Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Norika Fujiwara as Mia Nakata, Asia Argento as Marie Lebouchard, Elijah Wood as Jeffrey Lindquist, Alexis Bledel as Denise, T.R. Knight as Jackson, Tessa Thompson as Chamique, Laura Pyper as Casey, Elisabeth Harnois as Jocelyn O’Hara, Helen Shaver as Becca Giles and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix, Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Callum Blue as Niven, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Cameron Kreswell and Kyle Gallner as Zachary Kreswell
Giles and Becca’s House – Bedroom – Early Morning
The warm, glowing rays of the early morning sun filtered through the white lace curtains. A shaft of light managed to penetrate the parting of the curtains and shone down on the slumbering bodies of Giles and Becca. Lying on her side, Becca pulled the heavy blanket up around her neck, so that only her face was visible. Giles lay across his side of the bed, the cover pulled down and his arms on top.
Ever so softly, Giles began to mumble in his sleep. The mumbles became more frequent, and the words more coherent, albeit not English.
“Eg…egeodar magunis…vush…terranis…deboris proclarush…”
After reaching a crescendo, he woke with a start, his eyes shooting open. Clearing his throat, he reached over to his bedside table and put his glasses on. He glanced over at Becca, who merely snuggled down more with the covers.
Giles pursed his mouth, as if to begin talking, but then an anxious look appeared on his face. Gently, he swung his legs out of the bed to the floor and carefully pushed himself up off the mattress. He grabbed his robe and left the bedroom, his bare feet slapping against the wood laminate floor.
Giles and Becca’s House – Study – Moments Later
Taking a seat at his desk, Giles opened the bottom drawer to reveal a safe door with a numeric keypad and palm print device. He punched in the code and placed his clammy hand to the palm scanner. A clicking sound, followed by an electronic beep, granted him access to the inside of the safe. Standing back up, Giles placed a large book on the desk.
He flicked through the pages. Scribbles, writings, and sketches all came into view briefly as he leafed through the book. The last page was empty. Reaching over, Giles picked up a pen and began to write frantically. Parts of the page were written in English, but other parts were not. Punctuating the paragraphs were various elaborate sketches of what could only be described as some sort of machinery.
Moments later, the page was more than half filled. Then Giles suddenly stopped in mid-sentence. It was as if his muse had abruptly departed, or he had simply forgotten the rest.
“Bugger,” he sighed. He sat back, throwing the pen at the book.
Giles took off his glasses, suspending the arm between his thumb and forefinger. He leaned forward with his elbow on the table, resting his head on his fist as he rubbed his eyes with his other hand.
Putting his glasses back on, he collapsed back into his chair, staring unenthusiastically at the book. After a moment, he reached forward and slammed the book shut.
Watchers Council – Vault – Later that Morning
With metal suitcase in hand, Giles exited the elevator and stepped out into a white-walled corridor leading down to the large metal face of the vault door.
The clip-clop of his hard leather heels echoed through the empty, sterile corridor as he approached the barred cage encasing the vault door. A security camera positioned equidistant between the elevator and the vault trained its electronic eye on Giles, panning to follow him as he continued up the corridor.
Giles swiped his key card into the reader and the cage door opened. Stepping inside the cage, he closed the barred door behind him, then moved over to the computer terminal attached to the wall next to the vault door.
He slid his key card into another reader, and when prompted by the onscreen program, entered his authorization code, followed by placing his palm on the screen.
A light above the computer terminal switched from red to green, and a message appeared which read: “Welcome, Mr. Giles.”
Large dead bolts on the vault door slid over, and the sound of cogs and wheels turning could be heard as the door began to slowly open.
Giles walked into the vault and over to a metallic table that sat in the middle of the enormous underground room. Lining the walls were metal cabinets that reached to just below the ceiling. Each drawer was labeled with its own unique reference code. Placing the suitcase down on the table, Giles entered a number into a panel on the case. Once it was open, Giles pulled out the book he had been writing in.
With the book under his arm, he walked across to the far corner of the vault. He pushed on a specific panel of the wall and a small, secret door popped open out of the wall to his right.
Giles passed through the hidden door and shut it behind him, then followed a shorter corridor to what seemed to be a dead end.
“Open the pod bay doors please, Hal,” Giles said in a clear voice.
