act 4



Fade In:


Vor Hell Dimension – Presidium Citadel – Panopticon – Moments Later

The Lover watched, her face emotionless, as rank after rank of her demon soldiers emerged from the protective thunderclouds and halted in formation on the battlefield below, facing the comparatively tiny attacking force. Willow stood behind her, keeping up a stream of demands.

“When did you emerge?” she was saying. “What species of demon are you? Who was that I saw? She looked like you, was that you but younger? Did someone attack you? Is that what all this,” she strode in front of her adversary and swept a hand out, encompassing the image of the battlefield, “is all about? Revenge? Someone hurt you so you’re hurting back? Is that it? I can understand that.”

“You,” the Lover said patiently, “understand nothing.”

“Oh, now I understand nothing,” Willow nodded. “Before I was so close, remember? You were all but ready to let me in, give me Faust’s contract signed and sealed, no matter what your fellow demons thought of it. Now I don’t understand? I understand revenge plenty,” she finished in a hostile sneer. She concentrated and an image formed in front of the Lover of Willow herself, black-clad and black-eyed, and Warren, struggling in agony.

“Tell me I don’t understand,” she challenged the Lover, as Warren died by inches before them.

“You do not understand!” the Lover insisted. “Revenge is alien to me.”

“Oh, right,” Willow agreed sarcastically. “I bet it’s ‘justice,’ isn’t it? Balancing the scales? Aggressive defense, by any means necessary, the ends justify the means?”

“Our end is perfect!” the Lover snarled. “You tell me what means paradise does not justify, you who are so pure of compromise.” She gestured viciously at Willow and an image appeared between them of Mia in her Black Ops armor, shooting Julia. More figures appeared, the Black Ops squad doing battle with Jimmy Volano’s bodyguards, who were finally replaced by Mia and Janet gunning down Shadow.

“A death squad,” the Lover observed idly. “Aggressive defense…by any means necessary?”

“I wish it hadn’t happened that way,” Willow said soberly, as Shadow’s bullet-ridden body faded from sight, “But it did.”

“It was you!” the Lover insisted. “Had your Council’s justice been applied to you three years ago, you would have been dead, just as she is. This might have been your fate.”

She gestured, and the illusions around them reformed into a desolate hilltop, with the point of an unearthly spire jutting from the ground. Willow sighed as she looked down at her own body, hair, clothes and vacant eyes dull black under the harsh sun, the sand beneath stained from her blood as it seeped from a dozen bullet holes.

“They would have killed you,” the Lover said levelly. “Or you them, far more likely. Death, either way…and for what? So you can pretend you are enlightened, ignore your calling, ignore the one path to victory, in the hope of achieving some fantasy of a peaceful existence? Peace is alien to you! To all of us! We are warriors, Willow – we live to kill. Our claim to self-awareness is not that we can override our natural drives, it is that we can control them, use them to achieve something greater than mere destruction.”

“Something like cataclysmic destruction, you mean?” Willow shot back.

“Don’t be naïve,” the Lover snarled. “What the Presidium has done was no different to what all the peoples we have conquered would have done to themselves. It is the way of things – the strong prey on the weak, and in turn the downtrodden find strength in desperation and overthrow their oppressors, to become the next generation of strong to prey, again, on the weak. It will never end!”

“So much for your utopia then,” Willow countered. “If that is true you’ll never achieve your perfect peace.”

“No, not until the way of things itself is changed, until the inner nature of all things, the essence of life, is remade, in a purer form. And,” the demoness straightened, “it must be done by conquest, for that is the language of this existence. In the future, it will not be so, but here and now, the sacrifice of billions is the only path that will lead to a new existence.”

“Heil Hitler,” Willow muttered under her breath.

“I know who you speak of and this is not the same. I assure you.”

“And I’m sure there’re holocaust survivors that would tell you otherwise,” Willow retorted. Then she turned her back on the Lover, not adding more.

Cut To:


Citadel Plain – Same Time

“That’s a lot of demons,” Saida muttered to herself. Across the plain, rank upon rank of demon soldiers were standing, awaiting the order of their masters. There were thousands of warriors and huge demon beasts bearing massive weapons, carrying ballistae and catapults and arcane magical engines on their backs. Above them towered the titans, the magical dreadnoughts, the fire-breathing Klendath insect demons and great towers of wood, stone and bone, propelled on huge wheels by teams of hundreds of misshapen demon giants.

