Parallel World – Alchemilla Sanitarium – Continuous
Sophia rocked back and forth in the corner of the padded room.
“I like you…you’re kind…you’re handsome…like my Jason,” she said, her eyes fixed on one particular point of the wall in front of her.
Robin managed a small, lackluster smile. “Thank you. I like you, too.”
“You wouldn’t…not if you knew…not if you knew what I’ve done.”
Smash Cut To:
Parallel World – Bureau Nine HQ – May 2006
Jason Felix’s head was flung backwards, his chin held up tight in the palm of a male vampire, who also had wrapped his arm across Jason’s chest. He yelled and struggled, his eyes red and full of tears.
Then the vampire drove his fangs into Jason’s neck. His eyes widened, the pain evident on his face. He struggled less and less by the second.
Behind him, their daughter, Kathleen, was also in the hold of another male vampire, suffering the same fate as her father.
Smash Cut To:
Parallel World – Alchemilla Sanitarium – Resume
“I’m so sorry about Jason. He was a good man,” Robin said. He reached out uncertainly and then carefully, gently, placed his hand down on Sophia’s shoulder.
Sophia closed her eyes and rested her head atop Robin’s hand. “Yes…yes, he was.” She brushed against his hand, then sat up and smiled. “Honestly, where are my manners? Would you like a cup of tea?” Sophia turned away, as if to take the kettle in hand. Her smile soon became crestfallen as she saw no kettle, nor could reach out for anything in the straitjacket. “Oh…oh…”
“Sophia?” Robin, calling her name, fell on deaf ears. “Sophia?”
“I never used to be like this. Honestly. I never used to be like this. I –”
“I believe you. I also think things have happened to you that some people might find incredible.” His eyes smiled earnestly when she looked at him. “See, I work for the Watchers Council. We deal with the fantastic on a daily basis. So you can tell me your story. You have nothing to fear.”
Sophia looked from Robin’s kind eyes to the small, barred window, high up on the wall. “The breeze…I think that’s what I remember the most. The breeze…”
Parallel World – Cleveland Waterfront – Late Afternoon – May 2006
V.O., Sophia: “…it was so gentle.”
A solemn Sophia, eyes and nose red, makeup runny, stalked the lonely and eerily quiet waterfront. Blood, of scarlet and various other hues, stained the cobbled sidewalk, shrubs and occasional benches. Discarded swords, knives, guns and limbs were scattered around her. Her high heels navigated the rough terrain, but her eyes were focused ahead of her.
V.O., Sophia: “I had just found out that my husband and daughter were among the casualties. I thought that they’d be safe at Bureau Nine, what with our defenses, but the demons were too strong. Vampires used our emergency sewer access to infiltrate us from the bottom up. We hadn’t considered that point of entry…”
She now came to a stop at the railing overlooking the lake. Sophia wrapped her hands around the damp wood rail and closed her eyes. The subtle breeze parted her hair and billowed her blouse. She released a long, oppressive sigh.
V.O., Sophia: “It’s my fault. I was their leader. I should have been on top of things, regardless of circumstances. I…I killed them.”
Rowena stepped up beside her. Sophia opened her eyes and looked over at her.
“Are you…” Sophia sniffed back her tears. “Are you all right?”
Rowena sighed and turned toward Sophia. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. Just…just coming down here for one last look before I leave…and to say goodbye to a friend.” She glanced over her shoulder to a large pool of dried blood on the sidewalk to her left.
“Where are you going?”
Rowena looked back toward the lake and shrugged. “I don’t know, but I have to go. My lover and I used to come down here, watch the yachts, and have a hotdog.” She smiled for a brief moment, before looking solemn again. “They’re just memories now. Wanna make sure I won’t forget.”
“You won’t. Did you…lose him?”
“Her,” Rowena corrected, and then shook her head. “And no, she’s still alive…because of me.”
“Then why do you have to leave?” Sophia asked.
“Because I made a deal,” Rowena said sadly. She turned her back to the lake and leaned up against the railing. “Did you…?”
“Yes,” Sophia’s eyes welled up again, and she sniffed. “My husband and daughter.”
“I’m…I’m so sorry,” Rowena took in a breath and looked at the ground.
Sophia just stared as Rowena walked away.
