Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later that Day
Willow, Rowena, Shannon, Jen, Alex, Grace and Liz all sat around a table, as Nikki read to the group from a large book.
“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise – Mark 10:32 through 34.”
Everyone in the room looked at each other as Nikki reached for another book, saying, “This next bit comes from the Opus Obscuram. It’s a section that contains an excerpt from the Book of Judas Iscariot.” Nikki cleared her throat. “The Lord said unto him, twelve will rise, servants of Satan, on the day my Son and the disciples enter Jerusalem. They will forever return at three hundred and sixty moons. The council of earthly guardians will address and defeat these agents of evil who bear the mark.”
“Three hundred and sixty moons?” Alex asked. “That’s…”
“Thirty years,” Nikki answered. “Every thirty years, these nasty guys return, which not-so-coincidentally is one of the proposed ages of Jesus at the time of his death – anywhere from thirty to forty-years-old, no one really knows for sure.”
“So it’s like a ying/yang Christian thing?” Jen asked. “Jesus dies at thirty for Christian souls everywhere and, as a result, these twelve monsters, the same number of his disciples, show up to create a balance every thirty years?”
“That’s my theory,” Nikki answered.
“And it’s 2036 now,” Liz said. “That means these guys would have come back in 2006 – around the same time the Council ‘came out’.” She then turned to Rowena and Willow. “Ever heard of these guys or remember park benches coming to life?”
“Give me a minute,” Willow said, “When you have so many apocalypses they start to run together.”
Liz and Rowena grinned as Nikki said, “Don’t worry.” She pressed a button on her console and a picture of Wagner came up. “Jog anyone’s memory?” she asked.
Immediately, Rowena and Willow became animated.
“That’s right,” Rowena said. “No wonder we might not have known of their arrival.”
“Why?” Jen asked.
“You slept through history class, didn’t you?” Alex teased.
“Be nice,” Willow warned, before answering Jen. “Hell was a bustin’ out all over the place, sweetie. They would have blended in with the other thousands of demons. Normal citizens were killing demons, too, so it’s possible they took them out. That could be why we never had any recent reports.”
“That book,” Grace pointed. “It mentioned something about a mark, didn’t it?”
“Oh, yeah,” Nikki said excitedly. “That’s why I have this theory. I scanned the mark that appeared on the dead demons we brought in. It proved to be a match to one of the old reports from 1976, but earlier this week, I couldn’t make a connection because we had no file footage, no dependable eyewitnesses or no demon specimen to examine and create this match.”
“What was in the old report?” Grace asked.
“A farmer said one of his cows became a demon. The Council paid him off to keep his story quiet, of course, but the Council didn’t know if it was something new or just the average shape-shifter demon. The farmer killed it with his shotgun, rather easily, actually, but the watcher who caught the case took this photo.” She then showed the image of the mark. She hit another button and an image appeared beside the one already present. “And this is from the demon that was brought in the night before. Its flesh is burned, but you can still see enough to show it’s a match. Now my job is to start cross-referencing other information from that same year.”
“You said he killed it rather easily?” Shannon asked. “That’s good news, right?”
“Excellent news,” Nikki replied. “The ultra bad news is that, since these creatures are so stealthy and they can masquerade as anything, they’re extremely deadly. Most people are dead before they can even react.”
“If Joyce hadn’t led us off the sidewalk,” Jen explained, “the second demon probably would have killed us. I mean, it literally changed that fast.”
“Exactly,” Nikki replied. “It uses dark magic to hide its appearance. So it can be as small as a dime or as large as a redwood. Plus, it can change shape repeatedly. In her report, Jen says the creature you faced was twenty-five feet tall at least. After you hit it, Liz, with the anti-magic gun…”
“It shrunk,” she filled in.
Nikki nodded. “Back to its original size.”
“So it could be anywhere or anything, then?” Shannon asked. The room got quiet and she added, “Now that’s positively frightening.”
Nikki nodded. “Yep, so what do you guys suggest?”
