Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Gale Harold as Jim Pollan, Caroline Dhavernas as Grace Hatherley, Elijah Woods as Jeff Lindquist, Michelle Rodriguez as Kadin Van Helsing, Laura Pyper as Casey Pierce, Alexis Bledel as Denise, Tessa Thompson as Chamique, Steffani Brass as Shannon Matthewson, Rachel Hurd-Wood as Lorinda Sheparton, Mandy Musgrave as Hadley Ramirez, Freema Agyeman as Siobhan Hartley, Helen Shaver as Becca Giles, Robert Picardo as Dr. Albert Miller, Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne, Alexa Davalos as Gwen Raiden, Laura Prepon as Lori Carew, Cote de Pablo as Amira Aziz and Gary Oldman as Mr. Jason Felix
Marcia Cross as Autumn O’Mara, Morena Baccarin as The Voice of Hell, Tracy-Ann Oberman as Cameron Rayne, Elisabeth Harnois as Jocelyn O’Hara, Michael Cera as Trevor Halladay, Renee Zellwenger as Mary Grace Allister, Catherine O’Hara as Betty Allister, Zachary Levi as MystaCorp Guy, David Hewlett as Randy Fulton and Tracie Thoms as Paula Fulton
Congressional Office Building – Press Room – Day
“I’m not interested in making friends in this job, Helen. I’m interested in the welfare of my constituents.” Autumn O’Mara stayed put as the small pressroom burst into shouting once again. Framed by impressive bookcases, she wore a tiny flag pin on her lapel. She exuded a calm that was a little strange in the situation. She pointed to one of the voices. “Yes?”
A tall African-American man stood. “But you are interested in getting elected President, isn’t that true, Congresswoman?”
O’Mara smiled. “We’re all very well aware of my campaign here, Demetrius.” There was awkward laughter in the room. “I’ll have you know that my well-paid campaign staff told me not to do this, that the Watchers Council was too popular in many parts of this country. I told them, ‘So is Crystal Meth, but that doesn’t mean we don’t protect our people from it.’ Yes?”
An Asian woman stood in the far corner. “Congresswoman, are you comparing the Watchers Council to Crystal Meth?”
“It’s not the world’s greatest metaphor, I’ll give you that,” O’Mara conceded, “but I think the point I have to make is this…What we did yesterday was a good thing. There is no doubt in my mind that–”
Giles and Becca’s House – Kitchen – Day
Giles sighed in disgust as he threw his remote on his kitchen counter.
“Giles!” A hand snatched up the remote and turned the small television in the corner of the room back on. O’Mara was still speaking to the crowd of reporters. Buffy slid the remote protectively into her pocket and said, “I know it’s a massive depress-o-rama, but I need to see this.”
“It’s meaningless drivel,” Giles countered, gesturing towards the screen. “It’s ‘spin,’ created by soulless weasels to justify the unconscionable acts they’ve committed.”
“True,” Buffy nodded. “Still need to see it.”
Giles turned around to where his wife was standing, poring over a recipe book with Andrew. “What about you, Becca? You’re here, it’s only proper you should get a vote.”
“You’re making up new rules!” Buffy protested. “Just like when we started training with throwing stars and you said–”
“Bit busy, honey,” Becca said absent-mindedly. She turned back to Andrew. “But the problem is it only makes lasagna for ten. What do we do for everybody else?”
“You multiply the ingredients,” Andrew told her. “Tripling would probably do it.”
“Okay,” Becca nodded. She looked back at the recipe. “Where are we going to get 24 pounds of ricotta cheese? And even if we do that, how do I fit three pans in this oven?”
“Good point,” Andrew replied. “How about spaghetti with meat sauce and cottage cheese instead?”
“Now that we can do,” Becca told him.
Giles threw up his hands. “Fine. I’m going to go take a look in the attic. Lorinda’s been complaining about needing an extra pillow. I think we might have an extra…”
Buffy rolled her eyes as she watched Giles walk out of the room, then turned back to the screen.
