Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Alicia Silverstone as Heli and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Tyron Leitso as Gaiden and Evangeline Lilly as Marissa
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Early Morning
Rowena looked angry as she strode towards the pair of slayers waiting in the infirmary.
“Mind telling me why I was told that Vi got herself killed?”
Kennedy met her gaze levelly and calmly replied, “You’re never gonna believe this.”
Vi and Kennedy stepped aside to give the watcher an unimpeded view of a hospital gurney.
“Ooooh-kay,” Rowena’s gaze ran the length of the motionless corpse on the gurney, then she looked over at Vi. “Angie?”
Vi shook her head stiffly. “No. This girl was a slayer. She had to have been to snap that demon’s neck, and Angie isn’t one. Besides, I just called Angie to double check.”
“From what I found…” Dr. Miller announced, walking up to the group, “she had a surgical pin in her right humerus. I’m matching the serial number as we speak, but Angie didn’t have any injury like that in her background. Blood type, facial structure, hell, even fingerprints…it all matches up, but the pin is the giveaway.” He looked down at the body. “This is Vi.”
“I’m right here,” Vi announced indignantly.
“Sorry,” the doctor apologized sincerely to Vi, but then faced the others. “Everything indicates Vi, and I have nothing to disprove it at this point.”
“What killed…” Rowena paused, as if looking for the right word. “Vi,” she finished, giving up on getting another word out.
“Hey! I’m not dead,” the slayer exclaimed.
“Vi, if you want to leave, leave.” Rowena looked at her sympathetically. “But we need to know how you managed to watch yourself get killed and what killed…you…her…whoever.”
Vi took a step back. Her face paled as she looked defiantly at Rowena. Then she finally turned and disappeared through the infirmary’s large double doors.
“Hey!” Kennedy turned to the watcher. “Would it hurt you to act like a human being for a change?”
“What more can I say, Kennedy?” Rowena’s tone was harsh. “We have a dead slayer on a hospital gurney, killed by a demon that none of us can identify. I don’t have time for hand-holding right now. If she can’t handle it, then she should go.” She turned back to Dr. Miller. “Please continue,” she prompted.
“Cause of death is pretty obvious.” He rolled the sheet covering the woman’s body down, and both women recoiled automatically at the sight of the wounds. “Four deep stab wounds; just about every organ she has between her diaphragm and her hip bones was punctured. Cause of death was blood loss.”
“Doctor, we need more than that,” Rowena pressed.
“I’m not sure how much more I can give you,” he answered honestly.
“Well, what can you tell us about the last half hour before she died? Could there be other injuries that caused her death? Anything not seen by the naked eye?”
“I’d have to do a post-mortem,” the doctor told them.
“If you start now, how quickly will you finish?” Rowena asked.
“Ro!” Kennedy gasped. “Her body isn’t even cold yet and you already want to have the doc cut her up?”
Rowena whirled to glare at her.
“Kennedy, this body is the one clue we have as to what killed this woman and who this woman really is. If you have another suggestion, I’m listening.”
Kennedy backed down, slightly.
“Dr. Miller, I want to know as much as possible about what she did in the last twenty-four hours,” Rowena looked down at the clear plastic bag at the body’s feet. “Are these her personal effects?”
The doctor nodded.
“Six hours. I’ll take anything you’ve got in six hours.” With that, the watcher turned towards the door.
Kennedy chased after her. “Don’t you think that we’re being a little fast to hit the panic button here?”
Rowena looked at the clear plastic bag in her hands for a moment. “Not at all,” she whispered softly. “Where’s Vi?”
“Probably out in the hallway, crying,” Kennedy snapped.
Rowena pushed her way through the double doors and Kennedy chased after her. When Rowena saw Vi sitting sullenly in the infirmary waiting room, she held out her hand to the redheaded slayer.
“Vi, I need to see your watch, please,” she said.
“My watch? Why?”
“Please,” Rowena repeated.
Vi slipped the digital watch from her wrist and held it out to her.
Rowena turned it over in her hand for a moment. She then dug around in the plastic bag in her hands, eventually producing an identical wristwatch.
“What is it?” Kennedy demanded.
“This watch, the one that was on the body,” Rowena said, “It’s identical, but it’s fast.”
“So they set it wrong.”
“No, it’s fast by three days, seven hours, eleven minutes and…fourteen seconds. Your watch, Vi, shows exactly the right time.” Rowena clarified. “What time did you first see her?”
“About an hour ago,” Kennedy replied. “Around a quarter after four.”
“And you say that the other Vi just…appeared?”
“Yeah,” Vi answered meekly, “I remember I thought it was another demon. It looked exactly like it did when he appeared. A big flash of light, then she was just standing there. Our eyes couldn’t see too clearly and we thought it might have been Faith answering the back up call we placed.”
Rowena turned towards Kennedy. “Still think that it’s too soon to hit the panic button?”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Vi,” Rowena’s voice softened, “I have two theories. One, that girl is you from another dimension, or two, I think that body is yours. Or at least it will be yours approximately three days from now.”
“You don’t think that this is all gonna happen, do you?” Kennedy demanded.
Rowena’s shoulders slumped. “Not if we can help it. But the truth…I just don’t know. Prophecies have been beaten, or misinterpreted. But this is different. I…” She paused for a moment. “Some physicists would say that it already has happened. Some would say that it might happen. Maybe the fact that she’s here stops it from happening, but then again, maybe it ensures it. I just don’t know.”