V.O., Sophia: “I couldn’t go back to work, and I couldn’t go back home. My family was everything to me, but I was a hypocrite. Memories were not enough for me. I left the same day the war ended, right after a conversation with a woman down by the waterfront.”
V.O., Robin: “Where did you go?”
V.O., Sophia: “L.A.”
Los Angeles City Streets – Night – 2006
V.O. Sophia: “I didn’t intend to go there. I just went wandering and that’s where I ended up.”
Wearing the same clothes, but her face freshened, Sophia walked the streets, finding much the same aftermath of destruction that she left behind in Cleveland.
V.O. Sophia: “At the time, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but with hindsight, it was to be consoled. But how can you console the inconsolable? How can you mend your heart when it’s been shattered into thousands upon thousands of shards? Even if you could put it back together again, it would never fit the same as it once did.”
Sophia started to cry as she wandered aimlessly.
V.O. Sophia: “I was wracked with grief, stricken with what I thought to be the worst pain imaginable. My body ached, begged for a single second of respite. But through the haze that clouded my mind, I found a solution. I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it earlier…I could be with my family again.”
She came to a stop at the edge of the curb and stood perfectly still, hair curtaining her vision as she gazed at the speckled asphalt below.
Then she heard the oncoming growl of a car engine.
As it neared, Sophia took a step out onto the road and continued walking, or more like shuffling. Then she stopped, her side facing the oncoming car.
V.O. Sophia: “Though I welcomed death, I was too scared even to face it head on.”
The car, its screeching brakes fully applied, swerved to avoid Sophia. And it did, coming to a skidding halt.
“My God, are you all right?” Emily Hoffman said as she scrambled out of her dark green Vauxhall Mini and over to Sophia. “You could have been killed!” she glared hotly at Sophia, who a moment later, broke down in tears. “Oh…oh dear.” Ms. Hoffmann wore a pensive expression as she warily wrapped an arm around Sophia. “Come on. Come with me. You’re in no fit state to wander the streets. It’s been a bad couple of days for all of us.”
V.O. Sophia: “She seemed nice, sweet. What you would expect from a lady of her age. And British. What were the odds of that? But then what were the odds that her…that her kind face would believe what was underneath?”
Smash Cut To:
Los Angeles – House – Living Room – Later That Night
Sophia sat on the edge of the couch in a living room that seemed out of date with the era. Draped over her shoulders was a tartan blanket; in her quaking hands, a cup of steaming hot tea.
V.O. Sophia: “There was something about her, other than her surprising kindness and generosity. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.”
Emily took a sip of her tea and placed the cup down on the saucer in her other hand. “Why on earth did you step out in front of the car?”
Her lips curled and Sophia said. “Because I wanted it to end…the suffering.”
“Suffering never ends,” Emily replied gravely. With her cup on the saucer, she placed both down on the coffee table between them. “I can tell from your clothes, your stale perfume, your hair and the way that you carry yourself that you don’t know suffering.”
Sophia’s eyes shuttered up to a stern looking Emily. “I’ve just lost my family…how can one suffer any more than that?”
“What you feel now is not suffering, my dear, but rather heartache of the severest and most tragic kind. Suffering, true suffering is enduring the most vile and putrid depths of pain and hate ever dug up and spewed out of the guts of hell. It’s every day, it’s raw, it’s deafening and it’s sickening,” Emily sat forward and clasped her hands.
Sophia listened intently. Her hands had stopped shaking. “Then what I feel now…what is this?”
“This is life, I’m afraid.”
Sophia started to whimper. “My Jason…my Kathleen…what I am going to do without them.”
“They were your life. I can see that.”
Sophia nodded. “Everything I’ve ever done has been for them. My life has been for them, and now…”
Emily leaned over and put her hand on Sophia’s knee.
“It’s only natural to feel the way you do.” When Sophia turned her head to the side, Emily half-glanced over to the fireplace. Specifically to the mantle, where an odd dark wooden box sat front and center.
For a moment, Emily didn’t say anything. She just watched Sophia deteriorate into a further mess than she already was.
“I have something, something which I came into possession of…what seems like an eternity ago,” Emily told her. “I think you would benefit from it now more than I would. You could truly utilize its full potential.”
“What is it?”