Giles strode into the living room and up the stairs. He waved to Liz as he walked by, and she waved back with a grin on her face. One end of the room was completely strewn with bright plastic toys, blocks and stuffed animals, with a portable crib set up in the middle. Marty held one arm straight out, the very edge of a diaper was gripped between his two fingertips. His other hand was holding his nose, but he had a smile on his face as he swung the diaper away from Grace when she tried to grab it.
Rowena placed one of the twins back in the crib next to their sibling, fresh diapers and all. Liz, on her tiptoes, pressed her nose against the side of the crib and made a funny face. One of the twins laughed.
Grace spun, furious. “Rowena, this little brat won’t give me Alex’s diaper.”
Rowena blinked. She hunched to speak to Marty, hands on her knees. “Sweetie…do you really want it? Gothrow away the stinky diaper, okay honey?”
Marty giggled. “Stinky.” Then he ran in the direction of the trashcan.
Meanwhile, Rowena put an arm around Grace’s shoulders. “Try to keep in mind which one of you is going on two and which one of you is twenty-five, okay?”
Grace made a sour face and pointed an accusatory finger. “This is not what I signed up for!”
Skye cackled from the couch, where she was sitting with Xander and Dawn. “You can always go stay somewhere else…oh wait, you can’t because Homeland Security froze your assets like everyone else’s.”
“I’ll freeze your assets,” Grace countered. “With my fist!”
Skye blinked, in awe of the lameness of that comeback. “Gracie, what I mean to say is, we’re all trapped with the screaming children, so sit down and shut up.”
As Rowena led Grace away, Skye turned back to Dawn, who had an eyebrow upturned. “You’re more…inflicty than usual,” Dawn said.
“She seems normal to me,” Xander noted. Dawn shot him a look, but said nothing.
Skye shrugged. “Close quarters. Lotsa humans runnin’ around. Makes me edgy…among other things.” She ran her tongue over her teeth.
“I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that,” Xander announced. The doorbell rang, and Xander bounced to his feet a little too quickly. “I’ll get it!”
He walked into the foyer, past several chairs piled high with jackets and lines of shoes on the floor, and opened the door. He stood aside as Kennedy, Kadin, Robin and Faith filed in. “Hey,” Xander asked. “How’s it goin’ at the cabin?”
“Surprisingly peaceful,” Robin answered.
Faith snaked an arm around her fiancé’s waist and nodded. “Yeah. I mean, if it wasn’t for the part where I got thrown in jail and stabbed and then pardoned and then one of my best buds gets thrown in jail and then the rest of my friends were thrown out into the…well, not cold, ’cause it’s summer, but thrown out of their casa…if not for all that stuff, this would be a nice vacation.”
“I think you just put your finger on why you need a vacation,” Robin pointed out.
Xander turned to Kadin and Kennedy. “Don’t let them drive you crazy. Really, they’re nice once you get to know them.”
The two women gave him baleful looks.
“Is Jeff upstairs?” Kennedy asked, already heading toward the base of the stairs. “I want to talk to him about the protections on the cabin. I think I’m doing it right, but…”
Xander nodded. “Yep. If he’s still alive, that is.”
Kennedy’s brow knitted as she began to climb the stairs. “Why wouldn’t he be?”
“Oh, you’ll see,” Xander called.
As Kennedy climbed the stairs, the sounds of a scuffle came louder around the corner. She reached the top and turned left in a hurry. The door to the first room was closed, and she kicked hard at the door jam. It banged open, leaving a slat of wood still hanging from the lock. Shannon and Lorinda froze, arms reaching for each other, and turned to look at Kennedy. A frazzled Jeff stood between the two young slayers, arms out to separate them.
“You broke the door,” Lorinda said accusingly.
“What the hell’s going on here?” Kennedy asked, hands on hips.
Jeff sighed. Lorinda and Shannon pointed at each other.
“She started it,” they said simultaneously.
“They’ve got the two of them rooming together,” Jeff said by way of explanation.
“Ah,” Kennedy said, “that explains it, then. Um, Jeff, when you manage to, um…extricate yourself, I’d like to talk to you about the protection spell.”
“You guys talk,” Shannon said, arms slumping to her sides. “I’ll go…check on ’em upstairs.”