“So who would know?” Kennedy asked.
“I’m gonna have to call in some bigger guns here. Someone who knows a bit more about physics,” Rowena said, as she began to walk away.
“Who?” Kennedy asked.
“Our ex. You guys sit tight,” Rowena told Kennedy.
“One second,” Vi said, making her stop. “What else is in that bag?” She sounded very tired.
Rowena dug through the bag some more. “A black suede jacket, two wooden stakes marked with a silver ‘V,’ seventeen dollars cash, a wallet containing ID, and a few credit cards.”
“Is there…” Vi’s voice caught. “Is there anything in the inside jacket pocket?”
Rowena dug into the pocket. “Um, yeah, it looks like a movie ticket.” She looked up at the redheaded slayer. “How did you…” She winced as the realization came to her. “Oh.”
Without elaborating further, Vi spun around and ran out of the infirmary waiting room and down the length of the hallway.
“I’m not sure I understand,” Kennedy said to Rowena.
“Vi knew what was in the pocket because it was her pocket.”
“Meaning that’s really her on the…” Kennedy said, before she, too, trailed off. “Hey! Vi! Wait up!” Kennedy yelled, as she ran down the hall to try and catch up.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
“Vi, hold up.” Kennedy called out to her friend as she marched towards the end of the hallway.
If Vi heard her, she gave no indication.
“Vi!” Kennedy reached out and grabbed her arm. Vi jerked away.
“Just leave me alone, Ken.” Vi accelerated.
“Okay, you’re gonna have to either walk slower or grow a shorter pair of legs,” Kennedy almost had to run to keep up.
“Newsflash, Ken: when someone says ‘leave me alone,’ it usually means go away.”
“Look, I know you’re upset –”
“Really?” Vi snapped. “What reason do I have to be upset?”
“Hey, easy here. I’m just trying to help, okay?”
“Help?” Vi’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “How, exactly, do you think you can help?”
“You heard Ro, it may not happen.” Kennedy maneuvered in front of her fellow slayer. “It might not even be you, well, you you. Y’know?”
“Or it may already have happened and it is me,” Vi replied.
“Sheesh, just half-empty that glass, why don’t you?” Kennedy mumbled.
“Well, just excuse me for being a little pessimistic about my future.”
“So what else are you gonna do? If there’s no way of changing it, then nothing can save you, and there’s no point in worrying about it,” Kennedy’s voice slowly increased in volume as she spoke. “But since we haven’t buried you just yet, how ’bout you start with the assumption that it can be changed, and work from there?”
Vi glared at Kennedy for a moment, then maneuvered her way around her and continued walking. “Fine.”
“What are you gonna do?” Kennedy called after her.
“Change it,” Vi said simply, as she rounded the corner at the far end of the hallway.
Kennedy looked sadly at her receding back until she disappeared around the corner, then walked to the intersection and turned in the opposite direction Vi had.
Watchers Council – Xander’s Apartment – Same Time
“Hi, Xander.” He opened his front door to find Rowena standing in the hallway.
“Ro?” Xander drew back a moment before composing himself, “Sorry, I just wasn’t expecting you.” He looked behind him before carefully stepping into the hallway, closing the door behind him.
“Is…Is something wrong?”
“Oh, no, no,” Xander replied, a little too quickly. “My place is just a bit of a, uh, mess right now. What is it?”
“Vi…” Ro frowned, trying to find a way of phrasing exactly what had happened to the slayer. “Vi saw a version of herself…die this morning.”
“Look, I don’t know anything yet,” she quickly added. “I’m on my way to wake Will to see if we can piece it together. All I know is that we have a body in the morgue that is identical to Vi in every way, right down to a movie ticket in her jacket pocket. And she was wearing a watch that was three days fast.”
“You think she traveled back in time?” Xander’s tone was incredulous.
It was Rowena’s turn to be taken aback. “It took me a lot longer to work that out than it took you.”
“Well, it’s just like that episode of Star Trek where they found Data’s head in…” He stopped himself, seeing her somber expression. “You don’t think that this is actually going to happen, do you?”
“Of course not,” Rowena insisted. “We’ll-we’ll stop it,” she stuttered.
“Will’s right, you are a lousy liar,” he told her. “Stick to the truth. You’re better at that.”
Rowena let out a long breath. “Truth is, I don’t know,” she confessed. “What I do know is I want someone with her at all times.” She looked up again into Xander’s eyes. “Go to her. She needs you right now.”
Watchers Council – Giles House – Later that Morning
“Hi Giles,” Kennedy’s voice was soft as she stood at Giles’s front door. “You’re the biggest brain I know. Can I come in?”
Giles eyed her for a moment, perhaps slightly taken aback.
“Certainly,” he finally replied, “just…please be quiet. The baby’s had a bit of a cold and she’s finally sleeping for more than six consecutive minutes for the first time in days.” He grinned as he motioned her toward the living room.
Kennedy followed. “I’d have called first but…”
“Oh, no,” he nodded in the direction of a small plastic baby monitor sitting on the end table, beside the couch. “As I said, she’s sleeping.” He gestured at an ottoman across from him. Kennedy sat across on it, pressing her fingertips against her forehead.
A long, uncomfortable silence hung between the two before Giles spoke again.
