Mr. Felix’s Office – Day
Mr. Felix glanced over the file in hand. Across from him sat a Black man in a suit.
“…the conclusions are fairly easy to boil down, sir.”
Felix nodded, still looking at the file. “Go ahead.”
The man took a breath. “The current Watchers Council is just a fragment of the former organization. Five years ago, a series of carefully timed attacks wiped out virtually the entire upper management as well as most of its field operatives. Current leadership consists of those few who escaped that initial attack – approximately two dozen at most – as well as various friends and allies of the former Council, built around a nucleus of one group, mostly associates of the then-slayer Buffy Anne Summers. All have considerable experience in the field.”
“I would assume so.”
“Yes, sir. But only two of the core leadership are above the age of thirty, and another is in semi-retirement, Mr. Rupert Giles. He was an Oxford dropout and Ms. Summers’ watcher when she was the ‘one girl.’ The other two are Rowena Allister, a graduate of the old Watchers Academy, and Robin Wood, who was a public school principal in California.”
“Some managerial experience, then.”
“Some, yes. His tenure as a principal lasted less than a standard school year.”
“He is also in a romantic relationship with one of the slayers, Miss Faith Lehane.”
“The convicted murderer who gave herself up, then escaped from a maximum security prison? Impressive. In all sorts of ways.” Felix nodded, flipping pages in the file. “And another romantic relationship among the core leaders, I see. Miss Allister and Miss Willow Rosenberg.”
“A homosexual liaison, sir.”
Felix looked up, his expression equal parts amused and annoyed. “Obviously. Have you ever met my brother?”
“He and his husband have been together for twelve years last August.”
“I…offer my congratulations.” The other man paused. “There is also a third such relationship, sir.”
“Xander Harris and Violet Joston, sir. Their weapons designer and one of the senior slayers.”
Felix smiled. “Nice to know there’s so much romance in the world.”
“In terms of their private lives, I am sure. Our evaluation, however, regards the overall efficiency of the group as a whole as –”
Felix raised his hand for silence. “Yes, I understand that. The question before us is not whether the Council is comprised of good or bad people. Nor is it a question of whether they can accomplish their stated goals, on occasion. Even multiple occasions. We are concerned with their viability as an organization long-term. Not what they do or do not do this year or next year.”
“Their long-term stability does seem very suspect.”
“Yes.” He glanced again at the file. “I wish I did not agree. This Council has at its disposal awesome power, and even more awesome responsibility. Yet they are mostly college dropouts who’ve barely reached the quarter-century mark. While it has picked up institutions and traditions from the previous Council and has accomplished much in the last three years, we would be stupid not to worry.”
He looked off into space for several seconds, long enough for the analyst to finally interrupt. “Sir? Will you be authorizing the sanction?”
“No! Not on the basis of this,” he tossed the file onto his desk. “We need more intimate data. Youth isn’t necessarily a disqualification. Alexander the Great conquered the world before he was thirty. Raphael was one of the world’s great artists at the same age as some of the Council members. Shakespeare never went to college, and Ulysses Grant was a total failure at the start of the Civil War, then went on to save the Union. There’s more to people than statistics.” He paused again.
“Your orders, sir?”
“How many slayers are there?”
“The exact number isn’t known, precisely. Tens of thousands, at the least.”
“Out of tens of thousands, don’t you think we could find one or two that aren’t totally satisfied with the Council and its choices?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Turn one, you mean?”
“Recruit,” Felix corrected. “Continue with our recruits. That shouldn’t be too hard.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Morning
Marissa walked into the Council lobby and looked around at the new, larger, unfamiliar space. Watchers, slayers, and other various staff moved around her in a hustle as she kept her leisurely pace to the reception desk.
“Welcome to the Watchers Council,” the receptionist said. “How can I help you?”
“Faith Lehane,” Marissa answered. “I need to talk to her. I’m a…a friend.”
“You must know then that Ms. Lehane is out of town at the moment. If you’d like to leave a note, I’ll deliver it to her mailbox upon her return.” She pushed a pencil and piece of paper toward Marissa.
“That’s okay,” Marissa said. “When is she due back?”
“Well, if you are a friend, I would suggest you call her and ask. We don’t provide that information to just anyone, Ms…?”
Marissa gave a sarcastic grin. “Thanks anyway,” she said, before turning around.