Shannon brushed past Kennedy as she exited the room, and Lorinda’s voice followed her.
“Can someone tell them I didn’t do that to the door? ‘Cause they’re gonna think it was me…”
Shannon sighed as she turned another corner and came to a steep, narrow stairway leading upwards. She ascended, the sounds of chitchat, laughter and the occasional clink of glass becoming audible. The stairs creaked beneath her footsteps.
She found Jason Felix, Lori Carew, Jim Pollan and Ethan and Cam Rayne sitting on the edges of cheap cots, surrounded by cardboard boxes full of manila folders. There was a small, circular window at one end of the attic, the floorboards were dusty and the ceiling sloped dramatically up to a central point. Individual folders were strewn all over the remaining space. One of the boxes had been converted into a makeshift table, with a teakettle and several saucers on it.
“So that’s when I told him that his glasses were still on his face,” Ethan concluded, and the others burst into laughter. Seeing Shannon, Ethan raised a hand to quiet them down. “The little blue slayer appears…Is everything all right downstairs?”
“Everything’s fine. ‘Course, I don’t know why Lorinda doesn’t go home like the other girls – she’s got a mansion waiting for her,” Shannon mumbled. “What about you guys?” she asked louder. “Everything good?”
“Well, if we could possibly get ourselves some more Wheat Thins…” Felix mentioned, shaking an empty box.
“I’m pretty sure that was the last of it,” Shannon told him, “but I can check if you want.”
“No, that’s all right,” Felix sighed. “I’ll be going downstairs for the meeting in a few minutes in any case.”
“Meeting?” Shannon asked.
Giles and Becca’s House – Living Room – Minutes Later
“I’ve tried to get in touch with Oversight,” Buffy said, “but no dice. Or at least, dice have yet to appear.”
“They wouldn’t speak with you?” Lori sounded concerned. She was leaning against the wall, using her cane for extra support. The space was overflowing with people, some on the couch, some leaning against Alex and Jen’s empty crib, some perched on the stairs and peeking through the bars of the railing.
“They spoke with me,” Buffy replied from her primo spot in an overstuffed easy chair, “but they didn’t say much. Miss Sanger was about as helpful as…something very unhelpful.”
“Maybe it’s ’cause O’Mara’s got momentum behind her,” Faith suggested. She was leaning on a wall next to the television.
“Worst part is… she’s really not lying. She just makes it sound more horrible than it is,” Kennedy added from her seat next to Kadin on the couch.
“Yes, it’s her,” Rowena said. Her eyes didn’t move from staring out the window at Giles and Becca’s backyard.
“Uh…her who?” Xander asked.
Rowena turned to look at him, her eyes tired. “That woman. You know who I mean. I’ve been fighting this war pretty much my entire life, and I’ve never…Slayers can’t fight her. I mean, it’s unbelievable. She has to know what she’s doing. She’s taking my life from me, piece by piece, hacking away like there’s no tomorrow, and why? For politics? To win an election? I mean, she…that woman…” Rowena was sputtering, barely coherent. Giles came forward to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off angrily.
“We can’t let O’Mara get to us,” Robin said. “That’s what she wants.”
“She’s already gotten to me!” Rowena spat. “I don’t know about you, but I have been thrown out of my home, lost my job, and had my wife put in prison without a trial, all by that woman…”
“What if she’s not a woman?” Kadin asked suddenly. Everyone in the room turned to look at her. Things were silent for a moment, though Becca could be heard upstairs singing to the babies.
“You mean, she’s secretly a man?” Grace asked from the stairs. She blinked a few times, considered this. A few people turned to look at her. “Probably not.”
“I mean, maybe she’s a demon,” Kadin said.
“You’re right!” Rowena announced. “She is a demon. She’s like…the devil. And I should know, having met him…”
“No, seriously,” Kadin continued, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees. “Maybe she’s not human.” She glanced around at the others. “Does anybody know for sure?” She was met with blank stares. Kadin’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Wait a sec…you’re telling me that no one here, at the Council of Watchers, thought of that before?”
“Well…” Robin began uncertainly, uncrossing his arms from across his chest and sticking his hands in his pockets.
