Smash Cut To:
Above Cleveland – Same Time
The black Council helicopter, crest painted onto the tail, flew past at full speed. The loud noise from its rotors whined in a pronounced Doppler Effect.
Council Helicopter – Same Time
Willow sighed. “Copy that, Ro,” she said into her radio. “Anything further? Chance of evacuation? Over.”
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Same Time
“State police of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Ontario authorities, have all been notified,” Rowena replied. “They’re stopping all traffic from entering into the larger cities. I-75 and I-80 have been closed except for emergency vehicles and traffic near Detroit and Toledo is being diverted North and West, respectively. Everyone driving in or near Pittsburgh is being diverted East. Toronto and Niagara traffic is being diverted North as a precaution.”
“What about the people in the cities?” Willow asked over the radio.
Rowena looked at Robin for a moment, exchanging a hard look. She cleared her throat.
“It’s too late for them…Look guys, the clock is still ticking. So that means find this thing and get it done. Over.”
Council Helicopter – Same Time
“You hear that, girls?” Marissa announced to the Black Ops team. “It’s partytime!” A war whoop from one of the slayers could be heard over the radio.
Willow’s reaction was as close to a double take as she could manage wearing her bulky helicopter head-gear. “Party Time?”
Marissa looked hard at the witch sitting next to her. “Do you have a problem?”
“Yes, I have a problem!” Willow nearly yelled. “I’m sitting here with a bunch of…”
For a moment, the only sound was that of the helicopter. Marissa raised her eyebrows.
“…slayers turned super-killers,” Willow finished.
“Thanks for the compliment,” Marissa said.
“Tell me, Marissa, why are you here?” Willow asked. “Seriously, I want to know. What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?”
“Taking action,” Marissa replied immediately. “Putting the smackdown on the bad guys. Getting to carry this baby around.” She motioned with her large rifle. A chorus of assent could be heard from various other Black Ops members over the radio.
“But…it’s about protecting people,” Willow said, seeming to have trouble articulating what she was thinking. “It’s not supposed to be about… bloodlust.”
“Maybe in Candyland,” Marissa laughed, “where you dance around all day and protect the fluffy fields of candy canes from the big bad wolf. But here in the real world, it’s kill or be killed.”
Willow shook her head.
“You should ask your girlfriend,” Marissa continued. “She knows she’d be dead if Black Ops didn’t kill a bunch of mafia guys to get her away from that mobster. I shot five guys that day. Humans. And I’d do it again, to keep the Council alive.”
Willow was staring at the Black Ops leader, taken aback by the turn this conversation had taken. Then a far-off look flitted across her face. She furrowed her brow in confusion.
“I think…there’s something,” she said quietly.
“What?” Marissa asked. “Do you have the target?”
Willow seemed to concentrate for a moment, but then shook her head. “I don’t…it’s not very specific.”
“But it’s nearby?” the Black Ops Leader pressed.
“Probably,” Willow told her reticently. “Maybe.”
“Black Ops to Base,” Marissa attempted, adjusting her helmet radio. “Come in, base. Over.”
“This is Base,” Xander’s voice crackled. “Go ahead, Black Ops.”
“What are you doing?” Willow asked the Slayer next to her. “I said I don’t know.”
“I’ve got a hunch,” Marissa explained. She turned her attention back to her radio conversation. “We have a lead on the target location. We’re going in.”
“We don’t have a lead,” Willow insisted, changing her radio so she could also talk to Xander. “A hunch is not a lead!”
“Listen to me,” Marissa ordered her, dead serious. “Instincts are all we’ve got right now. In half an hour this crappy town is gonna disappear from the planet if we don’t do something. So I’m doing something.”
Willow said nothing.
Marissa once again began talking to Xander. “That’s all for –”
Cleveland Lakefront – Same Time
The pyramid shape of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame jutted from the Lake Erie coast, the lights inside the glass walls glittering in the night. In the foreground ran the thin artery known as the Shoreway.
D Team Van – Same Time
“– the Rock Hall,” Heli was saying, taking a hand off the wheel to point out the window. “That would be a good target. Are you feeling anything?”
“No,” Andrew said, his voice high-pitched. “You know what? I really need to urinate.”
“What is wrong with you?” Heli asked incredulously. She pointed out the window again. “There’s the Science Center. Anything?”
