Watchers Council – Lobby – Resume
Kennedy pulled the trigger on her AK-47, unleashing a brief stream of bullets.
Cretarus growled angrily and dropped Amira, grabbing for the new wound on his arm. Amira fell to the floor with a crash. She gasped for air, still clutching at her neck. She ignored the broken glass as she desperately scrambled across the lobby.
Cretarus unleashed an inhuman bellow, and then all hell broke loose. The demons charged, and the lobby’s defenders opened fire. A demon with large black bat wings on its hunched back ran directly toward Dawn. She fired repeatedly into its chest. After about eight direct hits, it staggered and fell to the ground.
Hadley tried to fire, then realized she hadn’t clicked her safety off. Before she could recover, she was thrown, or closer to brushed aside, by one of the larger demons as he moved towards Buffy. Hadley flew backwards over the reception desk and slammed into the video screens behind it. She fell hard amidst a shower of sparks.
Buffy’s attacker threw a razor-clawed roundhouse in her direction, but she managed to duck out of the way. She swung her sword in a wild, out-of-control arc, totally whiffing, and was spun completely around by her momentum.
Faith slid to a stop behind the reception desk, like she was stealing home. She found Hadley lying there in a heap.
“How ya doin’, kid?” Faith asked.
“Five by five,” Hadley groaned as she tried to sit up.
“Wow, you really are Mini-Me, huh?” Faith grinned. “Don’t worry, I gotcha covered.” She poked her gun over the top of the desk and fired into the charging hoard.
“Don’t call me…mini,” Hadley said, finally succeeding in the sitting-up department.
Buffy charged forward and ran her sword right through the stomach of the demon she was fighting. It looked surprised for a moment before falling over. Looking pleased with herself, Buffy tried to retrieve her sword, but found that it was stuck fast. She tugged hard. Still nothing.
Tracey had found cover behind a thin ceiling support column. She was firing repeatedly into the crowd of demons. Seeing a few go down, she let loose with a surprisingly fearsome war cry and kept firing.
Amira, now looking like she had recovered somewhat, tripped one demon as he sprinted by and plunged a dagger into his neck.
Kennedy fired several bullets into Jurgen as he approached her. He just smirked.
“I am Jurgen the Great, little girl. I commanded armies millennia before you were conceived. No mere bullets are going to stop me.”
He slammed an ugly fist into Kennedy’s nose, and she flew backwards across the lobby. She slammed into the metal elevator door. She shook her head to clear it, an angry look settling into her eyes. Then she raised her rifle again and rejoined the fray.
Bureau Nine – Clinic – A Little Later
Felix held Nicholas’s hand. Circles under his eyes, hair uncombed, Felix said nothing, but did not leave the bedside. Instead, he kept looking at the sick man’s face. Lying in bed, Nicholas barely managed to breathe at all. His eyes kept going in and out of focus. Felix would not look away.
Other than Nicholas’s breathing, the only sound in the room was the beep of a heart monitor.
Nicholas turned his head, shifting its weight from one side to the other. He looked at Felix, and his eyes, although weary, were clear. His lips formed words, or tried to. Felix leaned over, placing his ear alongside Nicholas’s mouth. Slowly, the sounds came out, barely audible.
And then the beeping stopped, and his hand went slack. The last breath exited his body, and Felix lowered his head.
Then, his cell phone rang.
Bureau Nine – Training Area – A Little Later
Jason Felix walked into the gym, passing a hospital gurney en route. On the gurney, immobilized but now stable, lay Jim Pollan.
“Will he recover?” Felix asked one of the medics.
“Needs some stitches is all, sir.”
“Thank you.” He watched them go.
The gym itself held several people. Three slayers were to the side – Valentine, Inga and Mariko. Lori, next to them, was speaking in a hushed voice. She nodded to Felix as he came down the narrow staircase from the balcony. Security guards held several others at bay. Felix aimed his gaze at one in particular.
“Dianna,” he said, voice low.
She turned to him, her face still and her eyes steady. They looked at each other for a moment.
“You should have brought such guests in through the front door,” he said finally. “I would have made them welcome. But…how were you to know that?” He sighed, then gestured to two guards. “These men will escort you to secure quarters for the next few hours.”
She nodded. “Standard Operating Procedure.”
“Later, we’ll talk.”
“What are you going to do to her?”