The wall in front of him parted with the sound of a hiss from the pressure release unlocking.
Behind the wall was a smaller, more contained room with three glass bookcases, one against each wall. Giles walked straight ahead and slid open the door to the bookcase. On the top shelf sat three books identical to the one in Giles’s hand. On each of the spines were labels reading “Knowledge of the Guardians,” with a respective volume number on each book.
Giles placed the book in his hand up against the third volume and slid the glass door shut once again before leaving the secret room.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
The elevator doors parted and Giles walked out into the lobby. The sunlight magnified by the large glass windows made him squint. He headed for the exit, but was brought to a halt by Willow’s calls from across the foyer.
“Giles! Hey Giles?” He turned as Willow jogged over to him. “Hey. Is everything okay? What are you doing here so early on this…mighty fine sunny morning?” She brought her hand up to block out the glare.
“Oh, yes…umm, everything’s fine, Willow,” he said, still distracted by the light. “Here,” he added, walking them towards the shelter of a shadow cast by one of the pillars. “That’s better. No, honestly everything’s fine. I had another dream last night, and I woke myself up jabbering some ancient gabble.”
Dejected, Willow asked, “Find anything?”
“Not a clue. It’s…it’s frustrating not knowing what I’m saying, but at the same time, a part of me feels and knows that I do.” He let out a bleak sigh.
Willow placed a comforting hand on his arm. “Give it time.” His brow inclined. “Well, a little more time, I mean. You do have a vast library of ancient knowledge that’s unspooling in your already dense and large – and babble, babble, babble, I’m not helping, am I?” She gave a coy smile.
As always, Willow’s smiles were infectious, regardless of their size. “You do have a knack for putting things into perspective.” He put his hand on hers, and she put her hand back down by her side. “I came because I had filled another volume and wanted to put it with the others for safe keeping.”
“And how many is that now?”
Giles looked to the ceiling briefly. “Four, and I know that it won’t be the last. At least I know what I’m writing down, so I guess that’s something.”
“A sunshiny outlook is exactly what you should have. Maybe if you relax and stop worrying about what you can and can’t remember, it’ll come to you quicker?”
“Yes, maybe. Thank you,” he said gratefully.
“Hey, I know what we haven’t done in a while, with you playing Daddy and all: pancake run.” Willow beamed.
“Tempting, but partaking in the delights of pancakes would mean invoking the worry of the wife. I left Becca sleeping when I left, and I didn’t leave a note,” he confessed.
Willow teased with a gasp. “Naughty Giles. Don’t let her catch you with a younger, sexy woman in a diner eating pancakes. Could be grounds for divorce.”
He grinned. “Another time?” he posed, but before Willow could answer, his cell phone started to ring.
“The worrying wife?” Willow cocked her head with a small pout.
Giles patted himself down, unsure where his cell phone was. Then he raised a finger, reached into the breast pocket of his jacket, and pulled out his phone. “Hel…yes…Becca, yes, I’m fine…” He leaned away from the speaker to whisper to Willow. “I’d better…” He nodded to the exit.
“It’s hell being the other woman,” she teased him. Willow smiled and gave him a wink.
Giles returned the smile, but it fell as he said into the phone, “There is no other woman!” Automatically, Giles gave the phone to Willow. “Here.”
“Hey, Becca,” Willow said upon taking it. “Sorry, I was just teasing Giles. I didn’t think you heard that…Well, I’ll let him explain. Catch ya later,” she said, handing the phone back to Giles. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He grinned as his thumb and index finger grabbed her chin playfully. “See you soon,” he told her. Then he walked away, talking to Becca as he moved.
Willow’s eyes followed him from the building to his car. She even continued to watch until he had driven away. She sighed and looked around the lobby, but saw no one else. She swung her arms lightly, turned, and walked over to the elevators. Not more than a second passed before the doors opened to reveal Faith.
“Oh hey! Pancakes?” Willow asked gleefully.
Bureau Nine – Library – Morning
Ethan Rayne sat reading from a large and heavy text. Several other books were scattered around him, along with a haphazard array of papers. Most of the papers had notes scribbled on them in his thin, elegant script.
He picked one sheet up to look at it, and his half-moon reading glasses slid off his nose. “Blast!” he said, catching them just in time. He put them back on, and they immediately began to slide downward again. He tilted his head back and looked out through them.