When she did, she came face to face with Willow.
“Hey,” Willow began nervously. “What brings you by?”
“Relax,” Marissa said with a sarcastic grin. “I’m not staying. I just stopped by to tell Faith I found a new job, but maybe you can pass this along to her.” She handed Willow a business card.
“Really? Well, that’s good,” Willow said as she examined it. “Bureau Nine? Who are they?”
“I guess you could call them a security company, or freelance monster hunters. That’s my job, anyway…providing security to clients that have had to deal with the demon element.”
“Oh, I…I haven’t heard of them.”
“I’m not surprised,” Marissa answered with another grin. “But see that Faith gets that, if you don’t mind,” she told her. “And tell her I’ll call her next week.”
“Yeah, no problem, Marissa,” Willow replied. “I’m-I’m glad things are looking up for you.”
“You too,” Marissa said, motioning around their environment. “See ya.”
As she began to walk away, Willow looked at the card again.
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Minutes Later
“And these people would be?” Buffy handed the card back over her desk to Willow, where the witch and Rowena were seated across from her.
“I told you everything she told me,” Willow replied. “She didn’t seem too secret agent-y about it.”
Buffy turned to Rowena. “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, what with the vamp studies and your sessions with Dr. Millenti after your snow adventure-slash-confrontation.”
“Dr. Millenti has cleared me for service and opened his door to talk if I need to. But right now, this takes precedence over all else. First Tyrell and now these guys hiring former slayers?” Rowena posed.
“You think there’s a connection?” Buffy asked.
“Well, that’s what I’ll try to find out. May I?” Rowena asked Willow, extending her hand toward her.
Willow handed over the card. “Go for it, Sweetie.”
“I’ll see what I can dig up,” Rowena told Buffy.
“Good. If you need help, maybe Jim can lend a hand?” Buffy suggested.
Rowena grinned. “That’s a joke, right?”
Buffy shook her head and smiled. “I know I keep asking but…why? He seems like a great guy.”
“Ohh,” Willow said, a touch of curiosity in her voice. “Really? Is Buff following my lead in the benefits of watcher love?”
Buffy just waved her off.
Rowena shrugged. “I could explain, but we don’t have that kind of time,” she replied. “Let’s just say he’s an egotistical pretty boy, and I’m…not a boy. Otherwise, we’re very much alike.”
“Confident doesn’t equal egotistical,” Willow replied.
“Oh, another thing,” Rowena added. “He doesn’t have a hot girlfriend who knows the right thing to say and when to say it.”
Rowena smiled at Willow and then back at Buffy.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
“I think Buffy’s crushing on Jim,” Willow whispered conspiratorially to Rowena as they walked down the hall.
“Please, Will. Give Buffy a little more credit for having better taste,” Rowena replied.
“I’m sorry, but I like Jim,” Willow replied. “He’s mature, he’s handsome, and he’s not undead. I like him. There I said it. Now rake me over the coals if you want.”
Rowena stopped and turned to Willow, smiling. “No, not unless you want to experiment,” she added, wiggling her eyebrows.
“Stop it,” Willow chuckled.
“Vamp Willow probably would,” Rowena said, trying to act put out.
“I think she’d be the one doing the raking, not playing the rake-ee,” Willow replied, making Rowena chuckle.
Xander rounded the corner to see the two of them there. “Oh hey,” he said casually. “How are you two fine gals doing today?”
“Not bad,” Willow replied. “What brings you up to the executive floor?” Willow asked.
Xander looked surprised at first. “Oh, I, uh, I wanted to talk to Ro actually.”
“Oh,” Willow said casually. When Xander didn’t add more and Rowena didn’t say more, Willow cleared her throat. “Oh, well, I’ll…just go then.” She turned to Rowena and looked at her for a moment. The watcher wore a wary, one might say paranoid, expression, which Willow definitely noticed. “I’ll see you for lunch?” she finally asked.
“It’s a date,” Rowena told her happily, forcing a grin to her lips.
Willow leaned in and gave Rowena a kiss, then nodded to Xander and walked away.
Both Xander and Rowena waved awkwardly as Willow looked over her shoulder at them before rounding the corner.
Once she was out of sight, Rowena slapped Xander’s chest with the back of her hand. “Good move,” she whispered. “Now she thinks something is up between us.”
