Act 1



Lacey Chambert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Norika Fujiwara as Mia Nakata, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, Thora Birch as Tracey Hausser, Asia Argento as Marie LeBouchard, Laura Pyper as Casey, Tessa Thompson as Chamique, Alexis Bledel as Denise, Steffani Brass as Shannon Matthewson, Christy Carlson Romano as Hope Lehane and Michael Shanks as Dr. Millenti

Guest Starring:
Alicia Silverstone as Heli Hamalainen, Gary Oldman as Mr. Felix, Laura Prepon as Lori Carew, Mia Maestro as Isabel Ortiz and Edward Woodward as James Tyrell


Fade In:
Rocky Ledge

Something about the ledge did not look right. The sun was not visible, yet the sky was painted in a murky crimson hue that cast an ominous monochromatic feel over the entire area. In the distance, the wind blew spirals of red dust across the top of a nearly bottomless gorge.

The sound of crunching gravel echoed as unseen footsteps approached the ledge. The noise seemed unnatural – as if made in a small, enclosed place, rather than in a vast mountainous canyon.

The wind picked up, becoming audible as the ledge grew nearer. Unlike the gravel, the wind’s whistle sounded as though it belonged. It sounded real…a little too real.

The volume of the wind increased as the ledge closed to within five feet. Dust swirled ahead, dancing over the precipice. The ledge was now three feet away.

The wind grew ever louder as the ledge loomed just two feet ahead.

The roar of the wind became deafening.

Only one foot left and then…


All sound disappeared. Across the canyon the wind continued to blow, though it could not be heard.

Past the edge of the cliff, the full features of the gorge became visible. Each side was protected by an unscalable sheer ridge of red rock. The bottom was not visible, stretching into darkness several hundred feet below.

Without warning, the ledge disappeared completely and the darkness of the gorge’s bottom raced forward at a rapidly increasing speed. The red walls of the canyon quickly faded into darkness and the only visible light came from the now-distant crimson sky, which quickly shrank into the distance. Finally, the last of the dwindling red light disappeared into the black soundless void…

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Faith and Robin’s Apartment – Early Morning

Faith shot up in her bed with a terrified start, breathing deeply. She took a moment to register the brightly lit surroundings of her bedroom, then fell back on her pillow with a sigh. Still panting, she rubbed her eyes with the palms of her hands and groaned in frustration.

After a moment, Faith lowered her hands to her side and glanced to her left at the void in the bed normally filled by Robin’s sleeping form. Sighing once more, she rolled out of bed and turned off the bedside lamp, cutting off the room’s primary light source.

Faith walked to the room’s large window and opened the curtains, allowing the pre-dawn light to trickle in. She stood for a moment admiring the view. Behind her, on Robin’s nightstand, the alarm clock came alive, playing Michael Andrew’s version of “Mad World.”

Faith glanced at the clock, then stepped away from the window.

Fade To:
Series of Shots:
Soundtrack: “Mad World” – Michael Andrew

– Faith, with bloodshot eyes, looking at a large bruise on her forehead in the bathroom mirror.

– A pair of sneakers being laced.

– Faith quietly closing the door to her apartment and moving down a deserted hallway.

Fade To:
Series of Shots:

– A wrist slowly being wrapped in beige sports tape.

– A fist connecting with a hanging punching bag.

– Faith, alone in a spacious gym, whaling on a punching bag without hesitation.

Fade To:
Series of Shots:

– The sun slowly rising over a leaf-covered outdoor practice field.

– A distant view of a woman sprinting, alone, around a red rubber outdoor track.

– Faith slowing to a jog to catch her breath, then sprinting off once more.

Fade To:
Watchers Council – Dining Room – Morning

The familiar din of teenaged chatter assaulted Kennedy’s eardrums as she grabbed a tray and ducked into the line for food. Frowning at the selection of scrambled eggs and sausage, she grabbed a plastic-wrapped blueberry muffin and a container of yogurt and then headed for the seating area.

She scanned the crowd for a moment before spotting Faith sitting alone at a table near the room’s large screen television. Making a beeline for the older slayer, Kennedy set down her tray on the table and took a seat opposite Faith. She smirked at the sight of her friend, who was currently sitting with her head propped up by one arm, silently stirring the dregs of her corn flakes with a plastic spoon.

“And good morning to you too,” Kennedy said as she unwrapped her muffin.

Faith looked up, moderately surprised by Kennedy’s presence. She lifted her head and said, “Sorry. Didn’t see you sit down.”

“Are you okay?” Kennedy asked, spotting the bruise on Faith’s forehead.

“Fine,” Faith answered quickly. She pushed her cereal bowl down the table. “I didn’t sleep well.” She looked up to see Kennedy staring at the mark on her head. “I ran into a news van last night…literally.”