“You see that box, up there, on the mantle,” Emily pointed. Sophia followed her lead. “There’s something about it. It contains something hideously dangerous. Something that can grant you what you desire…”
“For everyone to feel the same as you do. With what’s inside, you can make them suffer. And I do mean suffer.”
Emily kept her eyes level with Sophia’s.
Then Sophia stood up and cautiously walked toward the mantle. Her hands cautiously moved in, her fingertips now brushing against the wooden lid. She took the box into her lands and lifted it off the mantle. She took a step back, her eyes doubling in size. Her hands tightened, and then she smashed the box on the parquet flooring. Amidst the pieces of broken wood was a medium-sized black stone. Darker than dark. It was as if it were a shadow, given mass. Sophia gasped. She stumbled back and grabbed at her hair and then screamed.
Emily smiled, took her cup and saucer in her hands and took a sip.
Smash Cut To:
Parallel World – Alchemilla Sanitarium – Resume
Sophia was crying. “She…showed me suffering. How could a mere wooden box house something so…so…” She bit her lip.
Suddenly. Robin staggered forward and steadied himself on Sophia. His eyes started to grow heavy. He shook his head and reached into his pocket, producing a packet that read,”No-Doz.” He ripped the paper top off and downed the contents.
Taking a breath, he asked, “Sophia? Was what was inside the box that caused all this, that caused the world to change?”
She gave a slow nod. “Yes…”
“Sophia. What was inside the box? Please, I need to know.”
She spun around toward Robin and threw herself onto him. “Robin, I beg of you, please…just kill me…end my suffering, please!”
“Please! I can’t kill myself, it won’t let me, but you can…please, be my savior…Robin, help me!”
“Robin! Beware! Beware the –”
Before she could finish her warning, the door flung open and the doctor entered, with two orderlies in tow. They grabbed her by the straps and threw her to the ground, one of them sitting on her back. Robin stood up as the doctor barged past him.
“Wait! Wait a second!” Robin protested.
The doctor removed the cap off a needle.
“Robin! Please!” Sophia screamed at the top of her lungs.
Her cries became fainter and fainter as the sedative took effect.
Completely shaken, Robin tripped backwards and then rushed down the hall.
Parallel World – Rebel Cell – Moments Later
Wesley’s head was thrown back as a dirty brown burlap sack was ripped off his head.
He winced and tried to move his hands, but found them tied behind his back to an old wooden chair.
“Where…where I am?” he rasped.
“Where’d you think, watcher-man?” Marie walked out of the shadows and toward Wesley. “Right where you wanna be, I’d say.” Marie held Wesley’s sword in her hands. “Now, I’m gonna hazard a guess here, that with you packing your oh so very cool wrist blade sword, you were looking for us? Correct?” She cocked her head to the side.
“Correct,” he replied dryly. “But not in the way you’re thinking.”
Marie smiled and sliced his sword through the air. Whereas others would have flinched, Wesley did not.
“Well, here we are now.” Marie jumped up onto Wesley’s lap. He groaned. She then traced the swords’ sharp tip across his thighs, then his chest and finally his face. “You wanna tell me what you want, then?” She thrust the sword under his chin.
“I need to see Kennedy,” Wesley said firmly.
She giggled. “And what makes you think Kennedy’s still alive?”
“She’s smart, cunning. The death of an idol such as Kennedy would not go unnoticed by the world’s eyes, nor would it go ungrieved by her dedicated followers. That, and I doubt you’d be doing a second-in-command’s work, Marie.”
She giggled. “Yeah, I always liked you Wes. You knew me so well. Always wanted you to be my watcher, you were one of the decent ones.”
“Then you know I can be trusted.”
“Maybe.” She pushed the tip of the sword up further into the soft underbelly of Wesley’s chin. He grit his teeth, but held his defiant stare. “But what do you want with Kennedy?”
“It’s vitally important. If you don’t let me speak with her, then I promise you that she will be the first casualty of many of the Rebels.”
“Is that a threat?” She tightened her hold on the hilt of the sword.
“No, I’m just trying to warn you.”
Marie dug the sword’s tip in deeper, but did not break the skin.
“Marie,” a voice called out authoritatively. “You know that’s not how we treat our guests.”
Marie stared into Wesley’s eyes as she replied. “Sorry, boss. You know me and my manners.”
At the sound of footsteps from across the basement, Wesley’s eyes moved from Marie over to Kennedy, who was walking toward them. She folded her arms as she came to a stop.
