by Dan Joslyn
Copyright © 2006
Disclaimer: All non-original characters herein belong to persons such as Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, WB, FOX, and so forth, and not me. No compensation is received either by me or by the wonderful proprietors of this site for this story.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse: https://mysticmuse.net
Feedback: Greatly appreciated.
Spoilers: Through all of Buffy, of course, as well as Watchers through “Ragnarok.”
Author’s Notes: This is a fic set in the Watchers universe. Watchers is a very cool post-“Chosen” virtual spin-off of Buffy that I was lucky enough to be hired to write for starting in its third season. The teaser to this story was actually part of my application for the series. I later decided that the episode deserved to be written in its entirety, and this is the result.
Summary: Still dealing with her post-Mia issues, Kennedy is trapped in another dimension.
Alley – Night
With a squelch, Faith pulled her axe free of a large, brown-scaled demon. She frowned as she inspected the blade.
“Dented,” she sighed. “You know, Slick, you’re wasting all my good weapons.” She looked over to where Kennedy leaned with her back against the wall of the alley, breathing hard. “You gotta watch your back.”
“Will do…don’t worry…just gotta work on…turning my head…all the way around,” Kennedy managed between gasps. “He came outta nowhere.”
“No, he came from behind you. Which is usually where demons come from when they’re about to attack you. Where’s your head at?”
Kennedy took one more deep breath and seemed to regain her equilibrium. “Still attached, thanks to you. Nice one, Faith.”
Faith walked over to her friend and put her hand on her shoulder. “Look, I might not be here next time. I’m worried about you, Slick. Your ass-kicking has definitely had more ass and less kick lately.”
Kennedy scoffed, a hurt look on her face. “Has not!”
“Has too,” Faith insisted, taking her hand off Kennedy’s shoulder and walking over to inspect the demon’s corpse. “Look, I know that you’ve maybe been a little distracted lately with the whole Mia thing…”
“Whoa, hold up!” Kennedy protested. “I am not distracted. Just a little…”
“Attention-deficient?” Faith volunteered.
“No! Look, Mia and I…” Kennedy bit her lip, seeming to search the air over her head for the right words. “Mia and I loved each other. Our lives just…took different paths. It was her decision, and I’ve accepted it.”
“So why did tall, dark, and ugly here get the jump on you, then?” Faith asked, pointing at the demon’s body. A beat of tension passed between the pair, as Kennedy remained silent and glared at her companion.
At that moment, a purple and red blur dropped from one of the sides of the alley. Both Slayers instantly raised their weapons, Faith bringing her axe to a fighting position while Kennedy whipped a stake from one of the inner pockets of her jacket. In one smooth motion, Faith swung the axe at the intruder, but her opponent grabbed it with both hands and stopped her cold.
“Boy, Faith, I’m glad to see you, too,” Vi said through gritted teeth. Faith relaxed and lowered the axe, taking a breath.
“So?” she said, turning back to Kennedy.
“Maybe I was a little startled,” Kennedy answered. “Jeez, Vi, you almost gave me my second heart attack in less than five minutes. Use your radio next time.”
“I was in the neighborhood, and I heard yelling. What happened?”
“Brat here got ‘startled’ by a Regnath demon, that’s what happened,” Faith replied.
“Fortunately, Faith came through in the clinch,” Kennedy added.
“Yeah. Right,” Faith said while fishing her radio out of her back pocket. “Slayer One to base. Do you copy?”
“We copy. This is Robin,” came over the radio.
“Hey, sweetie. We just bagged a Regnath demon in an alley off East Ninth between St. Clair and Euclid. We need a clean-up squad.”
“A Regnath?” Robin answered. “That’s strange. They’re usually pupating this time of year.”
“Yeah, well, that’s your department,” Faith replied. “I just pound ’em, you Watcher types do the research.”
“We’ll get right on it.” Robin said.
“Don’t wear yourself out. I’m expecting you to have some energy left when I get back. Slayer One out,” Faith smiled, and put the radio back in her pocket. She looked up to find the other staring at her.
Vi blushed. “Can you and Robin still…I mean…”
“Do you guys still have sex now that he’s only got one leg?” Kennedy finished succinctly.
“Thanks,” Vi said, relieved.
“No problem,” Kennedy replied.
“Hey guys, me and Robin are cool,” Faith explained. “He’s handicapable.”
“Uh-huh.” Vi tried to change to change the subject. “So, what’s been up with you lately, Ken? It isn’t like you to get blind-sided like that.”
“Arrgh!” Kennedy growled, exasperated. In a huff, she turned and walked out of the alley.
Faith turned to Vi. “Guess I’m not the only one to notice then, huh?”
“Nah. Hey, maybe her power was in her hair!” Both girls laughed.
Street Outside Alley – Same time
Kennedy walked down the sidewalk, arms crossed against her chest. She turned her head and heard the others laughing. A pained expression crossed her features for a single moment, before she set them in stone and walked on.
“I’m worried about Kennedy,” Willow said.
Fancy Restaurant – Night
Willow and Rowena sat across from each other in a small, atmospheric restaurant, reading their menus by romantic candlelight. Rowena looked slightly put out.
“Willow, look around. We’re in a cozy French restaurant with nothing between us but a silk tablecloth and a flickering candle. We are preparing to spend heaps of money on food whose name I can’t pronounce. It took us forever to get a night we were both free and could spend quality time,” Rowena said, agitated. “Do we have to spoil it by bringing your Ex into it?”
“I wasn’t spoiling,” Willow defended. “I was just pointing out that maybe we should be worried if the work of one of our best Slayers takes a major down-turn.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Rowena assured her, turning her own attention back to her menu. “Should I have the escargot or the filet mignon?”
“Ro, it’s not like she’s a car salesman who didn’t meet her quota,” Willow insisted. “When a Slayer gets distracted, it’s not just inefficient, it’s dangerous.”
Rowena sighed and returned her gaze to Willow. “So, what do you think we should do about it? I don’t know if you remember what happened the last time Kennedy was suspended, but it was sort of like spraying a black eye with mace…or something. Not that I’ve ever…tried that…”
“No, nothing like that. I don’t know what to do,” said Willow, sounding frustrated. “But I think that ever since Mia left, Ken has felt really…alone. And when you’re alone, you wonder whether that feeling is ever going to go away. You think that maybe you’ll never find anybody ever again. And when you feel alone…you start to think that maybe you can’t do this by yourself. That’s when you need other people the most.” Willow stopped to see Rowena looking at her intensely. “What?”
“I’ll never let you be alone again,” Rowena said sincerely. “Never.”
Willow smiled. “I know, sweetie. I know.” The pair slowly leaned over the table. Their lips almost touched when they heard someone clear their throat. They looked up to see a stereotypical French waiter with a thin mustache, wearing a tuxedo. Both his eyebrows were raised. Willow blushed and sat back down, and Rowena coughed and looked away while doing the same.
“And what will you ladies be having tonight?” the waiter asked, scorn in his voice.
“I’ll have the filet mignon, medium, and a glass of white Zinfandel,” Rowena said, handing her menu to the waiter. He turned to Willow expectantly. She still had a sheepish look on her face. “And for you, Madame?”
“Um…it’s been forever since I took French, sorry…what’s this word?” She looked up and saw a look of pure loathing on the waiter’s face. After a moment, she melted under the pressure. “Or I could just have a salad.”