Kennedy frowned. “Want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” Faith answered, rubbing her head. An awkward few seconds passed before the older slayer changed the subject. “How’s Kadin doing?”

“Good,” Kennedy said, emphasizing the word a little more than necessary. She set down her muffin and continued, “She’s healing. I guess…I mean, she’s used to this kind of stuff. I…she’s going to be fine.”

Faith eyed her friend curiously. “How ’bout you?”

“I’m fine…I’m great.” Kennedy smiled unconvincingly. “Slayer healing, right? Gotta love it.”

“Ken –”–” Faith ventured.

“You’re on TV.” Kennedy said, cutting the older girl off. She pointed over Faith’s shoulder where the large-screen television was tuned to the local news station.

Faith pivoted in her seat in time to see a picture of herself, boxed on the upper left-hand side of the screen as a news anchor spoke animatedly. “…happened just last night when News 4 correspondent Nadine Cole attempted to interview the Watchers Council’s Head Slayer.”

The news feed cut to a shaky video of Faith walking around the side of a dented news van and looking up a darkened street. From the right of the screen a blonde reporter hurried up to the slayer with a microphone raised.

“Faith, are you avoiding the question?” The camera followed Faith as she sighed and turned away from an intersection. “Can you comment on the death of Slayer Violet Joston?” Faith declined to answer, passing the camera wordlessly. The cameraman darted in front of her, cutting off her escape as the reporter continued, “Is it true that the Watchers Council is negligent regarding the safety of its slayers?”

Faith sighed and looked at the cameraman briefly. “Can you please get out of my face?” she asked, squinting as she tried to see beyond the blinding light to the area behind the reporter.

The camera zoomed in for a close-up as the reporter hoisted a microphone into frame. “Does your unwillingness to answer have anything to do with the disappearance of Heli Hamalainen? What actions has the Council taken to find her?”

Faith scowled at the camera. “I said get lost!”

The feed immediately cut to static.

At his news desk the anchor shuffled some papers, “The release of this tape has done nothing to dispel the recent rumors that Faith Lehane has been asked to step down as Head Slayer at the Watchers Council.” He paused dramatically, mugging for the camera. “Council officials have declined to comment.” A news jingle played in the background as he continued, “After the break we’ll be speaking with parolee Jennifer Petrie, who claims to have served with Faith for several years in California’s Stockton Women’s Correctional Facility. Then later on in the program we’ll talk with market expert Todd McCann, to find out how all of this affects your money.” The News 4 logo appeared briefly on the screen before the feed broke for commercial.

Back at her table, Faith let her head fall to the table with a groan and a thud. “This sucks.”

Kennedy nodded sympathetically before shooting a threatening glare to a table of junior slayers who were staring at Faith. She looked back to her friend and sighed. “You did the right thing by not commenting. They would have twisted anything you said anyway.”

Faith groaned again.

Kennedy frowned. “I hate to say this, but maybe it would be a good idea if you didn’t…”

“Didn’t what?” the older slayer prodded without looking up.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Kennedy said, giving her friend a tense stare, “sneak out to go patrolling when you know that every news affiliate in the state has a camera crew designated to catch you sneaking out to go patrolling. Maybe you could stop doing that.”

Faith shot up and fixed Kennedy with an indignant glare.

“Not permanently,” the younger girl added quickly. “Just for a while, until this media circus dies down…Or until Bush does something stupid and distracts everyone for a while.” Faith let out a small laugh, and Kennedy continued in a softer tone. “I know it must be boring being stuck here all the time, but…”

“‘Boring’ is an understatement.” Faith said with a sigh as she rubbed her temple. “And yeah, you’re right, I know. It’s just…Is this why I was brought back? To do paperwork?”

Kennedy looked down at the table. For a few seconds, neither of them spoke.

“Okay, let’s find a new topic,” Faith said suddenly. “How’s Mia settling back in?”

“How ’bout a different topic?” Kennedy said with a sigh.

“That bad, huh?” Faith asked.

“Well, it’s not bad, exactly,” Kennedy replied as she began poking her muffin with her yogurt spoon. “It’s…awkward.” Faith waited, but Kennedy didn’t elaborate.

“I was thinking,” Faith said after a while. “After Halloween…” Kennedy looked up from her now-mangled breakfast as her friend continued, “What do you think of making Mia number three?”

“Number three?” Kennedy managed.

“Yeah, I’ve been looking over our roster, but you’ve had more experience with most of our girls, especially the new recruits.” Faith said sadly, locking eyes with Kennedy. “We have to replace them.” She paused. “I could really use your input on this.”