Marie got off Wesley’s lap. As she got up, she said to him, “Mind if I keep the sword?”
He didn’t answer and she walked past Kennedy, back into the shadows.
“You’ll have to forgive Marie.” Kennedy walked around Wesley, unclipping a small knife from her belt as she did so. “She can be a bit gung-ho sometimes.” Now behind him, Kennedy cut the plastic tie that bound his hands to the wooden chair, then she took a step back, holstering her knife. “But don’t think you’ve got the good cop now.” She immediately thrust out her right hand.
Wesley was launched into the air and flew back into the cold stone wall. He couldn’t help but let out a small cry at the impact.
“I’ve teleported all the way from Rio to meet you, and I don’t like Cleveland much anymore, so this is gonna go one of two ways. One, you talk, I believe you, we do tea and crumpets and you go on your merry way. Ooorrr, you talk, I don’t believe you, I kill you –” She shrugged her shoulders, her face suggested that she liked that idea, “–and then I go on my merry way. Either way, I don’t envision being here long. So spill.”
“The-the Council is coming for you…” Wesley tried to catch his breath.
“What a shock,” Kennedy picked up the fallen chair, turned it to face Wesley and sat down. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Very well,” Wesley began. “At this very moment, they are prepping for the opening of a dimensional bridge to a parallel world where they’ll retrieve the Slayer Scythe,” Wesley continued.
“You and those in your company will no longer be slayers. Willow intends to access the Scythe’s power to deactivate those of her and the Council’s choosing.”
Kennedy seemed taken aback. “Wow. That’s some story.”
“One that you’d be wise to believe.”
“And how am I supposed to trust you? You’re a watcher. You know what me and my girls do to your kind.” Wesley put his head back against the wall. Kennedy stood up and approached him. “New recruits kill watchers to prove their worth. I personally would just as soon kill you for fun, right now.”
Wesley glared back at her. “Join me in this fight and I promise you, after this, the Council will be no more. Over there on the table, inside my jacket, is a pack of files containing defense codes, revised schematics, patrol times and squad information, the frequency of the shield harmonics that surrounds the building. Everything you will need to bring the Council down.”
Kennedy watched Wesley for a moment and then walked over to the table. She pulled apart his jacket and found the large manila folder stuffed in the inside pocket. “Say I do believe you,” she called out, her back to him. “How do I know this is anything more than an elaborate trap? I need more.” She turned back to Wesley. “I want you to kill Heli.” His eyes went huge. “I want her watcher to kill his slayer…and then, maybe, I’ll think about this alliance.”
Our World – Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
“Where’s Robin now?” Giles asked, as he walked down the hall alongside Faith, with Willow and Buffy paired behind.
“In his office,” Faith said.
“You sure this is a good idea?” Willow sounded unsure.
“It’s the only way we’ll know for certain,” Faith said. “We’ve done our best to convince him that there’s nothing wrong with him that Miller can find.”
“Well, that’s not a lie,” Buffy chipped in.
“That’s something, I guess,” Faith blew out and combed her hair with her fingers. “If the guy sitting in Robin’s office is our Robin, great. If he’s not, then we’ll catch him.” Faith glanced behind her. “Red, you got the measures in place?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Willow replied. “Robin’s computer’s bugged, and security’s monitoring his whereabouts. I’ve got the Coven also tracking him in real time, just in case we lose visual, but…”
“What?” Buffy asked.
“Okay bad thought, I know. But what if Robin isn’t the only someone from this…other world?”
“Willow, please, don’t,” Giles shuddered.
“Yeah,” Faith added, “there’s only so much creepy Body Snatcher angst we can take right now. We’ve got the bases covered. If Robin isn’t who he says he is, we’ll know.”
Faith glanced over at Giles and the group turned the corner.
Our World – Watchers Council – Robin’s Office – Same Time
Robin sat behind his desk, a small white bottle beside him, focused on the monitor.
His fingers tapped the keys on the keyboard. Out of the corner of his eye, he flashed a quick look to the top corner of the room, then at the other one.
Satisfied, his eyes fell back down on the monitor. Several windows were open. One in particular displayed the computer’s hard drive. Highlighted in a cool blue bar was a program, hidden deep in the core of the computer. Spyware.
