New Mexico – Motel Room – Night
Skye lay on the motel room sheets, staring at the plaster ceiling. “You’d think, with all the money they’ve got, the Council could afford a better room.”
Dawn sat down next to her on the edge of the bed. She flexed her neck and began to remove her socks. “I hear this is the best place in town.”
The room was small. Generic pictures of fruit hung over the beds. The two double beds didn’t leave much floor space for anything else.
Shannon was over in the corner staring at the television’s prominent dials. “Does anyone know how you change the channel on this thing? I can’t find a remote.”
“So, Andy,” Dawn asked, “what’s the plan for tomorrow?”
Andrew was pacing restlessly near the door to the tiny bathroom. “We’re going to have to be more careful from now on. We have the Men in Black on our trail, and they don’t make mistakes.”
Skye made an exasperated noise in her throat. “They’re not the Men in Black.”
“Yeah,” Shannon added reluctantly, “Andy…I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for all this.”
Andrew looked pained. “Guys, you’re killing me here! A little support would be –”
He was cut off by a midi-file version of the Star Wars theme. He reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone. “Hello?”
“Hey Andy,” Tracey’s voice came through the phone. “It’s me.”
“Tracey!” Andrew exclaimed. “Where are you?”
Tracey could be heard to sigh. “Apparently, about twenty miles east of Nowhere, Arizona. And no, that’s not an expression…that’s the actual name of the town. My car is dead…I guess it overheated.”
“Are you sure?” Andrew pressed. “Maybe if you tried it again…”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Look, the garage in town doesn’t open until tomorrow, so I won’t know more until then.”
“Gotta go, I need to talk to the tow truck guy.”
There was an audible click as Tracey hung up. “I love you, too,” Andrew said over the dead line.
“So, Tracey’s still held up?” Shannon asked through her toothbrush from the bathroom.
“I don’t like this,” Andrew said, getting even more worked up. “I mean, what if she’s lying to me? What if she doesn’t want to come because California’s so great that she never wants to leave? What if –?”
“Down, boy,” Dawn told him as she walked over. “You’re making a much bigger deal out of this than it is, okay?”
“I don’t know,” Skye put in, still on the bed. “She’s probably cheating on you. I hear there’s lots of buff guys in L.A.”
Andrew made a high-pitched noise. Dawn gave Skye a pained look.
Dark Room – Night
Accompanied by the inexorable hum of machinery, a shiny metal platform rose from the mist covering the floor. Tracey was spread-eagled on the platform, wearing only her underwear. Her arms and legs were bound with oversized metal clamps.
“Tracey!” Andrew cried out. He was knee deep in the mist, and he couldn’t seem to get his legs to work. Around him, shapes moved in the darkness.
Tracey didn’t really look that upset, considering the circumstances. “The aliens abducted me,” she said matter-of-factly. “They’re trying to develop a virus that will wipe out all life on Earth in the year 2012 so that they can use the planet as a penal colony slash neutral site for intergalactic Pictionary tournaments. It was all predicted by the Mayans.”
Andrew shook his head, confused. “Okay…score one for the ancient Mesoamericans. Tracey, what did they do to you?”
“Oh, just some experiments,” Tracey replied. “Nothing much. They did some scans, implanted a chip in my cerebral cortex that programs me as a sleeper agent to assassinate the Pope, usual stuff. Oh, and there was a lot of probing.”
“Probing?” There was a note of panic in Andrew’s voice.
“Yeah.” A wide smile spread over Tracey’s face. “That’s the best part, right? Oh, I want to introduce you to someone.”
Standing next to the platform was a short, humanoid figure. Its skin was gray, and it had three fingers on each hand, but no nose. Its eyes were large, compound, and bug-like. It wore a t-shirt that read “STUD” on the front in big block letters.
“Helllllooo, bitch,” it said to Andrew in an effeminate voice.
“This is Roger,” Tracey explained. “My new boyfriend.”
New Mexico – Motel Room – Night
…and then he was sitting up in bed, eyes wide open, breathing hard. The generic paintings of fruit were still on the wall. All was quiet. Andrew took one last deep breath, then collapsed back onto his pillow.
London – City Street – Same Time
Kadin looked at her watch and then pressed a button on her walkie-talkie. “Anyone see anything? Over,” she asked.