“What are those things?” Faith asked Creed, her voice lifeless. “Siege towers?”

“Mage towers,” the demon leader replied. He pointed to one of the wickermen. “Those, the Furian dreadnoughts, you know. Those, Klendath royal drones.”

“We met one last year,” Faith nodded. “We can handle them. What about the ground-sloggers? The foot troops,” she clarified for Creed.

“The first ranks are slaves,” Creed said dismissively. “Night Cult slaves, bound by Presidium magic but otherwise unremarkable fighters. It is to be attrition, then – they will throw such dross against us first, and send their executioners in when we are bloodied and weary.”

“Alrighty then,” Faith frowned. “Let’s throw their slaves back in their damned faces.” She switched on her radio. “First round is going to be frontal assault, weight of numbers. I want all rapid-fire weapons and magic doohickeys primed and ready to let loose on my mark. No engagement in melee unless I give the word.” She flipped off the radio and crossed her arms, staring out at the giant army ahead of her.

“It may not be enough,” Creed said quietly, so no one else could hear. “They are many times our number.”

“If we go down now, have we bought our mages enough time?” Faith asked.

“Not yet,” Creed admitted. “Between the strength of the Presidium’s defensive magic, and the power we must devote to keeping them from opening portals for reinforcements…”

“Then we don’t go down now,” Faith said resolutely. “Payback’s a bitch. And one way or another, I am going to make ’em pay for what they’ve done today.” Her radio beeped and she switched it to receive.

“We may have a strategy to counter the first charge,” Giles’s voice said.

“Talk to me,” Faith nodded.

Several hundred meters away, on the small army’s right flank, Reteesk politely beckoned for the radio, which Giles handed to him.

“Miss Faith?” he asked. “This is Reteesk, I believe we met once, you may recall?”

“I kind of remember it,” Faith’s voice replied. “Long story, never mind. What’ve you got for us?”

“I understand that you anticipate a massed charge?” the demon said. “My fellows and I have a certain ability that may prove instrumental in breaking such an assault. With your permission?”

“What do you need?” Faith asked.

“I will instruct my followers to advance to our front rank and stand forward. It is of the utmost importance that none of your people or our esteemed demon colleagues be in front of our line when we sing.”

“Sing?” Faith asked.

“Yes,” Reteesk nodded. “Although I hasten to add, when I say ‘sing,’ I do not mean in the human sense. I flatter myself that I have quite an agreeable tenor, and would be most displeased if anyone were to suffer injury from hearing it. This is a…different matter.”

“Okay, I’ll give the order,” Faith replied. “Whatever you’ve got in mind, better hurry – it looks like they’re getting ready for a move.”

The Presidium troops stirred across the battlefield as demons with highly-decorated armor moved about on riding beasts, barking orders. Slowly, the front ranks of the army began to move, row after row of blank-faced demons, armed with shields and axes, followed by crossbow-wielding troops, their bolts blazing with arcane energies. To either side of the Council’s tiny force, the advancing regiments quickened their stride, outpacing those in the center, turning their line into an arc that began to slowly close in from three sides. At a shouted command, the troops began to move faster, first jogging, then breaking into an outright charge. The humans and demons before them gripped their weapons and nervously stood their ground.

“Now would be a good time,” Faith said, spinning the Scythe around.

“We are ready,” Reteesk replied. From the small army, he and dozens like him advanced, clearing the warriors around them. Their hunched forms looked painfully inadequate against the oncoming tide of demons.

Reteesk closed his eyes and took a breath, then began emitting a long, low note, his facial tentacles vibrating slightly. His comrades joined the note, each adding their own, subtly different, yet all combining harmoniously. The Council army sheltered behind them covered their ears as one as the tone built to an earth-shaking crescendo. Even the charging Presidium troops faltered here and there. Then, all of a sudden, the sound became energy. A wave of fierce magic spread out from Reteesk’s demons as if someone had dropped a boulder in the lake of reality.

The magic crashed into the Presidium advance, hurling bodies back, sending them tumbling through the sky, crushing them in their armor or burying them beneath mounds of their own dead. The first rank was literally torn to shreds. Those behind were tossed and crushed as the wave slowly spread out and, eventually, lost its momentum.

Faith watched the last ranks of the decimated attack stumbling back to their feet, decimated and dazed. “Firepower!” she ordered

Streams of gunfire, enchanted arrows and pure magic leapt from the Council’s lines, cutting down the last few enemies remaining on their feet. As the fire subsided, an eerie silence settled over the battlefield, as the bulk of the Presidium’s forces stared across the corpses of their first wave.