Kennedy took a moment to absorb Faith’s request before speaking. “Yeah, give me a few days. I’ll come up with a list of names.”

Faith nodded her thanks as the news jingle sounded once again on the television. The older slayer looked over in disgust as her picture once again appeared on screen. She stood up and grabbed her cereal bowl. “I’ll see you later.”

Kennedy gave a quick wave and watched Faith leave. After a few seconds she tossed her spoon down on the remnants of her muffin and rose from her chair as well.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Day

Buffy was pacing behind her desk. The Scythe shined red behind her head, looking like it had been polished fairly recently.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “I’m not even sure how it’s possible. Explain to me again how this is possible.”

Rowena and Grace, seated on the opposite side of Buffy’s desk, shot each other a look. “Honestly, we’re not really sure how she did it, either,” Grace said, “but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”

“Heli’s disappeared,” Rowena said flatly.

Buffy slammed both her palms down on her desk, drawing a small flinch from Grace. After a long moment, Buffy spoke in a low voice. “She’s one girl. We’ve got all the magic, all the guns, all the manpower, all the helicopters. She’s one girl.”

“You were one girl,” Rowena told her. Buffy sighed and backed off slightly, scratching her forehead.

“Things were different then,” Buffy said. “Helicopters didn’t really get involved that much. We have to be missing something. Just…tell me what you guys need, and I’ll get it for you.”

“Buffy…what we need is a break,” Rowena said, “and that’s just going to take time.”

“We don’t have time,” Buffy replied. “I don’t how much more of this the girls can take, not to mention the way the TV people are –”

“Miss Summers?” The voice came out of a small intercom on Buffy’s desk.

“What?” Buffy snapped.

“There’s a…Lori on the line for you from Bureau Nine,” the secretary said.

“Lori?” Grace looked like she was drawing a blank.

“She says she used to work here.”

“I remember her,” Rowena put in. “She was one of our first girls to hit thirty years old and lose her powers.”

“How come I’ve never heard of this chick?” Grace asked.

“She quit a few months ago,” Rowena said. “It was kind of sudden.”

“That’s right,” Buffy agreed. “She said she didn’t sign up for this job to go on donut runs.”

“She’s not the only one,” Grace muttered.

“You do more than that for me,” Rowena protested. Grace raised an eyebrow. “Sometimes I send you for coffee.” Grace began to shake her head in frustration while Rowena grinned.

Buffy rolled her eyes and turned back to the speaker on her desk. “So…what does she want, Joan?”

“She says that Bureau Nine may know the location of Heli Hamalainen.”

There was silence in Buffy’s office for a moment.

“Huh,” Grace said.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Minutes Later

“What they tell me is that they’re still working on it, but they think they’ve got the right lead,” Buffy said. “Lori said that they want to share the information with us and that they’re requesting an in-person meeting.” She looked around the table, where Rowena was joined by Kennedy, Andrew and Jim Pollan. “Any thoughts?”

“Just one,” Kennedy replied. “What are we still doing sitting around? Let’s get the info and take her down.”

Rowena shook her head. “First of all, the fact that they’re not just handing it over implies that they don’t quite have it yet, so it’s not time to release the hounds.”

“Or the slayers,” Andrew agreed.

“Second,” Rowena continued, “I don’t trust Bureau Nine. They’ve been out there hiring slayers, and we still can’t quite figure out who’s behind it or what their motives are.”

“Making loads of cash from paranoid people isn’t a motive?” Kennedy asked.

Rowena ignored her. “And the fact that Lori is working for them worries me. What would a security firm want with a powerless slayer?”

“I’m forced to agree with the beautiful slayer here,” Pollan put in. Kennedy didn’t quite look like she knew how to react to that. “We can’t afford to turn this opportunity down. Rowena, I’m not sure if you appreciate the amount of pressure we’re under from the public to find this girl.”

“Of course I don’t, Jim,” Rowena shot back. “Thank you for enlightening me. If it wasn’t for your worldly expertise, I would never realize –”

“Guys, let’s chill, okay?” Buffy interrupted. “We’re all on edge right now.”

“I think what Rowena’s trying to say,” Andrew said, “is that this could all be part of an insidious plot between Heli and Bureau Nine, an unholy alliance designed to lure us into a trap, like when Vader kidnapped Leia and Han to get Luke to Bespin.”

Rowena waved a hand in his direction. “That’s…strangely accurate, minus the Star Wars metaphor,” she admitted.

“The thing is, I don’t think Lori would betray us like that,” Andrew continued. “I mean, she used to come to movie nights.”

“Did Heli ever come to movie night?” Rowena asked pointedly.

Andrew shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Yes, but Lori always picked comedies, not the demented stuff Heli liked.”