“This conversation will pass much more quickly if you tell me what, exactly, is bothering you,” Giles prodded gently.
Kennedy looked at him for a moment before she abruptly stood and walked to the window behind her. She looked out for a moment, then spun around to face him.
“Vi…” she began, but then, yet again, seemed to have trouble finding the right words. She swallowed and steeled herself. “It looks like Vi came back in time to save herself, and got killed in the process. The second Vi, I mean – she’s dead. Our Vi is alive but…It’s pretty confusing.”
“Good Lord, are you certain?”
Kennedy nodded. “Pretty sure. Ro is, anyway. She said she’s going to have Willow research it and, although I don’t doubt Will’s brain power, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get your opinion.”
“She’s…falling apart,” Kennedy admitted, finally. “And Ro pretty much couldn’t care less,” she added, under her breath.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Buffy once told us about some prophecy thing that said that she had to die.”
“The Master.” Giles nodded.
“And how you were ready to take her place to face him.”
“And,” Giles added, “did she mention that I was wrong? It wasn’t my fight.”
“Well, she said that she had to knock you out to keep you out of the way,” Kennedy replied.
“Go on,” Giles encouraged her.
“That’s just it: when it was just Buffy, you cared about her. When it was all of us, you cared about us,” Kennedy told him, exasperated. “With Ro, I’m pretty sure any one of us could fall over dead, and all she would want to know is what demon did it.”
“Now, Kennedy, I think you know that’s not true.” Giles shook his head.
“Do I?” Kennedy replied. “You didn’t see how…how cold she was to Vi. Hell, Vi probably would have got more compassion from a cinder block. Just when I think I’ve got Ro figured out, she does something so…unfeeling.”
“Well, I admit that Rowena can be…focused,” he began.
“‘Focused?'” Kennedy scoffed, in a reasonable emulation of Giles’s voice.
“But,” he charged verbally through her interruption, “don’t doubt at all her capacity for compassion. With her, I believe it comes out in different ways.”
“You didn’t see it,” Kennedy repeated.
“No, I did not,” Giles conceded. “But I know she put a woman she loves dearly on trial for no other purpose than to protect slayers not unlike yourself. She concealed information for no other reason than to protect people she sees as vital. She has put her life on the line to protect the Council and the knowledge it has; and she would gladly forfeit her own life if it would protect that of someone under her charge…And I think you know all that.”
“I suppose so, but…”
“Did she give a reason for her behavior?”
“She said she didn’t have time for hand-holding,” Kennedy replied. “How callous is that?”
“And did she?”
Kennedy considered the question for a moment. “No, I guess not.”
“You may question her methods,” Giles said gently, “but don’t ever question that she cares. If you look deeper, I think that both you and Vi will realize that the focus she’s giving to the problem is proof that she does, in fact, care.”
“I thought things would change since Buffy got back,” Kennedy answered.
“That Buffy would deal with such things, or that Rowena’s approach might be different?”
Kennedy looked sheepish. “Can I vote all of the above?”
Giles grinned. “It’s my understanding that Buffy is…well…a buffer of sorts, someone in place so the other divisions can have a say in what happens within the Council without having to go to war against the other departments. With the work that Buffy does now – bringing in the other branches around the world to make sure they have a voice – she frankly will lack the time to handle some important things like this. It will be up to Rowena. But honestly Kennedy, I think Rowena has Vi’s best interest at heart, even if her hard line approach might suggest otherwise.”
Kennedy began to grin. “Why do things make more sense when you say them?”
Giles chuckled lightly. “Years of experience,” he told her. “And if I do everything right, someday all of you, including yourself, will no longer need me. You’ll have the answers on your own.”
“We’ll always need you, Giles,” Kennedy said seriously. “At least, I will…So, can you lend a hand?”
“I’ll research what I can here and call in a few sources, of course.”
“Thanks, Giles.” Kennedy smiled.
Watchers Council – Vi’s Room – Same Time
Xander drew to a halt as he stepped across the threshold and into VI’s bedroom. A large garbage can sat in the center of the room. Clothing of every description littered the floor around it. Vi herself was deep in the closet.
Periodically, another article of clothing would fly over her shoulder to land on some horizontal surface in the room. Finally, she appeared holding a black suede jacket. She carried it decisively over to the garbage can.
“Vi, what are you doing?”
“She…” Vi hesitated a moment before she rephrased her statement. “I…” she hesitated again. “She,” she finally said decisively, “was wearing this jacket when she died.” She dug into the jacket’s inside pocket, producing a movie ticket, which she promptly crumpled and threw into the garbage can. She then rolled the jacket itself into a ball and dropped it in.
She undid the strap on her wristwatch, and threw it angrily into the can.
“I’m not done yet,” she announced determinedly. She strode over to her dresser, sliding the third drawer open. She threw a few pairs of socks aside, then lifted a beautiful wooden box from the drawer. It was stained a dark red, and the top was adorned with a carving of the Council’s coat of arms. For the first time, Xander now noticed that her cheeks were streaked with red and her eyes were bloodshot and puffy.
Xander carefully stepped in between her and the garbage can.
“Vi, what are you doing?”
“I can change this,” Vi blubbered. “If this changes, then it can all change.”