“Can battle demons, cause mass chaos, and drive Rupert Giles mad – all before tea,” he muttered aloud, “but I can’t conjure a simple pair of reading glasses that fit!”
“Ethan,” Mr. Felix came up from behind him in the Bureau’s small but well-stocked library, “one of the charms of growing old is that you get to look distinguished in reading glasses.” He smiled. “A great many ladies find it attractive.”
“Yes,” Ethan grumbled. “Old ladies with teeth that don’t fit any better than these specs do.”
Felix chuckled and stepped up to the worktable. “How are you coming along with the Codex?” he asked. “Have you worked out what we’ll need to power the sphere?”
Ethan sat back and pushed the glasses back up to the bridge of his nose again. “Other than it’ll require a tremendous amount of power, more than any mage or witch or coven can provide? No. I assigned one of the…what do you call them? Underlings – I asked one of them to continue working on translating that passage. Keeps them quiet and from constantly asking what to do next. However, activating the sphere isn’t a prime concern,” he replied. “Getting the sphere itself is. That’s what worries me.”
Mr. Felix nodded and lifted one of the volumes from the table, inspecting its spine. “Not a problem,” he said. “I’ve retained the services of an exceptionally talented thief. Comes highly recommended.” He set the book back down and saw Ethan peering quizzically at him. “She’s a rather pretty one, too, I might add.”
Ethan smirked as the eyeglasses slid to the tip of his nose. He pushed them back up. “A rather pretty thief?” he asked. “I knew a rather pretty thief once…”
Los Angeles – Abandoned Car Lot – Night
April 25, 2002
The night air was eerily still, chilled by the slight breeze blowing over the barren field.
A stocky black jeep slowed to a halt as it reached the center of the junk car lot, gravel and dirt crunching under the thick tires of the vehicle. The headlights were off – dangerous considering the rocky, circuitous trail that led up to the junkyard.
Though the jeep was parked, the engine still ran. The bright beams of the headlights punctuated the darkness as they flashed twice in succession.
Ethan stood looking over the city of Los Angeles. The lights from the buildings and the cars below twinkled like stars on the ground. He only half turned his head at the flashing headlights.
He pulled a solid gold Zippo out of his pants pocket and flicked the lid open, sparking a flame that danced in the wind. He held the Zippo up for a few seconds and the sound of the engine of the jeep purred to a stop. He slid the Zippo back into his pocket and returned his gaze to the city lights.
The jeep door opened and a petite woman jumped to the ground, small plumes of dust swirling around her feet. She slammed the door shut and started a slow walk over to Ethan.
“Miss Raiden?” he called out, not turning to face her.
“Mr. Rayne?” she said skeptically as she continued to walk.
“You needn’t get so close…if what I’ve been told is true.”
With a shiver, Gwen looked up at the night sky and then back at Ethan. “I like a cautious man.”
“Then you won’t like me.”
“No, probably not. If what I’ve been told is true, then you’re about as low as they come,” she said nonchalantly.
“However,” he turned to her, smirking, “I can be very cautious. But I will say, despite any misgivings, you do come highly recommended.”
“Not a client so far has given me a bad reference for my…services.” A small grin adorned her porcelain face.
Ethan looked Gwen up and down and huffed out a laugh at her bravado. “There won’t be any, shall we say, contention, between us, if we’re lucky,” he blew out a long puff of smoke, “and maybe luckier if there is…”
“Just like a man, thinking with his crotch instead of his head,” she said, placing a hand on her hip. “Don’t get your – oh, what’s that English expression? – ‘knickers in a twist’,” Gwen smirked, “or should I say, don’t get your hopes – or anything else – up?”
“My only hope,” Ethan turned completely around to face her, “is that you are up to the task.”
Their eyes sternly locked on each other’s. Gwen took a short step closer. “You got my money?”
“Actually, aren’t you supposed to ‘render services’ before a man pays you?” Ethan smirked.
Gwen just smirked back and took another step closer. Ethan stood, unwavering and looking down at her standing a mere arm’s length away from him.
“Mr. Rayne. You may be some powerful, old mage with a couple of neat tricks up his sleeve not fit for a child’s birthday party, but I am not the kind of person you wanna piss off. So unless you want things to get freaky, I’ll ask you again. Mr. Rayne, have you got my money?”