“I’m with ya on the paranoia,” Kennedy said, getting back on topic, “but did you ever think that this is what she wants? For us to just sit here paralyzed because we’re too scared to make a move? We might know where Heli is, and we’re sitting here having a meeting about it.”

“Not to point out the obvious,” Pollan said, “but if we don’t know much about these Bureau Nine chaps, wouldn’t this be a golden opportunity to gather more information?”

“Okay,” Buffy suddenly said, sitting up in her chair. “Here’s what we do. We obviously can’t turn this down.”

“Buf –” Rowena began.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be careful,” Buffy told her, holding up a hand. “I’m suspicious, too, especially with the whole ‘in-person meeting’ angle. But the only way we’ll figure this out is if we go in with our head up and our eyes open. That’s why I think you should go, Rowena. You’re a Chosen watcher, you’ll probably notice something the rest of us might not.”

“I’m also a –” Pollan put in.

“We know,” Rowena cut him off, sounding annoyed. She turned to Buffy. “Not that I’m uneager to possibly walk back into the clutches of an insane serial killer with superpowers, again, but it still seems very risky.”

“I’ll go,” Kennedy said. “You might be able to use a slayer.”

“We’ll send Mia,” Buffy said quickly. Kennedy immediately moved to argue, but Buffy didn’t give her an opening. “You have other responsibilities here, Kennedy, and I want to see what she can do before I promote her. This is a good opportunity for her. Okay?”

Kennedy thought about this for a moment. “Okay,” she replied, getting to her feet. “Don’t take too long,” she told Rowena. “And I’ll have my cell phone on if you need me.” Rowena nodded, and then Kennedy walked out of the room.

As the rest of the group scattered, Rowena leaned over to speak quietly to Buffy. “I realize you want to see Mia in the field, but I really would feel safer going into a place like this with Kennedy.”

Buffy looked surprised. “Really?” Rowena nodded. “Ro, the girl has gone AWOL from patrol more than once lately, and then she doesn’t check in…”

“That was weeks ago,” Rowena pointed out.

“Two weeks,” Buffy insisted. “That’s barely plural. I just don’t trust her on the Heli case. She’s too close to this.”

Rowena sat back and sighed. “Buffy, we’re all too close to this.”

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Xander’s Workshop – Same Time

With a thoughtful expression, Xander sat at his workbench, the remains of a disassembled crossbow in front of him. A screwdriver in one hand and a small, mechanized trigger in the other, he silently adjusted the weapon. Satisfied by the change, he held up the device and pulled the trigger.

“OW!” he grunted, as he dropped the crossbow piece and examined his right index finger. He swore under his breath as a small welt formed on his trigger finger.

“Ouch,” called a voice from the door. Xander looked up to see Willow entering the room, holding a large brown paper bag. She stopped next to the bench and looked at his hand. “Are you okay?”

Xander looked up at her, his frustration evident, and replied, “Yeah, it’s fine.” He turned his attention back to the workbench, examining the trigger more closely.

Willow smiled cautiously. “What are you working on?”

He took a moment before answering. “A few of the girls complained about this crossbow pinching their fingers when they fired it. And as I just proved…they’re right. I think one of the springs might be too tight.”

“Fun,” Willow said brightly. She watched him work for a moment, waiting to see if he would speak. When he didn’t, she set down the brown bag she held and said, “Andrew told me you haven’t been down for breakfast, so I brought you something…” She patted the bag. “I thought you might be hungry.”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” he answered.

Willow frowned and paused for another moment. “Do you need any help? I could give you a hand with –”

“I’m almost done,” he said, quickly cutting her off.

“Okay,” she said sadly. “Look, Xander, I know what this feels like. I know what you’re going through…”

“Actually, I am kind of hungry,” he said loudly over her words, a bright smile creeping across his face. “What did you bring?”

With a grin, she opened the brown paper bag, extracting a Styrofoam container. “I went down to the diner. How do you feel about pancakes?”

“Well, that depends,” he teased. “Are they chocolate chip?”

“But of course,” she replied, opening the container and setting it down in front of him. “As if there’s any other kind,” she snorted.

“Thanks, Will,” he said, taking the container. “I appreciate…everything…I do.”

She gently squeezed his arm. “You’re welcome,” she replied as she headed toward the door. Willow stopped as she reached the frame, “I was thinking about seeing Deck the Halls this weekend. If you’re not busy, maybe we could go together.”

“Sure,” he replied with a smile. “I’d love to.”

“Great.” She watched him for a moment. “I’ll see you later when I drag you to lunch.” She grinned, and Xander naturally followed suit.

