Tres Rios Dam – Day
A huge section of the dam, the middle third or so, was completely gone. Water continued to pour through the gap, and the water level on the two sides was beginning to equalize.
Mia, on one of the sections of the dam that still stood, finished pulling a small girl, perhaps five years old, out of the side window of a car that was lying on its roof.
“It’s okay,” Mia told the girl, as she picked her up and slung her over her shoulder. “You’re okay. You’re safe now.”
Mia turned at the sound of her name to see Amira running toward her across the asphalt, picking her way around abandoned vehicles and stray pieces of rubble.
“I’m here!” Mia called in return. She cocked her head to whisper in the little girl’s ear. “What’s your name?”
She could see a military helicopter in the distance, clipping speedily over the death throes of Lake Truman.
“Madison,” the girl said. She seemed remarkably together for a five year old in her situation.
Amira stopped a few feet from the two of them. “We need to leave. This cannot be stable.”
“What happened?” Mia asked breathlessly.
Amira shook her head. “I do not know. We…we failed.” She looked nervously over one shoulder. She tugged at her hijab with one hand, and Mia could see that it was shaking.
“Everything was covered, I do not understand…” Amira seemed to see the little girl for the first time. “Her parents?”
Mia shook her head.
“Pavlov?” By the noise, the helicopter was much closer.
Mia shook her head again, then asked, “Hadley’s still back at the hotel?” She ran a hand through the little girl’s hair, patting her a few times.
Amira nodded. “If she has obeyed orders.”
“That’s not a yes,” Mia noted, “not with her.”
“We need to go,” Amira said again, as the helicopter touched down on a rare clear section of roadway. She motioned to the little girl. “Bring her.”
Watchers Council – Buffy’s Office – Day
Buffy sat pensively, both elbows resting on her desk and chin resting on her hands. Robin sat across from her, flipping through a sheaf of papers.
“What’s a meroi?” Buffy asked, her voice low, gravelly and tired.
“Apparently, kind of like a mermaid,” Robin told her, “except more… demonic. Rowena discovered an engraving in the Sorenstadt Compendium, though there’s no record of any colonies in the river. One would have thought that if there were any, they would have been destroyed when the dam was built.”
“Maybe there were,” Buffy said. “That would explain the anger…but I still don’t understand. We had warning. Amira told me she had everything covered…”
“As it turns out, she had everything above the surface covered,” Robin replied. “No one considered the possibility of a suicide bombing by aquatic creatures.”
“And Amira leads Black Ops, not Scuba Ops,” Buffy finished. “Right.”
Robin had no follow up. Buffy leaned further forward, then sat back. She spun in her chair and looked out the window. Several satellite trucks lined Tenth Street, boom arms reaching skyward. Robin looked down at his papers again, flipping as he looked for something.
“Ohhhh…” Buffy drew out the syllable, letting it roll and sit. “…hell.”
Watchers Council – Guest Suite – Day
Faith finished washing her hands in the kitchen nook of her guest suite. She then tore off a paper towel from its roll and began drying her hands.
“Thanks for stopping by,” she called to an unseen visitor. “It seems like a lot of people around here really look up to you, and I kinda think I might need some advice on this one.” She glanced over her shoulder. “Can I get you anything? Tea? Turns out I really like English breakfast.”
“No, I’m all right,” Jason Felix said from his chair in the next room.
The place was starting to become at least a little homey, if by “homey,” one meant “untidy.” Faith had been living there a week, with little effort having been made to get anything organized. Socks and various similar items were piled on the floor, having been hastily cleaned off of Jason’s chair. Faith exited the kitchen carrying her own cup of tea and saucer and sat down on the couch next to Jason.
“And it truly is not any trouble,” he told her. “We all are anxious to do anything we can to help you during this…transitional period.”
“I know everyone’s busy dealing with what happened in California,” Faith said, repeatedly dipping her tea bag in the steaming water. “My issues feel kinda dinky in comparison.”
“It’s perfectly all right,” Felix insisted. “At any rate, I believe a temporary change of subject may be beneficial for me at this point. What do you have on your mind, Miss Lehane?”
Faith sighed and set her cup and saucer down on the coffee table. “Since I…since this happened, I’ve just kind of been going with it. Things come up, I let them slide. And a lot of the time I’m okay with just living in the moment. But other times, I need, well, something…I’m not sure if I’m saying this right.”
