Old Watchers Council Headquarters – Slayer Rec Room – Morning
Vi found Kennedy sitting on the couch in front of the television, randomly flicking through channels. She put her hands on her hips.
“Weren’t you here last night?” Vi took a moment to size Kennedy up. “In the same clothes?”
Kennedy didn’t look up at her. “Yeah, probably.” Her voice was flat. She had large bags under her eyes. Vi grabbed the remote from her and turned off the television. That finally got Kennedy’s attention. “Hey!”
Vi sat down on the couch next to her. “Ken, I say this as your friend. Snap out of it!”
“Tried that already,” Kennedy said sadly. “Didn’t work.”
“If you count drinking lots and lots of beer as ‘snapping out of it,’ then you tried it,” Vi said. She put a hand over Kennedy’s. “Look, maybe…maybe this whole thing with…” She trailed off.
“It’s okay if you say her name, Vi,” Kennedy told her, a little bit of a smile on her face.
“Willow,” Vi finished. “Maybe it’s for the best. I mean, I always sort of wondered what you two had to talk about.”
“Well, the best parts didn’t involve talking,” Kennedy said with a sly grin, “but you’d be surprised. It’s hard to explain. And I-I can’t picture having that with somebody else.”
“You will,” Vi assured her, looking directly into Kennedy’s eyes. “And anyway, you’ll always have me. There probably won’t be much sex involved, but we can…y’know, hang. And I’m here if you need to talk.”
“We’re talking now,” Kennedy pointed out.
Vi was looking over her shoulder at the girl who poked her head through the door of the Slayer Rec Room. She waved the girl over.
“Hey, Ken, have you met the new girl?” Vi asked. “No, you wouldn’t have, you’ve been here moping instead of living your life.”
“Okay, I get it,” Kennedy said. She was grinning now.
Vi made the introductions. “Kennedy, this is Heli. She just transferred in from London. Heli, this is Kennedy.”
Heli enthusiastically shook Kennedy’s hand. Her accent was still pretty thick. “Happy to meet you.”
Kennedy cocked an eyebrow. “Where you from, Heli?”
“Sweden,” Vi supplied.
“Finland,” Heli corrected.
“Finland,” Vi said. “Actually, Heli, stay close to Ken here. She might not look it right now, but she is an awesome slayer. Seriously. Dead things everywhere. You can learn a lot from her.”
Heli nodded. “I am sure I can.”
“Is Kennedy in here?” Rona was standing in the doorway.
“Yes,” Kennedy said, sounding tired. She sat up in her seat and turned around. “What is it?”
“I wanted to talk to you about the whole gun issue,” Rona said, as she walked toward the couch. “But if this is a bad time I can –”
“Rona, I know what you’re going to ask,” Kennedy sighed, “and Faith and I both agree, the answer is no.”
“Slayers don’t use guns,” Kennedy said firmly. Heli quirked an eyebrow at this as she settled into a recliner.
“Oh, that’s okay,” Vi said cheerily. “We’ve got other options.” She pointed a knuckle in Rona’s direction. “Wonder Twin Invincibility Powers, activate.” All she got from Rona was a baleful stare. “Okay, fine, but when something crazy happens and you start wishing you’re invincible, don’t come crying to me.”
Council Plane – Day
Kennedy stood in the back of the plane with Mia, inspecting the weapons they had spread out over the seats.
“Where are the guns?” she asked.
“There-there aren’t any guns,” Mia replied, confusion in her voice.
“I asked you to –”
“You asked me to grab some weapons,” Mia interrupted. “I went for sharp and pointy. We’re not Black Ops.”
“Mia, come on,” Kennedy said. Her voice was louder now. “Don’t be stupid.”
Mia crossed her arms and went into a defensive posture. “This was your rule, remember? If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times. Slayers don’t use guns. So if anyone here’s being stupid right now –”
“Girls?” Skye interrupted, turning around in her seat. “Not helping.”
They both gave her an incredulous look. Skye smirked. “Yeah, I know. Since when do I have to play referee?”
After a beat, Kennedy turned back to Mia. “The rules are different now.”