“Eyes on the road!” CiCi urged from the back of the van.
“Can we please stop with the backwards driving?” Heli complained.
“That’s ‘backseat driving’,” Marly supplied.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Andrew repeated.
“In thirty minutes we’re all going to die, and you have to go to the bathroom!” Heli shouted.
“It happens when I’m nervous,” Andrew told her defensively. “Maybe if you’d stop saying things like ‘in thirty minutes we’re all going to die,’ I wouldn’t be nervous.”
“He’s got a point,” Zoe agreed. “We all know what’s at stake.”
Heli sighed. “Sorry. I really am trying here. I’m not very good at this.”
“You are,” Marly assured her, leaning forward. “We’re all panicking here, okay? We just gotta do our jobs, right? And if there’s one thing you’re good at…”
“It’s doing my job,” Heli finished. “You remembered.”
“Roommates,” Marly smiled. “I told ya.”
Heli managed a small smile before turning once again to Andrew. “Anything?”
“Not yet, and I still have to –”
A Team Van – Same Time
“– a left, up here,” Skye was saying, her voice quiet but firm.
Marie quickly glanced at Kennedy in the passenger seat, and received a slight nod from her superior. The van continued for a moment in silence. Kennedy glanced in the side mirror. Chamique was continuously fastening and unfastening the snap that held her jeans pocket closed without realizing.
“What’s it like?” It was Denise, the small girl on the floor in the back, who had piped up.
“What’s what like?” Skye asked absent-mindedly.
“Being a vampire,” Denise said.
“Sweetie,” Morgan told the girl, her tongue tsking her disapproval, “you don’t want to know that.”
“Not like I wanna be one,” Denise defended. “I just wanna know. How am I ‘sposed to fight ’em if I don’t get what they’re thinking? Thought that was why we didn’t stake her right off, for information.”
She looked at Skye, who seemed occupied with something else. “What’s it like?” Denise asked again.
Skye cast a sidelong glance at the moppet stationed at her feet. “It’s…you know when you were a little kid, and you rode a roller coaster for the first time?” Denise nodded. “You could feel everything, the temperature of the air, the cheap leather from those harnesses they put you in, each little bump in the track…That’s what it’s like, every second of every day. Three lights up, turn right. I’m aware of every breath you’re taking…I can feel the way the blood rushes to her cheeks when she’s embarrassed…”
“Her?” Chamique asked, confused.
“That’s a right turn,” Skye told the front seat.
“Do you know where you’re going or not?” Marie asked testily.
“I do,” Skye said, “but you won’t get there unless you do exactly what I say.”
“Why not just tell us now?” Kennedy wanted to know.
“Because they’ve done something,” Skye explained. “It’s not a straight signature. If we go there the fastest way, I might lose the trail and we’d be screwed. I don’t think I’d even have picked it up before…y’know, before.”
“Great,” Kennedy muttered, sitting back into her chair. “Just great.”
“Slayer One, this is Base, we’ve got an update,” Xander’s voice said over the radio. “Over.”
“This is Slayer One,” Kennedy responded. “Go ahead.”
“Black Ops says they have a lead,” Xander told her. “They’re going in, over.”
“They won’t find anything,” Skye said matter-of-factly.
“She doesn’t even have a radio,” Denise observed in the back. “How can she hear that?”
“She’s like that guy from The Sentinel,” Morgan quipped. “Y’know, with super senses?”
Chamique just laughed at her friend. “Do you know how obscure that –”
Watchers Council – War Room – Same Time
“– are you doing?” Xander turned around to see Rowena standing in the doorway.
“Not that I don’t enjoy your company, Ro, but aren’t you Watchers supposed to be busy…watching?” he asked.
“I think I’ve done what I can,” she replied. “We’ve got some of the Coven students looking for ways to disarm Apollo’s Hammer, but mostly…I just had to get out of there.”
“I know what you mean,” Xander agreed. “Tensions do seem to be running high.”
“That’s an understatement,” Rowena sighed, walking closer to Xander’s myriad of screens. “I just had to physically prevent Marita Kostelic from smacking Jerry Krasburg over the head with Gray’s Compendium. That thing can do some serious damage. So I guess I thought I’d come over and get a situation update in person.”
“Well,” Xander told her, “things are looking pretty decent, actually. Jeff’s got something specific in Westlake.”