“Vi.” Xander carefully rested his hand on the mahogany box she held tightly in hers. “These were a gift; and some day, many, many years from now, when you’re old and gray, you’ll be sorry you threw them away.” He carefully lifted her hands from the box, then set it on the bed. With the back of his left hand, he gently wiped the beads of moisture from her right cheek.
Vi stepped forward, wrapping her arms tightly around him.
Xander winced. “Um, slayer strength. Ouch.”
“Xander, will you please just shut up and hold me.” Vi’s voice was muffled, as her face was pressed tightly into his shoulder.
“Please?” Vi’s voice was pleading.
Xander brought his arms stiffly around her, and together they stood, surrounded by the disarray of the slayer’s bedroom.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Same Time
Rowena walked into Willow’s bedroom to see the witch curled up around her pillow. She smiled before taking a seat on the edge of the bed.
“Will?” she called gently, rubbing Willow’s shoulder.
“Hmm?” Willow hummed.
“I need your science-geekiness,” Rowena said softly.
“Come again?” Willow asked, beginning to wake up.
“Time travel: I need to know absolutely everything you know about it,” Rowena told her.
“This is a new way to say good morning. You still manage to keep me on my toes, I see,” Willow said, as she sat up and gave a stretch.
“Sorry you’re not more awake. I knocked but you didn’t answer, so I let myself in.”
“Let’s try this again,” Willow said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Rowena said with a grin. “Now, time travel…” she added, getting back to business.
“Well, I’m pretty sure that most scientists have agreed that it’s impossible,” Willow told her.
“Yeah, well, most scientists aren’t butt-kicking wiccans,” Rowena pointed out.
“True,” Willow conceded. “Alrighty then, time travel is sorta the Holy Grail of the dark arts. As far as I know, nobody’s managed to pull it off and if they have they’ve been pretty hush hush about it. Y’know?”
“Well, someone will. About three days from now.” Rowena told her.
“You’re serious?” Willow asked. Rowena nodded. “Am I still dreaming?” Rowena gave her a pinch on the arm and Willow gave an “Oww” in response.
“Not dreaming,” Rowena told her. “And right now, it looks like someone’s going to send Vi back in time, and…she’ll die right in front of herself and Kennedy.”
“You’re kidding?” Willow said again. Rowena reached again to deliver another pinch, but Willow grabbed her wrist. “Okay, you’re serious.”
“So I need a theory. Any theory, no matter how insane it might seem,” Rowena explained.
Willow’s brow furrowed as she pressed her fingers against her forehead. “Nobody can do it. I mean, the power required alone would be…”
“And the level of focus you would require, not to mention just knowing where to send them…”
“Will,” she stressed, “you’re gonna have to skip right past ‘it’s impossible’ and on to ‘how we do it,’ because we’ve got a second Vi in the morgue, which indicates it’s been done.” Rowena’s tone was sympathetic, but firm.
Willow looked down for a moment, an expression of intense concentration on her face.
“You know, maybe it has been done before, but we don’t know because time resets itself to the new reality.”
“I feel like I’m the one who just woke up,” Rowena replied with a look of confusion. “What are you saying?”
“What we think is the truth – reality – is just one of many possible truths depending on what events take place.” Rowena didn’t speak. The look of confusion had not changed, and Willow went on. “In other words, if someone can change events in time, then things like this conversation we’re having now won’t come to pass in reality as we know it. Reason being, the event we’re talking about might not be the one that takes place, hence no need for this conversation. So maybe people have been time traveling for eons, but we didn’t know…until now.”
“Well, like I said, Vi’s body is downstairs, so there’s a good chance we mastered it somehow. But the how is the question? So again, how do you time travel?” Rowena stressed.
“It would be like teleportation, I guess,” she said, “only in another dimension.”
“I need a little more than that.”
“Okay.” Willow stood up and paced around the room for a moment. “It’s like time isn’t a completely separate dimension from the other three. We have length, width, depth and time. Four dimensions. When someone teleports, you’re basically moving them through space without moving them through time. That’s pretty simple, except that you have to have a really good idea of where you’re going when you teleport. Otherwise, you’ll end up inside a wall, or hundreds of miles above the earth, or something else unpleasant. Time travel would be pretty much the same, except that you’re moving yourself through time, not just space.”
“If it’s that simple, why hasn’t anyone done it yet?” Rowena asked.
“Again with the ‘it’s not that simple’,” Willow replied. “You can’t just travel through time and expect to live through it. You have to travel through time and space. If you’re going to travel through time, you have to travel through all the dimensions.”
“I think I’m following you, but spell it out for me here.”
“Well, let’s say I want to send you back to yesterday, exactly twenty-four hours ago, and I only send you through time, not space.”
“Sure, you’ll end up here, but here won’t be there when you get there,” Willow gestured around the room.
“Okay, you’re losing me again.”
Willow let out a frustrated sigh. “The earth orbits the sun at a rate of about one and a half million miles every day, the sun orbits the galactic center once every two hundred million years. And our galaxy is pushing outward at millions of miles every day, every twenty-four hours.”
“So, if you went back in time twenty-four hours to right here…” Rowena gestured to the spot where she was sitting.