“Since when?” Mia asked.
She and Kennedy locked eyes for a moment, but then Kennedy shook her head and turned back to the spread of swords and axes on the seats.
“It’s okay,” she said. “They’ve got an armory in Tokyo. We’ll just have to ask if we can…borrow some stuff.”
Bureau Nine HQ – Isabel’s Bedroom – Night
Isabel sat on the edge of her bed, hands folded in her lap.
“I don’t know if I can help you,” she said quietly. “I’m still not sure if I understand what’s happening to me.”
Jason Felix sat in a chair across the room, illuminated by a single lamp on a nearby dresser, resting his chin in one hand.
Isabel looked down at the floor. “I killed my friends.”
Felix blinked, then took a breath. “Did you plan to kill them?”
“What does it matter?” Isabel asked bluntly. “They’re still dead.”
“It very much matters. Now, please answer my question – did you at any time plan to kill them?”
She sighed. “My actions killed them. That’s what matters.”
Felix stood and crossed the room to where Isabel sat. He went down on one knee and laid one of his hands over hers. He spoke slowly. “Did you do anything wrong? Make a mistake? Did you even try to do anything except save them, save them and others? Under the circumstances, it is entirely natural that you feel guilt, but Isabel, you do not deserve that guilt.”
“Why not?” She said it with no inflection at all.
He almost smiled. “Guilt comes only with an act of will. Guilt stems from choice, from action. And you made no ill choice. You did not do anything, in fact. Something happened to you. Because of that something, your friends did indeed die, and your pain at that fact is real, even searing. But it has nothing at all to do with guilt. Not really. It has everything to do with rage.”
He nodded. “Because it should not have happened. Because you need to blame something, someone. And there isn’t anyone to blame. So you fixed upon the one person in range.” Felix took a deep breath. Isabel looked at his face intently. “I wanted to die with my wife and daughter. I longed for it. And frankly, my rage then was a very dangerous thing. My rage, like yours, is real. It is natural. More, it is fundamentally human…reassuringly so. But I beg of you, do not make it your life. Use it instead. Aim all that energy towards something worthwhile, or it will devour more than simply your soul. It will destroy those around you. Give the deaths of your friends – which you did not will – meaning by a genuine act of your will. You did not choose what happened. You have all the power to choose what to do with it.”
“The project,” Isabel said. She smiled. “It’s a beautiful dream.”
The sound of a knock made both Felix and Isabel look over at the door. “Mr. Felix, are you in there?” a voice asked.
Felix sighed, sharing a look with Isabel as he got to his feet. He walked over to the door, opening it to find Dianna standing on the other side.
“Sorry to disturb you, but there’s new information on that bombing in Tokyo that you should probably look at.” She handed him a thin manila folder. “They told me you’d be here.”
Felix flipped the folder open and scanned the first page. He looked back up at Dianna, slightly surprised. “Hamalainen?”
“It certainly looks that way,” she nodded.
“Does the Watchers Council have this information?”
“One would assume so,” Dianna replied. “A Council jet took off for Tokyo several hours ago.”
Felix closed the folder and handed it back to her. “Then we will let them handle the matter. However, I would appreciate it if you kept me informed.”
“Has there been any progress on the translation?”
“Of the Sphere?” Dianna shook her head. “I feel pretty bloody useless at this point, let me tell you. I still have a few ideas I’d like to try out.”
Felix placed a hand on her shoulder. “I have faith in you, Dianna. More, I have knowledge. If it can be done, I’m positive you will succeed.”
She nodded, then glanced awkwardly behind Felix towards Isabel. The Spanish girl looked very small on the edge of the bed. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
She turned and walked away. Felix closed the door and turned to Isabel. “I apologize. Where were we?”
Isabel smiled. “You were restoring my faith.”
Tokyo Council Headquarters – Lobby – Day
The Tokyo branch of the Watchers Council was on high alert when the delegation from Cleveland arrived. People were running in all directions, and the switchboard behind the reception desk was completely lit up. A local girl waited for them in the center of the small lobby, glancing intermittently at a clipboard she was holding. She looked somewhat harried.