Felix looked at the girl who spoke. “Grace, isn’t it? I’m pleased to finally meet you, although very sorry about the circumstances. Your mother is in no more danger now than she was an hour ago. We don’t torture people here. Oversight might complain, but she won’t even be held once her access codes are changed.” Grace looked at him and at her mother. “Might I suggest you go with her? To make sure for yourself?” He took a step closer to her. “While you’re waiting, you might want to ask what she was doing while you were held hostage a few months back. If my reading of her character is right, she’s never told you how many mountains she tried to move. Ask her.”
“Jason…” Dianna began.
“I suspect,” he continued, “you’ll need to nag it out of her. But maybe I’m wrong.” He waited. Grace took a look at Giles and Rowena, each of whom nodded slightly. She walked over and stood by her mother. The guards escorted them out.
Now Felix looked at Lori. “You’ve all done very well. Thank you.”
“How is Nicholas?” asked Lori.
“Later.” Felix turned to the others. “Ethan…you look better than I feared.”
“Well, in that case, I hope your fears don’t come true,” Ethan said with a nod of his head.
Felix hesitated for a moment, his eyes still on Ethan. Then he looked at the other three. “Ms. Allister, my deepest apologies. And to you two as well – Mr. Giles and you, Mr. Harris. I am actually an admirer of you all. For what it is worth, I meant it. Had you walked in the front door, I would have welcomed you. For that matter, you’re very welcome anyway. As if I need to ask…why are you here?” He said this last with a slight edge.
“Trying to save our family,” said Rowena instantly. “And as an added bonus, the world.”
It took a moment for Felix to respond. “You’ve read my file. Good. And fair, since I, of course, have read yours.” He waited for a moment, his eyes wandering back to Ethan. “You’ve been trying to give up magic,” he said.
“Ah. She told you.”
“It came up.”
“Notice you didn’t ask me why I’m here.”
“Trying to save your life, I would imagine.”
“Too bloody right.”
“Maybe we can help.” He gave a piercing gaze in Giles, Rowena and Xander’s direction as he said this. “Maybe we all can.”
He turned to the slayers and security guards. “Lori, please come with me. The rest of you may return to standby. My sincerest thanks. Lori and I will escort our four guests to where I believe they want to go.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Marie ran into the lobby, with Casey right on her tail. The room was filled with the sound of gunfire. So far, the group there had managed to hold a line that stretched roughly across the back end of the lobby, from the reception desk to the elevator, where Amira had managed to wedge the doors part way open and was firing out through the opening. Behind the line was the only hallway that led out of the lobby. The floor was covered with spent cartridges and several dead demon bodies.
Casey ducked behind the reception desk to find Faith and Hadley taking turns firing into the attacking demons. She also found Marissa’s body, a red trail on the floor marking the path by which it had been dragged behind the desk.
“What…happened?” Casey asked.
“It’s still happening,” Faith said, as she reloaded her gun. She raised her weapon and fired as Hadley took a short break. Casey watched as Dawn and Skye fired repeatedly into the same demon. Weakened, it staggered forward to where Buffy was able to take it out with her sword, which she had finally been to retrieve.
Faith came back down to reload again. “The good news is, they’re not as invulnerable as usual. Bullets seem to be working. Problem is, it’s takin’ lots and lots of bullets, and if they catch ya, they’re…pretty strong.”
When Faith went up to fire, Hadley picked up the conversation. “They’re coming in waves. I think the leaders have fallen back a little. Maybe we surprised ’em.”
Across the room, Tracey had a problem with a reload, and in that moment of hesitation, a demon caught her across the forehead. She went down hard.
“Cover me!” Kennedy yelled to Amira, who nodded from her improvised shelter inside the elevator. Kennedy ran forward, knees bent, and grabbed Tracey by her shirt, dragging her back behind the defensive line.
Tracey seemed rather bleary. “What do they…what do they want?”
“All of us dead,” Kennedy answered flatly, before turning back to the attackers and opening fire.
“This thing kicks like a mother,” Skye complained as she reloaded.
“They just keep coming,” Dawn yelled over the sound of the gunfire. “We can’t keep this up forever.”
“Just the hold the line,” Faith yelled back. She picked up her radio. “Talk to me, Shannon.”