“I just wanted to know if you had asked her yet. I expected to find you in your office, not standing right here. I froze, okay?” Xander told her.
Rowena sighed. “No, not okay. Now she probably thinks…”
“What?” Xander asked.
“What?” Rowena asked, perturbed. “That we’re having an affair! Did you notice the look she had?”
Xander coughed and tried to point behind Rowena as he played with his collar.
“What?” She turned around to see Buffy standing in her doorway with a scowl on her face. “It was almost like the one Buffy’s wearing now,” Rowena said.
Buffy closed the distance between them. “I might not officially be a slayer anymore, but I still have slayer strength, and if you two are fooling around on Will behind her back, so help me –”
“No!” they both yelled. Rowena sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “Jesus, at this pace, everyone is going to know about this except Willow.”
“Know what exactly?” Buffy asked.
Rowena grabbed Xander by the arm and then took Buffy’s. “To your office. Now,” she said, as she pulled them both down the hallway.
New York – Faith’s Hotel Room – Same Time
Faith was reclined against her headboard. In her hands was a copy of Gideon’s Bible. She continued to read until she heard a knock at her door. In almost a guilty fashion, she opened the nightstand and put the book back inside the drawer before rising to her feet.
After the knocking stopped being intermittent and became a steady drumbeat, Faith finally swung open the door.
“Oh look. The boy wizard.”
“We’ve got to talk,” Jeff said.
“Yeah?” Faith leaned against the door jam with folded arms. “Want some tips on getting lucky with my sister?”
Jeff blinked. “You…could say that. But not the way you mean. Anyway, I’m not the one who needs some luck right now.”
Faith hesitated. “What do you mean?”
“Seer and oracle, remember?” Jeff raised his hand. “That’s me. And right now, you’re the one in danger. Not me. You…I can feel it. I did a Tarot reading this morning. And worse, the danger is growing.”
“I’m a slayer. Comes with the job.”
“Then why am I feeling it right this second by being near you, and not all the time?” He waited.
After a moment, Faith let him into her room. She didn’t look happy.
“First things first,” Jeff began without preamble after he entered, “Hope isn’t a Slayer. That I’m pretty sure of.”
“I coulda told you that.”
“Right. Now, this is important. That remark last night, about killing some stranger because your fake dad asked you to.”
“What about it?”
“Okay, that seemed aimed at you and was very specific. Something to do with Mayor Wilkins, is my guess. Am I right?”
“Pretty much.” Her mouth looked like she had tasted something nasty.
Jeff held up a hand. “I don’t need to know the details. But…how did Hope know about that? Did you tell her? From what Council gossip I heard, you hadn’t spoken to her in years until she showed up in Cleveland.”
Faith’s expression didn’t change. It froze. “No. I never told her. I mean, she knew I killed someone, but I didn’t give her the specifics.”
“Okay, then how did she know? Your criminal records were erased, and chances are she wouldn’t have had access to them before then. And why would she? You guys weren’t on speaking terms. So again, how did she know?”
Again, Faith’s face remained frozen. “You’re good at this,” she said finally.
“Being a watcher. I shoulda caught that.”
He shrugged. “Siblings have issues, I hear. You focused on what she said to hurt you, not exactly how she knew it.”
She lifted one eyebrow, almost a full millimeter. “How do you think she knew?”
Jeff rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m not sure,” said Jeff.
“Great,” Faith said sarcastically.
“But listen,” Jeff went on, “if this was some kind of plan, like she was up to something, she wouldn’t have said anything that revealing.”
“Yeah, probably. But either way, it seemed to me she was just reacting to the situation. Not unlike…” He didn’t continue.
“Me. Yeah. Go on.”
“I think – and maybe I’m wrong about this – but I think Hope read your mind. That’s how she knew about the Wilkins connection. She mentions murder, and that’s the first thought, conscious or unconscious, that came into your head – the murder you did for Wilkins.”
“Okay, so she reads minds. That still doesn’t explain the super strength.”
“No, but it’s one piece of the puzzle,” Jeff replied. “Right now, I’m more worried about the readings I’m getting. You are in danger, Faith, and we need to figure out why before it’s too late.”
“Maybe it’s another idea she and my dad cooked up?” Faith scoffed. Jeff looked apprehensive for a moment. “What?” she asked.