“Yep. Black Ops has got a lead and Marissa tells me she’s ‘going in.’ Oh, and Kennedy seems to know where she’s headed,” he finished.
“One of those groups is probably on the right track,” Rowena reasoned, “though it’s a little disconcerting that they’re not all going to the same place.”
“True,” Xander agreed. “But still, this looks like yet another crisis averted, huh?”
“Maybe.” Rowena allowed herself the beginnings of a smile, leaning on one of the monitors. “It’s been hard, you know, but I think…I finally feel like things are coming together…Or I’m totally off base and things are about to be blown all apart, literally.”
“Gotta take the good with the bad, I guess,” Xander cracked, but he was smiling when he said it.
“I’m serious,” Rowena insisted. “I know we’ve had our issues around here, but maybe those really were just…growing pains. It took a while for me to find my comfort zone, but I think, maybe now…our team is in place.”
“You mean with Kennedy,” Xander said.
“I mean with Kennedy.” She nodded. “That’s weird, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Xander confirmed. “That definitely falls under the weird category. But what about Willow? Are you guys able to keep work and play separate these days?”
“I think so,” Rowena told him, and then she repeated, “I think so. And if I’m right, then everything will be just fine. And if I’m wrong…it won’t matter anyway.”
“Nice you can find a silver lining in every cloud,” he said with a grin.
“Thanks. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of readying myself for the afterlife right now,” she said, followed by a nervous sigh.
By some cosmic coincidence, it was Willow’s voice that came over the radio at that moment. “This is Coven One to Base. I think we’re making a mistake, over.”
“This is Base,” Xander replied, speaking into the large microphone in front of him. “What do you mean, Will? I thought Marissa said you were sensing something. Over.”
“I am,” Willow admitted. “I just…It’s like it’s blocked or something. And now Marissa says she’s got a hunch and we’re just going with that? I have a bad feeling about this.”
Rowena motioned for Xander to make way, then leaned over the microphone. “Will, I’m going to have to agree with Marissa on this one.”
Watchers Council – War Room – Continuous
“Ro?” Willow asked. “Is that you? Listen, we have to talk about this Black Ops concept again. I’ve spent some time and…I don’t think these are the people we want on the front lines.”
“Sweetie, they’re exactly the people we want on the front lines,” Rowena argued, “and I feel safer knowing you’re with them. Look, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over my years as a watcher, it’s to trust a slayer’s gut. If Marissa knows where she’s going, I think you guys should follow her. Tell Marissa she can go ahead.”
There was just silence on the other end of the line. “Over,” Rowena ventured.
“This is Coven One out,” Willow said icily, before her radio clicked off.
Rowena saw Xander looking at her. “What?” she asked.
C Team Van – Same Time
Impractically large houses surrounded a winding suburban cul-de-sac. A black Council van squealed to a stop in front of the nearest. Almost before the vehicle had come to a full stop, Faith was out the driver’s side door.
“All right, people, you know what to do,” she announced, as the rest of the team started to empty out of the van. “Connie and Sarah, around the back. The rest of us will go through the front door. We want a minimum of noise here, don’t wanna let ’em know we’re coming.”
Connie and Sarah nodded to each other and broke off, running in a crouch across the front yard until they reached the side of the house. Faith led her team in a similar manner beside the front walk, but stopped part way.
“You comin’?” she asked.
Lorinda was standing back at the van. “I thought you were kicking me out?”
“Not yet I ain’t,” Faith told her. “We need everybody on this one, even snot-nosed prima donnas.”
Lorinda crinkled her nose, but grabbed a crossbow out of the back of the van and caught up to the group. Faith, Jeff, Claireand Lorinda gathered around the front door, backs to the wall of the house.
“You can’t do this to me, y’know,” Lorinda said quietly. “Do you know who my family is? Do you? They will sue your…”
“They’re not richer than us,” Faith interrupted. “Try the door.”
Claire wiggled the doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn.
“Alright,” Faith said, “Plan B. Everybody step back.” The small group backed away from the door as Faith sized it up.
Westlake House Foyer – Same Time
With a loud crack, the front door of the house fell inwards to reveal Faith balanced on one foot, the other raised after kicking the door in. She entered cautiously, a sword ready in her hand. The rest of the team followed her into the darkened house.