“Negative,” a voice called out.
“Nothing,” another added.
“Damn,” she said to Willow and Kennedy as they moved closer to her. “It’ll be daylight soon.”
“We could check with Robson,” Willow suggested. “See if he’s gotten any reports of any animal attacks in the city tonight?”
Kadin nodded. “Have him check with the police on any indecent exposure reports too.”
“Huh?” Kennedy asked.
Willow grinned. “Naked people since, you know, all wolfy, no clothes.”
“Right,” Kennedy replied. “So are we calling it a day? Or a night I should say.”
Kadin looked back at her watch again. “Not yet,” she replied. “If you guys wanna take off, you can. It’s officially sunrise now, but I want to sweep the parks. That’s a popular place for werewolves to hang out.”
“It’s better than being naked at a bus stop at first light,” she replied with a grin. “At least at a park, you’ve got bushes to hide in.” Kadin pushed the button on the walkie-talkie again. “Girls, we’re callin’ off the city search. Move to the nearest park and start looking for anyone you might find undressed. Over?”
“Yes, ma’am,” one answered.
“Right away,” the other replied.
“I don’t think we’re dealing with a werewolf. I just don’t feel it,” Kadin said as they walked along.
“Then what are we dealing with then?” Kennedy asked.
“I’ll tell ya when I figure it out,” she answered with a grin.
The three women continued down the street.
New Mexico – Invasion Café – Morning
The diner in Artesia looked like a normal restaurant – except for the fake crashed flying saucer half-sticking out of the front. A battered sign on the roof read, “Invasion Café.”
New Mexico – Invasion Café – Same Time
The interior décor was more of the same. News clippings of UFO sightings, as well as all the usual dubious photographs, were framed and hung on the walls.
“So,” Dawn said, as she cut off a square of her highly syrupy stack of waffles, “New Year’s Eve. Guess we’ll miss the party tonight, huh?”
“Oh, we’ll make our own fun,” Skye grinned. She nibbled on a sausage as she held it skewered on her fork, then nodded in satisfaction.
“Yeah,” Shannon chirped, “we can order pizza and watch the ball drop and make fun of all the horrible musical acts they trot out.”
“That’s not what I had in mind,” Skye noted with a raised eyebrow. Dawn choked a little on her orange juice.
Andrew didn’t seem to notice the conversation. He sat across the table, next to Shannon, picking half-heartedly at a pancake.
“Tourists,” a voice growled from behind him. “More tourists.”
Shannon turned around to find a grizzled man hunched over his coffee. “Hey, you know we can hear you, right?”
“Came to see the sights, right?” the man mumbled. He wasn’t really looking at them. “Post Office, old graveyard, maybe some aliens?”
“I’m sorry,” Skye said. “Why is this your business again?”
“All I see around here these days is your kind,” the man continued. “You think the mysteries of the universe are a tourist trap you can blow ten bucks on. Then you go home to your Starbucks and your iPhones, and you put them out of your mind. You can’t do that once you’ve truly seen.”
Andrew visibly perked up. He slid out of their booth and into the strange man’s. “And you have? Seen? Seen what?”
The man glared across at him for a long beat.
“Andrew,” Dawn began, “maybe we should…”
“I was out in the backcountry, maybe a year ago,” the strange man said suddenly. “I was working for the water company, prospecting for new aquifers. Most of ’em dried up years ago. That’s when I saw it.”
Andrew’s eyes widened in rapt attention. Skye took the opportunity to roll hers.
“I’m still not sure what it was…but I’m sure about one thing. It didn’t come from this planet.”
“And this spot, out in the backcountry,” Andrew said, “you wouldn’t happen to be able to give us directions?” He pushed a napkin and a pen across the table.
London Watchers Council – Hallway – Early Morning
Robson hurriedly greeted Willow, Kadin, and Kennedy as they walked toward him.
“You said the police found something?” Willow asked.
“This way,” he said, motioning for them to follow him.
London Watchers Council – Secured Room – Moments Later
A slayer stood guard outside a secured room.
“Any change, Michelle?” Robson asked the young woman.
“No,” she replied. “They’re still screaming bloody murder. Well, the bloke is, anyway.” She placed a keycard through the door lock and said, “I’m going in, too. I heard a chair break, so he might be armed now.”