“Exactly! You’d end up millions of miles into deep space, exactly the area this room will pass through twenty-four hours later.” Willow finished. “So if you want to send someone back in time, you not only have to send them through time, but millions, or billions, of miles through space. Even when I was Darth Rosenberg, as Andrew called it, the best I could manage was a few miles. And if that wasn’t enough, precision teleporting isn’t that easy on its own. Time travel would be like throwing a live bee at a running puppy, four million miles away.” Rowena gave a brief grin at the analogy. “Even when I teleported just four or five miles, I’d end up several feet from where I actually intended. Multiply that by about a million…” Willow let her voice trail off in a sing-song tone.
Rowena shook her head.
“I take it that wasn’t the answer you were looking for?” Willow asked.
“No,” Rowena answered. “Vi said that her alter-ego appeared within ten feet of the demon. Or more accurately, halfway between her and the demon. That seems a little more precise than within hundreds or even millions of miles to me,” Rowena replied.
“Goddess,” Willow breathed, “the power required alone for that level of precision must be…”
“What if you had help from your whole Coven? Jeff has some ability to at least perceive the future…If he can see through time, then maybe he can send someone there and see precisely what space they need to be in, too.”
“Maybe,” Willow said. “Jeff definitely has power. I don’t know about his focus, though – especially concerning space. Xander has the same power to see events, but he’s never been interested in honing it. Plus, he’s only got a ten second lead time, so that wouldn’t work.”
“Let’s get the Coven together,” Rowena said, nodding. “I need a working theory as to how it could be done. The sooner the better.” She turned and walked towards the door.
“Wait a second,” Willow stopped her. “If sending Vi back in time is what kills her, don’t you think maybe time travel is something we shouldn’t be studying? Remember what I just said about different realities and such? Maybe we can change the reality of Vi’s death by doing nothing?”
“We have to,” Rowena replied.
“According to Vi and Kennedy, if Vi….” Rowena’s features scrunched up. “If the Vi from the future hadn’t come back, they both would have been killed by the demon that killed…Vi number two.”
“So what you’re saying is…”
“What I’m saying is that we may have to send Vi back in time, with the full knowledge that she’ll die when she gets there…but knowing that by doing so she’ll at least save Kennedy in the process.”
“Well, maybe there’s a way around it,” Willow insisted.
“If there is,” Rowena replied, “then we’ll need to know as much as possible about how she got there in the first place – another reason why I need you and the coven to accomplish what you say is impossible.” She turned around and opened the door.
“Where are you going?” Willow asked Rowena’s departing form.
“I need to check on Vi,” she replied.
Watchers Council – Morgue – Later
Rowena shuddered as she looked around at the large metal cabinets that lined the walls of the room.
“I’ve never been down here before,” she said idly. “Now I know why.”
Vi’s body lay on the metal slab, covered only by a plain, blue sheet.
Dr. Miller stood next to the metal bed, wearing a blue plastic apron.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done a post. Med school, actually…Unless you count the green, gooey version of Faith last year.” The doctor frowned as he looked down at the motionless body. “I prefer to work on humans pre-mortem, frankly.” His features scrunched as he looked up to meet Rowena’s eyes.
“Just tell me what you can,” Rowena told him gently.
“Okay, first the easy stuff: I removed the surgical pin from Vi’s arm and checked the serial number against her medical records. They match. Cause of death was massive bleeding. The major bleed was from the left kidney, it bled into the abdominal cavity and pooled there.”
“Any guess as to time of death?”
“Vi witnessed it. That pegs our death down pretty solidly around 4:15 am.” The doctor looked at her, confused.
Rowena pressed her fingers against her temples. “Ugh, time travel gives me a headache.” She shook her head before she spoke again, “No, I mean, do you have any idea what time it was wherever she came from?”
The doctor nodded, “You have her wristwatch, but physically, I found the stomach contents were likely blueberries, strawberry seeds and some type of starch, perhaps pancakes or toast or both. Judging by the amount of digestion, about two hours after breakfast, providing she ate them in the morning.”
“Around eleven o’clock then,” Rowena commented.
Dr. Miller nodded. “But here’s something interesting…she had a lot of perimortem injuries. Her large intestine had been ruptured, probably by a hard kick, and she was already going into septic shock. She had severe internal bleeding and one of her lungs was in mid-collapse.”
“With all those injuries…?” Rowena said, letting it hang.
Dr. Miller nodded, seeing what Rowena was about to say.
“It really doesn’t matter that the demon got her,” he elaborated sadly. “Even with slayer healing, she had about an hour left, maybe. And she would have spent it screaming in agony, regardless of anything I could’ve done.” He shook his head sadly. “My first-ever shift as an intern in the ER, I lost a woman whose husband had beaten her to death with a baseball bat. She wasn’t beaten nearly half as badly as Vi was. The internal bleeding alone would have put her in a coma long before she got to the infirmary. A half hour later, maybe, she would’ve been dead. There was just too much damage, even for a slayer.”
“Injuries she got during the fight?”
“Fight, yes, but not with the demon,” the doctor replied. “The first injury, as far as I’m able to tell, was a cracked rib – knowing how quickly slayers heal, and judging by the amount of healing that’s taken place, that injury was sustained at least twenty minutes before her heart stopped beating. She also had a lot of bruises in various states of healing. Nearly all the bones in her right hand had been broken and were in the process of healing.” He paused, letting out a long breath as he looked sadly down at the young woman’s body. “She spent the last half-hour of her life fighting for it.”
Dr. Miller shook his head. “I don’t know, but not counting the demon, I’d say it was at least four different peo –” He stopped himself. “Four different beings,” he said finally.