He watched her leave and then frowned. He looked down at the pancakes and slowly closed the container, setting it on the side of the workbench. With a sigh, he picked up the screwdriver and trigger and resumed his work.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Faith’s Office – Later That Morning

Faith looked up from a stack of paperwork as the introductory chorus of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys sounded somewhere in front of her. A confused look swept across her face as she looked for the source of the noise. Lifting up several manila file folders that were scattered across the desk, she found her cell phone, took a second to read the display and flipped open the lid.

“Hey Ace,” she said in a tired voice. “What’s up?”

“We landed an hour ago. I was just checking in,” replied Robin’s voice. After a short pause, he continued, sounding a bit dejected. “Did you notice the song?”

“Song?” Faith repeated uncertainly as she rearranged the folders in front of her that had been displaced by her search.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice…” he said. When she didn’t respond, he continued, “The Beach Boys…” Another pause. “Babe, I changed my ringtone on your phone.”

Faith paused her paper shuffling and looked down at the phone, “Oh. Yeah, I guess you did. Sorry, I didn’t notice.”

“Apparently not.” You could almost hear his frown. “Are you feeling all right?”

“I’m fine,” she replied a bit too quickly. She paused as she rubbed her eyes. “I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“More dreams?” Robin asked knowingly.

“Different place, same theme,” she answered, wincing as her hand brushed against the bruise on her forehead.

“What is that? The third time this week?” Robin asked, now sounding concerned.

“Something like that,” Faith replied vaguely. “I don’t think waking up in Heli’s funhouse did me any favors.”

There was a short pause before Robin spoke, his tone cautious. “Maybe you should talk to Dr. Millenti abou –”

“No!” she nearly shouted. Taking a deep breath, she regained her composure and lightened her tone. “I’m fine. Really! I just need…” Faith paused as she spotted a blue folder sitting in her inbox. “…a distraction.” Reaching forward, Faith snatched the folder and flipped it open with one hand. Her eyes widened at the large, glossy photo of a blood-stained Bible that was clipped to the front of the report.

“Robin, I gotta go,” Faith said, still staring at the picture.

“Okay,” he replied quietly. “I’ll call you later.”

“Bye,” she said, and closing her phone, her gaze never leaving the report. Leaning back in her chair, Faith flipped through the pages before her.

Cut To:
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Same Time

Willow looked on curiously as Buffy closed the door to her office. Taking a seat in one of the two plush armchairs that faced the slayer’s desk, the redhead watched as her friend approached the desk and spoke.

“So what’s up?” Willow tried to keep her tone light, but her apprehension was apparent as her eyes fell on the large red Scythe sitting on Buffy’s desk. “Your call sounded urgent.”

Buffy didn’t reply right away. She sat down on the arm of the chair adjacent to Willow’s, and allowed herself to slide back onto the seat. She rubbed her eyes and finally spoke. “We have a problem. Well, lots, but a new one in particular.”

Willow looked overly worried. “Buffy?” The tone was that of great concern.

“Sorry,” Buffy replied as she ran her fingers through her hair. “I didn’t sleep last night. I’m…I need your help with something.”

“Does this have something to do with Faith?” Willow asked cautiously. “I saw the news this morning…”

“Faith?” Buffy shook her head slowly. “No, I’m going to let Jim handle that. This…is something else.” She reached forward onto her desk and grabbed a small red folder that was positioned adjacent to the Scythe. Handing the report to Willow, the blonde continued. “This stays between the two of us.” It was more of a request than a command.

Willow nodded slowly as she opened the folder and observed a large glossy photo of a small mountainous village.

Buffy watched for a moment as the witch’s eyes scanned the photo. “Ronda, Spain.” She informed her friend as she nodded down at the picture. She took a deep breath and went on. “That report came in about a week ago from the Barcelona Branch. Two slayers, one dead and the other critically injured.”

Willow set aside the picture and looked down at a pair of names listed in the text. “Isabela Ortiz and Elisa In…Inch…”

“I gave up trying to pronounce it a few days ago,” Buffy said wearily. “The preliminary report wasn’t anything to write home about. Elisa was killed in a vampire attack, and Isabela apparently attempted suicide.” Willow flinched at Buffy’s words but didn’t interrupt. The blonde slayer went on, oblivious. “Everything looked pretty standard up until yesterday when the autopsy report came in.” Buffy indicated for Willow to flip to the next page of the file. “Elisa’s injuries weren’t consistent with a vampire attack.”

“Too many?” Willow asked, now very interested.

“Too few,” Buffy clarified. “There were no defensive wounds of any kind. Even if she had been caught off guard, I would have expected to see something here.” Buffy paused. “Either she didn’t try to fight back…or she couldn’t.” Another pause. “I asked for a rush on her blood work.” She reached into the front pocket of her jeans and produced a folded piece of paper. “This came in this morning.”