As they entered, they found a young man and woman both wearing robes and nothing else. Each person was shackled at the ankle to one wall.
The room was in disarray. A chair in the far corner was toppled over with a broken leg, and a desk was overturned. With what slack he had in the chain, the man moved back and forth as he shot the five of them a dirty look.
“Look at him,” Michelle remarked. “He even paces like a caged animal.”
The man stopped and turned to face them.
“I’m not an animal, and you have no right to hold us here against our will!”
“According to the London Council charter outlined with the Metro Police, we do have that right,” Robson replied. “We have reports of a werewolf loose in the city and –”
“What does that have to do with us?” the man shouted.
Willow watched the display intensely, but Kennedy had a confused expression on her face. Kadin smiled and shook her head.
“Were you not found naked in a park, young man?” Robson asked.
The woman seemed to blush and turned to her lover. “I told you it was a mistake, but you had to be daring. Not to mention freezing!” She pulled her robe tighter.
Kadin cleared her throat and stepped forward.
“Let ’em go,” she told Robson.
“But they’re –”
“Just two horny kids, or randy, as you might say,” she said. “Thought you’d be adventurous at the park, huh?” she asked the young man. He gave her a guilty shrug. She then turned to Robson. “Whatever’s out there, it’s not them. Cut ’em loose.” She then turned to the couple. “You guys are free to go. Sorry for the confusion, but we’re trying to prevent people from getting hurt. I hope you understand.”
“That’s fine. We wouldn’t be here if not for him,'” the young woman said, pitching a thumb toward the man. “I’m so embarrassed,” she muttered to her companion. “This is the last time you talk me into something this stupid.”
As Michelle began to unchain the woman, the man shot back a retort to his girlfriend, and the lovebirds started to argue. At the same time, Kennedy, Willow, Robson and Kadin all left the room.
“We thought for sure –” Robson began, once all of them had exited.
“You thought wrong,” Kadin told him, still smiling as she shook her head.
“But how do you know for sure?” Robson asked.
“Am I wrong, Ken?” Kadin asked.
“No,” Kennedy replied. “When I walked in, I got no slayer vibe at all. At first, I thought they were new victims.”
Kadin didn’t speak. She just motioned to Kennedy with an open-palmed gesture that clearly conveyed a “listen to her” attitude.
“We were certain since they fit the profile,” Robson said.
Willow, however, cut him off. “I respect you, Robson, a-and all you’ve done here. But we just can’t go roundin’ up anyone and everyone a-and putting them in chains because you think they’re up to no good. What worries me, though, is that your slayer, the one standing guard – she couldn’t tell the difference. Both Kennedy and Kadin knew instinctively when they entered.”
“Who’s your slayer division head?” Kennedy asked.
Robson looked nervous. “She had nothing to do with this. I take full responsibility.”
“That’s noble, but I still want to speak with her,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got one day left. We need to make sure the girls we’re putting out there looking for demons know how to look for demons.” She then turned to Willow. “Think you’re up for a little glamour or two?” she asked.
Willow nodded. “Sure, with Al’s help.”
“Great,” Kennedy said, then turned to face Robson again. “Lead the way.”
Robson released a tense sigh and motioned for them to follow him.
New Mexico – Rental Car – Later
Andrew kept both hands on the wheel of the team’s rented Kia station wagon, but he looked somewhat put-upon.
“I don’t like this plan,” Dawn said from the seat next to him. “But I’m having trouble articulating the exact flaws in it.”
“I’m not,” Skye announced from the backseat. “We’re going out into the desert with only the illegible directions of an obviously crazy ex-prospector in order to search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Does that about sum it up?”
“Uh-huh,” Dawn nodded.
“Guys,” Andrew said, exasperated, “this is why we’re here. Sure, maybe that guy isn’t the most reliable source…”
“What was his name again?” Dawn asked.
“I’m not actually sure,” Andrew replied sheepishly. “But, look, that’s why we’re going back to the motel, okay? We’ll stock up on supplies, and if it’s a false alarm, we’ll just –”
“Hey, guys?” Shannon asked as she looked out the window. “What’s going on?”