“Context matters, and you have no context,” Jason ventured.
“Yeah, I think that’s what I mean,” Faith nodded with a smile. “See, look at you, all with the wise. But, the thing is, okay, I was talking to Kennedy, and she seems fairly with it, right?”
“I suppose so,” Jason replied guardedly.
“Anyway, she says that maybe I shouldn’t go looking. That maybe I don’t want to know. But, I can’t know if I’m happier not knowing unless I know what I don’t know, and if I knew that, I’d already know what I don’t know. Does that make sense?”
“Well…” Jason trailed off, a smile on his face. “The grammar’s a bit iffy, but that’s not the question, is it?”
“No, it’s not.”
Jason drummed his fingers against the armrest of his chair. “I can’t tell you which course of action will make you happier, because obviously I’m not a mind reader. If I was, I’d be considerably better educated about a number of issues in this place…”
“But there’s a but,” Faith put in. “I hear a but coming.”
“But,” Jason said with a smile, “I can share with you a personal belief of mine, which is that the past is too great and a terrible thing to ignore, for any of us. In my case…I have as much to regret as anyone, perhaps more. And when I think of my wife and daughter, the pain is unlike anything…”
“So you’re like Kennedy, then?” Faith asked. “You’d want to trade places?”
Jason shook his head. “You misunderstand me. The memories are painful, yes, but…I would not trade them for anything, in this world or any other. I had a beautiful wife, an astounding child. I am grateful for the time I had with them, and they are part of me.”
He leaned forward, and so did Faith. “The people you’ve known and the experiences you’ve had are part of you and your life, even if you’ve forgotten them. Making your way in this world is difficult enough, Miss Lehane, without setting up roadblocks of ignorance along the way.”
Faith removed the bag from her tea and set it on the saucer alongside the cup, then sat back in her chair and bit her lip in thought. “Yeah, okay,” she said finally. “It’s weird, I don’t even know where to start. I mean, it’s not like there’s a book of my life that I can just pick up and read.”
Jason raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Faith looked at him.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Day
Faith smiled and waved when she saw Andrew walking in the opposite direction down one of the Council’s residential hallways. His clothes were rumpled, and he had a frown on his face.
“Hey, Mr. Wells,” Faith said. When she got no response, she stopped and asked, “Something up?”
“I can’t reach Tracey,” Andrew replied nervously. He saw that Faith didn’t recognize the name. “She’s my girlfriend, and at college. Long-distance, these days…”
“Oh.” Faith sounded surprisingly disappointed at this news. “Well, that’s good for her, right?”
“She’s in Los Angeles,” he said sullenly. “The news makes it look like it’s going all Beyond Thunderdome, and there isn’t nearly enough National Guard left, and Tracey’s in the middle of it. For all I know, she could have drowned.”
“I don’t think the flooding reached Los Angeles…”
“I’m still worried, okay?” Andrew challenged.
“Yeah, it’s okay.” Faith took a step forward. “I really hope you hear from her, all right?”
Andrew nodded once. “Yeah.” He sighed. “Where are you going?”
Faith shrugged. “Well, I decided to take a break before moving on to Chapter Fourteen of Blood and Darkness.”
“Good stopping point?” Andrew asked.
“Cliffhanger,” Faith told him. “I’ve fled to Los Angeles and am about to have a showdown with the law, the Watchers Council, my archrival Buffy Summers and possibly some vampire guy. A real page-turner, I have to say. It’s strange…none of this feels real yet, not then, not now, not any of it. It just seems like an over-the-top sci-fi/fantasy tale about a heartless bitch. Is that weird?”
Andrew shook his head. “It’s not weird. Really. You don’t know the woman in those pages.”
Faith pointed over her shoulder. “Well, I’m actually, um, on my way to see Mr. Wood.”
Andrew offered her a wan smile. “Good luck.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
Faith saw Willow coming down the hallway, pushing a double stroller with the twins bundled up inside it.
“Hey,” she said as she approached. “These the tots I’ve been hearing about?” Faith got down on her knee and put her pinky finger out to the girl dressed in pink. “Boy, she’s got one heck of a grip.”