Behind Abandoned Building – Night
Kennedy continued to patrol alone, her arms crossed. She heard something creaking, and whipped her head around to see what it was. All she could see was an empty back street, graffiti covering the wooden, boarded up windows and empty plastic bags blowing across the asphalt. Kennedy shrugged, and turned around again. She shivered, her thin jacket not holding up against the Cleveland night breeze. She heard another noise of uncertain origin, and stopped again, listening. There was nothing but the wind.
At that moment, a huge, brown, scaly demon, downward-pointing horns sprouting from its cheeks, leaped right through one of the boarded-up windows and grabbed Kennedy. It was another Regnath demon. The pair rolled, and then both bounced up to their feet.
“Damn, you guys sure are sneaky,” Kennedy said, reaching inside her jacket and pulling out a nasty-looking dagger. “Maybe a little warning next time?” Seemingly in response, the Regnath let loose with a deafening roar. Kennedy made a swipe with her dagger, but the demon dodged and the blade just whistled through the air. Off balance, Kennedy was caught by a back-hand from the Regnath and smacked into one of the surrounding buildings with a groan. The demon advanced, but Kennedy managed to recover in time to catch it in the stomach with a back-kick. She spun around and punched the demon again as it staggered back, but when she tried another swipe with the dagger, the Regnath just caught her hand. Kennedy struggled to loosen its grip, but it was to no avail. Slowly but surely, the demon started to guide the knife back towards Kennedy. She gasped under the strain, trying to desperately to reverse the process. Soon, the demon had the knife at her throat.
Then, the Regnath just stopped. Kennedy, a confused look on face, looked from the demon to the knife. She squirmed in an attempt to get free or move the knife, but it still wasn’t working. Looking around, Kennedy saw a mysterious, hooded figure emerge from a patch of shadows to her right.
“What the hell is this?” she asked nervously.
Suddenly, the demon holding the knife to Kennedy’s throat was thrown into a nearby lamp post. Kennedy dropped to the ground, shaken. Faith kicked the demon while it was on the ground, and it went flying again, this time into a wall. It recovered quickly, however, punching Faith and causing her to stumble. Meanwhile, the figure from the shadows approached Kennedy as she tried to get to her feet.
“Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but I don’t take kindly to someone trying to stab me. Even if they…” Bolts of what might have been pure energy flew from the outstretched hands of the hooded figure, striking Kennedy all over her body. They looked like bright green lightning.
The demon stepped menacingly towards Faith as she stood up. Before it could get to her, though, Vi stepped in and punched it, hard, sending the Regnath flying back up against the wall. Before it could recover, Vi whipped a crossbow off her back and shot the demon in the chest. The Regnath looked down at the arrow in its chest, seemingly confused, and then collapsed to the sidewalk, dead. Vi turned to Faith, gleeful.
“Did you see that! Straight through the heart, first try,” she gloated. “Come on, who’s your daddy?”
“You can be my daddy anytime, Vi,” smiled Faith. “Beats the hell out of my real one.”
“Another Regnath, huh?” Vi observed. “How’d you find it?”
“Ken was in trouble,” Faith explained, stretching her neck after the fight, “And she needed my help.”
“Uh, Faith?” Vi looked nervous. “Kennedy’s not here.”
“Of course she is, she’s right…” Faith looked around her at the street, which seemed to be completely empty except for her and Vi. “That’s weird. Kennedy?” There was no answer.
“KENNEDY?” yelled Vi, her voice just echoing off the walls.
“SLICK?” tried Faith. “BRAT?” She, Vi, and the dead demon were the only ones in the alley.
“This is bad, isn’t it?” Vi ventured.
Unknown Dimension – Dark
A flickering red light illuminated Kennedy’s unconscious face, lying awkwardly on a black rock. With a slight flutter, she began to open her eyes.
“Boy, Mia, I’ve must have drank too much…” she muttered, wincing as she tried to move. As she began to sit up, Kennedy suddenly came to her senses, bolting fully upright. “Whoa.”
Kennedy looked around her to see a vast, boiling landscape of jagged black rocks like the one she was standing on, cris-crossed by boiling orange and red rivers of molten rock. Above her, several impossibly tall volcanoes belched lava and ash into a dark sky. It might have been day or night, since the sky seemed to be permanently covered by a massive black cloud. There was no sign of life anywhere.
“I hate magic.” Kennedy said.
Unknown Dimension – Continuous
The black sky disgorged a single jagged bolt of lightning, which struck the side of a volcano and set huge black rocks flying into the air. Another volcano set glowing molten rock back into the sky, as orange magma roiled down its slopes. Kennedy observed all this with a disoriented skyward stare.
“We’re not in Cleveland anymore,” she observed shakily. “Is it getting hotter, or is it just…” Kennedy glanced down at her feet. Her eyes widened as she realized that the patch of bare rock she was standing on was slowly getting swallowed up by the rising lava that surrounded it.
Panicked, the slayer looked around for somewhere safe. Her eyes fixed on her only avenue of escape, the steep lowest edge of the closest volcano. The black wall rose from molten rock about 20 feet from where Kennedy’s patch of temporary safety ended. The panic slowly ebbed from Kennedy’s features then, until there was nothing left but her hard, slayer exterior. Biting her lip in concentration, she carefully sized up the distance to solid ground. The lava continued to rise until there was only a few square feet of rock left. Kennedy crouched and then jumped, letting out a yell of sheer effort.
“Oof!” was all Kennedy managed when her body slammed hard into the side of the slope. Spread-eagled and winded, she tried to take a moment to catch her breath. That was when the slayer slowly started to slip back down towards the boiling molten rock. Kennedy’s hands scrabbled against the side of the rock, searching for anything to grasp onto. At the last moment, her left hand caught a sharp edge, and with a cry she came to a stop.
Kennedy’s feet were almost touching the lava, however, and at that point her white tennis shoes caught on fire from the sheer heat of the molten rock. Kennedy yelled and, with a desperate heave, she pulled grabbed her handhold with her right arm as well. With extreme effort, the slayer then proceeded to pull her body upward, away from the intense heat. Then she caught a higher ledge with her left hand, then a grabbed an even higher handhold with her right, willing herself upward. Kennedy beat her shoes against the wall until the flames subsided.
The slayer looked up at the volcano she was clinging to. The sheer face of it rose thousands of feet into the sky. Kennedy sighed as well as she could without really catching her breath. With that, she reached up once more with her left arm, searching for the next handhold.
Watchers Council Lobby – Night
The front doors burst open forcefully as Faith strode through them without slowing down, followed by Vi.
“Holy dramatic entrance, Batman!” Andrew exclaimed from behind the reception desk, tearing off his head-set. “You girls have radios, you could have warned me!” The pair ignored him.
“What do you think happened?” Vi asked. “I mean, I never even saw Kennedy.”
“I don’t know,” Faith replied, “but I’m gonna find out.” By this time she had reached the reception desk.
“What’s going on?” Andrew asked. Without a word, Faith reached over the desk and opened a small black plastic hatch, revealing a small red button. “Hey,” Andrew said, “you can’t just press the red button. I’m home base, it’s my job.”
“Watch me, pipsqueak,” Faith said, and slammed her palm down on the button. A loud, persistent alarm sounded, and Andrew gave a resigned sigh as he sat back down.
“Nobody ever lets me press the red button,” he said quietly, readjusting his headset. “I’m sorry Mr. Giles, I don’t know exactly what is going on,” he said into the mouthpiece. “Faith just showed up and started acting all Scott Bakula in the third season of ‘Enterprise’. I’m sure if you would come down to the lobby, she’ll be able to tell you all about it.”