“Nozomi,” Kennedy greeted, shaking the girl’s hand.
“I remember you,” Kadin said. “You went on the Vor mission, right?”
Nozomi replied in a spurt of rapid-fire Japanese that left stunned silence in its wake.
“Please tell me someone understood that,” Skye said. She noticed the suspicious look Nozomi was giving her, and grinned back.
“She’s gonna need to slow down,” Rowena said. “I can read Japanese just fine, but to understand her, she’s going to have to slow down…”
“She says that she’s really happy we’re here,” Mia translated. “Things are getting out of control.”
Everyone looked at her, a little surprised.
“My parents were old-school Japanese,” Mia said. “I picked up a few things.”
“I knew there was a reason we brought you,” Skye quipped.
“She also asked why we brought the bleepety-bleeping vampire,” Mia continued.
“Did she actually say bleepety-bleeping?” Skye asked, curious.
Rowena sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Mia, tell her that I’ve been working with those photographs they sent us. I have a few theories, speculations, about where to start looking for Heli.”
“Also ask her not to stake me,” Skye put in.
Mia rolled her eyes and began a conversation with Nozomi that lasted several seconds. Kennedy’s eyes played ping-pong between the two of them. Then Mia turned back to her friends, biting her lip.
“What’d she say?” Kadin asked.
“She said we should probably start at the building Heli blew up last night,” Mia reported.
Even Skye looked shocked. “That’s a new trick for her.”
Mia nodded. “It was…It was a crowded nightclub.”
“And you were wondering when the rules changed?” Kennedy remarked stoically.
Ruins of Nightclub – Late Afternoon
A few dozen Council personnel were fanned out over what had once been Orange. The structure had collapsed on one side. Metal rebars stuck out in strange directions from jagged shards of concrete.
Kennedy stood in the center of the blocked-off street, staring directly into the destruction. She flinched slightly when Mia put a hand on her shoulder.
“Sorry,” Mia said.
“No, it’s fine,” Kennedy told her, brushing a few stray hairs out from in front of her eyes. “What’d the police say?”
“Well, it was a bomb,” Mia said. “And they got a snippet of whatever they use for 911 here from someone who wanted to report a fugitive. They must have…” She trailed off.
Kennedy licked her lips. “How many?” Mia opened her mouth to reply, but Kennedy interrupted her before she could say anything. “No, wait, I don’t want to know.”
“Probably the best thing.” Mia nodded.
The two of them walked over to where Kadin and Skye, with an umbrella, were standing on the edge of the debris. Rowena was on her knees, scavenging.
“She was definitely here,” Skye said.
Kadin motioned to their surroundings. “Ya think?”
“I mean, I can smell her,” Skye said. “Little traces, but it’s definitely her. It’s like…like a color in the air.”
“Yeah, don’t get poetical, no one cares,” Mia said. Skye sneered at her.
“Nothing here now,” Kadin sighed. “What are we even looking for, anyway?”
“Something like this,” Rowena said. She got to her feet with what looked like a piece of a metal sign in her hand. The western letters “AN” were clearly visible.
“Okay, this is why I’m not a watcher, Ro,” Kennedy said. “What the hey?”
Rowena sighed and pulled out a manila folder from the bag slung over her shoulder. She flipped through its contents until she found what she was looking for.
“The photos Heli left us are all detail work, parts of larger objects. They seemed like totally random shots, but…” Rowena held up a glossy photograph that consisted entirely of a close-up of the letters “AN.” It was definitely from the same sign.
“Okay, now I get it even less,” Mia said. “What’s the point?”
“Well,” Rowena explained patiently, “if Heli took a picture here, and now she’s blown it up…”
“That means the places from the other photos might be next,” Kennedy finished. “Supercalifragilistic.”
“Expialidocious,” Mia countered.
Kennedy’s face showed no amusement. “Okay.” She turned to Mia. “Get all the Tokyo girls over here. We’re gonna need their help.”