Adjacent were two smaller windows. One displayed a repeated, flashing message: “REDIRECTING.”
In another, smaller window, a series of command lines quickly scrolled in white on a black backdrop. Robin clicked in this window and typed quickly.
The other window refreshed and the Spyware program vanished.
He closed down the hard drive and command line windows and accessed the W.I.L.L.O.W. software. The computer avatar greeted Robin in Willow’s voice, “Welcome, Admin.”
Robin moved the cursor over the Root Directory Folder icon and double-clicked. When the window opened, he scrolled down the list of sub-folders until he came to the “Security” folder. Now inside, he scrolled down further and found a document titled “Lockdown Procedures.”
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Armory – Day
The katana snapped back into the saya and Heli placed the exquisite weapon back on its holster on the wall; ten others below it. She stood there for a moment, admiring them. She even softly smiled.
The electronic beep of the security door behind her broke her out of her reverie. She glanced over to see Wesley enter and close the door behind him. He absently rubbed his wrists.
“Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?” she turned fully toward him. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I wanted to check in. See how preparations are going.”
Heli raised a brow. “Could you not wait for my progress report?”
“Truth be told, I needed a break from all the…stress.”
Heli smirked. “Stress is good, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce. Healthy.”
“Tell that to my blood pressure,” Wesley shared her smirk. “I knew you would be alone in here. I know how you like to personally check arms before battle.”
“It is not that I do not trust others enough to do the task, it’s just…” She turned back to the weapon stacks. “I find it soothing, being alone with items of such beauty and power.” Heli looked back at Wesley and rolled her eyes. “Arrogant. I know, but I liken myself to one of these.”
“Well, you are…a weapon.”
“For a moment there, Pryce, I thought you were going to call me magnificent?” Her eyes sparkled. “I doubt Ms. Morgan would approve of such flattery.”
“She wouldn’t care.”
Heli tipped her head and returned her attention to the weapons.
With her back to him, Wesley flashed a quick glance toward the security camera mounted on the wall, pointed directly at him.
Parallel World – Watchers Council – CCTV Control Room – Same Time
The monitor displaying the Primary Armory showed only Heli present in the room, handling the weapons. Ten seconds later, an earlier action of hers repeated.
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Primary Armory – Same Time
Wesley’s hand slowly reached into his trouser pocket. Very carefully, he pulled out a syringe. The fluid contained inside was a thick, yellow compound. He removed the cap and placed it back in his pocket. Then he stepped forward.
Heli lifted the top katana from its holster once more. “This would have to be my favorite. There’s something about Japanese steel. It’s cold and deadly yet soft and graceful. Here, try –”
As she turned, Wesley lunged for her and drove the syringe deep into her neck. He injected the compound.
She recoiled, throwing her hands up in the air, the katana falling and clanging on the gray floor.
Heli pressed her hand to her neck and grimaced. “Wha-what the hell?” Her eyes were furious and wide. As she rushed forward, taking a swing at Wesley, he took a single step back, and Heli’s firm swing went limp. She stumbled.
“Wha-what?” She was out of breath. “What have you done to me?”
Wesley didn’t say a word. He just stared at her.
Heli spun and grabbed an axe. As she lifted it, she toppled over and the heavy blade crashed onto the floor. She mustered what was left of her fleeting strength and brought the axe up, her arms quaking. She scrunched her face up and weakly swung at Wesley.
He moved out of the blade’s arc and grasped the pole of the axe. In one swift movement, he disarmed Heli, threw the axe behind him and wrapped his powerful hands around her throat.
Heli flailed her arms, but Wesley only tightened his grip. Her face was quickly becoming red and her eyes bulged out of their sockets, veins popping on her forehead.
Struggling, Heli managed to bring her hands up and grab Wesley’s throat, but her grasp was weak. Wesley kept his solid composure and squeezed harder.
Her livid glare remained defiant and steady as she felt him crush her windpipe. After what seemed an eternity of glowering at Wesley, Heli’s hold on him waned completely, and her hands and head finally fell.
Warily, Wesley released his grasp on Heli, and her lifeless body slumped to the floor with a thud.
He swallowed as looked down at her body, his expression still stoic and blank.
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Hallway – Evening
Robin knocked on the door bearing Wesley’s name, whispering, “Wesley?”
He tried the door handle, but it was locked. He sighed and went for his cell phone.