“Minimum of noise, huh?” Sarah quipped in a stage whisper. She and Connie were standing directly ahead in the kitchen. Faith raised a finger to her lips, and the other slayer nodded.
“If they didn’t hear that –” Lorinda began, but Faith cut her off with a look.
A carpeted set of stairs just to the right of the front door led to the second floor. In addition to the kitchen, the house’s large foyer also opened onto a large living room. Faith pointed at Claire and Jeff, then gestured towards the living room. Jeff nodded. He and the slayer padded off to the right. Faith walked forward to meet Connie and Sarah, followed by Lorinda. She gestured for the two blondes to check out the nearby dining room.
Jeff let out a low whistle when he saw the massive high-definition television that dominated the living room. Claire glanced behind the couch, but shook her head when she found nothing.
In the dining room, Connie and Sarah slunk around the well-groomed table and chairs. Sarah stubbed her toe on the silverware cabinet, causing the plates inside to clink. “Ow,” she mouthed. Connie gave her a severe look.
Meanwhile, Faith glanced around the kitchen and found a nondescript wooden door on the far side. She pointed to her eyes, telling Lorinda to keep watch. Faith moved towards the door and took a deep breath before slowly and silently opening it.
Inside the door was a completely dark room. Faith felt around inside the door for a light switch. Finding one, she flicked it on, revealing a small room lined with wooden shelves, each shelf filled with cans and bottles.
The distinctive twang of a crossbow bolt being released broke the silence, followed closely by a single loud cat’s meow. Faith quickly clicked the pantry light off and went to investigate.
Lorinda was on high alert, frantically swinging her crossbow around in every direction. She opened her mouth to explain, but Faith immediately covered it with her hand, silencing the wide-eyed young slayer. She gave Lorinda a venomous look, then released her.
Turning around, Faith discovered the other members of the team standing nearby. The dark-haired slayer gestured upwards. Jeff nodded in agreement. Faith moved over to the foot of the stairs, then gestured twice over her shoulder. Connie and Claire took off up the stairs, as quietly as possible. When they reached the top, Faith sent Lorinda and Sarah up. The pair reached the top of the stairs and sped past Connie and Claire, standing watch at the top of the stairs. They found a long hallway with multiple branches. Lorinda and Sarah posted themselves at the first branch. Faith and Jeff followed, catching up to Lorinda and Sarah, then hanging a right down the crossing hallway.
The two senior members of the team stopped outside a wooden door decorated with paper hearts of various shapes and sizes. Faith glanced down and saw that a sliver of light was escaping from the crack under the door. She looked up at Jeff, who nodded once.
Faith slammed against the door, bursting it open. The slayer charged into the room, brandishing her sword threateningly, followed more slowly by Jeff. The only occupant of the room was a small, well-groomed teenage girl, maybe sixteen years old. She jumped in her seat in front of a mirror when the door flew open, smearing the make-up she had been applying across her face, then let out a pitifully weak scream when she saw Faith.
Without responding, Faith ripped open the doors to the girls’ closet, finding it stuffed with expensive-looking clothes. Turning away from this, she leaned down and checked underneath the girls’ bed. Finding nothing, she turned her attention to the surprised girl.
“Where’s the bomb,” Faith asked, her tone both threatening and business-like.
The girl was having trouble forming a response.
“Faith –” Jeff began.
“Where’s the bomb?” Faith repeated, louder this time.
The girl shook her head. “What?!?” she asked, looking at Faith like she was crazy. “Who the hell are you people?”
“She doesn’t know anything,” Jeff said quietly.
“You gave me a positive on this house,” Faith told him angrily. “You told me it was here!”
“Did you do any magic in the past hour?” Jeff asked the girl, ignoring Faith for the moment.
The girl still looked like she was having trouble processing events.
“Please,” he pleaded. “It’s important.”
“Just a… um,” the girl stammered, coming to her senses a little, “just a glamour. I had a…I- I had a zit, my boyfriend’s coming over…My grandmother, she taught me…”
Jeff turned away from the girl, walking towards the opposite wall. He was smiling in what looked like disbelief.
“What is it?” Faith asked, following him.
“For me to get that kind of reading from a glamour…that must have been a really big zit.”
“Are you saying she’s lying?”