“Not bad,” Faith said grimly, giving a wave to Reteesk as he and his comrades scuttled back to the shelter of the Council army. “Can’t dance to it, but I won’t hold that against you. Can you guys do that again?”

“Not for several days, sadly,” Reteesk replied, rejoining Giles and the group of watchers. “And for good or ill, our battle will be over by then.”

“That’s okay, you guys did good,” Faith nodded. “Watchers, we need to make a breach and get into the lines. Tell me what you see.”

“Not the center,” Giles said. “Too many magical weapons, and Tephros tells us the demon species there are almost certainly menials – their mages won’t hesitate to fire into us if we’re among them.”

“Their left flank might be weak,” Rowena suggested. “They’ve got creatures that our files say aren’t intelligent on their own – they must be using handlers to keep them in line. Kill the handlers, and the beasts will just as likely attack their own as us.”

“Let’s hit ’em there, then,” Faith decided. “Creed, let’s have your best guys on this. And we’ll need firepower and defense along the rest of our line, I don’t want them to hit our side when we’re busy raising hell out front.”

“Your fighters will be in grave danger,” Creed warned. “You will be outnumbered greatly.”

“Slayers are always outnumbered,” Faith replied. “It’s what we do best – get among ’em, panic ’em, break their chain of command. Have your boys with our watchers tell us which of their own troops the Presidium will be willing to pour fire into to get at us, we’ll steer clear of them. The rest, they won’t know what hit ’em.”

Cut To:


Presidium Citadel – Panopticon – Same Time

“Why don’t you just tell me?” Willow asked archly. “You wouldn’t have let me see that demon unless you wanted to, unless some part of you wanted to.”

“You presume very much,” the Lover shot back.

“Do I?” Willow challenged. “How about this – you’ve had me brought in here, alive and unhurt. You’ve taunted and baited me to see how I’d react, you’ve played with my memories, you’ve cut yourself off from the rest of your kind just to be with me. I don’t think you had to do that, I think you wanted to.”

“Perhaps you think wrong,” the Lover replied calmly.

“And what about them?” Willow asked, gesturing to the partial image of the battlefield outside. “You just happened to let them track me here?”

“Their coming was not my doing,” the Lover shrugged. “You gave them the means. Very clever of you.”

“Not clever enough,” Willow frowned. “I was hoping you’d keep me in transit longer, long enough for them to track my spell. I figured the moment I got face-to-face with one of you, I’d have run out of time. But I didn’t, did I? You’d been watching me all along, ever since the Engineer…you knew what I’d done, and you let me get away with it.”

“An interesting theory,” the Lover sneered.

“You could’ve counteracted the tracking spell whenever you wanted,” Willow persisted. “Only you didn’t. Why is that?”

“Suppose you tell me,” the Lover challenged, “seeing as you would presume to guess my motives.”

“Okay.” Willow nodded. “You know I’m right. You’ve seen that I’m right…everything we’ve done for the past year, and even before that, all the memories of mine you’ve picked your way through, all that’s got inside you, hasn’t it? You’re not trying to convince me that you’ve got the right idea, you want me to convince you.”

“And suppose you’re wrong,” the Lover suggested calmly.

“Could be,” Willow admitted. “I’ve been wrong before – now and then I’ve been as wrong as wrong can be. I’ve killed, I’ve destroyed, I’ve hurt the ones I loved more than my own life, again and again. But I always had someone to pull me back, to show me a better way, and that’s why I’m here, now. You never had that – you want that. You’ve been all alone in your tower for, what, centuries? You just went on and on, so sure you were right, until you stumbled across us, and you realized that we’re the ones who’re fighting evil. And you realized that you’re not…you’re the cause of evil. Whatever it was you thought you were fighting to begin with, you became it. Now you’re just another demon with power, crushing anything that gets in your way.”

The Lover turned sharply and stalked away from Willow, coming to rest at the edge of the chamber, overlooking the battle. Tiny figures were moving, charging and fighting, and flashes of magic lit the ground.

“You wanted me here,” Willow went on, following her. “You wanted me here to change your mind for you, to help you do what you realized you had to do.”

“And what is that?” the Lover asked, her voice carefully level.

“Save the world,” Willow said. “Stop the conquest. Stop the killing.”