Faith had already shifted her attention back to Vi. “I saw Kennedy there, about to get stabbed in the neck by that demon, but they weren’t the only ones there. There was this other guy, he was wearing this robe with a hood. Black, I think.”
“When we looked afterwards, there wasn’t anybody else on the street,” Vi supplied. “So we’re thinking, what, that this robe guy’s a teleporter?”
“Dunno,” Faith said. “I mean, guy dressed in all black, he coulda just gotten outta there real fast.”
Meanwhile, Xander walked briskly into the lobby. “I was in the workshop working on that crossbow project. What’s up?”
“Slick’s gone,” Faith said matter-of-factly, glancing over her shoulder.
“Hold up,” Xander said, gesturing with both hands, “gone…gone in what way? Gone as in run off, or gone as in…”
“We have no clue,” Vi interrupted. “We were there fighting a demon, and there was a weird guy in robes…”
“I guess it could have been a chick…” Faith thought out loud.
“And then no Kennedy, no robe dude,” Vi finished.
“I mean, you really couldn’t tell in that get-up…” Faith continued.
Dawn and Skye appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing matching nightgowns. “Hey, what’s with the sirens?” Dawn called down.
“You like it?” Andrew answered, pulling his mouthpiece away from his face, “I just installed the new system. It’s very Anne Frank.” The two girls shared a look. Andrew went back to his conversation, “No, Dr. Miller, I don’t think we have immediate need of your services, thank you.”
“Or it could have been a demon…” Faith pondered.
“Are you OK?” Xander asked Vi, reaching out to rest his hand on her shoulder.
“I’m good,” Vi answered quietly. “It’s just…I wasn’t even paying attention. I never saw what happened.”
“We’ll get her back,” Xander assured her.
A running Jeff crashed into Dawn and Skye where they had stopped at the top of the stairs, sending all three stumbling in an attempt not to fall over. “Oof!”
“Watch where you’re going!” Skye admonished, rubbing her hip.
“Sorry,” he replied, “I just heard the alarms and thought that maybe I could…are you guys naked under there?”
Skye looked particularly disgusted. Dawn just raised an eyebrow and matter-of-factly stated “Yes.” Jeff gulped.
“I mean, demons wear robes all the time, right?” Faith considered.
Giles appeared at another of the entrances to the lobby. “Where’s Faith?”
Vi raised her hand over Faith’s head and pointed downwards, the dark-haired slayer all the while remaining oblivious. “But why would a demon need to work with another demon like that…?” Faith murmured, in her own little world.
“Good,” Giles said, and walked towards the group.
“No, Tracey,” Andrew was saying, “I know I set the alarm system to automatically page you when activated, but that was, y’know…in case of possibly culinary emergencies, not for monster stuff…not that you’re not great with the monster stuff…”
Skye and Dawn made their way down the stairs, with Jeff trailing behind them looking embarrassed. “We need to get an intercom in your room,” Skye said. “Then we’ll be able to find out if an alarm is worth interrupting…,” she glanced back at Jeff, “studying for my psych test.”
“Right,” Dawn replied with a slight smile, “studying.”
“Faith,” Giles said, bringing the slayer out of her own little world, “what’s happened?”
“We were fightin’ this Reggie demon, me and Slick,” Faith said.
“Regnath,” Giles corrected. Faith continued without listening.
“And then there’s this…dude slash chick slash demon in these robes,”
“Black,” Vi supplied, “or possible dark brown.”
“But Vi shows up and kills the demon, and when it kicks it we look around and there’s no Kennedy and no robe…thing.”
“Well, I’m glad your description doesn’t match pretty much every supernatural villain ever,” Xander said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Faith, do you have any idea what might have happened to Kennedy?” Giles asked reasonably.
“Well, they coulda swiped her, I guess,” Faith replied, “but I probably woulda noticed a fight. You don’t just kidnap a slayer without makin’ a sound. And she coulda run off, she was actin’ kinda twitchy earlier…or she could be…”
“So that’d be a no, then?” Vi interrupted.
“Her radio’s off-line,” Andrew reported.
“Off-line?” Dawn asked, appearing on the scene.
“Yeah, it’s not sending out a signal,” he explained. “That could mean she’s turned it off, which would be against regulations, but then again, Captain Picard never really followed regulations either…”
“Or…” Faith prompted.
“Right,” Andrew said, getting back on track, “or it could mean her radio’s been destroyed, or that it’s no longer within the signal radius.”
“How big’s the signal radius?” Skye asked.
“I always wondered about that…” Vi said to herself.
“The continent of North America,” Andrew answered. Off everyone’s incredulous looks, he added “We have really good radios.”
“So where’s Ace?” Faith asked. “Woulda thought he’d hear the alarm…oh.” Faith looked uncomfortable when she realized why her lover had failed to appear.
“He went upstairs a half hour ago,” Xander supplied. “It takes him a while to…”
“Right,” Faith said.
“So…where to next, boss?” Vi asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
“Well,” Giles said, “obviously this robed fellow is somehow related to Kennedy’s disappearance. I suggest we pursue that avenue.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Dawn said.
Xander pulled Faith aside. “Look, Faith, I know you know what you’re doing. But have you considered the possibility that maybe Kennedy ran off on her own, no foul play involved? I mean, she’s really being taking this whole thing with Mia pretty hard.”
“You don’t know Slick like I do, or you wouldn’t ask that question,” Faith said. “She might have some issues she needs to work out, sure, but she’d never abandon us like that. Even if she needed a break, she’d never ask for it. That guy did something to Kennedy.”
Xander nodded. “So what are you gonna do now?”
“I’m gonna do something to him.”
“And someone find Willow and Rowena,” Giles was saying. “We’re going to need them.”
Outside French Restaurant – Night
“Willow, wait!” Rowena called, hurriedly donning her jacket as she followed her lover out of the French restaurant’s front doors. “What’s going on?”
Willow didn’t answer at first, instead waving down the valet. “Black Astro, coat of arms on the side,” she told him. “Hurry if you can.” The young valet nodded and walked briskly away, leaving the pair standing alone under the tasteful dark blue awning of the Chez du Lac. Cars whizzed by on a busy street.
“Will?” Rowena prodded.
The redhead sighed. “I’m not completely sure, to be honest. Andrew was sorta frantic when he called. But, apparently, Kennedy’s gone missing.”
Rowena looked somewhat put out. “You interrupted our romantic evening because your brat of an Ex went AWOL again?”
“I though you and Ken were getting along better these days?” Willow asked, a little confused.
Rowena only softened slightly. “Well, maybe a little, sure, but…look, Will, you said yourself Kennedy’s been having a hard time since Mia left. What makes you think she didn’t just decide she needed some time alone? You know slayers, no matter how many there are, they always think they have to fight alone.”
“Ro, you were Kennedy’s watcher, weren’t you?” Willow argued. “I mean, I know that didn’t turn out too well, but you’ve gotta know she wouldn’t do that without asking.”
“Because she definitely asked before deciding to keep that vamp off the street by making out with it,” Rowena said pointedly.
“I don’t understand where all this is coming from,” Willow said. “There was an alarm, we got called back to the Council. This happens all the time.”
Rowena shuffled her feet. “I dunno…just, y’know, highly planned romantic evening, I guess.”
“Well, we’ll have to get back to the drawing board on that one,” Willow smiled wanly, as the Council van pulled up behind her. “I think maybe I might be able to get a night off three weeks from Tuesday…” She liberally tipped the valet, who grinned widely and thanked her.