“I’m just going to say it: No, because your dad’s dead, according to Hope. She told me last night that he died not long after the assassination attempt. I’m sorry, Faith.”
Faith looked a bit taken back by the news for a second, but then just shrugged. “Fine, but where does that leave us?”
Jeff looked reluctant again. “I wish I knew.”
Watchers Council – Detention Area – Later That Day
Dawn walked over to the security pad beside the detention area door. She punched in the numeric code and waited for the requisite green light and buzz to go off. When they did, she opened the door.
As the door to the detention area opened, one figure in particular looked up from her cell. Skye stood when she saw Dawn enter the area, shutting the security door behind her. The walls were dull, different shades of pale – greens, browns, grays. It had the antiseptic air of a hospital coupled with that of a public school.
But Dawn went straight to the cell where Skye now stood, eyes following her. She stood before the cell for several seconds.
“Hi,” whispered Dawn.
“Hi, baby,” answered Skye, eyes glowing in a blinding, completely human way.
New York – Staten Island Street – Same Time
Jeff stood less than thirty feet from the water. Hope stood beside him. Both had their eyes focused across the water at Manhattan.
“There,” Jeff said, pointing. “I was only a kid then, but there’ve been plenty of pictures to refresh my memory.”
“Weird,” murmured Hope.
“I was in school that day,” she continued, “and the teacher tried to make it all real. She talked about some skyscrapers in Boston, said to imagine them two or three times taller, then just collapsing like that. The clouds on the street really got to me.”
He nodded. “Pulverized concrete. Thousands of tons of it, turned into talcum powder. Plus who knows how many people were inside. Hundreds at least.”
Neither one said anything for the longest time. “I just…” Hope began, but didn’t get any further. Her eyes were wet. “At least,” she said after a while, but voice cracking, “Lady Liberty’s still there, huh? Punk hairdo and all.”
“I think,” Jeff said with a smile, “that’s supposed to be a crown.”
“My idea’s way cooler.”
“No argument about that.”
They shared a smile, then Hope spotted something behind Jeff. “Hey. Wanna hotdog?”
Looking behind him, Jeff saw a vendor opening up an umbrella next to a stand. “A real New York hot dog? Of course!”
“Everything on it?”
“Nope. I’m a wimp. Just mustard.”
She snorted. “You are a wimp.”
“Least I admit it.”
“Be right back,” she said with a wink.
Hope strode over to the vendor while Jeff watched. His gaze traveled the length of her moving form, from the sandaled feet to swaying hips up to tossed hair. But his hand emerged from his coat pocket. In his hand lay the amulet with two griffins around a dark stone. Only the stone wasn’t dark anymore. Now it looked like a large oval pearl, all the whiter because of the dark metal around it.
Jeff’s smile fell.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Rowena and Xander headed for the former’s office.
“I know it’s not exactly normal slayer fare,” Xander said, “but I think it might work. We get hardened wood bullets, plated with a silver alloy, and get the coven to bless them six ways to Sunday. You can’t use ’em in anything but low-velocity firearms, but that is actually a plus, because then they stay inside the target’s body.”
“Well, that’s the idea.”
“I’ll bring it up with Willow,” Rowena promised.
“Hey guys!” The voice of Kennedy echoed from their left. Both stopped until Kennedy herself got into clear view and easy hearing. She looked at Rowena. “According to the log book, you checked out the Marble of Whazzopolis…”
“The Orb of Theophilus,” Rowena corrected her.
“Yeah, whatever – the point is, I was going to try to maybe see how good it’d work on patrol, but the log book says you’ve got it.”
“Uh…so you don’t now?”
Rowena gave a shrug in apology. “Jeff thought it would be useful in New York.”
“Damn,” muttered Kennedy.
“He’s an oracle, Ken,” said Rowena. “Although I would have probably given it to him anyway. I didn’t know you wanted to use it.”
“S’cuse me.” Xander raised a hand. “What is this Orb of Theodore thingee?”
“Orb of Theophilus,” said Rowena. “It’s an amulet we bought at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago.”
“Wizards die, too, ya know,” offered Kennedy. “And their families sometimes need money.”
“So,” continued Xander, “what does it do?”
Rowena and Kennedy looked at each other. Then the former gestured as if to say “go ahead.”
Kennedy looked at Xander. “The Orb detects the presence of demons.”
End of Act Two