“How little you know,” the Lover said quietly.

“I know fear when I see it,” Willow retorted. “You’re afraid of it all, aren’t you? That someday, somehow, some creature is going to sneak up and kill you, just like the demon you showed me. You let me see her, you must have…I don’t have the power here, and you know it. Who was she? You? Another of your kind? Family?”

“You cannot ask that of me,” the Lover growled.

“Why not?” Willow demanded. “You’ve said you’ll kill me. Your warriors are going to kill my friends down there. Your armies are going to destroy my entire world. Y’know, I figure I can ask whatever I damn well please at this point. You made me watch Tara die, over and over – now you show me yours. Show me whose blood it is on your face. Or so help me, I’m not saying another word.”

The Lover looked at her curiously as she stood there, silent.

“Do you truly believe you can gain leverage over me?” she asked. “I have done nothing to support these…strange assumptions you make. It is no matter to me whether you end your life silent.”

Willow stared defiantly at her, and did not answer.

“You are uniquely stubborn,” the Lover conceded at last. “Very well. The blood is hers.”

A figure appeared a few paces away – tall, slender, dressed in gray and black, with a face much like the Lover’s. Though, now that Willow studied it in more detail, it seemed less angular, smoother, more expressive…

“My mother,” the Lover said quietly, not looking at the image. “It was her death that opened my eyes – myself, the others. The Presidium. From the massacre we rose, to set right that which was tragically wrong. Not just to combat the world’s faceless brutality, but to undo evil at its source.”

“More human,” Willow said to herself. She turned to the Lover, staring at her in shock. “She looks more human than you…she is human.” She frowned, her face a picture of intrigued horror. “You’re human,” she breathed.

Cut To:


Battlefield – Same Time

“Lexa,” Giles said into his radio, “twenty feet to your left, the large three-horned demon, use holy water.” He turned, scanning the battle through binoculars. “Faith, there’s a Klendath coming in from their second line. Xander has no line of sight past the tower.”

“Got it,” Faith’s voice replied, punctuated over the radio by growls, choked-off screams and the clash of weapons.

“Marie, Vi, make your runs now,” Rowena said when Giles had finished. “The mages are ready. Marie, those demons beyond the ones you’re fighting now are Kayma. Don’t get their blood on you, it’ll burn.”

“How’re those towers coming?” Xander’s voice came over the radio next. “I’ve got a bunch of rockets and nothing to blow up with them in the way.”

“Twenty seconds,” Giles replied. “Faith, the towers are coming down, make sure everyone’s out of the way…and tell Creed.”

“Will do,” Faith yelled over the noise of battle. She spun around and buried the Scythe in the head of a demon creeping up behind her, while simultaneously delivering a double kick to the face of her immediate opponent. She wrenched the Scythe clear, swung it to deflect a bolt of magic aimed her way, then plunged back into the fray.

“Creed!” she yelled toward the melee in front of her. “Line in the sand! Slayers are clear, move your people!”

“I hear you!” the demon’s voice roared from amid the press of bodies. A moment later, there was a bestial bellow and several demons were hurled back, some in pieces. Creed reared up among them, snarling, with blood flowing from cuts on his arms and back. He swung his arms sharply, smashing the demons in front of him so hard they flipped over in mid-air before crashing to the ground, and strode out to meet Faith.

“You okay?” she asked.

“I have had worse,” he replied, picking up a fallen axe and hurling it full-force into the demons scrambling to follow him. Faith turned and sliced at her pursuers, and the two fought back to back.

“I am in contact with my centurions!” Creed said over the noise. “Our warriors are out of the death line!”

“Giles!” Faith yelled. “We’re all clear! Marie, Vi, hit it!”

Vi nodded absently and swung the troll hammer into the side of a hugely-muscled riding beast, sending beast and rider toppling back in a tremendous flash of energy. On the other side of the battlefield, Marie was moving almost too quickly to follow. Her lithe form ducked and weaved among the press of slow, hulking demons, her sais finding an exposed neck, an unshielded back or a weak seam in a demon’s armor with every stroke. Tucked into her belt, like Vi, she had a slim wand, glittering with blood-red gemstones.

From the center of the chaotic melee one of the mage towers crackled with energy, then, all of a sudden, unleashed a shattering whip of electricity into the fighting figures ahead of it.

“We have to knock those things out soon,” Rowena said, reaching for her radio. “Liona, did that get anyone?”