Rowena pulled open the passenger side door. “Does Giles know we took one of the Council vans for this?”
“Rowena, when will you learn?” Willow admonished, getting in on the driver’s side. “What Giles doesn’t know doesn’t get us in trouble.”
For a moment, there was nothing. Beyond the edge of the broad rock ledge there was nothing but black fields of solidified lava as far as the eye could see, under a dark gray, completely clouded-over sky. Then a flash of lightning lit up a hand rising above the ledge. It came down and, vise-like, gripped a jutting rock. Then came another hand, which grabbed another rock. Then Kennedy’s head appeared above the edge of the rock platform. Her face and arms were heavily scratched up and covered in ash. With a groan, she pulled her entire body up and onto the ledge, which was roughly rectangular and about five strides square. Kennedy glanced up, seeing nothing but another, even sheerer cliff of black rock.
Completely without slayer grace, Kennedy collapsed on the platform, staring up at the lightning-streaked sky. Her breath came in sporadic gasps; her pupils were unfocused. Around her, the nearby volcanoes seemed to be dormant, no longer spewing lava into the sky. After a few seconds, she seemed to snap out of it with a shake of her head. With great effort, she brought herself to a sitting position.
“OK, Ken, think,” she said to herself. “One minute your in downtown Cleveland. Next you’re…somewhere else.” She glanced around. “Obviously, this is another dimension. So what do we do when we’re trapped alone in another dimension?” Kennedy thought for a moment before sighing. “Guess I missed that day of slayer school.”
A blast of thunder shook the mountainside, and the slayer suddenly burst out into giggles. “Right, Ken, let’s talk to ourselves. That’ll solve the problem. Guess there’s no one around to hear.” She wildly scrabbled over to the side of the ledge and looked down out over the abyss.
“HELLO!” she yelled out to the void. “Bad-ass slayer here! I’ll kick all your asses! ” Her words echoed softly back to her before being carried away by the wind. Kennedy let another, somewhat crazy-sounding laugh.
The laughter stopped abruptly when Kennedy saw the opening into the mountain. It was only slightly shorter than human height, and there seemed to be a faint red light coming from it. “Which one of these things is not like the others…” she sang, before letting out another cackle.
Kennedy peeked through the opening to see a chamber seemingly carved out of the solid black rock, widening only slightly from the small doorway to form a tiny room. At the opposite end, a single torch was set into the wall. It illuminated a carved symbol in the rock above it, a sort of wheel with four spokes.
“Well, this is weird,” Kennedy said, letting the understatement hang there in the thick, sulfuric air. She wrested the torch free of the wall and held it up to the symbol, examining it closely before stepping back.
“Where’s a watcher when you need one?” she said. Taking another step back, she almost slipped backwards. Kennedy threw herself forwards to escape a possible fall, and looked back at where she’d been standing. There was a hole there in the floor, black and deep. She thrust the torch down into the hole, revealing a seemingly endless stairway into the bowels of the volcano. A few pebbles that Kennedy’s near-fall had loosened were bouncing down into the darkness.
“Well,” Kennedy observed, “I guess I really don’t have anything left to lose.” She stepped onto the first stair, then onto the second, until soon even the light of her torch disappeared from view.
Kennedy held the torch in front of her, trying and failing to light the way more than a few feet ahead. The dark seemed thicker than usual, as if the air had been painted black. After a moment, the slayer’s feet reached a sort of landing. She sighed.
“OK, are we there yet?” she asked, but some searching with the torch revealed more stairs ahead. “Right, well, let’s do this, then.” As she began to take the first step, something gray and approximately person-shaped flew out of the pitch darkness behind her. Kennedy let out a yell and dropped her torch as the thing crashed into her and she lost her footing. Both the slayer and her attacker disappeared down into the darkness.
End of Act I
Video Store – Night
With a loud crash, a furry demon that looked suspiciously like a humanoid weasel slammed into a rack holding copies of the latest Hilary Duff film. A sign reading “The Scariest Movie of the Year!” clattered to the ground. With one hand, Faith held the demon against the wall by its throat as its whiskers quivered in agitation.
“Hey, c’mon girls!” called the Vl’hurg behind the counter. “You’re gonna scare away the customers!”
“Oh, don’t worry, K’resk,” Faith said, never taking her eyes from the demon she was throttling. “Vinnie here’s about to become really cooperative, in an extra-special kinda way, and I won’t have to resort to violence.” She punched the demon hard in the snout with her free hand. “…Much.”
“I swear on my mother’s tail, I don’t know anything!” the weasel demon gasped. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”
“Wrong answer,” Faith replied, and punched the demon again.
“Faith, is this truly necessary?” Rowena asked, sounding bored as she nonchalantly examined a copy of “House of 1000 Corpses” in the “Family Films” section a few rows away before returning it to the shelf.
“Blondie,” Faith answered, sounding annoyed, “just sit back and let the master work.” Rowena shrugged. The slayer still hadn’t looked away from her victim. “Now, Vinnie, everybody knows you hang out down in those alleys off Prospect.”
“It’s near the stadium,” Vinnie defended. “I like all the peanut shells, you know how it is.”
“So you would have been there earlier tonight, before you came here?”
“Maybe,” the demon replied. “What’s it to ya?”
Faith pulled Vinnie off the wall slightly before slamming him back against the shelves. “Somethin’ happened to a friend of mine down there tonight. I figure, you bein’ such a fan of George Washington Carver, maybe you saw what went down. Big fight, possibly a Regnath demon. Ring anything?”
The demon looked confused. “George Washington Carver?”
“Famous inventor guy, came up with ways people use peanuts, right?” Faith’s head turned to Rowena for confirmation.
The blond just shrugged. “Canadian,” she reminded the slayer.
Faith let out an exasperated grunt. “Am I the only one who watched the History Channel during Black History Month?” She turned back to Vinnie? “So anyway, Regnath demon, fight?”
“Hey, I told you, I didn’t see anything,” the demon answered. “Besides, everyone knows Regnaths pupate over the summer.” Faith gave Vinnie a long, hard stare. His whiskers quivered even more if that was possible.
“Fine,” she eventually said, letting him down off the wall. The demon, looking slightly embarrassed, tried to readjust his shirt collar, then attempted to exit the store while it still retained some small thread of dignity. At the end of the row of videos, however, Vinnie encountered Rowena, who stood calmly in his way.
“Hey, Vinnie, how’s it going?” she asked innocuously.
“Um, fine, thank you,” he replied nervously, his eyes flicking towards the exit.
“We met at that mixer Brell hosted last month, remember? You were the one who loved peanut shells, weren’t you?
The demon just nodded. From a distance, Faith looked on with interest.
“I’ve just been wondering, you know, since we met, if you love them so much, why just live nearby the stadium? I mean, wouldn’t there be many more shells inside the stadium itself?”
“Well, of course,” Vinnie answered, much of his skittishness seemingly forgotten. “But you wouldn’t believe the security they have there. I mean, I’d be doing them a favor, cleaning the place up, y’know, but I don’t think they’re big fans of non-humans.”
“You know what?” Rowena said, as if the idea had just occurred to her. “There’s a gate worker at Jacobs Field who lets us know at the Council if something’s up down in that area. I could maybe talk to him, get him to let you in after the game.”
“Really?” Vinnie asked hopefully. “That’d be really great! I mean, sure, I’ve been doing OK in the dumpsters outside, but that would be such a time saver…Maybe I could get home in time for ‘Dancing With the Stars’!”