“First, we cancel all deliveries coming into any Council,” Grace said. “No one comes in with anything aside from the clothes on their back. Chances are these things can emerge from any Hellmouth, so I’ll put all the branches on alert.”
“Good,” Shannon replied. “I’ll get some teams to start tracking these things locally and speak with the other slayer division heads around the world. That way if these things have a nest somewhere we might find it.” She then turned to Willow. “How many of those guns does Xander have?” she asked.
“Just the one – we’re still in development, actually,” she replied. “We can’t mass produce these yet, but I’ll see if we can make two or three more using the same specs.”
“We’ve got one that works. Let’s get them into production ASAP,” Grace told her.
“It’s not that simple, Grace,” she replied. “Plus, they’re still kinda unstable. There’s a serious fire hazard – I haven’t gotten the elements quite worked out on it yet. I wouldn’t feel safe putting it in the hands of a slayer army.”
“Well, the ‘crispy setting’ worked for Liz,” Grace replied.
“It’s not just the subject being fired upon, but the slayers themselves. Xander burned his hands a couple times in the lab, and it still gets pretty warm, doesn’t it?” she asked Liz.
“It was pretty toasty,” Liz agreed.
“In a drawn out battle, we might have slayer injuries or even casualties,” Willow said.
“Then no,” Shannon told the group. “No mass productions. Like you said, two or three guns for now, and only people who are willing to use them.”
Liz raised her hands with a smile. “I call the first one. I know it works.”
Grace smiled. “Fine,” she told her, before turning back to Nikki. “Wonderful work, Nikki. First rate,” she said, making the young woman blush. She then addressed the group. “Everyone – great job. Now let’s send these fellas packing for the next thirty years.” She banged her gavel. “Meeting adjourned.”
They all turned toward the sound of a commotion at the door, where a woman was saying, “You can’t go in there.”
When the door finally opened, Joyce was standing there looking winded, with the receptionist fast on her heels.
“Don’t you ever pick up your comlink?” Joyce asked Liz.
“I’m in a closed meeting,” Liz told her.
The receptionist apologized, “I’m sorry. I told her –”
“It’s okay,” Liz told the receptionist. “What’s wrong, Joyce?”
“Where’s Nathan and Aunt Dawn today?” Joyce asked.
“Home,” Liz replied.
“I called and there was no answer – not at the house or Aunt Dawn’s comlink,” Joyce replied. Liz looked like she was going to say something, but Joyce continued unabashed. “I had another dream this morning – it was about them! I think they were at your house, but I don’t know for sure!”
“I’ll get a transport,” Jen said, quickly leaving the room.
Willow turned to Alex.
“Get me there now!” she told him.
Alex clapped his hands together once, creating a large flash of light that he then hurled in Willow’s direction, making her disappear.
“No answer,” Liz told the group as she hung up her comlink. “Let’s go.” She darted from the room, with the others following just behind.
Liz’s House – Beach Behind the House – Same Time
Nathan and Dawn weren’t far from the beach located behind Liz’s house.
“What about this one?” Nathan asked, as he brought a small rock over to Dawn.
“Oh, that’s a good one,” she told him. “Let’s put it with the others here,” she said. She opened a small box.
Council Van – Moments Later
“Where’s the hovercraft?” Liz asked Jen.
“They’re all checked out. This is the only thing big enough,” Jen said, getting in the driver’s seat.
“Don’t you have a craft on standby at all times?” Liz asked Grace, as the team filed in.
“It’s in maintenance today,” she replied.
Liz looked as if she was about to argue, but Rowena grabbed her by the arm, gently pushing her toward the van.
“Get in guys,” Rowena told Liz and Grace, as she got in the passenger side. “Stay off Memorial Shoreway,” she told Jen. “Go East 9th to Erieside.”
“But that’s out of our way. If we –”
“Saturday rush hour, Jen,” she told her. “I’ve lived here longer than you – just trust me.”
Jen put on the sirens and pulled out into traffic as Liz turned to Joyce.
“What happened in the dream?” she asked. Her charge said nothing at first. “Joyce?” she said forcefully.