Ruins of Nightclub – Early Evening
The dozen or so pictures from Rowena’s folder were spread out on the pavement in the center of the street. Young Japanese slayers crowded around, jabbering amongst themselves, sometimes pointing to one of the pictures.
“This is never gonna work,” Skye commented, watching the scene. “Even if we’ve got a bunch of needles, Tokyo is still a super-sized haystack.”
“I’m sorry, vamp,” Kadin replied, a little annoyed. “I forgot what you were doing that was productive.”
“You mean besides bringing sexy back?” Skye asked. She noticed Kadin’s grimace and grinned. “Oh yeah. You know you want it.”
“People died here last night,” Kadin pointed out, disgusted.
One of the local slayers held a cartoonish picture of a dog up for Kennedy, Rowena, and Mia.
“She says it’s a video game she remembers from an arcade,” Mia translated. “It’s called…um…Mondo Super Dog…Typing Challenge. Or something.”
“Typing Challenge?” Rowena asked, an eyebrow quirked.
“Does she know which arcade?” Kennedy asked.
After Mia asked the question, the girl shook her head negatively.
“Well,” Rowena said, “at least there can’t be that many arcades in one city, right?” Everyone just stared at her for a second. “I just said something really stupid, didn’t I? What can I say, I was deprived of video games as a child.”
Kennedy sighed. “This is ridiculous.” She raised her voice over the chattering girls. “Does anyone recognize anything else?”
There was silence for a moment. Then Nozomi, looking a little embarrassed, pointed to a picture of two blue neon Japanese characters arranged vertically. “Sore wa Karaoke no Mugen no Oto desu.”
Subtitled: “That’s from Endless Sound Karaoke.”
“She just said something about Karaoke, didn’t she?” Kadin asked. Suddenly she sounded a little tired. Kennedy looked to Mia for confirmation, and got a nod in return.
“Well,” Kennedy said, “we need to figure out the plan ASAP.” She looked up at the sky. It had turned orange and pink in the West. “It’ll be night soon.”
Garden – Same Time
Heli sat beneath the same pink and orange sky, legs crossed beneath her. A garden full of flowers of all different colors and varieties surrounded her. She picked a small white flower and held it up for closer inspection. The hulking demon from the night before strode down a nearby path towards her, framed by a slightly off-kilter wooden arch in the background. The tall buildings of Tokyo were visible in all directions.
Without looking around, Heli asked, “What is it?”
“This is a shrine,” it said. “Makes us nervous. And what happened to the priests?”
Heli opened her hand and watched as the flower floated slowly away on a current of air. “It’s not important.”
“Umm…right,” the demon nodded.
Heli took a deep breath, sniffing the air. “This is why I came here,” she said. “I have traveled all over the world trying to find the truth. To get to the bottom of everything. People, animals, rocks, flowers…it’s the greatest mystery of all. Of everywhere I’ve been, this is where I feel the closest to the true answers.”
“You said we’d get to kill some slayers,” the demon pointed out.
Heli turned and looked at the demon. It wasn’t an angry look. If anything, it was completely dispassionate. But the demon literally squirmed because of it.
“They’re coming,” Heli said. “I know it may seem like another game, but there’s a reason for everything. This way I get to choose the time and place of the final confrontation.” She got to her feet and looked over at the wooden arch, and the ornate Shinto temple beyond.
“And this is where I chose.”
Tokyo Streets – Night
Amidst the flashing lights of a Tokyo entertainment district, a black van with Council insignia painted on the side crawled forward. It was in the center of a traffic jam that seemed to stretch for some distance in all directions.
Council Van – Same Time
Several Japanese girls had their heads poked through from the back seat, where Kadin was seated behind Kennedy, who was in the passenger seat. They were all talking at once.
From the driver’s seat, Mia tried to get a word in edgewise, but it wasn’t working. “Hitoribitori, o kudasai.”
Subtitled: “Please, one at a time…”
She gave up and turned to Kennedy sitting next to her. “We shoulda taken a helicopter.”
“Tokyo branch doesn’t have helicopters,” Kennedy said flatly. She looked very small in her seat. She looked out the window and saw a large picture of Faith on the side of a bus, smiling and waving. A series of Japanese characters filled up the ad to the right of the picture.