Rowena just smiled. “I’m sure it would be. It can’t be easy, living down in that neighborhood.”
“You have no idea,” Vinnie said. “Just earlier tonight, there was this big fight down in one of those alleys off Prospect. Scared the crap out of the neighbors. I think there was a Regnath there.”
“Don’t they pupate this time of year?” Rowena asked.
“That’s what I said,” Vinnie nodded. “What’s the world coming to, y’know? Anyway, there was this girl there, right, and this guy comes out in a hood. I was at my window, y’know? The view’s pretty good, nothing special. I tried to keep a geranium there, but it up and died on me. And this guy, he shoots these, like, purple lightning bolts out of his fingers, and then this girl just disappears.”
“What do you mean she disappeared?” Rowena prodded.
“I mean she was there one second and gone the next. I’d never seen anything like it before.”
“So where did the man in the hood go?”
“Ah, he just turned around and left the alley, all sneaky.” Vinnie answered. “But the thing is, I called my cousin Ronnie, y’know, who lives down on East 50th near Rockefeller Park, right? And I think my neighborhood is bad…Anyway, so he says he’s been seeing these hood guys all over the place down there. Figures they’ve got some kinda base nearby. I’m telling ya, sometimes the Hellmouth thing is just more trouble than it’s worth, y’know?”
Rowena smiled pleasantly and nodded. “Well, see you around, Vinnie.”
“See ya,” said the demon, and walked out of the store. Faith came up beside Rowena and watched him leave.
“What the hell was that?” Faith asked, incredulous.
“Sometimes,” Rowena said, “you just have to act friendly.” She turned to look at the slayer. “Demons are people too, you know.”
“No they’re not,” Faith replied. “They’re demons. As in, non-people.”
“Well,” Rowena said, “sometimes they just want to be treated like non-people. So, having been handed a lead despite your own narrow-mindedness, are you up for a trip to the east side?”
Faith sighed. “Yeah, whatever.”
Stairway Inside Volcano
A sputtering torch lay on its side, dimly illuminating a small circle of black stone. The stone seemed to soak up the light like a sponge, as if it wished to get back to the pitch blackness to which it was accustomed. Within the circle of light lay a single, unmoving human hand. For a full five seconds, the hand was still.
Then first one finger jerked a tiny bit, then another, then a spasm of life ran through the entire hand. It lifted and grabbed the torch, lifting it off the cold, bare stairway to reveal Kennedy’s face, a large red welt dominating the right half of her forehead. She was not happy.
“Where the hell are you!” she yelled, whipping the already sputtering torch around wildly. For a moment of sheer panic, it completely went out, but the light returned after about a second. “I’ve had about enough of this crap! Do you have any idea…”
Kennedy whipped the torch around once again and revealed a gray-skinned creature standing about six inches away from her. The normally together slayer screamed in shock.
At one glance the thing seemed almost human, but at the next it certainly did not. It’s eyebrows were too prominent, with small protuberances that might have been an attempt at a pair of small pitiful horns, and it’s eyes were a sort of pale, unnatural pink. The skin seemed a little too pallid, even for a gray demon, as if it had not seen the sun in a very, very long time. It was slightly shorter than Kennedy. The thing smiled, in a not entirely sane-seeming way.
“Hay-lo,” it almost sang, in a strange, grating voice that might have been either male or female.
Kennedy punched the thing, full in the face.
“OWWS!” the creature cried. “What’s dat for?”
“What’s that for!?!” Kennedy yelled, her voice just perhaps a little on edge. “WHAT’S THAT FOR!?!?! I’m in the middle of a volcano, in some sort of hell reality, on a endless stairway down into nothing, when I get tackled by…something, and fall down more flights of stairs than I’ve seen total in my entire life pre-now!” She brought the torch very close to her attacker’s face. “Saying that today is a bad day is like saying the Mona Lisa is a painting, so you better explain yourself right the hell now.” She cocked one eyebrow threateningly.
” ‘pologies!” the demon bleated. “Can’t be sure! Can’t ever be sure!”
“Be sure of what?”
“Good or bad, happy or sad,” it sang.
Kennedy grabbed the demon by its neck, slammed it up against the jagged black wall, and held it there with a forearm. The creature squealed.
“This is probably not the best time to try riddles on me,” she said.
” ‘pologies!” came the gasping reply. “Here so long, brain all twisted. Left is right, right is left, down is up, up is…” A hard slap from Kennedy brought silence in its wake.
“You got a name?” she asked.
“Name is missing, lost,” the thing said. “Had one once, not now.”
“You remind me of somebody,” Kennedy said.
“Sometimes,” it replied, “world runs out of ideas.”
Cleveland Street – Night
The building used to be a bar, by the unlit neon sign hanging from the front. The windows were boarded up behind a set of metal bars. In front of this former establishment was parked an old Chevy pick-up with obvious rust issues and a large dent in the passenger side door. Behind the truck, two slayers looked uncomfortable as they crouched in the gutter.
“How did I get this duty again?” Heli asked in her Scandinavian accent. “In Finland, we don’t have neighborhoods like this. We have trees.”
“Well,” Faith replied, “Slick is obviously not available, and I asked both Blondie and Red where Miss Hat was, but they hadn’t seen her.”
“So I guess I’m the highest ranking person without a nickname available,” Heli commented.
“But you’re right, Arnold,” Faith continued, “the Near East Side ain’t Beverly Hills. Kinda flashin’ back to my childhood here.”
Heli did a double take. “Wait a second! My nickname is ‘Arnold’?!?”
“Yeah,” the Head Slayer defended. “Y’know, ’cause of Arnold Schwarzenegger. ‘Cause you both kinda sound the same…when you talk.”
“Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria,” Heli said flatly. “I’m from Finland.”
“Whatever, same continent,” Faith said without really listening. She was peeking over the top of the truck-bed. “Don’t know what you’re complainin’ about. I mean, he’s Governor of California, ain’t he?”
Heli was too flustered to talk.
“Hey, there’s something goin’ on,” Faith said. “Let’s check it out.” She snuck out around the edge of the truck. Heli watched her go for a moment, then sighed and followed after her superior.
Building Across the Street – Same Time
From behind a lamp-post, the two slayers watched a hooded figure approach another seemingly abandoned building and rap sharply once on the door. An eye-level slot in the door opened briefly and then closed again. Then the entire door opened, momentarily revealing a lit interior before the hooded figure entered and the door closed behind him.
“That your guy?” Heli asked.
“Same outfit, anyway,” Faith answered. “I think it’s time we paid these assholes a friendly visit, don’t you?” She moved to walk towards the building, but Heli grabbed her arm.
“Faith!” the blonde whispered fervently. “How do we know these guys won’t just zap us into oblivion or something, like they did with Ken?”
Faith smiled and reached into her cleavage, pulling out a pair of smelly burlap bags on strings.
“How much crap do you keep down there?” Heli asked. Faith ignored her.
“These are our protection,” she explained. “I think Red called ’em Spatulas. I wasn’t really paying attention. Basically, just put one ’round your neck, should keep away the bad mojo.”
Heli took one of the bags and hung it around her neck while looking somewhat skeptical. She looked down at herself. “Oh yeah, next year in Paris this is definitely gonna be the look.”
Council Holding Cell
An large, unconscious brown demon lay prone on the white floor of an otherwise pristine (almost a little too pristine) holding cell somewhere in the depths of the Council basement. Vi cocked her head as she looked through metal bars. Xander appeared beside her.