“Robin?” Lilah called from behind him.
“Lilah?” He turned and put away his cell phone.
“Don’t bother, I’ve tried Wesley’s cell.”
“Do you know where he is?”
“He left a memo; gone to collect some volumes from the storage facility. Shame. I was hoping for a pre-battle liaison. Those are always the best, what with the looming danger and angst.” She looked Robin up and down. “But since Wes isn’t here, what’dya say? Wanna jump these bones?”
“Senior staff report immediately to the Command Center. I repeat; senior staff report immediately to the Command Center,” a female voice sounded over the P.A.
Lilah pouted. “Another time, perhaps?” Then she backed off and headed down the hallway.
Robin watched as she left.
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Command Center – Moments Later
Robin entered moments after Lilah to find Giles, Buffy, Willow and Ethan standing around a large circular desk.
“Is Pryce back yet?” Giles asked the room.
“No,” Lilah answered.
“And what of Ms. Hamalainen? We received confirmation that she had finished checking the arms, but she has not turned up for the briefing,” Giles continued.
“Probably got sidetracked,” Buffy suggested. “Saw something cute and fluffy and decided it had to die.”
“Yes, quite,” Giles said. He patted his overly-gelled hair. “Well then, we shall begin. Ms. Rosenberg?”
Willow sighed. “Our preparations are complete. We’re good to go. Dawn’s down in the basement with the Coven. She’s ready to access her Key powers and use the mirror to create the bridge. She’s waiting for the order.”
“And that means, mate…” Ethan said, looking over at Robin.
“I’ve got to swap,” Robin answered. “So I’m on the other side when everything goes down. A distraction.”
“Exactly,” Ethan clapped his hands. “C’mon, I’ll get you set-up in the cell.”
Willow glared at him. “I can do that.”
“No, it’s all right. You stay here and…you stay here.” Ethan gave her a smug smile.
“Let us know when he’s under,” Giles called out, stopping Robin and Ethan for a moment. “I’d like to be there when the other Robin wakes up.”
Ethan saluted, and he and Robin left. Robin glanced back at the group with a subdued smile.
Parallel World – Quarry – Evening
The amalgam of gravel and sediment crunched under the thick tires of a nondescript black four by four that rolled into the deserted quarry. As the vehicle scraped to a halt, the growl of the engine petered out. Now the only sound that reverberated across the ravine was that of the distant highway.
The door opened and out stepped Wesley. Slamming the door behind him, he scanned the surrounding area veiled in the perpetual twilight.
“I’m here!” he shouted. “Show yourself!”
From behind him, footsteps crunched. Wesley pivoted and saw Kennedy, leaning against the four by four, her arms crossed and one brow arched.
“You rang?” Her voice dripped with sarcasm.
“I did it. I did what you asked.”
“You sound surprised?”
Wesley opened the driver’s side door and flipped a switch, popping open the trunk. Kennedy bowed her head, leaned off the 4×4 and walked around to the trunk. After a silent moment, the trunk banged shut and Kennedy walked back around to Wesley.
“She’s dead all right.” She smiled. “Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed killing her myself, it’s just that the image of her being taken totally off guard by her watcher is so much sweeter.”
“So,” Wesley asked, “do we have a deal?”
She waited a moment, looking up into his eyes, then gave a nod. “Deal.”
Our World – Watchers Council – Robin’s Office – Moments Later
Robin’s head lay on the desk, his body slumped and doubled over. Then he grunted. Woozily, he lifted himself up and sat back in the chair, his eyes still closed. He smacked his lips and slowly came to. As the room came into focus, he jerked forward with a start. His eyes darted around the office.
Robin pushed back the chair, jumped to his feet and rushed for the door.
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Holding Cell – Moments Later
Robin moaned under his breath, and then his eyes gently flickered open. As he went to move, he found himself restrained, his arms and legs strapped to an iron bed by padded belts. He tugged at them, but to no avail.
“Welcome back, Robin,” Giles said.
An enraged Robin, showing hidteeth, snapped his head to one side to see Giles standing in the doorway, with Buffy, Willow, Ethan and Lilah lined up against the wall.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Robin seethed.
“I think you’ll find that you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy,” Buffy quipped.
“You bastards, let me go! It’s me! This world’s Robin!”
“What?” Willow frowned.