“Demons, there’re survivors,” the slayer’s voice replied. “And Sara, but her armor absorbed it. It hit Gwen too, but she doesn’t seem to mind.”

“Walk in the park,” Gwen’s voice emerged over the radio. A blast of lightning erupted from the site of the tower’s impact, hurling Presidium demons about like matchsticks.

“Tephros,” Giles called to the demon mage, “there are injured demons from that tower’s last strike.”

“We will attend to them!” Tephros called back.

Below, at the base of the rightmost tower, Marie fought her way clear of a mass of scuttling, long-haired, ape-like demons, and raced to the tower, lashing out at any of the mindless slaves propelling the structure slowly forwards who got in her way. With a final effort, she leapt over one of the tower’s huge wheels and jammed the jeweled wand into a gap in the wooden planks and animal hides.

“It’s set!” she yelled into her radio, as she turned and leapt clear. She rolled to her feet already fighting and charged back into the same surprised warriors she had just come through a moment earlier.

“Get clear!” Rowena ordered from the overlooking hillside.

“Vi, Marie’s marker is set,” Giles relayed.

“No problem,” Vi’s voice replied, “twenty seconds and –” She was cut off by a howl echoing across the battlefield, a strange tortured sound, as if the air itself was being split apart. The watchers stared in disbelief as the left flank of the confused melee slowed and ground to a halt, as if frozen.

“What on Earth,” Giles muttered, scanning the Presidium lines with his binoculars. He caught sight of a shadow of a form in the air, like a giant whirlpool, barely visible. The shadow emanated from the open maw of an eyeless, pallid creature, guided by several thick chain leashes held by a group of Presidium handlers.

“Chronovore!” Tephros yelled. “They have a chronovore!”

“What the hell!?” Faith yelled in shock, clambering to the top of the wreckage of a crushed catapult. She stared at the mass of demons, and the handful of slayers among them, all frozen like an image paused on a video. She caught sight of another slayer sprinting forwards, towards the frozen zone.

“Sasha, no!” she yelled. The Russian slayer drew up short, moving slowly all of a sudden, but one of her squad was too slow to react and lurched to a standstill, frozen in the act of turning back.

“Oh God,” Faith whispered, as she watched dozens of Presidium troops crowding in behind the chronovore. They hurled axes and blades into its field of dead time, aiming at the far edge. The weapons slowed to a halt in mid-air, while their casters threw more and more, filling the air with blades. Then the chronovore’s handlers tugged on its leashes and it turned slightly away from the flank, facing a fraction more towards the center of the battle. As it turned away from the edge of its target area, time began to move again there, and the hundreds of weapons whipped into motion and cut down a dozen of Creed’s warriors, leaving the Presidium troops around them startled but unharmed.

“Guys!” Faith yelled. “We need to kill that thing now!”

“I’ve never even heard of anything like that,” Jeff said as he quickly flipped through files on the laptop balanced on his knees. “If it’s time-based, maybe a Rasmussen incantation?”

“Won’t work,” Dawn shook her head. “That needs time in the target area.” She cringed in horror as the chronovore moved again, and a spray of blood shot up from the edge of its dead zone, as time resumed and the Presidium’s precisely-aimed thrown weapons all struck their targets at once.

“Can we get someone behind it?” Rowena’s voice asked from the radio on the ground between them. “It’s not affecting its handlers.”

“No time to fight through the ranks behind it,” Dawn muttered, frowning furiously. “Oh, damn…God, I hope I’m right.”

“What?” Jeff asked, as Dawn reached into her bag and pulled out a sheathed katana. “Where’d you get that from?”

“Buffy got it for me in Tokyo,” Dawn said absently. “You know, just in case…I think this is the ‘in case’ where I use it.” She drew the sword, swung it experimentally, then set off at a sprint, directly towards the area of dead time.

Dawn!” Jeff shouted after her. “What the hell are you doing?!”

“It’s okay,” she yelled over her shoulder. “I’ve got a good feeling about this!”

She closed her eyes as she ran into the surreal dead zone, with its dozens of combats frozen in time. Opening her eyes, she saw demons locked in bloody melees with each other, their snarls and attacks, even the blood spilling from their wounds, all perfectly still. There was no sound at all, even as the battle continued to rage outside.

“Huh,” she said to herself, redoubling her sprint towards the distant chronovore. The creature perceived her somehow, and turned directly towards her, the shadow-thin wisps of form in the air, its whirlpool, intensifying until it seemed Dawn was running through an ocean maelstrom. The creature’s handlers saw her, too, and looked in confusion at each other, as she continued to advance through the timeless area.