“We didn’t think any type of shape-shifting demon could maintain a human form for that long,” Jeff volunteered.
“Not to mention that she’s under an incredible amount of public scrutiny,” Jason agreed. “I’m sure anything would have come to light…”
“There are tests most in the public know,” Giles noted. “Her fingernails would grow after they were cut, for example…” He trailed off into sheepish silence. “No, we had not considered that.”
Kadin smirked at him.
“Listen, whatever or whoever she is,” Buffy said, “we need to get into this woman’s closet, see where she’s been keeping her skeletons. Oh! See if she likes Celine Dion. That’s a big clue.”
Xander and Giles both grinned.
“Hey, I like Celine Dion,” Rowena argued.
“So did my demonic college roommate who tried to kill me,” Buffy added. “The point I’m trying to make is everybody’s got something, right? We need to dig something up on O’Mara, like, yesterday.”
“Problem is,” Kennedy pointed out, “all our contacts have dried up. You were just telling us about that.”
“Well, we need to get someone else then,” Buffy replied.
“Someone good,” Faith put in.
“An expert hacker, perhaps,” Giles sighed as he removed his glasses.
“We’ve got one of those already,” Xander said. He leaned over the back of Buffy’s chair. She looked up at him and gave a small smile. “Of course she’s in prison…which might explain why the wheels of justice are turning so slowly.”
Skye smirked from the doorway to the kitchen. “Oh! Are we all catching up now?”
Faith ignored her, instead looking wide-eyed at Xander. “So goes Willow…”
“…so goes the Council,” Xander finished. “Son of a bitch! She stole Felix’s idea…”
Jeff raised his eyebrows. “She stole his what?”
Felix sighed in Jeff’s direction. “Mr. Harris had this theory I was going to eliminate Miss Rosenberg as part of a power play.”
“Well, I mean,” Xander backtracked, “if you actually had an idea…which you didn’t and we were overreacting, anyway, and you knew about that?”
“Apology accepted,” said Felix, his eyes twinkling.
Kadin cut off all further rambles. “Let’s get her out.”
Rowena sighed loudly and shook her head. “You don’t think we’ve been trying? We’ve called in every favor from here to the Heaviside Layer. Alex Neel has been on the phone twenty hours a day. If we tried any–”
“Stop talking and just do it,” Kadin interrupted. Rowena stood, open-mouthed, looking offended. “Get her out,” Kadin continued. “Really.” She motioned around the packed living room. “What more do you guys have to lose at this point?”
“She’s in an anti-magical chamber,” Rowena argued. “Escape isn’t really an option.”
Lori chortled. “Really. It’s not like you can just flip a switch and shut off the magic…” She trailed off, looking at Felix sitting next to her. He stared back at her for a few seconds. Then he leapt quickly to his feet.
“I’m going to make a few calls,” he said, making his way upstairs.
“Okay,” Xander asked, hands in the air, “Are we sure we want to do this?”
Faith stepped away from the wall. “We have to.” She looked around. “If you guys find a way to get Red out of her cell…I’ll get her home.”
Giles and Becca’s House – Backyard – Day
The wind blew quietly through the Giles family backyard, ruffling green leaves and sending small yellow seed globes over the tall wood fence at the bottom of the gentle slope. Faith was at the top of the slope with her arms folded over her chest, while Rowena stood in front of her and gesticulated wildly.
“You don’t have to do this,” Rowena told her. “In fact, you shouldn’t.”
“I should, and I do have to do this,” Faith said simply.
Rowena opened and closed her mouth. “So that’s it? You go and get yourself thrown back in prison because, what? You think I’m still pissed at you?”
“You are still pissed at me,” Faith replied.
“I’m not pissed at you!”
“This is the first private conversation we’ve had since, well, since they came and took Red away,” Faith told her.
“We’ve been busy!” Rowena protested. Faith trained an eyeball on Rowena and kept still. “Okay, fine, I’m…upset.”
“Yes, okay, pissed, and it doesn’t make sense, but Willow’s in jail because of what she did for you, and she’s in jail because you just had to come out and tell the truth, and yeah, you know what, I wasn’t in the mood to still be pajama buddies with you. And that probably makes me a horrible person…”
“Yes, it does, because you did the right thing,” Rowena insisted, “but it’s still no reason for you to do this.”