“I’m Robin! We’ve been played! The other Robin from the parallel world has been here for hours, nearly a day!” Robin spat. “He’s played us all!”
“Clutching at straws, are we now?” Ethan remarked.
“I’ve been taking sleeping pills, trying to force the swap, but I’m guessing the other Robin’s wise to the whole set-up.”
“How would he know?” Lilah tilted her head to the side, raising a brow.
“I don’t know, but he must have worked it out somehow! Wait! Check my blood! Check my pockets for pills!” Robin shouted.
Giles half glanced at Buffy and nodded.
She followed orders and made for the table where Robin’s blazer lay.
“Faith died three years ago. When she died, I didn’t go for a bottle like most would have done! Do you remember? Do you? I cried for weeks! I cut myself!”
“That still doesn’t prove anything,” Giles replied with a smug smile.
Buffy rummaged through the pockets and then she found something. She pulled out several “No Doz” wrappers and a yellow bottle of caffeine tablets. Buffy blinked and then showed Giles. He was speechless at the sight.
“See! Rupert, you’ve gotta believe me! Ethan…Ethan, buddy? Please,” Robin begged. “The other Robin’s got a head start! If we don’t get moving, fast, we’ll have lost the element of surprise!”
“My God…” Giles trailed off, then immediately went for his cell phone. “Ethan, tell our forces we’re moving out now!”
“Got it,” the old mage said and then disappeared from the cell.
Giles pressed the speed dial and then put the phone to his ear. “Skye, tell Dawn to open the bridge…now!”
Parallel World – Watchers Council – Basement Vault – Same Time
“You got it, boss man,” Skye said, then flipped her cell phone shut. She looked over at Dawn, who sat on the floor, crossed-legged, meditating. “That’s it. T-minus now,” Skye told her. “Ready to do your thang, baby?”
Dawn opened her mascara-laden eyes. “Ready. Amy? Jonny? If you’d do the honors?”
Jonathan grumbled. “Why do I always get the grunt work?”
“Ever thought it’s ’cause you’re the grunt of the group?” Amy jibed as they both walked over to a freestanding mirror. It had its non-reflective back to them, the back that you not would normally see against a wall.
Standing on either side, they bent and lifted the mirror away. As they moved, a large, freestanding grand mirror that had been propped up behind it against the wall was revealed inch-by-inch.
Now on her feet, as Dawn walked toward the grand mirror, her image and that of the others and the rest of the vault were not reflected. Instead, the mirror showed a completely different image. Jackson and Markham could be seen through the mirror. They were across the vault with their backs turned, hard at work.
Dawn stepped up, opened her arms and tilted her head back, closing her eyes. The air around her began to glow a shimmering, vibrant green.
Our World – Watchers Council – Basement Vault – Same Time
“So you get Rock Band yet?” Jackson asked, with his eyes down on the laptop in his arms.
“Oh hell yeah!” Markham nodded, turning to face Jackson as he lifted a bronze idol out of a packing crate. Long, spindly strands of straw still hung off it. “Wanna come round tonight? Y’know, call up the guys, get a couple of beers in, nachos?”
“Nachos?” That got Jackson’s attention. Markham placed the idol on the table. “Ooh!” he raised both brows, “The combination of friends, beers, nachos and gamer fun. Well, well, I just think that’s a splendid idea!” Jackson grinned.
Markham glanced toward the crates. He frowned as his gaze fell onto something along the back wall.
“Jackson…since when does Dawn live in the mirror?”
Jackson glanced over his shoulder and his eyes went wide. He turned completely around and saw the green light slowly radiating out from the grand mirror. Dawn stood facing them, her arms extended and head back.
Markham thumbed behind himself. “I think we’d better…”
“Yeah, I think we’d better…”
Jackson didn’t finish. He and Markham scrambled backwards and ran out of the vault in great haste.
Our World – Watchers Council – Conference Room – Moments Later
Robin barged into the conference room to find it already full, and everyone turned to stare at him.
“Robin, I –” Buffy began, but Robin cut her off, frantic.
“Just listen to me! There’s no time!” he shouted.
Also gathered in the room were Willow, Rowena, Faith, Kennedy, Xander, Andrew, Giles, Jason Felix and Lori. There was a knock on the glass doors. Outside stood Amira and a group of Black Ops slayers.