“No, I don’t think so.” Jeff shook his head. “I think this girl has way more magical power than she knows what to do with, but…look at her. She’s telling the truth.”
Faith sighed loudly. “Okay, let’s go.”
Jeff walked back over to the girl.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” he told her. “What’s your name?”
“Uh, Jocelyn,” the girl said, shaking her head to clear it. “Jocelyn O’Hara.”
“Listen, Jocelyn, if you need any help…with anything that comes up, don’t hesitate to call us.” Jeff reached into his pocket and pulled out a Council business card, handing it to her. “And, uh, we’ll pay for the front door.” He turned to leave, but stopped when the girl called out to him.
“Hey, what’s your name?”
“I’m Jeff,” he said, smiling. Faith rolled her eyes and left the room. Jeff followed. He turned again when he reached the door.
“Oh, and, um, you might want to check on your cat.”
Clinton Avenue…or possibly Lorain Avenue – Same Time
“– time do we have left?” asked Nadia. The quiet slayer’s dark eyes looked tired as she walked down a busy sidewalk.
“Twenty minutes,” Jaye responded. “At the outside.”
“Are we seriously going to find something out here?” Christa asked. “Are you sensing anything, Summers?”
“No,” Dawn sighed. “Nothing. And I don’t think there’s going to be anything.”
“We’ve got to keep trying,” Vi said, sounding harried as she walked ahead of the group. “What else are we gonna do?”
“There’s nothing out here,” Dawn told her. “If there was, I would have sensed it already. I’m sorry we got stuck in traffic, but there are other teams out tonight.”
Vi stopped, running a hand through her hair. “Look, guys, I know this isn’t the way we wanted things to turn out, but I have to keep trying, and I need your help. If we’re gonna go down – which we’re not – I think it’s worth it to go down swinging.” She managed a small smile. “Either way, it’s not gonna take more than twenty minutes of your time.”
Shannon looked around at her fellow slayers before answering. “Then we’re with you.” Vi nodded, then turned and started walking again. She got a little gap on the rest of the group and clicked on her radio. “Slayer Two to Base. Over.”
“Y’know,” Xander’s voice answered, “you’re gonna have to give Faith her call-sign back eventually, or she’s gonna kick your ass.”
“She can try,” Vi said.
“Has everyone around here been taking crazy pills?” Xander wondered. “You guys are all friends.”
“Xander, do we have any shot at all?” Vi said suddenly.
Vi looked stunned, but shook her head. “No, I mean, are we gonna find this thing or…are we gonna die?”
B Team Location – Continuous
It was Xander’s turn to be silent for a moment. “We’re gonna be fine, Vi.”
“Faith radioed everyone, said her lead was a bust,” Vi told him. “I’m doing my best but…people are starting to panic out here.”
“Everything is going to be fine,” Xander repeated.
Vi hesitated. “You sure?” she asked quietly.
Terminal Tower Observation Deck – Same Time
The tan stone hulk of the Terminal Tower jutted into the night sky, its spire lit by a series of colored lights. About a two-thirds of the way up the tower, a ledge jutted out from the side of the building. A sign on the outer railing of the ledge read. “Observation Deck Patrons Please Stay Behind Yellow Line.” The deck was empty.
Then five lithe figures in black dropped expertly to the deck from long cables. The Black Ops team quickly began to unbuckle themselves from their harnesses. As she grabbed her rifle from where it had been strapped to her back, Marissa looked up expectantly. From above the group, a scream was slowly but surely getting louder.
In a moment, Willow hit the deck with a thud. Marissa stood over her crumpled form.
“I’m out of practice with my helicopter invasion skills,” the witch groaned as she got to her feet. “You’ll have to forgive me.”
“We’re ready when you are,” Marissa told her. “You gettin’ anything new?”
Willow glanced around, looking almost as if she was about to sniff the air. “Maybe…there’s something weird. It could be here, could be a couple blocks away.”
“Can you think of a more prominent target than this around here?” Marissa asked her.
“I guess not,” Willow admitted.
“Right, let’s go then,” Marissa announced.
One of the Black Ops girls burst through the glass door that separated the indoor and outdoor portions of the observation deck. She kept her gun up and ready, quickly glancing around the room. Finding it empty, she entered, followed by the rest of the team. Wordlessly, the group spread out, checking every darkened corner of the facility. Willow glanced around nervously at the coordinated activity.