Reluctantly, she said, “Both of them were by a beach. The demon goes after both of them…”
“Ma, if you can hear me, check for them at Liz’s beach,” Alex called out. Liz looked at him expectantly. He shook his head. “Nothing yet, she’s still traveling, too.”
“What happened next?” Liz asked Joyce.
Liz’s House – Same Time
“Hey, I found one too,” Dawn said, holding up a stone. “Check this one out,” she told the boy.
Nathan immediately dropped the rock he was holding and ran over to Dawn. The stone he had been holding, however, continued to roll away, seeming to become bigger and bigger as it did so.
The growling sound it produced made Nathan turn around to see it transforming into a demon.
“Run!” Dawn yelled. “Get to the house and call the Council!”
The boy did as he was told, but started to slow down when he realized Dawn wasn’t following him.
“Go! I’ll be okay. Go call and then hide!” she ordered.
Council Van – Moments Later
“Ma, can you hear me?” Alex called again. “Ma, if you can hear me, answer. Answer me, Ma.” He began to whisper the last sentence repeatedly.
“Maybe they’re just outside and everything’s fine,” Jen said, trying to reassure Liz. “Maybe nothing’s wrong yet.”
Liz didn’t answer.
Joyce looked over at Liz and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t get to you sooner. Or at least to them. I should’ve gone to your house, huh? I mean if I’d gone there, instead of the Council…but I didn’t know if that was the beach they were at and I –”
“You did the right thing, Joyce,” Liz reassured her. “Hopefully Aunt Will can get there before us.”
Liz’s House – Same Time
As Nathan ran toward the house, Dawn hurled a ball of light toward the demon. He stumbled backward and hit the ground, but just as quickly as he fell, he was up again.
“Son of a bitch,” Dawn swore.
She hurled another bolt in his direction, but this time he had gained more momentum and barreled toward her. She reached down for the retractable sword in her leg holster, but before she could get a swing off, the demon batted her to the side like a rag doll, making her drop the sword.
She groggily reached out for it, but before she could get a firm grasp on the weapon, the demon stomped on her hand, and the sound of breaking bones followed. Dawn could only yell out in pain.
As the demon moved to take a step closer, she grabbed her injured hand and went into a roll. The demon continued to try to step on her, but she kept moving left and right, avoiding his blows.
Getting frustrated, he roared in anger and body slammed her, finally holding her in place.
Dawn closed her eyes as she watched his already long fangs extend even further, then sink deep into her stomach.
Council Van – Same Time
Suddenly, Liz’s comlink went off.
“Nathan?” she asked.
“Mom,” the boy said, sounding winded. “Aunt Dawn’s fighting a demon outside and he’s getting bigger and bigger and we need help.”
“We’re coming, buddy,” she told him. “Just hang on, okay? Go hide. Aunt Willow will be there any second. and I’m on the way, okay?” Liz didn’t hear anything. “Nathan?” When she still didn’t hear anything she yelled, “Nathan?”
“I think Aunt Dawn is dead,” he finally replied.
“She’s gonna be okay,” Liz told him. “She can’t die, remember? So go hide right now. You understand me. If you don’t, you’re grounded. Got it?”
“Okay,” he told her.
“I love you, buddy. Now go hide.”
“Love you,” he said, before the phone went dead.
Liz bit her knuckles and then said softly, “Hurry up, Jen.”
Liz’s House – Same Time
Nathan turned the comlink off and peeked his head above the kitchen island to look out the patio door.
He could see the demon hunched over Dawn. From the blood on its claws and fangs, it seemed to be chewing on Dawn’s stomach.
Nathan stared wide-eyed, for a few moments, but then he began to look around the room, searching for a weapon. His eyes trained themselves on three fencing foils on the dining room wall. As if realizing they were too high for him to reach, he looked around the kitchen and saw a large butcher knife. He crept over carefully and pulled it from its holder.
He moved on his hands and knees back to the island and began to rise again to see if the demon was still with Dawn. Instead of finding the demon crouching in the yard, Nathan saw it standing on the porch, holding a patio chair, ready to strike the window.