“Human-sized, I’d say, judging by the bruising areas,” the doctor replied, “and apparently pretty deadly, if they could give a slayer that much of a beating.”
Rowena frowned. “Anything more?”
Dr. Miller pursed his lips for a moment and closed his eyes. Then he looked up to meet her gaze.
“The stakes she was carrying, they were covered in blood,” he fidgeted uncomfortably. “Human blood, from at least two different people, judging by the blood type. And straight from the heart, judging by how much of it there was. She also had some spray on her skin and clothing consistent with a cardiac puncture.”
“Damn,” she whispered.
“There’s – ” the doctor stiffened, “there’s more.”
“On a hunch, I checked epinephrine levels, serotonin, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, renin, angiotensin, vasopressin and a few other hormones.”
“What?” An expression of dread slowly crept over Rowena’s face.
“Now, as you know, I’ve been here less than three years, and none of this is an exact science –” he began.
“What is it?” she interrupted gently.
“All of them are way above human baseline, especially the epinephrine levels. I did a chromosome count. 46XX: Female.”
“Slayers?” Rowena whispered quietly.
The doctor nodded silently.
“There are conditions that can drive hormone levels that high, but most of them are lethal by the time the individual is three weeks old, and all of them are exceptionally rare, except when it comes to slayers. The tests that I’ve done on Lori after she lost her powers showed a tremendous drop in these hormones. So in Vi’s case here, I can only assume…”
Rowena looked down at the body, shaking her head in disbelief.
“What the hell happened to you?” she muttered to the corpse.
“We don’t know,” Dr. Miller said softly. “But scientifically, she killed two slayers before she died.”
“Can you take the blood samples and see if we’ve got a DNA match to any of the slayers that are here? In our world, I mean?” Rowena asked.
“I can. but that will take some time. We’ve got a large database, and the testing itself –”
“Please,” Rowena said, holding up a hand. “Less talking and more research.” She grinned as she patted his shoulder.
“You got it,” the doctor answered.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later that Morning
Buffy, Rowena, Robin and Willow sat around the meeting table.
“So, what do we have then?” Buffy asked.
“Very little, I’m afraid,” Rowena answered. “But Willow’s working out a few theories.”
All eyes then turned to Willow. “I know some things about physics,” she said, “a-and I know quite a lot about magic. I’m just not sure yet how to make the two go hand-in-hand.”
“But you can do it, right?” Buffy asked. “I mean, you teleported before – you’ve even teleported me, and Dawn too.”
“Like I told Rowena, that was different. It was instant, and not time travel but ‘space’ travel. A-and to be totally honest, unless some bigger brain like Stephen Hawking calls me, I’m not sure what more I can dig up this quickly.”
At that moment, Jackson popped his head inside the door.
“Sorry to interrupt, Miss Rosenberg, but Stephen Hawking is on line two for you.”
Everyone sat stock still for a moment, eyes widening, then they began to look at one another.
“Now this is scary,” Robin said, breaking the silence. “Are you psychic now?”
“The Stephen Hawking?” Willow asked Jackson.
Jackson nodded. “Apparently? He says he got a call from Mr. Giles to reach you.”
“How did Giles know about this?” Buffy whispered to Rowena.
Rowena shrugged, as Willow turned to Jackson. “Tell him I’ll be right there.” She rose and told the room quickly, “Carry on without me, if you don’t mind.”
“No, go for it Will,” Buffy answered. Willow nodded and collected her paperwork, then swiftly left the room. “In light of this new development, do you think now’s a good time for me to go to Hong Kong?” Buffy asked.
“Rowena and I can handle this,” Robin answered.
“Absolutely,” Rowena added. “Besides, we need to start getting the other branches all together – communicating on the same informational system instantly, like you suggested. Go there and do what we planned, Buffy.”
“Yeah,” Robin agreed, “We’ll hold down the fort.”
“Are you guys sure?” Buffy asked.
“Yes,” Robin answered. “And when you get back, we’ll also have those world clocks in place you asked for.”
“The ones that read p.m. and a.m.? Oh, and the day too, right? ‘Cause I can never remember if it’s the day before or the day after in Australia.”
“They’re fifteen hours ahead of us here so…before,” Rowena answered.
Buffy looked a tad miffed. “How do you fit so much information in your brain?”
Rowena grinned and shrugged. “World traveler. Stuck with me, I guess.”
“I traveled the world,” Buffy muttered. “Didn’t stick with me.” Robin and Rowena both grinned at each other. “Okay, anyway, as long as you guys don’t mind, I’ll still go.” Robin and Rowena waved her off, indicating they were okay. “So does that conclude business for today?” Buffy asked. When no one had anything more she said, “Meeting adjourned,” and banged the gavel. “Ha, this is getting easier,” she added, waving the gavel a bit before putting it down on the desk.
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Same Time
“God, Kennedy, you look like Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi,” Andrew commented, as the dark-haired Slayer took a seat across the counter from him.
Kennedy glared angrily at him.
Andrew jumped a step back, holding up his hands in submission. “All I’m saying is that you look like you’re gonna fall over dead any minute now.”
“You know, Andrew, you really should’ve quit while you were ahead,” Kennedy snapped.
“I’m just saying that if something’s bothering you…”
“Andrew, have you ever seen Saw?”