“Yep,” Willow said proudly. “That’s Alex and Jen,” she said, pointing each one out. “It’s finally a warm day, so I thought I’d go walk around the grounds a bit. You’re welcome to join us if you like, Faith.” She quickly corrected herself. “I mean, Miss Lehane.”
“I’m on my way to see Mr. Wood, actually.” Willow brightened at the news. “Not like that,” Faith said. Willow’s look became one of quiet defeat.
“I’m sorry,” Willow replied. “I’m not trying to play matchmaker or anything, but…”
“But…?” Faith asked with a grin.
“He really is a great guy…once you get to know him…again. All I’m saying is, keep the possibility open because you won’t regret it. A-A-And good guys are hard to find.”
“No doubt – everyone here is either taken or gay,” Faith replied.
Willow grinned. “Not everyone, but yeah, pretty much, it seems. My offer to join us still stands, though.”
“Actually,” Faith began. She seemed unsure of what to say next. “You know my whole story, right?” Willow nodded. “I’ve been reading Blood and Darkness.”
“Oh boy,” Willow sighed.
“Yeah, well, how much of it is really true?”
Willow’s hands nervously played with the stroller handle. “Did you read it all yet?” Faith shook her head. “I’ll tell you what. Finish it. A-A-And then if you’ve got specific questions, we’ll go over them, okay?”
“Just one question for now,” Faith started. “Did I really kill someone in cold blood?” Willow didn’t say anything at first. “I see,” Faith said quietly.
“Look, Faith,” Willow told her. “There’s a lot more to all of this than what’s in those pages. We’ve all been trying to keep you a little in the dark but…like I said, read the book, and I’ll help you separate the fact from the fiction, all right?”
“Thanks,” Faith answered with a nod.
Willow returned it and motioned toward the elevator. “Gotta get going before they get too warm in here,” she said, motioning down to the kids. “Anyway, if you get bored, just come on out.”
“Sure,” Faith said, as she let them pass. She watched Willow and the twins walk away for a moment before she continued on her way.
Watchers Council – Library – Moments Later
Rowena stopped, books in hand, when she saw Faith enter the library.
“What’s going on?” Faith looked around and saw that the library was jumping. The place looked much like it had a week earlier when Faith had first lost her memory. But this time, the tone was different. Quieter.
Rowena shrugged. “We’re not sure. Tres Rios could just be the beginning. That’s my feeling, anyway. Anything that could help, anything at all…” she trailed off with a glance at the diligently working watchers.
“Sounds like you guys need all the help you can get,” Faith said. “I’m exceedingly available, y’know?”
Rowena hesitated, then nodded. “I’ll talk to Ken. Is that why you dropped by?”
Faith looked down at the floor. “Actually, I was told Robin would be here.”
“Oh!” Rowena exclaimed. “Yeah, I think he’s heading up the people going over demonic cults. That’s over there.” She pointed.
Faith found Robin at the back of the library, in the middle of re-shelving a stack of books. He looked only a little surprised when he saw her.
“Miss Lehane,” he said formally.
“Call me Faith,” she said softly, walking towards him.
“Faith,” Robin nodded.
“I, um, wanted to thank you,” Faith said. “I know I’m not the easiest gal to deal with. Now, or, apparently, before.”
Robin shrugged. “I have some experience.” He put down the book he was holding and moved forward, putting a hand on Faith’s shoulder. “You can tell me whatever you need to.”
“Look,” Faith began, not quite able to look him in the eye, “I feel like I owe you something.”
“Owe me what?”
“An explanation, maybe,” Faith sighed. “The truth, definitely. Look, I don’t know you, okay? Yes, you’re probably pretty ripped, but there’s more to life, y’know?”
Robin grinned. “Glad to see you’ve grown.”
“The point is,” Faith told him, “I need time. Space. Both of those together. I need to figure out who I am before I try to add anybody else to my life like that.”
She reached up and took Robin’s hand off her shoulder. However, it still remained clasped in her fingers.
“Any idea…how much time we’re talking about here?” Robin asked.
Faith shook her head, a small smile on her face. “You gonna wait for me? How do you even know that I’m the girl you fell for? Maybe that was nurture instead of nature.”
“A rose by any other name is still as sweet,” Robin said.
Faith nodded and dropped his hand. She turned and walked down the aisle between the bookshelves, only stopping when she reached the end.