Nathan ducked back down behind the counter and gripped the knife as the sound of breaking glass filled the room.
Liz’s House – Same Time
Willow materialized in front of Liz’s house and noticed at least one body in the backyard.
“Ma,” she heard Alex call out. “Check the beach. Check the –”
“I’m here – on my way,” she told Alex, starting at a slow jog.
Council Van – Same Time
“Okay, she’s there,” he told the others.
“Can she see Nathan? Is he there?” Liz asked.
“Ma, can you see Nathan?” Alex asked.
Liz’s House – Same Time
Willow looked around the backyard, coming up empty as she approached Dawn’s body.
“Dawn’s here, guys. Hold on,” she replied.
She leaned over and pulled the fabric of Dawn’s shirt away from her, revealing a nasty gash trying to close. Slowly, Dawn opened her eyes.
“It’s been healing,” she told Willow, “but I can’t move yet. I think he bit my spinal cord, and that might take awhile.”
“Where’s Nathan?” Willow asked.
“I told him to go hide in the house.”
Willow looked over to see the broken patio door.
“Stay outside. Cavalry’s coming soon,” she told Dawn.
“Be careful,” Dawn warned her. “Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t have enough power to even put a dent in it. Save your magic for when you see it.”
Liz’s House – Kitchen – Moments Later
Willow pushed the broken door aside and called out, “Nathan? It’s Aunt Will, sweetheart. Are you in here?”
The kitchen table and chairs had been shoved to one side. She took her time as she walked through, looking at each and every thing in the house, waiting for the slightest movement to occur.
Further inside the living room, she found that the path of destruction continued, with overturned end tables and the sofa resting on one arm next to the fireplace. Willow swallowed hard as she peered around the mess, looking for Nathan.
A moment later, Willow saw a lone shoe on the landing and approached it cautiously. Although the room was disheveled, it still seemed slightly out of place. She reached down fast and quickly threw it across the room. It hit the fireplace and bounced once before coming to a stop. She didn’t turn her back on it as she made her way up the landing. She did, however, look around the rest of the living room as she gingerly made her way up the stairs.
Liz’s House – Driveway – Same Time
The van continued up the driveway, but Liz already had the sliding side door open. Before the van came to a complete stop, Liz and Joyce were already jumping outside and running toward the house, with Nikki following behind them.
Liz’s House – Upstairs Hallway – Same Time
“Nathan?” Willow tried again. “Sweetie, it’s Aunt Will. You’re gonna be okay.”
Liz’s House – Porch – Same Time
“Liz, stop!” Nikki yelled. She managed to catch Liz’s arm just before she opened the front door. “These things can transform into anything. We have to be careful.”
Liz’s House – Upstairs Hallway – Same Time
Willow heard a door creak from one of the bedrooms and quickly made her way over. Rather than rush in, she peeked her head inside slowly to see Nathan cowering in a closet.
Liz’s House – Porch – Same Time
Liz pushed past Nikki, and Joyce followed right behind her.
“Nathan?” she yelled out.
This time, using her slayer strength, Joyce grabbed Liz.
“Easy,” she told her. “You two stay right here and let me check this out.”
Joyce looked around the room for a moment.
“Aunt Willow?” Liz called out.
Liz’s House – Bedroom – Same Time
“Liz, stay put!” Willow yelled down. “I found him. He looks okay.” Willow waved her hand and it looked as if glitter filled the room for a second, then disappeared.
“It’s okay,” Willow said, offering her hand to Nathan. “I just did a little magic test and the monster isn’t in here.”
That’s all the boy needed to hear. He dropped the knife he’d been holding and raced toward Willow. The witch gathered him in her arms. “Did you get hurt?” she asked, pulling him back to inspect him. He shook his head.
“Is he okay?” she heard Liz call out.
“Yeah,” Willow replied.
“Joyce is on her way up,” Liz shouted.
“No! Everyone go outside. We’re coming down.”
Willow offered her hand and Nathan took it.