Thunder rumbled from the thick, black dark clouds above, and the air grew prickly and humid.
Ethan looked at her narrowly for a moment. “Up my sleeve, as you so quaintly put it, is not where I keep my tricks,” he said silkily. She rolled her eyes. “But we can talk about that later, perhaps. If what Thomas Hillary said about you is true – and I’ve no reason to think it’s not – I believe we’ll get on just fine.”
He smiled ingratiatingly at her. Suddenly, a cold and serious look came into his eyes. “But make no mistake, Miss Raiden,” he said quietly, “there’s only one of us who shouldn’t piss off the other. You’re not a killer. And I’m far better at conniving.” He smiled again. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a band of thousand dollar bills. “Half now. Half when it’s done.”
Gwen couldn’t help but laugh, though she tried to stifle it. “No, I may not be a killer, but really you shouldn’t piss me off. I have a tendency to…let sparks fly when I’m angry, so to speak. So remember that, Mr. Rayne, and we’ll get on just fine.” She arched a brow, steadfast in her sarcasm. She looked at the wad of cash in his hand and then sneaked a look back to him. “Half now suits me just fine.” She reached for the cash and took it. “Now gimme the skinny and…get away from me,” she said this last hastily as a chill ran up her spine, drastically changing the tone of the conversation. With a worried look on her face, she stared up at the black-lined clouds above.
Ethan followed her gaze up into the sky. “Bugger,” he said, “and I was just getting warmed up…”
“No, seriously, get away from me now!” she shouted, starting to back away from him.
He looked at her oddly. He could see the fear in her eyes. “What on earth…?”
“Run!!!” She started to run backwards herself before turning fully into a sprint.
Ethan turned to run and stopped himself at the brink of the drop-off, the city lights winking back at him. The thunder rumbled, growing in intensity as the storm came crashing in over the hills. He looked left and right, dropped to the ground, rolled and crawled beneath the nearest junked car.
A sudden burst of brilliant white light illuminated the entire area, and an arc of white-hot lightning shot down from the clouds at breakneck speed and struck Gwen square in the back. The force of the strike swept her up off her feet and launched her into the air. She flew back for what seemed a good five hundred feet and then crashed down hard onto the dirt and rolled to a stop.
“Damn!” Ethan said from under the car, “and this was my best shirt!” He looked out and saw Gwen on the ground, on her side with her back to him. “The money – He cut himself off, at the realization the young woman had been struck by the lightning. “Oh, bloody hell,” he grumbled, and dragged himself out from under the car. He stood up, now greased and oil-slicked, and walked cautiously over to Gwen. “Miss Raiden?”
He reached out to roll her over but then stopped himself, his hand not an inch from her shoulder. “Miss Raiden,” he called.
Gwen groaned and slowly rolled over onto her back, her face covered with dirt and her hair dry and frizzy. She coughed and swallowed hard. “And I’m up,” she said. She pulled herself up from the ground and arched her throbbing back. She sat up and then got to her feet. “I’d say that’ll get old, but it has and…” She flexed her muscles again and winced slightly. “…but I’m good. Actually feel kinda refreshed.”
Ethan gave a strong, sudden laugh. “Re-charged?” he said.
“Kinda,” she said, shaking out her hands. “I’m like the Energizer Bunny – I just keep on going.”
She bent down and picked up her wad of money. The fringes of the green notes were charred and some embers still burned, but she waved the bills in the air and blew them out.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Ethan told her. “Worse comes to the worst, I’ll just conjure a new batch that looks as genuine as the real article – well, almost. What’s really going to be difficult to replace are my clothes.”
“Why don’t you just conjure up some new clothes, then?”
Ethan grimaced a little. “Don’t ask,” he told her. “Do you know what designer Italian silk shirts cost these days?”
Gwen grunted as she brushed herself down and wiped her face. “No idea, but I’ll steal ’em for you – no charge.”
“Ah…” Ethan gave her pained look, “ha-ha…yes, well…” He stood and offered her his hand, then clearly realized what a bad idea this was and shrugged.
Gwen sighed and looked up at the clouds. “Storm’s coming in. Say, how’s about we take our business elsewhere? Preferably somewhere indoors, warm, with a bar…?” She motioned over to her jeep.