Faith uncrossed her arms and stuck her hands in her jeans pockets. “Look, the twins need at least one mom. That’s you, sweet cheeks.”
“I can take care of myself,” Faith continued. “I’ve been there before.”
“Been where?” Rowena yelled. “The big house?”
“Have you been drinking?”
“I’m breastfeeding,” Rowena replied. “Been where, jail?”
“Yes,” Faith nodded. There was a long moment where the breeze ruffled both her and Rowena’s hair. “And yeah, I need to prove to Willow…and you, and probably me, that I have something to contribute here. You’re not the only one who has trouble sleeping at–”
“I should come with you,” Rowena blurted.
“Sorry?” Faith asked.
“Two people could be better than one, and I’ve got this big brain everyone’s always telling me about, so I could help.”
Faith sighed. “Is this because you don’t trust me?”
“If it comes down to fighting the guards, I’ve got slayer strength,” Faith said. “You don’t. The only way you’d win would be a gun battle, and even that’s iffy. Plus, if we start shooting people during our jailbreak, we’re never gonna re-open…that and the part where it’s, y’know, wrong. So you tell me, big brain…what logical reason is there for you to be there, aside from the fact that A: you want to see Willow immediately, and/or B: you don’t trust me to get the job done?”
Now it was Rowena who folded her arms. She said nothing.
“You can trust me,” Faith said. “And hey, if I go back to jail for trying to save the Council, I think it’ll be worth it. Because Kennedy can do my job with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back, not in a kinky way.Point is, one way or another, we need Willow. Not just you, but all of us…me too. I miss her, Rowena. I really do.”
“Okay,” Rowena said quietly after a moment.
“So here’s the compromise,” Faith continued. “You can go to a motel, the cheaper the better, and I’ll drop Red off there and then split. Then, the two of you can do whatever you want, and I have a feeling I don’t want to know the details. You want my advice, you head to the Great White North. Get your folks here to take the kids back with them. They’ll be looking for someone with two young kids at the border after Willow’s out, but you can all meet up after Willow’s free. Just…get away from it all.”
Rowena faked a pout. “Do I hafta?”
A loud creak broke the mood. Both Rowena and Faith turned to see Dawn poke her head out the back door of the Giles residence.
“Buffy’s ready to start the meeting.”
“There’s another meeting?” Faith asked.
“You didn’t hear?” Dawn shrugged, then receded inside the door.
“I thought I was finally free of listening to her speeches,” Faith told Rowena as they followed. “The jailbreaks, the twenty people crammed into a split-level, standing around while B refuses to shut up. I swear to the archangels, it’s like the last five years of my life never happened.”
Giles and Becca’s House – Dining Room – Moments Later
Buffy sighed from her seat at the head of the dining room table. “Does anyone have a white board?”
“We should buy some notebooks,” Grace suggested, putting down her drink of water.
“We don’t have any money,” Kennedy pointed out.
“Right,” Grace remembered. “Weird.”
“I’m just gonna write on a folder,” Dawn announced.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, good.” The rest of the table quieted down. The former leadership of the Watchers Council sat in the Giles family’s high-backed chairs.
“Does anyone want strawberry lemonade?” Becca called from the kitchen.
“We’re good,” Buffy called back. “Thanks.” Jason sat back in his chair, looking vaguely disappointed. Buffy leaned forward, hands clasped in front of her. “Okay, so we need to find the goods on the Congresslady. I want to know absolutely everything about her. I want to know her favorite color, her first kiss, boxers or briefs…”
“She’s a woman,” Rowena pointed out.
“Don’t matter,” Faith shrugged.
“…And some small details like whether she’s an evil vampire or not,” Buffy concluded.
“We’ve seen her during the day,” Dawn pointed out.
Buffy waved a hand dismissively toward Skye.
“I’ll talk to my contacts,” Giles said.
“You have contacts?” Ethan asked, a naughty smile on his face.