Liz’s House – Porch – Moments Later
As Willow emerged with Nathan, Liz raced forward and the boy embraced her.
“Aunt Dawn!” he told her as he pointed to the backyard. “The monster ate her!” he cried.
Liz looked at Willow.
“She’s gonna be okay, Nate,” Willow told him. “She looks bad right now, but in a little while, she’ll be all healed up again.”
Nathan looked relieved and then turned to his mother. “I hid just like you said, Mom. But I had to keep moving from place to place. He was tearing things up and then it got real quiet and I just stayed in the closet. I was hiding like you wanted.” He then turned to Willow and asked, “Wasn’t I, Aunt Willow? I didn’t come out until you said so.”
“You sure did,” Willow told him.
“See?” Nathan told her. “So you’re not gonna ground me, right?”
Liz smiled at the innocent-sounding question and kissed the boy soundly on the crown of his head.
“You’re safe, buddy. You did great,” Liz replied.
Liz’s House – Minutes Later
“The magic reveals showed nothing. It seems that whatever it was it left as quickly as it came,” Alex told the group, as Liz put Nathan in the van and shut the door. She then turned to the group standing near the vehicle, which now included Dawn.
“I want answers,” she said in a low voice. “I want to know why these things came after us. I want to know how it got here and where it went.”
“I think part of the answer is obvious,” Nikki said. “They know that we know.”
“And what do we know, exactly?” Liz said, frustrated. “We’ve got a lot of hunches, but nothing concrete. I want a twenty four hour watch on everyone in my family, including all of you guys. No one goes anywhere without an active slayer.”
“You’re not in charge yet,” Grace reminded her.
“I am today,” Liz replied. “When these bastards decide to take me on, threaten my family…I’m using every resource I possibly can.”
Grace opened her mouth, but Rowena stopped her by putting her hand on her shoulder.
“Load up, guys,” Rowena told everyone. “Liz,” she said, motioning with her head for Liz to follow her.
As everyone boarded the van, Liz and Rowena walked a few yards away.
“I don’t want to hear it,” Liz told her. “Don’t even begin to tell me to calm down.”
“I realize you’re upset,” Rowena told her.
“And don’t ‘but’ me here, Aunt Ro,” Liz told her.
Ignoring her Rowena said, “But that’s no excuse to start ordering people around like that, even if you were in charge.”
“You don’t know what this is like,” Liz told her.
“The hell I don’t!” Rowena countered. The tone and forceful nature of the words seemed to catch Liz off guard. “These things went after my child too,” she reminded her. “In fact, they went after her first.”
“It’s no different,” Rowena told her, hitting her shoulder with a pointed finger to make her point. “Whether Jen is seven or seventy, she’s my daughter. She’ll always be my daughter. Just like Nathan will always be your son. What? You think one day you’ll wake up and never worry about him again because he reaches an age limit?”
Liz looked down at the ground. “I’m sorry,” she replied.
“Don’t be sorry.”
“Just improve,” Liz finished with a growing grin.
Rowena began to grin slightly, too.
“Remember Liz, those bastards went after my daughter, after Ken’s daughter and Xander’s daughter. This has hit everyone sitting and waiting for us in that van,” she said, pointing back to them. “That means everyone is going to be busting their ass on this one. So they don’t need your anger and they don’t deserve it.”
“I can’t help it,” Liz said. “This is the first time Nathan’s ever been in real danger because of me.”
Rowena got a sympathetic look on her face for a moment. “And it might not be the last,” she replied. “But if you’re pissed, then channel it. Get researching with me and Nikki, help Jen with the patrol areas, see if Willow needs an extra set of eyes on the magic books, but never, under any circumstances, order them around like lap dogs. They all deserve better than that and you know it.”
“I understand,” Liz told her, finally looking up. “And I’ll improve, I promise. I might not bat a thousand, but I’ll try not to strike out so much.”
Rowena smiled and took Liz by the hand, leading her back toward the van. “Good, now let’s kick them back into the Hellmouth. Whaddya say?” she asked her.
Liz smiled even wider.
Fade to Black
End of Act Three