“Well, maybe we shoulda taken the subway,” Kadin said, leaning forward, “because this isn’t working.”
Mia turned back to the gaggle of local girls in the back. “Dochi ni tsugi no shingou o hanashite!”
Subtitled: “Just tell me which way at the next light!”
Outside Endless Sound Karaoke – Night
Rowena stood on the sidewalk of a small side street and looked up at a sign with two Japanese characters arranged vertically in neon. She turned to Nozomi, who was standing next to her.
“Yoku dekimashita,” she said slowly.
Subtitled: “Good Job.”
Nozomi smiled and nodded, and Rowena looked relieved that she had gotten it right.
Nozomi called out a single word and several other Japanese girls, as well as Skye, appeared out of the shadows. She looked them over briefly before speaking.
“Sorezore no hito ga ikute.”
Subtitled: “Go in and spread out.”
“Nani kawatta o mitte, demo kakusareta o suatte.”
Subtitled: “Look for anything out of the ordinary, but keep your heads low.”
“Panniku ni otoshi iremasen.”
Subtitled: “We don’t want to cause a panic”
Nozomi nodded, and the group filed through the front door of the establishment. When they opened it, the strained noise of amateur singing filtered out into the street.
Rowena and Skye still stood on the sidewalk, the distant noise of the city in the background. “I think we’re supposed to follow them,” Rowena ventured. “I wish we’d brought more translators.”
“That’s the Watchers Council for ya,” Skye said. “The world’s largest fly-by-night operation. You know what the weirdest part of all of this is?”
“What?” Rowena asked, as she walked towards the door of the bar.
“I just can’t picture that Nozomi girl doing karaoke,” Skye replied. She followed Rowena inside the building.
Arcade – Night
Lights. Binging. Banging. Buzzing. Shouting. Kennedy and Kadin threaded their way through the tiny aisles of a Tokyo video arcade. Strange games blared incomprehensible come-ons in their direction.
“I don’t like this,” Kennedy said.
“There is a lot going on,” Kadin agreed. “Talk about your sensory overload.”
“We have to…we can’t give up now,” Kennedy insisted. She stopped and tried to focus enough to look at her surroundings, but everything seemed to blur together into one large visual noise.
“No one said anything about giving up,” Kadin said. She slid a hand around her girlfriend’s wrist. “You need to chill, okay?”
Kennedy shook her head, trying to clear the gathering cobwebs. “You’re one to talk, Miss ‘I can’t control the rage of my inner demon’.”
Kadin brought Kennedy’s face close to hers. “Hey, this isn’t the monster talking, okay? This is me. Take a deep breath. We can do this.”
Kennedy lost herself in Kadin’s brown eyes for a moment. Then Mia came running up an aisle of blinking pinball machines, and both women turned to look at her.
“That stupid game isn’t here,” Mia reported. “Far as we can tell, anyway.”
“This isn’t working.” Kennedy said quietly. She bit her lip and looked down at the floor. “It never works. She’s always three steps ahead of us!” With her last words, Kennedy punched the side of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pinball game, leaving a fist-sized dent. The game let out several bings worth of protest.
“Whoa!” Kadin exclaimed, pulling Kennedy away. “Whoa!” Mia’s eyes were wide as she watched the scene.
Kennedy threw two arms around Kadin’s neck. “She’s gonna beat us,” Kennedy whispered. “She’s gonna beat us and she’s gonna kill all of us.”
Without letting Kennedy go, Kadin glanced over at Mia. “Get the girls together. We’ll head to the next arcade.”
Mia sent a concerned look in Kennedy’s direction before nodding silently and setting off.
Kadin pushed Kennedy back slightly and locked eyes with her, their noses almost touching. “And you just take a moment and get yourself together. We only do what we can. The rest takes care of itself.”
She kissed Kennedy softly on the forehead, lights flashing incoherently in the background.
Endless Sound Karaoke – Night
Blue lights surrounded a middle-aged Japanese businessman, his tie loosened around his neck, as he belted out a terrible version of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in the center of the stage.