“I see we’ve meet our friend comfortable,” he said.
“I’ve never seen that much sedative in my entire life,” Vi remarked. “It probably would have downed an elephant…not that I’ve participated in an elephant sedation during my long and varied life.” She attempted a smile, but it didn’t quite work.
The pair stood at the end of a row of several cells. An incoherent shriek sounded from somewhere. “I didn’t know we were keeping anybody here permanently,” Xander said.
“I think anything would be more correct…mostly,” Vi replied, though she sounded like her mind was somewhere else. “It’s kinda creepy; dirty little secrets, under our feet, all the time.”
“We’ll get Kennedy back,” Xander said, seemingly out of nowhere. “There’s nobody on Earth more qualified to find her than the people upstairs.”
“Yeah, our track record is spotless,” Vi quipped, her eyes fixed on the sleeping demon.
“Hey, world’s still here, right?” Xander answered, his voice a little too chipper. Vi didn’t respond. Softly, Xander placed his hand on her shoulder. “What’s up, Vi? You can talk to me.”
“Kennedy and me, we were…are the last ones left from Sunnydale,” she said evenly.
“Hey!” Xander exclaimed. “That’s not true! What about Faith and Robin and Giles, and a whole bunch of other people upstairs…not to mention yours truly.”
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I do?” Xander looked a little confused.
The redhead sighed. “It was different…we were all sitting there, scared, in the basement of a girl who was, to all appearances, slightly insane, with nothing to do but think about how we were all going to die,” she sighed, hesitated, “But…”
“But you knew, somehow, that you wouldn’t, right?” Xander interrupted. “That, in the end, you could handle it?”
“Yeah,” said Vi, impressed. “How did you…?”
“Oh, I understand slayers better than most men,” he replied. “It’s kinda my thing.” She smiled, more genuinely this time. “And hey,” Xander continued, “you should call up Chao-Ahn in Hong Kong sometime on the council dime. I hear her English has improved.”
Vi looked like she wasn’t sure how to ask the question she wanted to. “Xander…when you were in Sunnydale all those years…”
“…were you, y’know, attracted to…
“Willow? I knew you were gonna ask that. There was just that time with the formal wear and then with the impending death we…”
“I was gonna say Buffy,” Vi said evenly. “Because you’ve obviously got a thing for slayers…not that I mind…”
Xander was turning red. “Oh, um, hmm…well, kinda?”
“I thought so,” Vi said, turning her face back towards the resident of the cell. There was a moment.
“Wait, you and Willow…?”
Same Building – Moments Later
Hearing a single, sharp knock on the door, someone wearing a long, dark cloak walked to the door and slid open the slot at eye-level. This revealed two young women, one dark-haired, one blonde, standing outside expectantly, smiles on their faces.
“Yes?” the figure asked succinctly in a deep, gravelly voice.
“Hi, my name is Cruella and this is my colleague Natasha,” Faith said, poking a thumb in Heli’s direction. “We’re from Villains Monthly.”
“We just wanted to congratulate you on winning this year’s ‘Most Generic Bad Guy’ award and were wondering if we could ask you a few questions,” Faith continued.
The person in the cloak slammed the slot shut. A second later, the door flew open, knocking its guardian unconscious to the floor and landing on top of them. Faith lowered her leg and walked through the opening, quickly followed by Heli. Both just stepped right over the fallen door and the figure pinned beneath it without hesitation.
The pair edged carefully through the old, decrepit building, which might once have been an office of some kind. Half-glued flyers for different events from years past hung raggedly from white walls with chipped paint.
“Where are we go…” Heli began, but suddenly Faith grabbed the Finnish slayer and pulled her flat against the wall, silently raising a finger to her lips to quiet her companion. After a tense moment, a man wearing yet another long cloak with a hood emerged from a room next to where the slayers had tried to make themselves two-dimensional. He began to go the opposite direction down the hall, but then he stopped. Turning, his found himself looking straight into the eyes of a silent Faith.
His hood flew off when Faith slammed him up against the wall, revealing a pretty normal looking guy with a five o’clock shadow…except for pure black eyes.
“So, I’ve got this friend,” Faith began, “and she seems to have gone missing. Last time I saw her, one of you guys was on the scene in a big way. Know what I’m talkin’ about?” The dark-haired slayer raised one eyebrow. The dark pools of the man’s eyes just gazed at her silently.
“You better talk,” Heli threatened, “or she’ll give you a nickname.”
“You speak of the gypsy we exiled,” he said finally. It wasn’t really a question.
“Gypsy? Oh, you mean ’cause of…Yeah, we speak of her,” Faith replied. “Where the hell is she?”
“You seek substance where there is only nothingness, slayer,” the man said, his voice free of emotion. “You will not find her, here nor anywhere. That is why we chose this method.”
“Look,” Heli said in frustration, “there has to be some way to get her back from wherever she is. Can’t the Coven do a locator spell, teleport her back…something.”
“Your magicks will not avail you, nor are they more powerful than those we possess here,” the black-eyed man replied. “From where we have sent the Gypsy, no being has ever returned, and none shall. There is no returning.”
“So you, what, sent her to Hell?” Faith wondered.
“No,” the man said. “Sometimes things come back from Hell.”
Bottom of Stairway Inside Volcano
“Oh, look,” Kennedy said, in a tone that told the world just how far beyond sarcasm she was at this point, “it’s another creepy tunnel. Wasn’t I just saying how much another creepy tunnel would make my day?”
“But to go forward is better than to go down,” said her pallid companion. “Any spawn knows that.”
The pair stood in a tall, arched opening, the upper edge of which was illuminated by the slayer’s torch. Behind them the foot of the tall, dark stairs from which they had descended rose.
“Well,” Kennedy admitted, “it is better than walking blindly further into the bowels of the Earth, which has kinda been my plan up to this point.”
“Look!” the gray creature squealed. “The Previous, they made these!” It pointed to the edge of the doorway. Kennedy walked held her torch closer. The entire door was framed with carved glyphs and symbols, some of which seemed to be vaguely humanoid-shaped. She ran her hand over a carving that seemed to depict a horned demon breathing fire.
“The Previous?” the Slayer queried. “What, ‘The Old Ones’ was taken?”
“Yes,” the creature said simply. Kennedy just shook her head.
“And how do you know about these ‘Previous’?”
“The stones whisper tales,” it replied, in an excited whisper of its own. “Long ago there was a dream. The Previous were the dreamers. Fire, stone, thunder bent to their will. Then the wind whispered, and vanished.”
“Look, I don’t care, crazy monkey demon man,” Kennedy said. “I am trying to get home. I don’t have time for cryptic history lessons.”
“Oh, no, there is no home,” the creature said anxiously. “Only the dream.”
“Of course there’s a home, dumbass,” Kennedy insisted. “And it’s full of friends who talk behind your back and girlfriends that leave you and little snot-nosed kids who are just freakin’ annoying, and I am going to get out of this hole and back there if it’s the very last thing I do, do you understand.”
The creature laughed, long and loud. It was a hideous, screeching thing, sounding as if it was born out of pain rather than mirth.
“What’s so funny?” Kennedy asked harshly.
“What I said, hundreds of thousands of days ago,” it explained. “You said it again.”
“OK, then,” Kennedy pushed, “if there’s no way out of here, then how did I get here? Generally, when there’s a way into something there’s a way out.”
“Oh, indeed, always must be,” said the thing. “Of course there is a way, always a way. But it cannot be done.”