“Oooooh, yeah,” Andrew’s eyes widened, “it was so cool how Cary Elwes had to cut through his own foot to –” he stopped briefly. “Okay, shutting up now.”
Kennedy allowed her head to drop into her hands.
“Can I…get you something?” Andrew finally asked, after a long, uncomfortable silence.
“Just whatever you’ve got ready,” Kennedy replied without looking up.
Andrew quickly took a step to his left, standing between her and the large pot of porridge that sat by the stove, blocking it from her view if she happened to look up.
“I don’t actually have anything prepared just yet, so, how about I get some eggs cooking, a little bacon, a cup of coffee…And while that’s all getting ready, why don’t you tell me what’s bothering you?”
Kennedy immediately stiffened.
“What makes you think that something’s bothering me?” she asked defensively.
“You make a Saw reference, and you wonder what makes me think that something’s bothering you?”
“Okay, I have to give you that point,” Kennedy admitted.
Andrew casually lifted the pot on the counter into the cabinet next to the stove. He then walked over to the refrigerator.
“How do you like your eggs?”
“Over easy, but not real runny,” Kennedy replied.
“Sausages or bacon?”
Andrew grinned. “Coffee?” he asked next.
Kennedy nodded. “Definitely.”
“Okay, that takes care of the easy questions. Now, what’s wrong?” Andrew asked.
“Vi saw herself die this morning,” Kennedy explained.
“Yeah, I heard about that.” Andrew nodded. Off of Kennedy’s look, he quickly defended himself. “Hey, we have a whole building populated almost exclusively by teenage girls. Do you honestly think that keeping a secret here is possible?”
Kennedy nodded. “Too true.”
“Do you really think she traveled back in time to save herself?” Andrew asked as he turned back to the stove.
“You sound just a little too excited at that prospect,” Kennedy’s eyes narrowed.
“Well, time travel is kinda one of the classic themes…”
“…which is exactly why it doesn’t surprise me that you’re a little too excited at that prospect,” Kennedy added with a smile.
“Touché,” Andrew conceded.
“So, yeah, I’m a little upset.”
“That’s no surprise, really. I mean, you just found out that one of your best friends could be dead in three days. That’ll upset anyone.”
“But that’s just it,” Kennedy added, sadly. “It’s not just Vi that I’m upset about.”
“I don’t understand.” Andrew shook his head.
Kennedy’s shoulders sagged. “It’s just…I always knew that the slayer gig came with a short life expectancy, but I always figured that with more of us out there, that could be stretched just a little bit.”
“It has,” Andrew pointed out. “Slaying doesn’t have to be a life-long gig anymore. And once you turn thirty, not at all, from all the reports.”
“Yeah, but that’s only if you make it to thirty.”
“You’ll make it, Ken,” Andrew told her.
“I’m sure I will…And that’s part of the problem.”
Andrew cocked his head. “I don’t understand.”
“Vi and I are the only two left of the original Sunnydale team. If she dies here, who’ll be left to bury me?” She winced. “I don’t mean that as self-centered as it sounded.” She stopped, picking her words, and said, “I thought after we scrunched the First, that was it. We were free and safe. No matter what, we’d never really face a threat like that again. Then along came the Presidium. Now the Presidium’s gone, and who knows what the next big threat’ll be? It’s like it never stops,” she finally said, exasperated. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last coupla years, it’s that you don’t necessarily get to die in some cool, saving the world way. Marsha got killed because someone wanted to make an example of her. Spike killed two slayers, one of them Robin’s mom, who was just having another day on the job.”
“Kennedy,” Andrew’s tone became sympathetic, “you can’t think like that.”
Kennedy shook her head. “I have to.” She rubbed at her eyes before she looked back up at Andrew. “Vi has someone who loves her, family, friends, a team of slayers who would lay their lives down for her in a cold minute. When someone good dies, it should leave ripples. It should hurt someone out there. Someone should mourn. Lately, I feel like her life, my life, would barely make a splash. Like nobody would notice.”
“You don’t mean that,” Andrew said firmly.
“Don’t I?” Kennedy’s eyebrows arched, “I can barely stand to talk to my dad anymore. I don’t know where things are with Kadin some days. Willow and I talk, but we don’t really talk anymore. Add the fact, my uncle tried to kill her and my best friend, and I just found out that maybe Vi will be dead this time next week…I’m not really feeling the love right now.”
“It might not mean much to you, but…I would notice,” Andrew said softly. “Willow would, Xander…and believe it or not, Ro would notice, too.”
“Ro?” Kennedy commented sarcastically. “You’re kidding, right?”
“She cares,” Andrew said simply. “She cares about all of her slayers. Probably more than you know – maybe more than you can know. As a matter of fact, I can’t begin to tell you how often she’s come through the kitchen looking for a coffee packet to take upstairs at two o’clock in the morning. You’ve got the slayer strength, but her…I don’t see how she keeps the hours she does. She was in her clothes from yesterday when I got here in my PJ’s this morning.” He turned back to the frying pan and flipped the eggs over.
“Well, sometimes she’s not the warmest of spirits,” Kennedy replied.