Skye sat on a stool across the room at the bar. “I know I’ve done some pretty bad things,” she said. “But this is truly evil. I haven’t done anything to deserve…what are you doing?”
Rowena got up from beneath Skye’s stool, pushing her hair out of her face. “Checking for bombs.”
Nozomi walked over. The bartender waved to her, and she waved back.
“Bakuhatsubutsu ja arimasen… Nani mo ga ja nai.” she said to Rowena, shaking her head.
Subtitled: “No bombs…Nothing”
Rowena shook her head. “So maybe it’s a dead end? No, no, Heli doesn’t work like that. It’s all…towards something.” She creased her brow in concentration. She absent-mindedly fiddled with the engagement bracelet she wore around her wrist.
“Well, there is one place we haven’t looked yet,” Skye pointed out. She moved her eyes over to the stage as the businessman finished his song.
“We’d have to shut the place down to search the stage.” Rowena sighed. “I don’t want to panic people, but we might have to…”
“Or someone could get up and sing.” Skye grinned at her.
Rowena considered this for a moment, then turned to Nozomi. “Okay, um, Nozomi…”
She was interrupted by clucking noises coming from Skye. “Buck buck buckka.”
Rowena turned back to Skye. “What do you want from me?”
“Why, to hear those pretty pipes of yours, Ro,” Skye replied. “Besides, you’re the watcher. You have special powers of…noticing stuff.” Skye leaned over and whispered something to Nozomi.
Nozomi was smiling, too, at this point, but Rowena still shook her head.
“Nozomi’s obviously some sort of regular here. It makes more sense for her to…”
“Buck buck buck…”
Rowena sat back against the bar and pouted. “Sometimes I hate this job.”
Endless Sound Karaoke – Later
An MC in a flashy suit stood on the stage, speaking into a microphone.
“Gesuto bi tokobetsu ga Amerika-jin desu.”
Subtitled: “And now, all the way from America, we have a special guest.
“Anata wa kanojo o shirai ni naru, to mo imasu.”
Subtitled: “I think some of you may recognize her.”
“Aranisu Môriseto no uta wa kanojo ga utaimasu. Hakusu suatte ni Rowena!”
Subtitled: “She’s singing a tune from Alanis Morrissette. Put your hands together for Rowena!”
Rowena strode out and sat on a stool in the center of the stage. She picked up the microphone and looked briefly like she was inspecting it. She looked up at the TV screen in front of her as the intro music began to play.
“Alanis Morrissete, ‘Head Over Feet'” it read. Below this on the screen, numbers were counting down: “5, 4, 3…”
Rowena noticed a barely perceptible line on the stage. It was a circle, completely surrounding the stool she was sitting in. She opened her mouth and looked back up at the screen. But the lyrics didn’t come up.
Instead, the screen now read: “Hello, Rowena. As you’re probably realizing, this was a trap. I don’t particularly want to kill you, but I will if I have to.” The words slowly changed from yellow to white in sequence.
The room was quiet except for the jangly guitar chords blaring from the speaker. The bar watched as Rowena sat under a spotlight, her mouth open.
“Now that’s what I call choking,” Skye called from the bar.
The words continued to play across the screen. “You might see a circle on the stage surrounding your chair. If you cross that line, you will receive a powerful, fatal electric shock. You just sit tight until further notice.”
“Guys, um…problem!” Rowena said into the microphone. Nozomi immediately ran up onto the stage, but Rowena motioned for her to stay back. “No!” Nozomi came up short when she saw the message on the screen.
“And by the way,” the screen continued, “I just want to thank you, Rowena, for having such predictable taste in music. Bland without fail I’m sure.”
Nozomi started yelling in Japanese. The customers of the club began to murmur at the scene. Several other girls emerged from other parts of the club. Nozomi herself hopped off the stage and ran over to the bartender.
As Skye watched Rowena sitting shocked on the stage, as well as the animated conversation between Nozomi and the bartender, she sighed.
“I knew karaoke was evil,” she said to no one in particular.
End of Act Two