The Artesia Motel was surrounded by unmarked vans and black sedans. As Andrew pulled up closer to their room, they could see that their door was sectioned off with yellow tape. Men in impeccable dark suits and sunglasses entered and exited. Some carried out small items in plastic bags, loading them into the vans.
“Hey!” The car had barely stopped when Andrew leaped out, slamming the door behind him. The others quickly followed. “Hey, what is this?”
One of the men held out his hands to stop them before they could get very far. “I’m sorry, there’s been a gas leak. Very dangerous. You can’t go in there right now.”
“There’s no gas leak,” Shannon said, her brow furrowed. “Hey, get your hands off my sweater!”
Dawn produced her Council badge. “Look, it’s okay, we’re with the Watchers Council.”
The man in the sunglasses was silent.
“So…we can go into our room now, right?” Dawn prompted.
“No,” the man replied flatly. “If you could please step back now…”
“I’m not afraid of you,” Andrew said. He stepped forward so that he was eye-to-chest with the well-built man in the suit. “I know all about the Men in Black. Take it from me, secrets always come out. No matter what you try to do, people will always be seeking the unknown. You can’t cover up the human spirit!”
The man in the suit looked down at him, somehow managing to seem menacing behind the mirrored lenses. “You can’t come in here. So, why don’t you head back home and go back to playing den mother for your little Girl Scouts?”
Andrew took a step back. “How do you know about me?”
“I know everything about you, Andrew Wells,” the man said flatly. “You’re a little boy playing in a sandbox you don’t belong in. The same goes for your friends here. The little slayer that could. The vampire who thinks she’s human just because she can go out in the sun. The girl who thinks she’s invulnerable just because she can’t die. You all need to leave, right now.”
London Watchers Council – Slayer Training Gym – Same Time
“Patricia?” Robson called out. He made his way over to a woman supervising a group of slayers practicing on various mats around the gym.
“Yes?” she asked as she came over to the arriving group, who now had Althenea in tow.
“Some members of the Cleveland Branch here have a request,” he began.
London – Council Training Facility – Day
The huge open warehouse looked like a city, complete with doors, windows, lampposts and anything needed for a simulated training environment.
“This is pretty cool,” Willow told Althenea. “Why didn’t you tell me you guys had one of these? We should do this in Cleveland.”
“A lot of good it’s done us, apparently,” Althenea whispered conspiratorially. “We can’t seem to tell a demon from a human.”
“Robson is just scared,” Willow told him. “People get worried, a-and they go on the defensive. They look for danger at every turn, and mistakes get made. Let’s just be thankful no one innocent was seriously hurt.”
The pair sat on some bleachers, high above the maze of simulated streets, and could see Patricia and Kennedy inside two different locations of the mini-city.
“Well, let’s see if this works,” Althenea said. “Ready?”
“Yep,” Willow told her.
They both waved a hand, and the two slayers below transformed into demon forms, but stayed in their hiding spots. Kennedy made a clawing motion at them and showed a set of fangs after the transformation.
For a moment, Willow and Althenea both wore a look of concern. Then Kennedy began to do a Charleston dance before acting like a football player who had scored a touchdown. Both women grinned in response.
Seeing everything was fine, Willow gave Kadin, who stood below them, a thumbs-up.
Kadin nodded back to Willow and then turned to the slayer standing near her, Michelle from the security room.
“Okay,” Kadin told the young slayer. “There are two ‘demons’ inside the city – Patricia and Kennedy. Neither will hurt you, and your only mission is to locate them. Our high priestesses have put a spell on them. So for all practical purposes, they’ll register as ‘demon.’ Now, just put those slayer skills to use, because every slayer can sense when demons are around.”
“Uh, okay?” Michelle said, sounding unsure of herself.
“First, just focus your mind for a second. Close your eyes if you have to. Right, now don’t think of where they might be. We’re not talking about logic here. Go with what your gut is telling you, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Let that inner slayer lead you in the direction you need to go. Once you feel you’ve honed in on them, go.”
“Okay,” Michelle repeated, this time with more confidence. She closed her eyes for a moment, but, only a moment later, she opened them and took off into a run.
