Originally broadcasted 10/31/06
“Yo?” Faith’s voice echoed in the pitch dark. “Anybody there?” Her groan of pain sounded as she could be heard sliding herself into a seated position. “What the hell did I have to drink last night?” she muttered.
“Faith? Is that you?”
“Heli?” Faith replied.
“Yes,” Heli’s voice sounded labored.
“Can you see anything?” Faith asked.
“No, it’s too dark,” Heli replied.
“Okay, just sit tight then, I’ll see if I can find my way to you,” Faith said. She grunted slightly. “Woah.”
“Are you okay?” Heli asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Bit of a head rush,” Faith replied dismissively. “Guess I stood up too fast.” The gentle patter of flesh against wet stone could be heard. “Ugh, floor’s damp or something. Feels like rock or concrete. Whoever brought us here left me barefoot.”
“Me too,” Heli said. “Don’t suppose they left you with a flashlight or something, did they?”
There was a long pause before Faith spoke again. “I just realized that you prob’ly can’t see me shakin’ my head, can you?”
“So that’s a no?” Heli asked.
“That’s a no,” Faith confirmed. “Okay, are you close to a wall?”
“Yes,” Heli replied. “It feels like stone, as well.”
“Okay, don’t move. I’m gonna try to find another wall and see if I can work my way around to you,” Faith told her. “Keep talkin’,” she added. “That’ll give me a direction.”
The gentle slapping of Faith’s feet against the wet floor again echoed through the room until they suddenly cut off with a soft thump, followed by a much louder thud, as if approximately a hundred pounds of meat had been slammed to the floor. The latter was followed by a painful groan from Faith.
“I’m fine,” Faith’s voice now came from the floor. “I found a wall.”
“You think anyone else is here?”
Watchers Council – Cafeteria – Morning
Willow pulled her robe more tightly around her body as she padded her way down the stairs to the cafeteria.
“Hey, Andrew,” she said, as she walked towards the kitchen counter, “have you seen Ro?”
“Ro?” Andrew asked. “No, not since last night. Why?”
Willow rubbed her temples. “No reason, really. I just woke up this morning and she was gone.”
Andrew smiled wryly. “I know what you mean, I haven’t seen Tracey since I woke up either, but Tracey does that every once in a while when she has time on the radio.”
“Yeah, Ro does that occasionally too.” Willow paused. “Only usually more with the research than the radio.”
“Oh!” he exclaimed, making Willow grab her temple and wince. “Before I forget, Buffy called this morning. Her and Dawn made it safe and they’re going to work as we speak…or so she said. I think they’ll spend more time working on their tans than actual ‘work’.”
Willow grinned. “Yeah, that hard duty of helping set up the Caribbean Bureau. Poor them.”
“Buffy swears it’s business,” he said.
“And why did Dawn have to go?” Willow countered.
Andrew paused as if he might say something, but stopped himself. Instead he just shrugged and said, “Well, she has no excuse I guess…But Buffy said that she thought Dawn could use a break and made her go.”
Willow grinned and poured a cup of coffee. “I can’t say much. We all got a vacation not too long ago. Dawn’s entitled too, I guess. If you see Ro, can you ask her to page me?”
“Sure, but have you checked the library?” Andrew asked. “If I was looking for Ro, that’s the first place I’d look.”
“Not yet,” Willow admitted. “You’re the first person I came to. I figure you know the comings and goings of just about everybody around here.” She winced again. “And I was wondering if you might have an aspirin or two under the counter.”
“Oh, yeah,” Willow replied, pressing the heels of her palms against her eyes.
Andrew rummaged under the counter for a moment before he produced a bottle of pills, pushing it across the counter to Willow.
“Thanks,” Willow told him.
“Ouch!” Heli yelped.
“Sorry,” Faith replied, “didn’t realize you were right there.”
“Any idea where we are?”
“No clue. I mean, they can’t have carried two unconscious people that far, can they?” Faith’s voice sounded uncertain.
“I don’t know,” Heli said, “but whoever brought us in here got us in somehow, so there has to be a way out, right?”
“Makes sense,” Faith said, “but that doesn’t worry me nearly as much as that vest you’re wearin’.”
“Yeah, what is it?” Heli asked.
“I got an idea, but you probably won’t like it,” Faith replied tightly. “They slapped one on me too.”
“So, take it off,” Heli said.
“I got a feelin’ that’s a bad, bad idea,” Faith replied.
Watchers Council – Library – Morning
“Ro?” Willow called gently. “Are you in here?”
She softly stepped around one of the tables, glancing between the stacks of books.
“Ro?” she called again. “Sweetie?”
She stopped in front of a table, looking down quizzically as she did so. A single, plain white envelope lay atop the table. Willow’s name had been scrawled on it in large, childlike letters. She took a tentative step towards it, as if afraid the envelope would transform into a poisonous snake and attack her. Her fingers trembled slightly as she lifted it from the table, then turned it over a few times in her hands.
Finally, her hands shaking uncontrollably, she tore the envelope open.
A key fell from the torn envelope, clattering to the top of the table. Willow picked it up, her eyes scanning it for a moment before she again turned her attention to the envelope in her hand. She reached inside, pulling a single sheet of unlined paper out. Her eyes scanned the text for a moment, then widened in shock. She raced from the room.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Morning
Willow darted into the room, the note still clenched in her hand.
“Ro?” she called out. Only the loud hum of the large banks of computers responded.
She stepped tentatively into the room. On the computer nearest to her was a single post-it note that read, “Hit any key to continue.”
She gingerly reached down, her finger trembling as she pressed the “Enter” key.
Heli and Faith both recoiled, bringing their hands to their eyes as the room was suddenly flooded with harsh white light.
Watchers Council – Computer Room – Morning
The image that appeared on the screen in front of Willow was a black-and-white video, as if taken from one of the Council’s security cameras. It showed a nondescript room, approximately ten feet square with bland, stone walls. Four human shapes could be seen in the room. Two were prone: one lying face-down in one corner, the other curled on her side. The third was being held in a half-seated position by the fourth, who was kneeling at her side.
“Oh my goddess,” Willow whispered. Her fingers traced over the two conscious figures, “Faith, Heli.” She shifted her attention to the two unconscious figures. “Vi,” her voice caught, “…Ro.”
She glanced around the room. Each computer screen showed a similar scene. Some showed rooms, others long hallways, others showed doorways or intricate mechanisms. But on each screen, the walls were the same nondescript stone.
“They’re in a maze,” she realized.
As she spoke, a small digital timer appeared in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. It showed two hours.
And it started counting down.
In the center of Faith’s chest, an LED timer lit up, showing two hours. It began to tick down.
“Oh man,” Faith whispered, looking down at Heli’s vest. “I think things just got a lot worse.”
End of Teaser