“Please…just give me a chance!” he pleaded.
The group fell silent. They looked around at each other, and then Buffy turned to Robin.
“I figured it out,” Robin said, “I’m not crazy. I have been swapping places with another Robin from a parallel world.”
“Naaaaailed it,” Andrew said in a high-pitched, singsong voice. Everyone looked at him, not saying anything. “What? I did.”
“What do they want? These guys from the parallel world?” Rowena asked.
“The Scythe. The parallel Council wants to use the Scythe to deactivate certain slayers in their world –”
“Kennedy’s Rebels?” Xander asked.
“Could that be done, Will?” Buffy asked her.
“Maybe,” she said with a shrug.
“Please. What I’m telling you now explains everything,” Robin stared at Faith. “They are coming, and they’ll be here as soon as the other Robin wakes up in his world.”
“How do they plan to get here?” Rowena asked.
“The parallel Dawn is using her Key powers to bridge the two worlds. If we wanna end this, we need to –”
Jackson and Markham barged through Amira and the Black Ops group outside and burst into the conference room. Out of breath, Jackson panted.
“Buffy…something’s happening down in the vault…the mirror…it’s…”
Almost on cue, the Council was violently rocked by what seemed like an earthquake. Buffy was thrown off balance, but Giles managed to catch her in his arms and right her. He held on to her arms as the quaking continued.
“It’s started…” Robin trailed off.
Buffy scrambled for the phone on the table. She punched in a number and an echo rang throughout the room. “This is Chairwoman Summers. The Council is under attack.” Her voice was now on the loudspeaker. “All personnel, get to a safe place. Slayers, Black Ops, security and Coven members, ready arms and convene in the lobby immediately…”
“If it gets hairy, guys, fall back to the surveillance room,” Buffy instructed. “Jason, spread the word, so everyone knows where to go.” She then turned to Willow and said, “Walk with me,” taking her by the elbow.
Our World – Watchers Council – Lobby – Moments Later
Robin and the others flew around the corner into the lobby, using the wall to propel themselves forward as the Council continued to shake.
The lobby was full to the brim with slayers armed to the teeth. Black Ops had gathered, standing in their teams, each toting an automatic rifle. Huddled around by the reception desk were the Coven and Gwen, standing next to Ethan.
Giles came to stand next to Ethan. The old mage gave him a toothy grin.
“Here I was worried the lack of chaos would get boring,” he told him. “If I’d known you were having this much fun all these years, Rupert, I might have joined up earlier.”
“Willow!” Dawn cried out and tried to make her way over to her, her arms outstretched for balance. “What’s going on? Where’s Buffy?” Her shout was barely audible above the rumble. Then she tripped, and Willow rushed to grab her before she fell.
“Okay, listen up!” Buffy shouted, sounding a bit out of breath. “Any moment now, a dimensional rift is gonna open…where’s it gonna open?” She looked back to Robin, who threw his hands up. She sighed and turned back to the troops. “Well, it’s gonna open, and when it does our counterparts from another parallel world are gonna break through to this side. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself or your friends, but no matter what, make sure who you’re fighting is one of them, not us!”
“What are they after?” Gwen shouted.
“The Scythe,” Buffy replied. “Your objective is to take out as many of these invaders as you can. Willow, do the wiccy thing to reduce our casualties – chances are they’ll come with ammo up the wazoo. So put the odds in our favor.”
“Right,” Willow shouted from the back.
“Whatever happens, they –”
“Move!” Kennedy screamed.
Everyone looked around to see a large bolt of green energy rip out of thin air in the middle of the lobby. It crackled and pulsated with a red glow.
The group ran over to the reception desk as the tear grew exponentially, bathing the lobby in an eerie green light. Then, suddenly, the tear ripped wide open. The edges of the rift burned away like charred paper. The remnants of reality fell to the floor and then dissolved into oblivion.
Robin had worked his way to the front of the group, with Faith alongside him, when an intense light exploded. As the glare faded, Robin and the others found the lobby and the Council split in two. One half belonging to this world’s Council and the other to the parallel Council. The barrier between the two slowly disappeared as the two worlds merged.
Robin’s eyes, ignoring the strange spectacle, were locked in a fierce gaze on his doppelganger who stood yards away from him.
His mirror image just smiled.
End of Act Three