Willow took the paper and unfolded it. She scanned the text for a moment. “No sedatives. Her blood was clean.”

“Look at the hormone levels,” Buffy said, rubbing her eyes once more. “Bottom of the page.”

Willow’s eyes widened as she found the information that Buffy spoke of. “This can’t be right. The levels are too low. Are you sure…?”

“I had them triple-check the results.” Buffy replied, her voice low.

“Buffy, this girl wasn’t a slayer.” Willow said incredulously.

“There are forty slayers in Barcelona who would disagree with you. Elisa was one of the first that they found there three years ago. She’s helped build that branch.”

“Her age…?” Willow offered.

“Under thirty,” Buffy answered.

They sat in silence for a moment before Willow’s eyes fell back on the cover of the red folder in her hands. “What about the other girl?”

“Isabel,” Buffy replied. “She’s still in Ronda. It’s going to take a few days to get the results of her blood work, but Elisa’s watcher told me that her slayer healing didn’t appear to be working. He’s keeping me updated on her condition.” Buffy’s eyes darted to the weapon on her desk. “Willow, is there any way that your spell could have been reversed?”

Willow didn’t answer right away. “Honestly, I don’t know.” She sighed. “It’s not like this has ever been done before. I wouldn’t rule anything out.” She looked down at the file and studied the photo of Ronda. “But…”

“What?” Buffy asked immediately. When Willow didn’t answer right away, her friend prodded more urgently. “Will, what is it?”

“Well, even if someone did find a way to undo it, we would know for sure right away,” the witch explained. “The change should be simultaneous for all the slayers. Not just two in a small town in Spain. I mean they took away your powers once before, sure, but this toxicology report shows nothing in her system. I think we’re looking at something else here.”

Buffy sighed. “I don’t know whether that’s good or bad news.” She paused for a moment. “Would you be willing to go there and investigate?”

“Of course,” Willow replied quickly, then hesitated. “When would you want me to leave?”

“As soon as possible,” Buffy answered apologetically. “If this gets out to the press…” She trailed off, unwilling to finish the thought. Several seconds of silence passed as both sat, looking thoughtful.

“How many people know about this?” Willow asked finally, breaking the quiet.

“As of this morning, only four,” Buffy replied. “You, me, Elisa’s watcher and the Barcelona medical examiner…which is how I want it to stay.”

“You’re going to have to tell Jim,” Willow replied. “And Faith, too, since she’s head of the Slayer Division…actually, why isn’t she here now?”

“Jim’s next on my list, but…” Buffy hesitated. “I don’t want to involve Faith at all in this.” Willow looked ready to object, but Buffy held up a hand to stop her. “Hold on, let me explain why.” She took the folder from her friend and began flipping through it until she found some landscape photographs of the town, taken from a distance. She handed one of the photos to Willow and went on. “Ronda was built at the edge of a giant gorge. The whole area is kind of like Spain’s own mini Grand Canyon. It’s kind out of the way and pretty hard to get to. Aside from a few tourist spots that have popped up over the last few years, the town really hasn’t been touched by the outside world.”

“Still not sure I’m aboard your logic train here, Buff.”

Buffy continued, “Near the back of the town there’s this old dirt road that runs adjacent to the gorge, connecting the newer and older parts of the city. Apparently, it’s a very popular spot for suicides.”

Willow’s head dropped a little. “Isabel?”

Buffy nodded. “According to the report, she was last seen walking up the road back to the main part of town around sunset. When she didn’t come home, her grandmother called for help. They found her at the bottom of the gorge the next morning with a couple of scratches, a few cracked ribs, a broken collarbone and this…” Buffy slid a large glossy photograph of a blood-stained Bible towards Willow. “The New Testament, in Spanish. The rescue workers claimed she wouldn’t let go of it.”

“How far did she fall?” Willow asked as she took the photo.

“Two hundred feet,” Buffy replied, causing Willow to drop the picture.

She stared back at her friend, not bothering to pick up the dropped photo. “Excuse me? Buffy, that’s almost twenty stories. I don’t even think Faith could survive that.”

Buffy nodded. “The locals are calling it a divine miracle.”

A look of understanding flashed across Willow’s features. “This is why you don’t want Faith on the case. If she hears about this, she’ll be first in line to go, which…”

“…is too risky if something in that town is zapping slayers of their powers,” Buffy finished.

Before either of them could say anything more on the subject, Jim opened the door to the office and strode in forcefully. “Buffy, I wanted to talk to you…” He paused at the sight of Willow. “Oh. So sorry. I didn’t know you were in a meeting.” He watched as Buffy hastily closed the folder she was holding and rounded her desk. “Are you busy?”