Watchers Council – Classroom Wing – Same Time
“Well,” Shannon replied, “we’re still alive.” She paused long enough to shoot her smaller gun at an attacking demon. “So far.”
Across the hall, Lorinda was physically grappling with a large demon. He slammed her body into the wall, once, twice, three times. Then his eyes went wide when Lorinda slipped a knife between his armored ribs.
“Take that, you sonuvabitch!”
“Lorinda,” Shannon called, “stay focused.”
“You stay focused!” Lorinda yelled back. She managed to get her gun raised to shoot another demon point-blank through the forehead.
“I still can’t believe you gave her a gun,” Shannon said into her radio.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Faith smirked. “Just don’t shoot each other, okay?”
She brought her gun up once again and pulled the trigger, then turned to Casey. “Sorry to make you run all over, but I think the kids need some reinforcements.”
Casey nodded and took off on a sprint. She got about four steps before an arrow shot through her left shoulder. Casey screamed and flopped to the ground.
“Oh, crap,” Skye sighed. She dropped to the floor and took shelter behind a pillar.
Watchers Council – Front Lawn – Same Time
Jurgen watched as Sung notched another arrow into his huge, ancient-looking bow. He turned to Cretarus, who stood between them.
“Why have we pulled back? We can crush them if we choose. I was promised slayer blood.”
“And you’ll get it,” Cretarus replied in his booming voice. “They put up more resistance than expected, but that is not unexpected.”
Jurgen grimaced. “What?”
“Patience, Jurgen the Great. Let the not-so-great go first. We are many, and the enemy’s force appears to be few. Soon, they will break like a child’s neck.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Buffy knelt next to Casey, who was quite obviously panicking. Her eyes were wide, and her breathing was erratic.
“Don’t move, okay?” Buffy told her. “Don’t move.”
Buffy touched a hand to the spot where the tail of the arrow stuck out of Casey’s shoulder. Casey yelled in pain. “Do something, ya cow!”
Buffy looked up to see another arrow slam into the wall behind her. Nearby, another demon went down under a hail of bullets from Dawn. “I don’t know medicine stuff,” she shouted. “Does anyone know whether we should take the arrow out?”
“Couldn’t she bleed to death or something?” Kennedy asked as she reloaded. “I think I saw that on a TV show once.”
“Oh bloody hell, I’m gonna die,” Casey said. “I’m gonna die. I’m gonna die.”
“Hey!” Buffy grabbed Casey’s chin and pointed her face in her direction. “Look at me. You are not going to die. We are not going to die. You hear me?”
“Good,” Buffy said, “because I am the big boss, and what I say goes.” Without warning, Buffy pulled the arrow out of her shoulder, and Casey screamed.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Lorinda and Shannon ran backwards down a hallway as fast as they could, firing randomly at the mass of demons chasing them.
“Guys,” Shannon yelled into her radio, “this isn’t working!”
Bureau Nine – Elevator – Later
Felix pressed his PIN into the control panel, and the elevator began to rise. Behind him, Lori kept her eyes on Rowena, Giles, Xander and Ethan – who winked at her.
“So,” said Xander, “how did you guys know to find us? Just professional curiosity.”
“Mariko set off a silent alarm,” said Lori.
“I have a question,” said Giles, raising his voice.
“Go ahead,” said Lori, straightening.
“What the bloody hell did you think you were doing?” He aimed his words directly at the back of Felix’s head. “A world without magic-users and slayers. Precisely how is that an improvement in any way? And if it is, when did you get around to asking thousands of innocent people to volunteer for their own deaths to achieve it?”
Felix didn’t turn. “A world without magic,” he said finally, “is a world where serial killers exist, but aren’t immortal. It is a world where teenage girls get to live their lives – listen to music, fall in love, go dancing – and not have to die young at the hands of monsters because a cadre of wizards decided they’d make ideal weapons. I wanted a world where the dead were never enslaved, where children weren’t in quite so much danger of being eaten, where every few months someone somewhere didn’t have to keep someone else from destroying the planet.” Now he turned, and Giles blinked at what he saw in the man’s eyes. “You were lucky. When the demons came to kill your child, they failed. Neither your daughter nor mine did anything to volunteer, save be born. Nor, for that matter, did anyone else.”