“She’s in danger!” Jeff shouted suddenly.

“You don’t say,” Bonnie commented quietly, but he didn’t hear her.

“Mr. Giles, she’s in danger!” Jeff went on, picking up the radio. “I’ve seen it, I know what’s – I have to go!”

“What?” Giles’ voice asked. “Jeff, what’s going on?” Jeff dropped the radio and looked around desperately.

The chronovore focused all its efforts on Dawn, narrowing the field of its vortex more and more, the battle resuming in its wake. Most of the combatants simply resumed their struggles, not even noticing that time had been stilled around them. By the time Dawn reached the chronovore, she could even hear the desperate shriek as it sucked time out of the air around her. Its handlers turned and fled, glancing back at Dawn in sheer terror as they dropped their chains and weapons.

“Sorry pal,” Dawn said, raising her sword. “Time’s up.”

She swung, decapitating the sickly-pale demon in a single stroke. Instantly, a massive shockwave erupted from its body, sending half the battlefield reeling. For a moment the sound of the battle became jagged, disjointed. Motions slowed and sped up randomly, explosions curled back into the bolts of magic that had caused them, then erupted again, bolts and arrows whipped back out of their targets towards the weapons that had fired them and shining cracks appeared in both the ground and the sky.

Amid the confusion, Vi resumed her race towards the leftmost tower, smashing opposition out of the way with the troll hammer, and managed to wedge the wand from her belt into its axle.

“Marker set!” she yelled, retreating as rapidly as she could manage. The gemstones in the wand began to glow savagely, spilling red light out onto the tower around it. The light seemed to creep upwards, covering the structure like an oil slick.

Creed’s mages, watching from the hillside, saw the tower glow, as the same began to happen to the one Marie had marked across the battlefield. The mages all reached to either side of themselves, joining hands, claws, paws and forelegs.

A massive arc of power leapt from the two glowing towers. It was a blinding ribbon of light that smashed clear through the dozen towers between them, whipping up into the air, smashing into the ground beneath, obliterating everything in its path. The Presidium army reeled, as the sudden onslaught carved a path of destruction through its center.

Cut To:


Earth – Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time

“Here she is,” Buffy said, opening the door and waving Dr. Abraham in. Becca was waiting on a lounge, with Skye next to her, just outside the operating room. Through the open doors. Dr. Miller could be seen busily setting up the room for a delivery.

“Rebecca,” Dr. Abraham said, taking the place on the lounge Skye vacated for her.

“I’ll be back soon,” Skye said to Buffy. “I just have to check with Althenea.”

“Okay, see ya,” Buffy nodded.

“Did she give you the big speech?” Becca asked Dr. Abraham.

“She burst into my office, flashed an FBI badge at my receptionist, then had some kid with her make one of my textbooks float off its shelf,” the doctor replied. “Then she gave me the speech.”

“I figured she wouldn’t believe it if I just told her,” Buffy protested. “Then we’d have to show her the magic anyway, and then go through the whole thing again.”

“It’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it?” Becca asked.

“It’s a lot of a shock,” Dr. Abraham replied. “Vampires, demons, magic…and your husband is the head of this…Council?”

“I know,” Becca grinned. “Of the two of us, you’d think I was the crazy demon-fighting one, wouldn’t you? You’re okay with being here?”

“Well,” Dr. Abraham sighed, “I guess my insurers would have my head for practicing out of my residency, but if they don’t know about all this…unless they are demons, I wouldn’t put it past some of them. And this place does look…well, frankly, it’s easily the equal of what you’d get at the hospital.”

“I should think so,” Dr. Miller put in from the next room.

“Where’s your husband, though?” Dr. Abraham asked.

“Did Buffy tell you what’s going on?” Becca asked in reply.

“She said there was some emergency, hence bringing me here, rather than going to the hospital. She didn’t elaborate, I didn’t ask. Honestly, I think if I started asking questions at that point, I wouldn’t have stopped.”

“The Council sent a team to…” Becca hesitated and began to hold her stomach. She breathed in and out for a few seconds, as if meditating. Once the pain ceased, she turned back to Dr. Abraham. “Well, there’s no other way to say this except they sent a team to Hell. Rupert is leading the team.”