“That’s usually what it means when the door’s closed,” Buffy replied peevishly, as she tucked the report she and Willow had been discussing into the drawer of her desk. “What do you want?”

Oblivious to her angry tone, Jim moved farther into the room, heading for the chair Buffy had occupied before he came in. “I was hoping we could talk about the incident in…” He paused as his foot collided with the photo that Willow had dropped moments earlier.

The redhead cringed as Jim bent down and retrieved the glossy image. She shot Buffy an apologetic shrug as he examined it for a moment before setting it down on the desk.

“I see you’re already discussing this,” he said as he sat down next to Willow and went on. “Well, I think it would be prudent to generate as much press around this Ronda situation as we can. It would be beneficial to the Council if…”

“Whoa! Time out!” Buffy yelled, moving her hands to form a T. “How do you know about that? I never sent you the report.”

“I came in earlier to drop off this morning’s press release while you were at breakfast. I saw it on your desk, so I thought I’d save your assistant some time and make myself a copy,” he said innocently. “I didn’t think you’d mind.”

Buffy looked pissed. She took a deep breath, attempting to keep her anger in check. “While I’m sure Joan appreciates your concern for her workload, next time ask first. There’s more to the report than what you saw, on which I was planning on briefing you separately later on today.”

“Oh,” he replied, looking very much like a petulant child. He sat for a minute awkwardly before continuing. “Uh, well I prepared a statement for the press regarding the incident. It’s…um…in your email.”

Buffy glanced at her computer for a moment before replying, “We’re going to keep this out of the press for the time being.”

“Well,” he said, a little offended. “I’m not sure I agree with that. I trust you both saw the news this morning.”

Buffy exchanged an annoyed glance with Willow before answering with a sigh. “Yes, and I plan on having a talk with Faith later today. However, I do think that she acted in the Council’s best interest by not answering questions.”

“Unfortunately, the press doesn’t see it that way,” he replied snidely. “Her little ‘stunt’ was the leading story on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News this morning. And it doesn’t help when the Council’s only reply is ‘no comment.'”

“Well, Jim, there’s not much more we can do,” Willow interjected.

“Send Faith to Ronda,” Jim replied, as if it was the most obvious answer in the world. “It’s a perfect diversion. Faith’s involvement with anything that has even the remotest of religious overtones will be enough to bury the media blitzkrieg surrounding Heli’s disappearance. And we can show that Faith is still proactively helping the Council even though she doesn’t patrol anymore. It’s a win-win situation.”

“Jim, I said no,” Buffy replied firmly. “There will be no media coverage on this, and Faith won’t be involved. In fact, none of this leaves this room. Is that clear?”

Before she could reply, the door to Buffy’s office swung open once more. “Hey, B, you got a min…” Faith trailed off as she took in the assembled party. “Guess I missed a memo.” She spotted the scythe that was still perched on Buffy’s desk. “Well, you guys are clearly in the middle of something, so I’ll make this quick. I want to go to Ronda.”

Both Willow’s and Buffy’s jaws dropped. “Come again?” Buffy managed to stammer out.

“Spain,” Faith said, clarifying. “Didn’t you read the report? A slayer survived like a two hundred foot fall into some kind of canyon.”

“Uh, yeah, I read it.” Buffy said, rubbing her temple, suddenly sounding very tired. “I just haven’t sent out the copies yet. I don’t suppose you could tell me where you got it from?” The blonde slayer glanced over to where Jim was sitting. He looked noticeably guilty.

“It was in my inbox,” Faith said. “I figured Joan put it there.”

Buffy sent Jim a piercing stare before pointing at the door. “You! Out!” Jim began to protest, but was quickly shot down as Buffy bellowed, “Now!”

Faith watched curiously as Jim scooted past her and hastily left the room.

“You all right there, B?” she asked, as Buffy rounded her desk and shut the office door. “You look a little stressed.”

Buffy shot Faith a weary look and pointed to the chair next to Willow. “I’m fine. Have a seat.” The blonde slayer stepped back towards the desk, picking up the Scythe as she passed. Without looking at Faith, Buffy hung the Scythe back in its place on the wall above her desk and said, “The Council will not be investigating Isabel Ortiz’s attempted suicide.”

Faith looked as if she was expecting to hear this. She waited a second before responding. “Why not?”

Buffy took a moment to adjust the Scythe on the wall before turning to face her fellow slayer. She took her seat and replied, “Because the Council isn’t in the business of proving or disproving miracles.”

Faith allowed that to hang in the air for a moment, as Willow and Buffy exchanged troubled glances.