“That’s not enough…”
“It never is, Mr. Giles,” Felix didn’t let him finish. “Nothing ever is enough. Every choice, every option – all of them are inadequate, and we have to make do. The simple fact is, I couldn’t cure AIDS. I couldn’t undo the Holocaust. I couldn’t save everyone. But I could make things better. So I did.”
Rowena spoke. “You really call this better?”
He sighed. “In some ways, very much. In other ways…no.” He fell silent.
Xander thought about that. “Is that it? Just ‘In some ways, no.’ and leave it at that? You’ve got to be kidding! Tell me you’re kidding!”
Felix lifted an eyebrow. “As a matter of fact, that is not it, Mr. Harris. Not nearly. You see, I don’t give up,” he promised. “Not while I still breathe.”
Giles, as well as Xander and Rowena, caught a look at Lori’s face as Felix spoke. Her eyes were shining.
“Beautiful sales pitch,” muttered Ethan, “but I for one, Mate, would still want to look under the bonnet.”
The doors of the elevator slid open.
Bureau Nine – Clinic – Outside MRI Room – Later
Hope was watching the television. “Famed Japanese sculptor Nagami Zataga is under arrest tonight,” the news reporter on the screen announced. “After the vast majority of his bronze pieces have suddenly come to life as flesh and blood, people are asking questions. Police in Japan, the United States and Europe say that those now recovering include men, women and children whose missing persons cases go back decades.”
The door opened. Hope hit the mute button on her remote and stood up.
“…without magic, werewolves are just people. Wolfram & Hart are just a bunch of especially ruthless lawyers – maybe willing to commit human sacrifice, but without any reason to actually do it. Next to magic, antimatter looks like a water pistol.” Felix entered, followed by Rowena, as well as Giles and Xander, with Ethan and Lori bringing up the rear. “How is Isabel?”
“No change,” said Hope.
“What did you do to Isabel, anyway?” Xander asked.
“Nothing, truthfully,” said Felix.
“And why don’t I believe you?”
“Because you don’t know him!” said Hope. “He’s treated Isabel – and me – like we were his daughters.”
“No offense, Hope, but you do know what happens to this guy’s daughters, right?” Xander asked.
“The same thing that happens to your girlfriends?” she countered.
“Hope,” Felix said firmly, without adding more.
“We can change this subject right now,” said Lori, stepping in between them. “And I mean, right this second.”
Rowena spoke. “Hope, you do know that what Felix has done has also made Jeff sick?”
“I…how is he? How is Jeff?”
“He’s dying,” said Giles.
“Nobody better mind if I sit down,” said Ethan, “because I’m going to.” He sank into a nearby sofa. “This isn’t even a little bit fun. Not even an iota.”
“How are you feeling now?” asked Felix.
“Like a rancid hairball. With a hangover.”
“Xander asked a question,” said Rowena, looking at Felix. “And you didn’t answer it.”
“Actually, I did. I did not, however, have a chance to elaborate. Isabel collapsed soon after we left India. Not so much collapse, really, as increasingly ignore the world around her. Once we realized what had happened – that all magic all over the globe had all but vanished in an instant – the words about a ‘Vessel’ began to make more sense. I believe she is somehow a conduit through which all mystical energy is flowing like a sieve. Our goal is to somehow stop the process. Magic is like everything else in nature. Its natural state is motion. If we can disrupt the flow of magic into Isabel, odds are good that magic will return. Most spells will have dissipated, of course, but others will not have, not yet.”
“What happens,” asked Giles, “if Isabel dies?
Before Felix could answer, Hope spoke up. “I think you all need to see this.” Everyone turned to her. She lifted the remote and pressed the mute button again. Sound returned to the picture on the television screen.
“…police and SWAT teams are already overextended,” the news reporter said, “so precisely what aid can be tendered seems unclear.” Behind him was a stock picture of the Watchers Headquarters. The words “…Watchers Council Under Demon Attack…” scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
Mia and Kadin were arguing at the foot of Althenea’s bed. Gunshots could be heard in the distance, but the loudest sound in the room was the slow beeps of the heart monitors.
“We have to help them,” Mia insisted.
“No,” Kadin told her flatly. “We are the last line of defense. We stay and guard these people.”
“How can you say that?” Mia asked. “Kennedy’s down there. She might be shot or stabbed or…”
“You want to explain to her that you left Willow alone because of what might have happened?” Kadin said.