Giles ignored him. “I’m hoping we can get someone, or perhaps something, to follow Ms. O’Mara full-time. 24/7, as it were.”
“I’ve had no luck with my developers,” Felix volunteered. “We had an anti-magic chamber at the Bureau as an experiment, but none of them know anything about the government’s version, to say nothing of any possible weaknesses.”
“I figured,” Buffy nodded, “which is why I want the Coven to start looking at this. There has to be something we can do to spring Willow.”
Jeff faltered. “But, we’ve gone over it…”
“Go over it again!” Buffy raised her voice. “And then, if you need to, go over it again. And then a fourth time, and so on. This is why you’re here.”
“We don’t have all of our books,” Jeff argued.
“I have some books,” Giles volunteered.
Buffy pointed in his direction. “There. See? We’re getting somewhere. But I think that – God help us – we may need to ask Ethan for help on this one.”
Ethan grinned and turned to Giles next to him. “So I can be helpful and a bit conniving…the Council is truly better than I ever expected.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Giles replied.
“Andrew,” Buffy continued, “I know you’re not Willow, but we can’t wait for the great escape to begin the hackage.”
“I’m on it,” Andrew nodded. He turned to Giles. “You do have DSL, right?”
Giles coughed. “DS-what?”
“Yes, we do,” Becca loudly answered Andrew’s question from the other room.
“Thank you, Becca,” he shouted back.
“Xander,” Buffy continued, “you’re looking at weapons. We got some out before the final shutdown order came. I want to know what we have. Ro, get with Jim, get on the book situation, so the Coven’s not totally lost.”
“I’m out of folders,” Dawn announced.
“I’ve been keeping track on my Blackberry,” Grace said.
Dawn made an exasperated noise and set her pen down on the table with a clacking noise. “Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?”
Buffy just sighed. “Robin, you need to start looking into the security where they’re holding the rest of our books and supplies. Do we even know where that is?”
“I can find out,” Robin said. “I’m just not sure how that’s going to help.”
“Those books have our knowledge in ’em,” Buffy said. “Knowledge is power.” She pointed over her shoulder for a moment, before realizing that the only thing behind her was a nice oak cabinet. “Picture a sign there, okay? The point is, O’Mara is separating us from our knowledge. Why? What’s she afraid we’ll learn?”
“Anything for Kadin and me to do?” Kennedy asked.
“I was getting there,” Buffy told her. “After Robin has the location and works on the security angles, take Lorinda, Shannon and the other slayers out to Kadin’s. Then check out the facility. Get a sense of the layout. It’s important these girls see it all in the daytime, because they might be headed back there at night.”
“To commit felony burglary?” Kennedy asked. Buffy nodded. Kennedy sat back in her chair. “Just making sure.”
“Make notes, take pictures, do recon to the tenth power,” Buffy told her. “Right now, though, you need to find Gwen. I understand she has some skills that might be helpful in this area. She may have some ideas. Or pointers. Or both. When we we’re ready to go in, she’ll lead the girls.”
“Someone talk to them and make sure they know they’re supposed to work as a team,” Jeff suggested.
“Hey, I’ll take the bullet,” Kennedy said. “There’s no need to involve the minors in this one.”
“They’re slayers and minors,” Buffy agreed. “Even in the eyes of the law.” Kennedy made a small “o” with her lips. “We can’t risk everybody going to jail, in particular you.”
Skye shrugged. “I don’t know. Could be fun. You guys could all hang out on Cellblock D.”
“I’m sure you have something constructive to contribute, Skye.” Buffy rested her head on one hand.
“Hey, I’ve got a Voice of Hell meeting this week,” Skye said. “Can’t miss that.”
“And that has what to do with Autumn O’Mara?” Faith asked.
Skye shrugged. “Probably nothing. But it still seems important. Unless you just want to forget about defending humanity because your lives are in upheaval.”
“Point taken.” Buffy rose to her feet. “Now, everybody got it?”
The dining room filled with the screeches of chairs pulling back from the table. Those who had been sitting scattered to the four winds. They had their instructions.
Faith circled behind Buffy and spoke quietly in her ear. “Gotta hand it to you, B. Your kitchen table speeches have gotten less pointless.”