“Okay,” Faith said after a moment of silence.

“Okay?” Buffy replied, as if expecting Faith to say something more.

“Okay,” Faith repeated with a nod of her head. Shifting slightly in her seat, she dug her hand into her jeans pocket and withdrew a folded piece of paper. “While I’m here, do you think you could sign this for me?”

Buffy took the page from Faith’s outstretched hand and opened it, using her desk to soften the crease in the paper. The blonde began to read, but quickly stopped and looked up. “This is a request for leave of absence.”

“Yeah, I was hopin’ to do a little traveling,” Faith replied with an almost whimsical tone as she slouched back in her chair. “I haven’t really had any time off since I died, so I figured I’d take a few of my vacation weeks. Use ’em or lose ’em, right?”

“I’ve heard the Caribbean is nice this time of year,” Willow suggested, trying to lighten the awkwardness of the entire situation. “You could take a cruise.”

Leaning back in her chair, the brunette slayer glanced over to Willow. “I was thinkin’ Europe, actually.”

“Faith,” Buffy said in an uneasy, almost warning, tone. “I can’t sign this.”

Her whimsical expression gone, Faith allowed her chair to fall forward into the correct position. She sat up and asked tersely, “Why not?” Her tone was challenging.

Buffy sighed and opened the top drawer of her desk. Retrieving the folder she had attempted to conceal from Jim, Buffy answered. “Because you haven’t seen the full report.” She opened the file and slid it towards Faith, making sure the correct page was on top. “Take a look at the bottom of the page.”

Faith complied, reading the information before her. “Is this confirmed?”

Buffy nodded. “Yes, and until we know more about how this happened, I’m not going to risk any more slayers, especially you.”

“So then who’s going?” Faith asked quickly.

“I am,” Willow replied from her left.

“When?” Faith probed.

“Once we’re done here,” Buffy answered before the redhead could speak. “Assuming no else bursts in here to interrupt.”

“It’s called a lock, B. You should look into it,” Faith replied, looking up. “And I don’t see a problem here.” She closed the folder and set it back down on Buffy’s desk.

“Faith, two slayers lost their powers,” Willow said cautiously. “And the only thing we know for sure is that they were both in Ronda when it happened. Chances are good that someone or something in that town is responsible.”

“I understand that,” Faith answered, still looking at Buffy. “And I’m willing to take the risk.”

“But I’m not,” Buffy replied flatly, sliding the leave of absence form back across the table.

“This isn’t your decision to make,” Faith countered, pushing the form back towards Buffy.

“Actually, it is.” Buffy said, the anger in her voice quite apparent. “And I’m not signing.”

Faith stood up quickly. “You can’t stop me from going.”

“You’re right, Faith, I can’t,” Buffy replied with a sigh. “But I can stop you from coming back. You know the rules. Walking out of here is a dismissible offense.”

“Not if I quit first,” Faith replied, simply slipping a second piece of paper out of her jeans pocket. She unfolded the sheet and set it down in on the desk in front of a stunned Buffy. “One of these papers is gettin’ signed. Which one it’s gonna be is up to you.”

The office was silent for almost a minute. From her seat, Willow could only stare with an expression of horrified fascination.

“Why is this so important to you?” Buffy asked finally, her voice quiet and unsure.

For the first time since she entered the room, Faith looked uncertain. She swallowed, taking a moment to formulate a response.

“I died, B.” She paused, her tone almost pleading. “I can’t stay here anymore and pretend that nothing happened. I can’t sit at my desk all day and pretend I’m still a slayer.” She lowered her voice. “You of all people should know, I have questions that I can’t answer here.”

There was another pause, until Buffy spoke, “Faith, can you wait outside for a minute?”

Faith studied Buffy’s eyes for a moment before uttering a barely audible, “Sure.” She turned and left without looking back.

Once the door closed, Willow exhaled, looking at a loss for words. “What now?” she managed to ask.

“I’m going to call Robin,” Buffy answered, staring down at the two pages that lay on her desk.

“Do you think he knew any of this?” Willow asked sadly.

“I think if he had, he wouldn’t have left,” Buffy replied, as she picked up a pen. She slid the appropriate page to herself and signed it without hesitation. Pushing the page to Willow, Buffy reached for the phone. “Willow,” she said, and locked eyes with the redhead. “Keep an eye on her.”

“Yeah,” Willow said with a nod. She took the paper from Buffy. Without another word, the witch stood and exited the room.

Holding the receiver to her ear, Buffy dialed Robin’s cell phone. As she waited for the call to connect, she looked down at Faith’s letter of resignation. With her free hand she crumpled the page as Robin’s voice came through the phone.

Fade to Black


End of Act One

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