Dr. Miller injected the contents of a syringe into Andrew’s IV. Andrew was unconscious now, occasionally shivering in his sleep. Robin walked up behind Dr. Miller.
“I want to thank you and your staff again for staying,” Robin said. “I think this definitely qualifies as going above and beyond the call of duty.”
“Yes, well, my wife always told me that one day I’d work myself to death,” Dr. Miller replied, without looking up from making a few notes on Andrew’s chart.
“Hopefully not.” Robin chuckled briefly, then sobered. “How are they?”
Dr. Miller sighed, stopped and rubbed his forehead. “Getting worse. I can’t seem to affect their condition the way I need to. I’m afraid that we might begin to lose them any time now.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Shannon and Lorinda were standing in two small door nooks on opposite sides of the hall, firing down the hallway in an increasingly unsuccessful attempt to keep the demons at bay. Then there was a loud click. Shannon still pulled at her trigger, but nothing was happening.
“What’s happening?” Lorinda asked, shouting over the sound of her own gun.
“I think it’s jammed,” Shannon replied, panic showing at the edges of her voice.
“I can’t hold them by myself!” Lorinda shouted. “You’re supposed to be the good one. Do something.”
Shannon looked at her, completely flummoxed at this. “What?”
“Oh, come on, you’re a way better slayer than me, and everyone knows it,” Lorinda said, exasperated, as she hurriedly reloaded. “Even if we’re not…slayers right now, that has to count for something.” She finished loading the ammo and fired again.
“I don’t know about guns!” Shannon said edgily. She looked down the hall and saw that the demons were starting to get very close. Lorinda alone was not getting the job done. “What now?”
“Now is when you girls skedaddle and I finish the job.”
Shannon and Lorinda both turned to see Gwen standing in the center of the hall behind them. They hesitated.
“Get to the infirmary!” Gwen told them, her tone brooking no argument. “Go!”
Lorinda didn’t need to be told a third time, and she took off on a run down the hall. Shannon waited just long enough to see Gwen pull off each of her gloves before she followed.
As Shannon ran, she heard the sound of demons bellowing in pain behind her.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
The firing line between the elevator and the reception desk was starting to bend, but it hadn’t broken yet.
Tracey lay in a prone position, firing from her stomach at the attacking demons. “They just keep coming!” she complained.
Kennedy paused long enough to look in Tracey’s direction. “Guess it makes you feel good to know we pissed ’em off this much, right?”
Kennedy turned her head back just in time to get grabbed by the neck by a large blue demon with curved ram horns curling around its ears. Despite her struggles, the demon held her fast. Instead of killing her, it held Kennedy in front of itself, like a shield.
“Slick!” Faith yelled. She aimed her gun towards the demon, but couldn’t find a clean shot. “Dammit!”
Tracey tried to shoot it in the leg, but before she could get turned all the way, the demon kicked her in the midsection, sending Tracey flying back several feet. Her gun went off and Marie yelled, grabbing for her leg. Tracey ended up in a fetal position, clutching her stomach.
Kennedy was choking. She tried to kick the demon in the crotch, but it didn’t seem to do any good. Her eyes went wide.
“Kennedy!” Faith shouted in concern.
That was when a blur shot forward from the hallway behind the lobby and slammed into the demon’s face. It batted at its tiny attacker in frustration, but to no avail. The demon’s grip loosened, and Kennedy was able to free herself, falling gasping to the floor. She looked up to see Marsha, clawing at the demon’s eyes and biting at its nose.
“That’s my girl,” Kennedy said, before coughing a few more times.
Bureau Nine – Clinic – Outside MRI Room – Same Time
“Lori!” Felix didn’t waste a moment.
“I can have both reserve teams armed and on their way in three minutes.”
“Lead them. Go!”
She raced out of the room. Hope quietly muted the television again, while Felix stared at it. On the screen, the announcer continued to talk while the same words flashed across the screen. The room was silent enough that the slight echo of the door slamming behind Lori seemed louder than it actually was.
“Told you so,” said Ethan. He grimaced. “Damn. That was less fun than I’d’ve thought.”
“Was this part of your grand scheme, then?” Giles demanded. “Leaving the people who have defended you and the rest of the world defenseless?”