“Is that how you got me to fall for you the first time?” she called back to him. “Stolen verses of Shakespeare?”
Robin smiled and shook his head. “Ah, no. Definitely not.”
Watchers Council – Hallway – Evening
Andrew was almost startled out of his skin when his phone rang, stopping him in his tracks and filling the hallway with the sound of the Star Wars theme. He fished his phone out of his pocket, ducking to the side of the hallway as he put it to his ear.
“Tracey! I’ve been trying to reach you. Are you okay?” Andrew listened for a moment. “Yeah, I guess you can’t really charge up your phone, huh? Listen, we are going to get you out of there…no, don’t loot the video game store! Think about it, how are you gonna play the games without electricity?”
“See, I’m right when I use that fancy logic…yes, and sexy too. Stay on the line, all right? I’ll get you details. Things around here? Well, Faith and Robin have been retconned out of existence, just like Peter Parker and Mary Jane…it’s kind of a long story. I’ll tell you some other time.”
California Desert – Evening
The yellow eyes and ridged face of a female vampire peered from the shadows behind a huge, reddish rock, beyond which the last rays of the setting sun were vanishing. A gray cloud hung in the air between the death shroud of Tres Rios.
“She wants to see it for herself,” the vampire mumbled to herself. “I get that. But hasn’t she heard of a video camera, or at least of waiting until sundown to meet with the vampire…?”
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” the Voice of Hell said. The vampire turned, startled, to find the dark-haired woman standing directly next to her.
“I’m so sorry, your magnificence, I didn’t know…”
She waved a hand in dismissal. “I understand. I am benevolent…within limits.”
“I know you wanted to survey the attack site, your magnificence, but there’s a few reasons that may not work right now…”
The Voice of Hell smiled, understanding. “My schedule is tight, but I don’t have enough skilled operatives to make them burst into flames at my whim.”
“That, and the crowd of reporters just over the ridge,” the minion told her. “I think some Congresswoman is giving a press conference.”
“It’s all right,” the Voice of Hell told her, the words rolling almost lazily off her tongue. “It turns out that your services will not be necessary. I was able to tour the wreckage personally a little while ago.”
The vampire raised a skeptical eyebrow. “That’s good, your magnificence. I’m just a little unclear…how did you manage to swing that?”
“I am the Voice of Hell,” she said, eyes like a razor. “I speak, and the shadows stop to listen. Carry on.”
With that, she turned and walked back up the hill, into the last rays of the sun where the vampire could not follow. Just before the crest of the ridge, her form shifted. The arcane symbol on her forehead disappeared, gold eyes turned to a normal human color, and dark hair turned red.
Congresswoman Autumn O’Mara crested the ridge and walked towards the huge crowd of reporters that waited, the Tres Rios cloud still high in the background.
A young, female aide ran up, an earpiece in one ear and a clipboard in one hand. “Where have you been? Security…”
“Security knows when I want my privacy, Darlene.”
“All I’m saying is, you need to stop disappearing like that. Your speech…”
“Will wow them, as usual,” O’Mara promised, putting a hand on Darlene’s shoulder. “Now, point me towards the mic. I have work to do.”
Darlene pointed, and O’Mara kept heading towards the crowd. “A lot of work to do,” she said under her breath.
Cleveland – Prospect Avenue – Night
“Just so we’re clear, I’m in charge here,” Casey said.
Faith, walking alongside her, stake in hand, nodded. “We’re completely clear. Even though I am technically your boss.” Several other girls walked along behind and in front. Streetlights threw occasional pools of light across an otherwise dark street.
“Technically, nothin’,” Casey countered. “You’re on a leave of absence. I take my orders from Summers and Kennedy, and that’s it. You do what I bloody say, we’ll get along fine.”
“You know, you’re the first British girl I’ve ever actually met,” Faith said. Casey rolled her eyes as the lead girls in the patrol turned into a pitch-black alleyway next to a boarded-up drugstore. “You have better teeth than I would’ve expected.”
“Hey!” Casey exclaimed. “Just keep an eye out for any reporters, all right?”
Faith looked confused. “I thought I was supposed to keep an eye out for vampires and demons and stuff.”
Casey sighed. “Hard to tell the difference these days, innit?”
A wordless female shout came from the alley. Casey ran to help, and Faith hesitated only a moment before following.