Andrew shuffled the eggs slightly in the pan. “A big part of her died with those slayers who were killed in Vancouver, a bigger part when she found out that Skye was a vampire.” He reached over to turn on the coffee maker. “Now she’s facing the real possibility that she’s going to lose another slayer on her watch.” He turned back toward Kennedy. “She hides it well, very well, but every time she loses someone, she sees it as her own personal failure. Heck, she even did a spell against the Coven’s wishes with you because she wanted to protect the slayers’ anonymity…But she also knows she still has to send you, and all the other slayers, into the field every night.”
Kennedy looked down for a moment, noticeably sobered. “So what makes you the expert on Watcher Allister?” she asked softly.
“Do you have access to the council mainframe?” Andrew asked.
Kennedy looked up at the apparent non-sequitur. “Um, yeah?”
“A little history may give you some perspective on the mystery wrapped in an enigma that is Rowena Allister. Look up a potential named Ipek who was killed in Istanbul, back during that whole affair with the First. You never know, it might make you look at her in a different way.” Andrew slid a plate in front of her.
Kennedy nodded, her expression thoughtful. After a long silence between them, she looked up at him. “Andrew?”
“You can take everyone else’s breakfast out of the cupboard now.”
A thin smile spread across his face. “I didn’t think you noticed.” He turned around to recover the large pot from the cabinet.
“Oh, and Andrew?”
Andrew turned back around. “Yes?”
“Thanks.” Kennedy smiled as she walked away, her plate in hand.
Watchers Council – Willow’s Apartment – Day
“Okay, watch carefully, ’cause it’s gonna be quick.”
Willow and Rowena sat looking at a large television screen. It showed Willow, Andrew and Jeff sitting in a circle with their eyes closed and their hands clasped in front of them.
Willow shook her head. “Nope. We needed a high-speed camera just to catch it.”
In the center of their small circle sat a small, nondescript stone.
“Anything special about that rock?” Rowena asked.
Willow shook her head. “That’s your standard, garden-variety rock. Literally. We took it from the garden out back. Figured we’d try it on something that wouldn’t die if we screwed up.”
“Smart move,” Rowena complimented, her eyes watching the screen.
A brilliant flash of light occurred approximately a foot above the stone and slightly to the left, simultaneous with a second flash around the stone itself. The stone disappeared, then rematerialized a foot above its previous position. It appeared to hang there for a fraction of a second before it dropped to the floor.
“So you teleported a rock a foot?” Rowena turned her head to Willow, not understanding.
The witch shook her head. “Watch it again, this time in slow-motion.” She played the video again, this time advancing it frame-by-frame.
Rowena squinted at the screen, then her eyes got wide. “It materialized before the other one disappeared,” she announced, a note of triumph in her voice.
Willow nodded. “We sent it about two one-thousandths of a second back in time. It materialized exactly where the room would have moved to in that time.”
“So, we can do it?”
Willow shook her head again.
“Not exactly. I mean, at this point, it’s kinda useless. We can’t send anything more than a tiny fraction of a second back, and even then we’d have to teleport it a foot to make sure that it ends up where it’s supposed to. Three days, we’d have to teleport it about six million miles, give or take a few tens of thousands. As far as I know, nobody’s ever managed to teleport anything that far.”
“Do you think Althenea could help?”
“I’m way ahead of you.” Willow smiled. “She’s hitting the books as we speak.”
“So…what have I just seen here?” Rowena gestured at the television screen.
“Proof of concept. Hawking suggested I do it,” Willow admitted. “This, I was pretty sure I could do. But until I actually did it, I could have been chasing a dead end. So now we know it can be done. But to have any useful form of time travel, you’d have to do some pretty darn impressive mojo. The teleportation would have to be exactly simultaneous with the time travel, since wherever they end up, nobody’s going to be around to perform a spell. Plus we’d have no way of knowing, once they were sent away, whether they’d arrived or not.”
“Can you do it?”
“In three days?” Willow harrumphed. “I don’t see how. We’re going to try, but honestly I can’t promise we can do what you need.”
“How soon can you try again?” Rowena asked.
“Now, if you want.”
“Okay, I want to watch this time.”
Coven Room – Moments Later
The coven again sat in a small circle, the same stone sat in the center. Just outside their circle lay a white sheet of paper, on which a bulls-eye had been hand-drawn. Willow had written on it in black marker: “Aim Here.”
Rowena stood near the door, watching the proceedings from a distance, with Willow on her right. “So how’s this going to work?” she asked the redhead.
“It’s probably not,” Willow replied. “We haven’t tried this far yet.”
“You’re a little pessimistic here,” Rowena whispered.
“Blame Newton,” Willow replied. “If the Earth were moving in a straight line, this would be easy.”
“But it’s simple physics, isn’t it? You can tell where we’re moving to…I mean, it’s not like the Earth’s changed its orbit in the last few seconds.”
“No,” Willow whispered back. “We just can’t predict exactly what direction the Earth is moving in. Heck, Jupiter alternatively slows the Earth down and speeds it up once a year, a-and it’s at a different time every year. Just about anything can throw this off.”
“I’m beginning to understand why nobody’s ever pulled this off before.”
Willow nodded shortly. She then turned to the Coven and said, “Whenever you’re ready.”
A brilliant flash filled the room. All of its occupants recoiled from the light, shielding their eyes.
Then, four young women and a young man were standing on the paper target Willow had laid on the ground.
“Oh, thank God, we made it,” one of them whispered.
The Council members began to look around at each other. Andrew’s eyes widened.
“I didn’t do it! Don’t blame me!” he announced quickly.
End of Act One