He reached into his pocket for his pack of cigarettes. They were squashed flat. “Yes,” he agreed. “I could use a drink about now.”
Bureau Nine – Library – Resume
Ethan sat up, blinking a couple of times and snapping out of his reverie.
“Well,” Felix said, “pretty is a fringe benefit for us. Never hurts to have something nice to look at while conducting business, even if we are a bit too far along to do anything besides look, hmm?” He turned and made his way to the door.
Ethan smirked a bit as his glasses began their descent again. “Just because you’re long in the tooth…” he said under his breath.
Felix turned and looked at him. “Sorry, didn’t get that…”
“Ye-yes…well…because you…long for the truth…” Ethan said, quickly trying to cover, “…you’ve expressed it so…so…”
“Truthfully?” Felix offered, giving Ethan an odd look.
Ethan opened his hands and shrugged, smiling accommodatingly.
Felix nodded politely, shaking his head, and then left the room. The door clicked shut behind him.
“Berk!” Ethan spat. The glasses fell off his nose and landed in his lap. He looked down at them and sighed.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Afternoon
Everyone was there.
Willow, Andrew and Dawn from the Coven. Rowena, Robin and Jim from the Watchers Division. Faith, Kennedy and Mia from the Slayers Division. Xander was there too, sitting between Willow and Dawn, a hand over his mouth. Buffy herself stood in front of the group, each hand on the side of a wooden podium. Her fingers dug into the wood as she slowly surveyed the crowd. No one spoke a word.
“I wanted to have a meeting because…” Buffy looked down at her podium. “…because I think we have some serious things that we need to discuss. I’m just going to lay everything out, so that we’re all on the same page.”
“Halloween night, several members of the Council were abducted by a rogue slayer who had been living under our roof for years. Two slayers were killed. The rogue slayer is still at large. Simultaneously, we found out about an organization called Bureau Nine, which seems to do about the same thing we do, but charges people for its services.” Buffy glanced at Xander and tried a smile.
“I’m sure Anya’s saying ‘I told you so’ right about now,” Xander said quietly.
“Then there was the problem in Spain,” Buffy continued. “Isabel Ortiz suddenly no longer showed any sign of ever having been a slayer, but any slayer who even gets close to her soon finds her powers completely and totally gone. Except for Faith, for some reason. And then Isabel disappeared. Now we’ve found out that Isabel has been brought to Cleveland, by Bureau Nine. And those aren’t the only problems we have. There was a strike by some of the slayers. Yesterday, I got an anonymous report on my desk about an incident where a decent portion of our slayer force was nearly poisoned, and Slayer Jaye Gradkowski had a nervous breakdown or something in the field, and the report says that she was on drugs, some pretty deep stuff.” Faith and Mia shot each other a look.
Buffy cleared her throat and leaned forward. “I think I’ve been doing it again. I’ve been all lone-wolfy, and we’ve all seen how that leads to badness. These aren’t my problems, these are our problems. So I’m asking you, all of you…where the heck do we go from here?”
There was a long moment of silence, a moment that threatened to stretch into an eon of silence. It went on so long that when Faith cleared her throat, Andrew actually looked startled.
“The thing is, B, if we knew how to fix this crap, we’d be out there fixin’ it. I know Heli’s driving everyone up the wall, and I know everyone here’s antsy about Isabel, but we’re doing our best.”
“Listen, guys, I don’t want to come off as General Bitch here,” Buffy said, “but our best lately has just not been good enough, and we can’t afford not to be good enough. The reason the world is here is because in the past, we’ve been good enough. We all have to put our heads together and figure these things out.”
Glancing nervously around the room, Mia slowly raised her hand. Buffy looked at her expectantly.
“We generally just sort of talk whenever we want to,” Kennedy whispered to Mia.
“Oh,” Mia said, lowering her hand. “Um, well, I don’t know where Heli is or anything, but I wanted to say that I don’t think Bureau Nine has told us everything.”
“Certainly not,” Jim exclaimed. “They hacked into our system, conducted operations that –”
“No,” Mia corrected, “I mean, why would they bring Isabel to Cleveland if they didn’t have plans for her? They seem like they’re not hurting for cash. If they just wanted to study her, they probably could have done it somewhere that didn’t put all their slayers and ours in danger.”
