aloud, turning back to the crowd. “This is where we nobly save, or meanly lose, our last best hope for Earth. Tell me how it’s gonna happen.”
“Five by five!” the slayers shouted, raising their fists in the air.
“Go,” Faith ordered. The group dispersed, except for Kennedy, Vi, Mia and Marie.
“Buffy would be proud.” Kennedy grinned.
“Was that a Lincoln quote?” Mia asked.
“John Sheridan,” Andrew said. “Babylon 5.”
“Get out of here.” Faith smiled, shaking her head.
End of Act One