“Cannot is…a lengthening of a four-letter word!” Kennedy snapped. “If you aren’t going to help me, I suggest you get the hell out of m way.” With that, she started down the tunnel, her foot-steps echoing off the rocks.
“The stones sang it to me,” the creature called out to her. “The way is only open to a Kresnik.”
End of Act II
Council Meeting Room – Morning
“Kol-Mar?” Rowena asked, disbelief in her voice. “Are you sure he didn’t say Kal-Mor or Kel-Mat?”
“That’s what the black magic man said,” Faith confirmed. “Heli even made him spell it.”
“She has this whole thing about how the National Spelling Bee would be more interesting if the spellers had a finger broken every time they got a letter wrong,” Vi explained. “I tried to tell her that you’re eliminated on the first mistake, but I don’t think she gets it.”
“Well, she’s from Finland,” Xander offered, as if that explained everything.
Giles, Rowena, Faith, Vi, Willow, Xander, and a wheel-chair bound Robin surrounded a conference table in comfortable, swiveling chairs.
Giles sighed and leaned forward in his seat. “As fascinating as this discussion is, can we steer back to Kennedy’s sudden disappearance?”
“So what’s the deal about this calamari dimension, Ro?” Xander asked. “You look like you’ve got a case of the worries.”
“Yeah, what is there, too many shrimp?” Willow interjected, smiling at her own pun.
“It’s Kol-Mar, not calamari,” Rowena said, “and the problem isn’t shrimp.”
“Then what is it?” Faith asked, “Too many monsters? ‘Cause we can handle monsters.”
“Well, for one thing, I’d been told it was a myth by my Hell Dimensions professor at the Academy,” the blond watcher answered. “It appears he was wrong.”
“Or our black-eyed baddie lied to us,” Vi said.
“Wait, you had ‘Hell Dimensions’ class?” Xander blurted after a moment. “How come I got stuck with Trigonometry?”
“I don’t think that he did,” Rowena replied, ignoring the carpenter. “According to several Assyrian codices I read while attending the Academy, Kol-Mar was once the seat of a race of advance beings known only as ‘The Previous’. They were able to bend time and space to their will. But a world can only take so much magical restructuring before it begins to rip apart, so Kol-Mar’s surface was destroyed by volcanic activity and the Previous were unable to survive. This process also corrupted the dimension’s mystical borders, completely preventing all portals or dimensional holes to and from Kol-Mar. It’s harder to get into than Quor-Toth.”
Giles raised an eyebrow at this. “Really? What class at the Academy did you read these codices for?”
The blond looked slightly sheepish. “Well, um, none, actually.”
“You read Ass-ran books on hell dimensions for fun?” Faith asked.
“Assyrian,” Rowena corrected defensively. “And I didn’t have much to do. That was before Xena.”
“So if calamari-world is so impossible to get to, how did our big bad manage to send a slayer there?” Xander questioned.
“I don’t know,” Rowena replied, “but I think the bigger question is how are we going to manage getting a slayer back from there.”
Black Rock Tunnel
The dark, dirty faces of Kennedy and her companion were lit only by torch light. The beautiful girl and the homely creature seemed more alike then different amidst a darkness that seemed ready to swallow them whole. Ebony stone rose into a neat arch above them, while half-seen runes and scratchings passed by on the walls.
“Must have taken a long time to hollow this out,” Kennedy remarked quietly.
“A few minutes,” the gray creature corrected. At Kennedy’s look, it continued. “The Previous commanded magic as a Durna Beast commands the Marsap Tree.”
“Magic, right,” Kennedy said unhappily. “Figures.”
“The pulse that binds all,” it agreed, as the pair continued walking. “Shimmering, it catches all in its web and reshapes, grows.”
“That’s pretty much what Willow always said,” Kennedy said, her face expressionless. “Magic connects us all through the Earth, and the energy is all around us, or whatever. It’s all nonsense, fairy tale crap.”
“Nonsense is that magic is nonsense,” the creature corrected. “Nothing can be without it.”
Kennedy sighed and stopped beneath a large engraving of a battle between human-like figures and something that might have been a dinosaur.
“Can we stop here?” she asked. “Even bad-ass slayers can’t walk thirty miles without sitting down for while.”
“When you have plenty of time, you can take as much of it as you want,” the creature said.
Kennedy waited for it to finish the thought, then said “Yeah” with a sigh and sat down with her back against the wall of the tunnel.
“Y’know, you’d think I’d get it, what with the sleeping with witches and living at the beautiful North Coast’s magic central,” the slayer began, “but I really don’t.”
“We don’t get magic,” the creature offered helpfully, “it gets us.”
“I’m with ya there,” Kennedy agreed. She looked over at her companion, who was crouched against the far wall in an uncomfortable-looking position. “So…you’re not from around here, are ya?”
The gray creature just looked quizzically at Kennedy out of the corner of one of its wide, yellow eyes.
“I just mean, you’ve been all helpful and everything,” she continued, “but I don’t know anything about you. You can’t be from this hellhole, because everything here seems kinda dead. So I figured you must’ve got whisked here like I did.”
“I…” the creature looked confused, it’s eyebrows scrunching together. “I…there was a home. It had children, and parents, and gurba weeds growing between the stones of a path.”
“Whatever floats your boat,” Kennedy said, a ghost of a grin briefly crossing her features. “So how’d you end up here in wonderland?”
“A wizard I knew,” it replied. “Friend, I called him. Black Scimitar.”
Council Library – Morning
“Which would be a what?” Faith asked, pacing between tables in the Council Library.
“Ancient order of dark warlocks,” Dawn explained from her seat at one of the tables, turning the book she’d been reading around so that Faith could see it. “They’re a mystical pan-dimensional order. Big into keeping things running smoothly.”
Skye sat next to her girlfriend. “The Black Scimitar protect the boundaries of the spirit world. They’re like the gatekeepers,” she said.
Faith stopped, confused. “But they don’t sound like, y’know…”
“Bad guys?” Dawn offered.
“Yeah,” Faith agreed. “So what are they doin’ sending the number two slayer at the council to Hellsville?”
“Well,” Skye explained, “the Scimitar tend to have an ‘ends justify the means’ kind of mentality.”
“Meaning?” Faith prompted.
“So when someone violates the laws of the spirit realm, they tend to…” Skye broke off.
“Overreact,” Dawn finished.
Black Rock Tunnel
“My mother,” the creature said. “She had left my home for another. One where I could not…” It’s voice broke, and the pitiful gray thing choked back a sob. “I couldn’t find her,” it wailed.
“Oh…” said Kennedy quietly. “You mean…”
“After the third sun had risen and the first had set,” it continued, somewhat managing to get a hold of its emotions, “In the food-hall I found her. Raiders had passed, taken nothing…but her.”
“Damn, that sucks,” Kennedy said. “So you…what exactly did you do?”
“The wizard, nearby, his arts I’d studied,” the creature said. “I knew of a spell, to give back breath, soul…”
“You tried to resurrect her,” Kennedy translated.
“Materials I gathered, stone and herb, but as I began the Black Scimitar entered,” it continued. “He saw what I meant to do. And I was here.”
“Y’know…” Kennedy began, “my mother was killed too.”
“Knew you of a spell?” the creature asked curiously.
“No, I don’t really know anything about magic,” Kennedy answered. “Besides, she died when I was very little. I never really met her.”
“A mother is the most perfect love,” the creature said. “How did you replace it?”