Robin nodded. “She’s right. They may even mean to use her as a weapon. If the world runs on slayer power, Isabel is a nuclear bomb.”
Kennedy leaned over to Faith. “I think your man just used you in a confusing and scary metaphor.”
“It’s okay, he used you too.” Faith grinned.
“By rights, Isabel shouldn’t exist,” Rowena was saying. “She’s too big a mystical anomaly to merely be accidental. I think it’s very likely that Isabel’s going to be a very important piece in this game.”
“This game?” Xander asked. “Which game? I didn’t even know we were playing.”
“Which is exactly why we’re losing,” Buffy said, resignation in her voice.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Evening
Grace walked out of the elevator alongside Rowena, holding a large notepad in front of her.
“Call it a brainwave, call it a happening, whatever, but…” Grace said, looking over to Rowena, “…vampires, right? Why does sunlight make them go…umm…” She snapped her fingers repeatedly as if to pluck the words out of the air.
“Poof?” Rowena aided.
“I was trying to go with something a little more professional, like ‘combust,’ but ‘poof’ is good,” she snorted. “Then again, what can I expect coming from the woman who invented the term ‘vampification’.” Grace smirked.
“Hey, don’t knock it, it’s catchy.” Rowena smiled. “Sunlight? Let’s see…it’s the demon’s Achilles heel, its weakness.”
“Sure, but why? Just because?” Grace questioned.
“What are you suggesting?”
“Why is arsenic deadly to humans?”
“Because of its chemical reaction with our bodies.”
“Exactly!” Grace exclaimed, raising her finger, “I’ve got a theory…”
“We’re not singing again, are we?” Willow asked, appearing from an adjacent corridor with a pile of books in her arms. “‘Cause I only do the filler parts.”
With a deadpan look, Grace shook her head and turned back to Rowena. “Think of the vampire demon as a parasite. The parallels: they need to feed on blood to survive, and they get stronger when they do. Now we know that…vampification,” she made one set of quotation marks with her spare hand, “is the process of the soul departing the human body and the demon entering, right? Vampification alters the body, making it a more hospitable place for the demon…kinda like how some parasites will cause the body to produce more of a certain chemical in order to live inside the host body. What if it’s a chemical reaction?”
“Go on,” Rowena said, folding her arms with a look of intrigue on her face.
“There’s got to be a reason why vampires combust in sunlight – the same as why they turn to dust when they are set on fire or get staked through the heart with wood,” Grace continued.
“Well, we know why. The vampire is a mystical creature, so certain laws don’t apply to them. Its weaknesses are mystical. Or at least, that’s one explanation,” Willow said.
“But what if it’s not a mystical reaction, or-or not all of the vampire’s weaknesses are the result of mystical means? You see where I’m coming from?” Grace’s notion received a slight nod from both Willow and Rowena. “What if vampires are allergic to vitamin D? That’s why they go up in flames when they step outside, because of the chemical reaction between the sunlight and their skin. The same with a stake. What if the combination of wood and their heart – or perhaps another element that is produced by the demon – results in a chemical reaction which brings about death…again. Fire, as well? In fables, garlic too. What if it’s all chemical?” Grace ran off in excitement at her theory with a smile that grew as she continued.
“I’ve gotta say I’m liking the science angle,” Willow said with a nod. “It’s new agey and certainly something we haven’t explored. Plus, it’s been a while since I got my geek on and donned rubber gloves and dabbled with acids a-and did periodic table crosswords…” She trailed off wistfully. When she came back, she looked at the pair of watchers, who both wore grins. Willow coughed and continued, “Just because the heart isn’t beating, doesn’t mean that the body is dead. We know that there are various chemical and physical changes to corpses that still happen after death, and what with the corpse re-animated by the demon, who’s to say that nothing else is going on inside? Let’s hope not like that intestine-snake thingy like in that movie.”
“What about holy water?” Rowena asked, almost teacher-like.
“Oh…umm…wait, are you testing me? You’re trying to catch me off guard, aren’t you? Is this for a test?” Grace asked.
Willow didn’t get a reply, but rather Rowena motioned her hand across her mouth as if she was pulling a zipper to keep her lips sealed.
“That’s the way you wanna play it, huh?” Grace straightened up. “The water’s blessed, hence the ‘holy,’ and therefore falls under the category of mystically-induced reactions,” she replied smugly, with the slightest crack of a smile.