A smile ghosted across Buffy’s face for about two seconds, and then it was gone.
MystaCorp – Break Room – Day
A vending machine filled with chips, Snickers bars and stale mini-donuts hummed in the background of a corporate lunchroom. Three men sat at a long, gray table. A sign on the wall read “MystaCorp” in snazzy blue lettering.
“So he just thought you’d hand over the info?” asked a small man with brown skin and glasses.
The man across from him, with dyed blond hair and goatee, grinned and nodded. “I know, right?” the other man remarked.
The third man at the table, lanky with tired circles sinking into his cheeks, warily eyed the other two and quietly chewed his tuna melt.
“What’s he thinking?” Glasses Guy asked. “Yeah, I mean, sure, we helped with the design of Project Everest when we worked at the Bureau, but…there’s no way you were gonna put your neck out.”
“Not if I ever want to score a federal grant again, that’s for sure,” Goatee Guyagreed. “I have my future to think about.”
The third man at the table had stopped in mid-chew, lost in thought.
“You okay, buddy?” Goatee Guy asked.
“Yeah.” The man shook his head. “Just tired.”
Giles and Becca’s House – Rec Room – Evening
Jeff and Andrew were seated side by side as Jeff flipped over a Tarot card. He frowned.
“What?” Andrew asked, seeing the expression. “Bad news?”
“Huh?” Jeff said absently. “Oh, no,” he quickly recovered. “It’s confusing news. It says she is going to get out. I mean, according to the cards.”
“Can you see how?” Andrew asked.
Jeff closed his eyes for a moment. “Kind of…” he replied. He looked over at Andrew. “She walks out.”
“She just walks out?” Andrew asked for clarification. Jeff only nodded. “How is that possible? Does she teleport outside the bars? The prison itself? I mean, she can’t do magic from inside the cell.”
Jeff looked over to the corner. “Any ideas?” he asked.
Seated there, watching quietly, was Ethan. “That force field must be dropped,” he replied. “As for how that will be accomplished…I do not know.”
Jeff sighed. “Well, Buffy’s right. It’s saying Willow gets out. I just don’t know how.”
“Hey, maybe O’Mara has a change of heart?” Andrew suggested. Jeff and Felix both looked at him, annoyed. “Well, you said she just walks out. I figured, maybe they drop the charges,” he offered.
Neither Jeff nor Ethan looked convinced.
“This is going to take a while,” Jeff said. “Are you sure you want to do this, Ethan?” he asked the mage.
Ethan grinned slightly. “For the little red witch, certainly,” he replied. “That, and there’s sodding nothing else to do around here right now. Why not?”
Giles and Becca’s House – Attic – Evening
Jason leaned over his cot in Giles’s attic and picked up a purple piece of fabric. He held it up, looking confused behind his glasses. It was a bra.
“Whoops,” Lori said, coming up behind him, “that’s mine.” She snatched the bra out of his hand. “Still getting settled. And I think somebody let the kids up here.”
“Lori, I have always enjoyed our close working relationship,” Felix sighed as he sat on his cot, “but this…”
“Yeah, this isn’t what I signed up for, either,” she called over her shoulder. She stopped partway down the stairs, a basket of stray clothes cradled in one arm, and looked back at him. “It’ll get better,” she said. “It’d be hard for it to get worse.”
With that, she continued down the stairs. Felix considered this a moment, exhaustedly removing his glasses. After a moment, a shrill tone made him reach for his pocket. He flipped open a cell phone and put it to his ear.
“Is this Mr. Felix?” The voice on the other end was male.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“We need to meet.”
“To discuss your recent inquiry – about the chamber.”
One of Jason’s eyebrows went sky-high. He ran a hand over his mustache before answering. “All right, then.”
“I’ll be at the Triangle on Prospect in ninety minutes. Come alone. Don’t tell anyone else about this.”
“I must tell you how grateful I am to hear your voice of comfort in these troubling times,” Felix cracked. The phone line clicked and went dead. Felix pulled the phone away briefly, reading the screen. It read “Unknown Number.” He took a deep breath and clacked the phone shut.
End of Act One