“Nothing,” reported the nearest girl.
Marissa nodded. “Next floor down.”
In one corner of the room was a small door that simply read “Stairs”, above which was a glowing red “Exit” sign. As one unit, followed by the single straggler of Willow, the group moved towards the door, then passed through single file.
On the stairway, the point girl quickly went down to the first landing, checking the next set of stairs before nodding up to Marissa. “Go,” she ordered, and the group immediately streamed down the stairway. This process was repeated at the next landing. When the group reached that point, it found a door leading to that floor, marked “42DJ.” Marissa nodded once again, and one of the girls turned the handle and slowly pulled open the door.
The Black Ops team then found themselves in a normal-looking office hallway, seemingly unaffected by demonic disturbances.
“This is going to take forever,” Willow noted, “and I’m not getting anything more specific.” Marissa shot her an annoyed look.
One of the girls reached the end of the hall, then, looking to her right, motioned for the others to follow her. When the group reached her, they saw what she was excited about: a nearby office had its lights on.
The team quickly gathered around the outer door of the office. “Is this it?” Marissa asked Willow.
Willow took a deep breath, then spoke as clearly as she could. “Something is blocking the wave patterns. I think it’s something the Molna did. The bomb could be anywhere within a certain radius.”
“But it’s possible.”
“It’s possible,” Willow conceded.
“Okay then,” Marissa said, signaling to her slayers. “One, two…
On “three”, two of the girls slammed their hips against the door, smashing it open. They moved a step into the room, weapons raised.
Marissa followed immediately behind, brandishing her rifle as well. “This is the Watchers Council,” she announced. “Put your hands over your head. Do not make any sudden movements.”
Willow entered behind the Black Ops team to find a stereotypical office suite. A very surprised-looking secretary sat behind a reception desk. Behind her, two men and a woman stood, raising their heads above light blue cubicle walls.
“Everybody, out where we can see you!” Marissa yelled. The occupants of the office, seemingly stunned into compliance, quickly did as they were told.
“I don’t think…” Willow began.
“This is what I do,” Marissa told her quietly. “Let me do it.” Then she raised her voice once again. “Hands in the air!”
“Please,” one man said quietly, “I have a wife, two daughters…”
“Shut up!” shouted the nearest Black Ops girl, moving a step closer to the offender.
The people had now gathered in the office lobby, each standing helplessly with their hands raised. “We have reason to believe there may be a weapon located in this area. Do exactly what I say and there’s no reason anyone has to get hurt.”
“Are you people crazy?” one man asked.
This time it was Marissa who screamed. “Shut up! You want me to blow your brains out?”
“Let’s all just calm down here,” Willow urged, her voice almost panicked.
“Hey,” one of the girls yelled, “hands in the air!” One of the office workers was slowly lowering his hands.
“Are you listening to me?” Marissa asked him. “Keep your hands where I can see ’em!” But the man did not stop, continuing to slowly lower his hands.
“Everybody calm down!” Willow shouted.
The man’s hand went into his pants pocket as he opened his mouth to speak…
A shot rang out, and the man who had lowered his hands looked down at his chest. A quizzical look came over his face when he saw blood trickling from a bullet wound on the right side of his chest. Then he crumpled to the floor. Willow could do nothing but stare, open mouthed.
One of the office workers saw this distraction as their chance and charged forward, slamming into one of the slayers and driving her to the floor. The girl fired her gun in response, and then bullets began to fly everywhere. The secretary’s chair was reduced to shreds by several direct hits.
“Stop it! Stop it!!” Willow screamed. The gunfire stopped.
The witch struggled to breathe when she saw what the melee had left in its wake. The people, who moments earlier had been going about their business, were now on the floor. Blood was soaking through the clothes of the victims.
“Oh my Goddess,” Willow breathed softly.
The Black Ops slayer on the floor pushed the limp body of the man who had attacked her off of her and onto the floor with a grunt. Another of the girls was leaning over a female office worker, feeling for a pulse. “This one’s dead,” she announced flatly.
“I’ve got another one,” one of the other girls said.
“What…did you do…” Willow stammered.
“He attacked her,” Marissa said defensively. “She defended herself.”
“I’ve got a live one,” said one of the slayers from behind the desk. She knelt down next to the office secretary, who was on her back behind her desk, cradling a bloody arm. “Can you move?”