“Your husband’s in Hell?” Dr. Abraham asked. Becca nodded. “This is going to take some time to process,” Dr. Abraham admitted. “Let’s…how about we just have this baby, and we’ll deal with all this later.”

“Thank you,” Buffy said.

“I do want a full explanation and a signed waiver so I’m not accused of malpractice, though,” Dr. Abraham warned her.

“Check! One ‘It’s not my fault’ form coming up. I’ll get Giles’s ‘one in every generation’ speech ready, too,” Buffy promised. “Suitably updated, of course.”

Cut To:


Vor Hell Dimension – Battlefield – Same Time

Dawn struggled to her feet, looking around dazedly at the melee going on around her. No one seemed to have noticed her, but as she turned, looking for the Council lines, a Presidium demon behind her killed its opponent and saw her.

“Dawn!” Jeff shouted. Dawn spun around in shock, seeing the demon raise a crossbow and fire at her, then a riding beast rushed at her from one side, she was tackled to the ground and there was a dull thud as the bolt struck flesh.

“Je-ff?” Dawn said in surprise, her voice slurring and jumping. “What – Jeff? – the hell? Oh G-God!” Jeff rolled off her, revealing a crossbow bolt protruding from his stomach.

The demon advanced on them, drawing a mace. Dawn reached for her fallen sword lying just out of her grasp. As the demon seemed poised to strike, Haley leapt out of the melee behind it and ran it through the back, her sword point spearing out of its chest before she jerked it up, slicing out of its body through the shoulder.

“Medic!” she yelled, seeing Jeff and Dawn.

“Are-are you o-okay?” Dawn asked.

“Saw you were…in trouble,” he replied.

“You’re g-gonna be okay-okay, r-right?” Dawn asked, her voice rising in panic, still skipping in time. “You saw-saw you’re gonna be, y-you’re – okay?”

“Don’t know,” he said, closing his eyes.

“Hey-Hey! no!” Dawn insisted. “Wake up-up! Stay with me-me!…Don’t-Don’t you die on me!”

The group surrounding Dawn and Jeff looked on curiously as they listened to Dawn’s choppy speech pattern.

“Made a promise,” Jeff said weakly to Dawn. Behind him, Matheson and Tephros skidded to a halt, with slayers around them holding the attacking demons at bay. Kadin followed with her bulky metal crossbow.

“Stretcher!” Matheson ordered. “Keep him on his side – we’ll take care of him,” he added to Dawn.

“Please save him-him, please!” she begged.

“Is she okay?” Haley asked, glancing over her shoulder between fights.

“From the blast, it’s time shock,” Tephros said. “It will pass.”

Across the battlefield, Faith paused, finding an open space in the wake of her latest melee, and glanced around. It was impossible to tell how the battle was going, but though the towers were gone, still blasts of magic were leaping out from the huge thunderclouds surrounding the Citadel, blocking all view beyond the front lines of the Presidium’s army.

“Giles!” Faith shouted over the noise of the fighting around her. “There’s more bad guys past the cloud. We need to see what we’re up against! See if Creed’s mages can dispel the cloud or something!” A horned creature lumbered towards her, its back covered with a wooden scaffold mounting a magic-wreathed ballista. She dodged the beast’s clumsy attempt to gore her and leapt aboard, slicing the huge crossbow’s mage operator in two as his bodyguard turned tail.

“They’re doing their best,” Giles replied. Faith looked up from her new vantage point, seeing the clouds thin and begin to draw back into the sky. Her face fell as she saw what lay beyond.

The Presidium army, the vanguard of which spread around her, stretched to the horizon. It surrounded the Citadel on all sides in a mass of moving bodies, seemingly without end. Dozens, hundreds of giant demons towered out of the teeming regiments. Mage towers stood ready. The great Klendath demons stood in a line abreast, crossing the entire plain. Two other shapes towered even above these, One nearly upon then, the other further back, by the Citadel. Two gigantic creatures stood, massive creations of flesh and metal like titanic hounds. Fortresses mounted on their enormous backs housed dozens of mages and warriors by the hundreds. Siege weapons on the nearest huge creature were already blazing trails of explosive magic into the melee before it. Crowning them both were huge towers of steel and magic, from which the beasts’ masters stared down. Even a mile distant from the nearest, the resemblance of these masters to the Engineer could be seen.

“Bastions!” Creed roared, looking up to see the gigantic walking fortresses. “The Presidium has joined the battle!”

Black Out


End of Act Four

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