“Any organization with as many AK-47s as your Council possesses, Mr. Giles, can hardly be called defenseless. My plan, incidentally, was not to win or lose any single battle. It was to end a war. Again, I must point out how lucky you are.” Felix said this with a low voice that carried, while his eyes remained fixed on the screen. “Most watchers who lose their slayers never get them back. You did. I believe that makes you unique. How many slayers do you think have died, slaughtered years and years too soon? Over how many thousands of years? And again, you didn’t lose your daughter. She was threatened, yes, but lived.”
“And she lived only because she was saved by a slayer!” Giles countered.
“Many cannot say so much,” Felix replied. “And now I send another daughter into battle, to the front lines. Maybe to die. Not a daughter of my blood, but of my heart, and I can but pray that I have a taste of your good luck because without luck that slayer would never have been there to save your family.” By now his voice had nearly become a whisper.
“Why did you bring us here?” asked Rowena.
“To help, of course.” He still didn’t look at them.
Felix took a deep breath. He turned and faced them. “Isabel is the key to all this. And I believe we now may have a key to Isabel.” He looked at the sofa. After a few moments, so did Rowena and Giles. Then Xander. Finally, Hope.
“What would that be?” said Ethan, perking up.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Minutes Later
Faith fired over the reception desk as Hadley reloaded.
“We’re almost out,” Hadley reported. “We’re gonna need more ammo.”
“I think we’ve got most of the minions,” Faith told her. “The big guys should show their faces soon enough.”
Across the lobby, the blood soaking through Marie’s jeans showed bright red under the fluorescent lights. Buffy attempted to tend to her wound.
“Just keep the pressure on,” she told Marie. “We need to stop the bleeding.”
Marie saw a demon charging, raised her weapon and fired several shots. “I can’t kill demons and keep the pressure on at the same time.”
Dawn and Skye were taking turns firing from behind a support column when it suddenly exploded into tiny shards. Both of them fell to the ground, while Casey put her good arm over her head to protect herself. The other arm was now in some sort of improvised sling made from a bra, while her shirt was soaked through with blood where the arrow had struck her.
Dawn looked up to see Sarkis preparing another arrow. Only this one looked as huge as a tree limb. The next bolt knocked a huge hole in the wall. Buffy and Marie had to duck out of the way.
“Faith!” Buffy yelled.
Faith heard her and fired several times in the direction of the reptilian vampire, but this seemed to have no effect. Marsha flew forward in attack mode as Sarkis moved forward.
“Marsha, no!” Kennedy shouted from her shooting position, which was now next to the elevator behind some sort of potted plant. Its leaves were already ripped to shreds.
At the last possible moment before Marsha reached him, Sarkis reached up with both hands and snatched Marsha out of the air. Marsha bleated in fear as Sarkis held her fast with one hand while he moved to snap her neck with the other. He was so intent on his task that he did not notice the several red dots that had appeared on the back of his hood.
After a brief burst of precision gunfire, Sarkis’s head basically exploded, and he turned to dust.
“Hold fire!” Faith yelled. “Hold fire!”
Lori Carew ran into the lobby, accompanied by several men and women in Bureau Nine uniforms. But numerous large demons chased after them. As soon as they were behind the firing line, Lori screamed, “Fire! Fire!”
Lori slid to a stop behind the reception desk as several demons were cut down by point-blank gunfire. A few others were not brought down. Skye jumped on the back of one huge demon as a dark-haired girl from Bureau Nine tried to take it on hand-to-hand.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Faith asked.
Lori smirked. “Nice to see you too, Faith.”
Bureau Nine – Clinic – MRI Room – Same Time
Felix led them all into the main room. Isabel lay as she had before, on a gurney surrounded by the actual MRI scanner on the far side of the room. Much closer, and behind protective glass, the technician sat in front of a monitor and various controls.
Rowena, Giles and Hope entered immediately behind Felix. Xander helped Ethan, who was swaying on his feet.
“Bloody hell,” gasped Ethan.
“Is it worse now?” asked Felix.
“What do you think?” Ethan tried to growl. It didn’t come out that way.
The technician looked at Felix, then at the monitor. “Sir, something seems to be happening…”
“Okay, what is this?” asked Xander, pointing to the screen next to Felix.
“An MRI machine,” he said. “Probably the most advanced in the world.”
“Magnetic resonance imaging,” said Giles. “Used to scan living tissues for tiny changes, like tumors or growths.”
“Andrew would call this a medical tricorder,” said Rowena.