Willow moved slowly, like she was under water. She made her way over to the man who had first lowered his hands. Willow leaned down and went through the pocket the man had tried to reach for. She pulled out a small rectangular photograph. The picture showed a smiling brown-haired woman and two grinning small girls.
“This was what he wanted,” she said quietly, handing the picture over to Marissa.
Marissa stared at the photograph for a moment. “That’s just…stupid,” she finally said.
“We have to help them,” Willow said, an emptiness in her voice. “We have to help…any survivors.” Nearby, one of the office workers groaned.
“No,” Marissa told her. “We have to move.”
“These people need our help!” Willow yelled, suddenly raising her voice.
Marissa didn’t respond for a moment. When she did, her voice was low and level.
“In about fifteen minutes, the entire city is going to be engulfed in flames. We have to get out of here.” Without another word, she left the room.
Willow stared after the Black Ops leader. Her face was expressionless, but her eyes were red.
A Team Van – Same Time
Marie drove down Carnegie Avenue at a pretty good clip, hemmed in on both sides by buildings at least several stories high.
“Hey, is that our helicopter?” Denise wondered, peering out the back window.
Morgan got up to check it out. “Looks like,” she said.
“But a lot of helicopters look the same, right?” the younger slayer asked.
“It’s not that far,” Skye told the girls in front.
Morgan shrugged. “Hey guys, did Xander say anything about Black Ops checking out the Terminal Tower?”
“Nope,” Kennedy said. “He just said they had a lead.”
Marie looked in the side mirror and saw a black helicopter hovering in the distance above the towering stone skyscraper. “That looks like it might be Marissa and the girls, though,” she observed. The black-haired slayer turned to look at Kennedy. “Is it just me, or is that girl a little nutso. I mean, remember when she tried to have that demon head mounted in her dorm –”
“Marie!!!” Kennedy yelled. Marie looked back at the road and saw that a small tan car had pulled out of a nearby alley and then stopped directly in the van’s path. She slammed on the brakes, sending Denise and Morgan sprawling in the back. Chamique yelped. Skye didn’t move at all. The van screeched to a stop, but couldn’t quite avoid running into the car. Kennedy held tightly onto her armrest, trying to minimize the whiplash. Marie’s head banged into the steering wheel. Then it was quiet.
“Is everybody okay?” Kennedy asked, watching smoke rise from underneath the van’s crumpled hood.
Marie put a hand to her forehead and pulled it away. A quizzical look spread across her face when she saw blood covering her fingers. “I think so.”
“My arm hurts…a lot,” Denise reported. Morgan and Chamique were silently looking at each other, seemingly fine themselves, if a little banged up.
“I’m good, just in case anyone was worried,” Skye said dryly. She was still sitting in her seat, hands in her lap; she wasn’t even rumpled.
“I’m gonna go check on this idiot,” Kennedy announced, opening her door.
She stepped out of the van and walked around the back until she reached the wrecked car. The van had hit it broadside, caving in much of the driver’s side. In the driver’s seat sat a thin demon, almost human-looking except for its unusually pale skin. Its long hair had been tied into a series of knots, exposing its gray scalp. A piece of twisted metal had sliced through the demon’s side, and dark green blood poured from the wound.
“You’re hurt,” Kennedy said. She pulled back on the door with slayer strength, wrenching it open. “Let me get you out of here.”
“It’s all right,” the demon coughed in accented English.
“Yes, it is…because we’re going to help you,” Kennedy said, putting her arm around the demon and trying to pull it from the car.
The demon groaned as it slid out of the car and down to the pavement. It stared up at the dark sky. “I will become one with Vak’Nesh…all his glories upon me…”
“I’m sure you will,” Kennedy assured it, leaning over the dying demon.
“Because I am…Molna.”
“What?” Kennedy asked, her tone shifting suddenly. “What did you say?”
“I am…I am Molna…”
Kennedy ripped open the demon’s jacket. Duct-taped to its body was a set of plastic explosives.
“Everybody out of the van!!!” Kennedy screamed. She got to her feet and took off at full speed. She got about six strides before the demon’s car exploded in flames behind her. A split-second later, the van went up in a second fireball. Kennedy was knocked on her face by the force of the explosions.
End of Act Three