Rowena chuckled and nudged Grace’s arm. “A plus. Seriously, nice thinking. Definitely something to investigate.”
Grace blushed with a grin. “See, I’m not just good for fetching coffee and…” As she spoke, the lights shut off, suspending them temporarily in total darkness.
“What’s going on?” Willow asked, a bit panicked.
“Oh my god, I’m blind?!” Grace squealed.
“Looks like the power’s out. Hold on a sec,” Rowena took her radio and pressed down on the trigger, only to find it wasn’t working. “Okay, this is odd. My radio’s dead.”
Each clambered for their cell phones. Willow wrestled with her books, but eventually she got her phone while holding her books close to her chest with the crook of one arm.
“My cell isn’t working either,” Grace said. “I only charged it a couple of hours ago.”
“Mine’s dead too,” Rowena confirmed.
“There’s a surprise, me three,” Willow added. “Hey, look.” She nodded to the wrap-around glass windows. “It’s not just us. Looks like the surrounding blocks are out, too.”
“I think it’s safe to say that it’s not just a power outage,” Rowena supplied.
They made their way back over to the reception desk with the aid of the faint natural light filtering in through the windows. Rowena picked up the landline phone and tried to dial out, but didn’t receive a dial tone. Willow moved around to the computer, dumping her books on the counter. She tried to power up the tower, but it didn’t respond.
Grace placed her pad down on the desk and ran over to the elevators, placing her ear against the cold metal doors. “Guys, I think we’ve got people stuck in the elevators.”
“What the…what’s going on?” Faith shouted as she turned into the lobby from one of the hallways. “The lights, the phones – anything electrical or battery-operated is dead.” She looked at her watch. “Now I don’t even know what time Earl‘s on and I can’t phone Norm to tape it. Great.”
Rowena looked up and moved from behind the desk to meet Faith. “We haven’t got a clue what’s going on. We were talking and then…Faith, did you check the backup generators in the basement?”
“Nah, I came straight here. Figured this is where peeps would gather. Besides, getting around this place in the dark without the elevators isn’t my idea of a party.”
“Speaking of elevators: People. Trapped. Inside. Hello?!” Grace reminded them, still with her ear to the metal doors.
“The backups should have come on by now,” Rowena replied with a degree of concern.
“Not if this is the result of an EMP,” Willow said as she walked over to Faith and Rowena.
“Not so much the result of an EMP, so much as me,” a female voice echoed throughout the lobby, accompanied by the sound of her heels connecting with the marble floor.
Grace stumbled back to stand beside Faith, who stepped forward in a fighting stance. “Willow, we need light,” she said.
As Willow raised her hands, she was interrupted by the woman’s voice, “You really don’t want to do that.”
“I don’t like this,” Willow quickly glanced back at the younger watcher before looking back to the darkness. “Grace, get a squad of slayers down here now.” She pulled Faith toward her and asked softly, “Heli?”
“Doesn’t sound like her,” Faith whispered back.
“Please, like slayers would do any good,” the woman spoke again. “Spiffy new digs you got here. Benefit of world fame, I guess. Hey, I nearly forgot, I have to thank you for that. What with the world up on all things that go ‘grr’ and ‘argh’ and whatnot, it’s made me less of a freak.”
“Who are you?” Rowena called out.
Gwen stepped out of the shadows and into the twilight with a smug smile.
Willow peered at her, trying to recall her face. “Miss…Raiden?” she said with a certain degree of uncertainty.
“The lightning chick from a couple years back?” Faith asked.
“Yeah, that lightning chick,” Gwen replied. “Hey, aren’t you that woman that pulled a Jesus?” She arched a derisive brow while pointing at Faith.
Faith retorted with a snort and a fold of her arms. “Yeah, that Jesus woman. That would be me.”
“Enough. You’re responsible for this, aren’t you?” Rowena said, garnering the thief’s attention.
“Lady Lightning turns up on your doorstep and all the electrics are shot?” Gwen shot back sarcastically.
“Point taken. What are you doing here?” Willow asked.
Gwen turned to her. “Business. The Council’s been targeted by an organization called Bureau Nine, and I’m the one they sent to do the deed.” She grinned and tilted her head to the side.
End of Act One