Upon entering the alley, Faith’s eyes took a moment to adjust before she could get a lay of the land. One of the girls was on the ground, wiping blood off her face, while the other three rushed haphazardly at a tall demon whose face was shrouded in shadow. One of the girls was punched out as Faith and Casey watched.
“Okay,” Faith shouted, “you high, you low, I’ll take the middle.”
The two girls she’d pointed at nodded, but Casey put out a hand. “What happened to you being clear about me being in charge?”
Faith raised an eyebrow. “So what’s the plan, Admiral Nelson?”
“The old Faith wouldn’t know who Admiral Nelson was,” Casey pointed out as she pulled out her radio and hit the button. “I need backup near Prospect and East 18th.”
Faith scoffed as Casey reattached the radio to her hip. “It’s Miss Lehane –”
“Hey, guys…” One of the girls managed, with the demon’s hand around her neck.
Casey grimaced. “Fine, let’s go with your idea.”
Faith grinned and ran forward. The demon parried the initial attacks from the other girls, but Faith’s kick caught it in the stomach.
“This is fun!” she yelled, the huge smile still on her face.
As the demon crashed to the ground, however, Faith seemed to stutter, a confused expression on her face.
Smash Cut To:
Series of Quick Shots
– Faith’s watcher, Rosa, stepping closer and then patting her on the back.
– Buffy and Faith high-fiving as they stand in a graveyard, stakes in hand.
– Mayor Wilkins making a motion for Faith to spin around in a dress.
– Angel smiling at her from behind a pane of glass as he reaches up and puts his hand to it.
– Robin kissing Faith passionately.
– Faith pulling Kennedy into a hug by a van and Kennedy returning it after a few moments.
– Willow laughing as they sit looking at a U.S. Government textbook together.
– Rowena standing in a meeting room and pulling Faith into a fierce hug.
– Faith standing outside the council with Norman’s mother and Giles.
– Norman smiling as he hands Faith a motorcycle helmet.
– Hope standing above her with a taser in her hand.
Smash Cut To:
Cleveland – Prospect Avenue – Resume
The demon, which possessed only one eye on a face surrounded by tentacles, scrambled backwards on the ground.
“Miss Lehane, catch!”
Faith’s head snapped in the direction of the sound to see one of the girls on the ground throw a long knife in her direction, which she easily caught.
“You’re the key,” she told the demon in realization. Then she thrust the knife downward.
The tentacled demon screamed long and loud and then collapsed lifelessly.
When nothing else seemed to happen, Faith shrugged.
“I thought for sure…oh, well, I could get used to this,” she said, as one of the girls got to her feet behind her. “So, you guys do this all the –”
A translucent, white substance suddenly began pouring out of the demon’s mouth, nose, ears…everywhere. It flowed through the air like mist, wrapping around Faith’s face. She stumbled wildly, arms out.
“Faith!” Casey cried out. She stepped forward to help, but after a split second, the substance had already disappeared. Faith blinked a few times in confusion, then collapsed against the wall.
“Are you okay?” Casey asked, kneeling down next to her. She looked over her shoulder at one of the girls. “Call the bleedin’ med team!”
The girl nodded and pulled out a radio. Casey turned back to Faith. “Talk to me, girlie…”
At that moment, Kennedy appeared over Casey’s shoulder. “Is she okay? Damn it, I knew we should have waited longer to put her in the field!”
“I’m okay,” Faith said softly. She tried to force a smile. “In fact, I’m five by five, Slick.” She then turned to Casey. “And don’t call me girlie,” she warned with a hint of a playful tone. “I’m practically a decade older than you.”
Casey raised an eyebrow and looked at Kennedy, who was slowly beginning to grin.
“Faith?” Kennedy said hopefully.
She nodded. “Check the others. Some of ’em got roughed up pretty good.”
Kennedy bent down and kissed Faith on the forehead. She smiled at her a moment longer before joining Casey to check on the rest of the group.
Unseen by anyone, Faith turned her face back towards the wall. The smile disappeared immediately. A tear rolled down her cheek.
Special Guest Starring:
Morena Baccarin as The Voice of Hell
End of Reboot
Next on Watchers…
Robin wakes up one morning to find that he’s in a very different version of reality. Soon he figures out that this isn’t a dream…it’s something much, much worse.