London – Council Training Facility – Moments Later
Willow and Althenea watched from their platform above the training course as Michelle suddenly looked confused. She was only a few feet away from finding Kennedy, but she turned unexpectedly and ran in the opposite direction. Kadin saw what happened, threw her hands up in the air and began shaking her head in disapproval.
“It’s good to see you doing magic,” Willow said, turning to Althenea. “I thought after…after Jocelyn that you might be, you know, afraid.”
“Of course I’m afraid,” Althenea replied, not looking over. She continued to watch the slayer below them searching vacant rooms. “I killed one of your students. And right now Kennedy might be all fun and games, but I can’t say she won’t stay a demon.”
“You know that’s not true,” Willow told her.
“What part? Jocelyn or Kennedy?”
“All of it,” Willow told her. “I can’t say what happened doesn’t bother me. It hurts, a lot, but I don’t blame you, Al. Every coven, at every branch, looked for another solution first.”
There was a slight lull in the conversation until Althenea said, “I should have let your coven do it. The Persephone’s Knot worked for them. They helped you.”
“Obviously, I was different. But I remember what it was like. I came very close to death. It’s why Rowena hid the spell. The chances of survival are slim to none. Lucky for me, I was one of the slim. A-A-And, sadly for Jocelyn, she was one of the nones. But I don’t blame you, not at all. No one does, not even Jocelyn’s parents. They saw what she was like. But…sometimes people do magic, and sometimes they die. It’s an occupational hazard, and we all have to deal with it.”
Althenea began to tear up, and her bottom lip trembled. “She was so young, Willow,” she said, her voice cracking. “She had her whole life ahead of her. At least if we died tomorrow, we can say we had a chance to live. There’s a small bit of comfort in that. With her…”
Willow put her arm around Althenea. Her voice started to crack, as well. “I know…but if you hadn’t tried to free her of that magic, she would have spent that life in captivity, or worse…getting free and destroying more lives. You made the right call, a-and you did all you could.”
“It doesn’t feel like it, Will,” Althenea said quietly.
“I won’t lie to you. Chances are, it might not ever feel like it,” Willow told her. “But I can at least say you had my support then, and you still have it now.”
Althenea nodded her thanks, but she didn’t look over at Willow or speak to her.
Kadin’s voice from below cut through their exchange. “Finally!”
Both witches looked over to see that Michelle had found Kennedy.
“Hey, I was going to go there first,” she said. “Shoulda went with my instinct, huh?” she asked Kadin.
Kadin dropped the clipboard and stopwatch she was holding and began to walk around in a circle in frustration.
“It’s gonna be a long day,” Willow replied with a grin.
Althenea nodded and finally smiled again.
“Since I’m back on the horse,” she began, “maybe I’ll keep this up after you’ve gone home. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, would it?”
Willow’s arm was still around Althenea, and she gave her a pat. “No, it certainly wouldn’t.”
New Mexico – Desert – Later
“I’m telling you, there’s no such thing as the Men in Black,” Skye said. She and Dawn were out in the white rock and scrub of the New Mexico desert, with no civilization in sight. Shannon and Andrew were nearby. She was climbing a rock formation, while he was poking ineffectually at the ground with a stick. The sky was wide, cloudless and bright blue. Somewhere, a crow cawed.
“How did they know all about us, then?” Dawn challenged her.
“Maybe they watch CNN?” Skye ventured. She called out to Andrew. “Look, there’s nothing here. Maybe we should go back to town. We didn’t get a chance to pick up the water from the room. I can drink Dawn here, but the rest of you guys…”
“This is where the directions led us,” Andrew insisted. “There has to be something. There just has to be!”
“I think you guys need to get over here,” Shannon shouted. She stood on top of a small formation of bright white rocks that looked a little like a giant camel.
New Mexico Desert – Moments Later
When Andrew made it up to the top, he was huffing and puffing. Dawn and Skye were already there, staring.
“See,” Andrew said between inhales, resting his hands on his knees. “I told you.”
Spread out below them was a large, circular structure, seemingly constructed out of metal the color of brass. At a minimum, it was a hundred feet across. Strange devices of unknown use covered the structure. Some sections were flat, covered with large symbols that looked a little like hieroglyphics.
“Space aliens are real,” Shannon breathed. “Did we know this?”
“No,” Dawn said. “No, we didn’t.”
End of Act Three