“Sir,” the technician continued, “the exotic energy flows we’ve been trying to monitor just shifted. It is as if…” he struggled for the right words, “as if they became focused.”
“Can you disrupt the flow now?” Felix bent over, staring at the monitor.
“I can try…”
“These readings,” said Giles, glancing over the technician’s shoulder. “If I read them correctly, Isabel appears to be weakening.”
Felix nodded. “And she also hasn’t been eating or drinking, so we’ve been doing that intravenously for her. As far as we can tell, she hasn’t slept, either.”
“She might eventually die,” said Rowena, horror in her eyes.
“We’ve had another magic-related death shortly before your arrival,” Felix confessed. “It seems to be happening to all magic users. As Nicolas became worse. Isabel’s readings declined moreso.”
“That could mean that if she dies,” Rowena said, thinking the words through as they came, “…especially if you haven’t disrupted the flow by then…then, the magic will presumably be gone forever, along with everyone who practices it. Oh my God,” she sighed to no one in particular. Xander stepped up and put his hand in hers.
“Do you realize the implications of this?” Giles told him. “We’re no longer talking thousands, Mr. Felix. It could perhaps be millions – anyone that has a drop of magic within them.”
“That’s precisely what I fear,” said Felix. “If she dies, then every single magic user on Earth, or even those with Chosen talents, will also die.” He stood, staring at Isabel across the room. “Project Roland was meant to save billions, not kill millions in the process.”
“You know, Ripper,” said Ethan, almost falling into a chair. “I am discovering entirely new levels of discomfort and sickness. I don’t like it.”
“Consider it karma,” Giles said.
“But you can keep her alive, right?” said Xander. “I mean, you’ve got all this medical equipment and stuff. You’ve got to have more doctors on staff than this guy, right? No offense.”
“None taken,” the technician said, still poring over his controls.
“That isn’t the problem,” said Felix. “She could survive a week without food, water or sleep. We could continue to feed her intravenously, force her into REM sleep if we choose, probably. But regardless, she continues to draw out the miniscule amounts of mystic energy remaining in the world. Isabel has time, some at least. People like your Coven and others all over the world do not. Just as Ethan doesn’t.”
“Hold on,” said Ethan suddenly. He gestured toward Isabel. “This bird is the one who’s making me feel like this?”
Ethan nodded with hooded eyes. “And I feel worse when I’m close to her. Makes sense, I suppose. And I am out of here as of now!” He grabbed the side of the chair in which he sat and rose up. “Goodbye!”
He fell over.
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Kennedy paused in the middle of firing her gun, blinking a few times.
“You okay?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t –” Kennedy turned and threw up all over the floor.
Tracey desperately tried to slide out of way.
Skye wrinkled her nose. “Ew!”
Behind the reception desk, Faith winced as she saw Kennedy on her hands and knees, looking disoriented. She turned back to Lori.
“We need to fall back,” Lori told her. “You’ve got wounded and sick, and you’re running out of ammo.”
Faith hesitated. “We can hold this line.”
Lori shook her head. “No, Faith, we can’t.”
“Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?” Faith snapped. “You people are the reason we’re in this hornet’s nest!”
Lori opened her mouth to say something, then closed it. That was when Cretarus and the other ancient vampires appeared in the lobby, along with a phalanx of massive, powerful demons. They seemed barely fazed by the barrage of bullets fired in their direction. When Cretarus made it to the firing line, he grabbed one of the girls from Bureau Nine and simply ran her through with his claws.
“Retreat!” Faith screamed at the top of her lungs.
Everyone began scrambling for the hallway at the back of the lobby. Marie leaned on Buffy’s shoulder, firing behind them with her free hand. Tracey propped up Casey. Pretty much everyone was limping in one way or another. Amira slipped out of the elevator to take on Cretarus as he dropped the girl from Bureau Nine, but Lori called her off.
“No! She’s ours.”
Amira nodded and took off with the rest of the group. Faith stopped at the mouth of the hallway, as if waiting for Lori.
“Go to the infirmary, try to make a stand there,” Lori instructed breathlessly. “I’ll hold them off as long as I can.” She didn’t have time to wait for an answer, instead turning and firing into the attacking demons. One of them fell, but there were still twenty more.
Faith waited for only a second before she ran down the hall.
End of Act Five