“Replace what?” Kennedy asked, puzzled.
“Love,” it elucidated, as if it should be obvious.
“I didn’t…replace,” Kennedy said slowly. “There were girls, but it was never about…love. I mean, I thought Willow and I…but I don’t think she ever really felt that way, about me I mean. I’ve loved people…but I don’t think anyone’s ever loved me…perfectly.”
“So you have a hole,” the creature said. “How do you fill it?”
Kennedy just looked at her companion, her jaw set.
Council Computer Lab – Morning
“C’mon, Red, gimme somethin,” Faith said as she walked into the main Council computer lab.
“Good morning to you too, Faith,” Willow quipped, putting her coffee mug down next to her keyboard after taking a sip.
Faith brushed off the sarcasm. “Don’t have time for pleasantries. Clock’s tickin’ and Slick’s stuck in volcano central. You found anything?”
“Well, to be honest, I have no idea how the Black Scimitar pulled this off,” Willow answered. “I mean, I’m one of the most powerful beings ever on this plane and I don’t have close to enough power to open the lid on Kol-Mar.”
“So, what’s that mean?” Faith asked, running her hand through her dark hair. “We back to square one?”
“Well, I personally have no clue, but I was thinking that I might know a guy who does.”
“What, some warlock. A spooky mystic?”
Walgreen’s Drugstore – Morning
Faith looked around at her surroundings, Walgreen’s Drugstore. It was essentially the missing link between Wal-Mart and a convenience store. She listened to the generic muzak playing through tinny-sounding speakers. Then she looked over at Willow, who was looking around the store for something as the pair walked down the cosmetics aisle.
“So, there’s someone around town more powerful than you, and we’re gonna find him here?” Faith asked, trying to understand.
“Not more powerful,” Willow said absent-mindedly. “That would be pretty hard…”
“Then, would you care to tell me what we’re doing in a Berea drug-store at nine o’clock in the morning?”
Willow sighed, and looked at her companion. “Casey isn’t more powerful than me, but he is more experienced in this area.”
“Specialized interdimensional magicks,” Willow replied.
“Wow,” Faith said, sounding impressed. “With a degree like that, you’d think he’d be working somewhere better than this.”
“He got the experience fleeing through dimensions from his homeworld’s version of the FBI,” Willow told her. “Now he’s trying to lay low here on Earth.”
“So, ya think he’ll be pleased to see us?” Faith asked. At that moment a light skinned man, his blond hair pulled back into dreadlocks, appeared at the far end of the aisle Willow and Faith were standing in. He wore a red Walgreen’s vest. For a moment, he and the two women locked eyes. Then the man took off running.
“You go that way, I’ll go this way,” Willow told Faith hurriedly, pointing the slayer in the opposite direction from that where Casey had appeared. Faith obeyed at full speed. “But don’t hurt him, I just need to talk to him!” Willow called, but Faith had already disappeared. With a sigh, Willow took off in the opposite direction.
Faith ran through the front of the store, nearly toppling a elderly woman buying a lottery ticket.
“Kids today,” the woman admonished, as the South Asian clerk just shrugged his shoulders.
Willow skidded to a halt at the far end of the cosmetics aisle, looking around for any sign of Casey. She couldn’t find one. Huffing in frustration, she picked a direction and ran that way.
Faith reached the far end of the store, along which stood a row of refrigerated units holding soda and frozen dinners. Casey was running up the same aisle. Seeing the slayer, he reversed course as fast as he could, momentarily slipping in the process. Faith pursued and soon had almost caught him, her slayer speed paying off. Willow appeared at the end of the aisle.
“Casey, stop!” she yelled.
Faith used a display of Little Debbie products to launch herself through the air, destroying the display in the process. Faith came down on Casey’s back, knocking both pursuer and pursued to the ground in a particularly ungainly fashion.
Her face inches from the blond-haired man, Faith said simply, “I win.”
“Hey, I don’t know what’s up with you guys,” Casey said, getting to his feet as Faith let him up. Now that the slayer had the chance to inspect him closely she could see the leopard-like dark spots on the back of his neck, which were mostly covered up by his dreadlocks. “I just got here for my shift and…”
“Casey, shut up,” Willow said wearily. “I just need your help is all.”
“Help with what?” he asked uneasily.
“A friend of mine is trapped in another dimension,” Faith said. “Red here tells me that we can’t get in on our own. That’s where you come in.”
“So tell me,” Casey asked, gaining confidence, “why should I help you? I’ve been keeping my nose clean. Getting mixed up with the Council could get pretty high profile. That’s not my thing anymore.”
“You’ll help us,” Willow elucidated, “because getting caught by the Mareanite Investigatory Force for dealing the white stuff is worse than anything WE can do to you.”
“You wouldn’t!” Casey said, disbelieving.
“I helped put together the largest human-demon coalition in the history of the universe, you don’t think I can call the right people to…”
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Casey interrupted quickly. “But no guarantees. If you can’t crack it, I don’t have too much confidence I can.”
“Wait, you guys know each other?” Faith queried, her eyebrows raised.
“Long story,” was all Casey said.
“So what’s the story on this guy, Red?” Faith pressed. “He some kinda demon coke dealer or somethin’?”
“Sugar,” Willow stated.
“Sugar,” Willow repeated. “He was a sugar dealer. Highly illegal in some parts of the demon world. Not to mention addictive.” Faith looked like she was having trouble dealing with this. “And here,” Willow continued, turning to look at the demon, “he can conveniently have all the sugar he wants for nothing. And if he wants it to stay that way, he’ll help.”
“Right,” Casey confirmed. “So this friend, where exactly is she? It isn’t Quor-Toth, is it, because there was this whole thing with a British guy…?”
“She’s in Kol-Mar,” Willow said.
“Seriously?” Casey asked, his voice high-pitched. “I dunno, I mean, that’s some heavy stuff, and the side-effects alone could be…” Willow was just looking at him, her gaze level. “I’ll give it a try,” he finished, faking a smile.
“Good,” Faith replied.
Somewhere Beneath Kol-Mar
Kennedy’s head lay on a sharp black rock, the tunnel roof not more than five feet from her on all sides, her only cushion her cropped brown hair. She looked worn, her face blackened with ash and dust.
“Are we, like, experiencing time differently or something?” she asked.
“Whatsis?” her gray companion squeaked, his voice echoing from the dark corner where he was curled up.
“I’m bored,” Kennedy stated, “and when I get bored I think of things. My Watcher used to say that I had my own special brand of paranoia.” A faraway smile crossed the slayer’s lips. “He taught me that in some dimensions time moves differently. Some places you can get old and die before anyone even knows you’re gone…and other places ever second is a year back home, and you get back to find out that everyone you’ve ever known is long dead and the Cubs are defending champs.”
“Do…not know,” the creature admitted slowly.
Kennedy’s expression didn’t really change, but her big brown eyes lost a little bit of shimmer for a moment. “Andrew would love that,” she said quietly. “Someone goes away for a day, returns to find it’s the year 2200. Flies around in some cars. Sweeps the girl off her feet. Frees the proletarian slaves. Or something.”
“What means?” her companion asked after a silent moment.
“When I get bored, I also get weird,” Kennedy explained. “I probably should have explained that.”
For several seconds, the tunnel was quiet. The slayer started up a stones so black they looked slick. Cracks from some ancient, miles-distant volcanic eruption spider-webbed out of a corner, disrupting the ceiling’s unnatural smoothness just enough to let one know that this place really existed.
“This plan of yours,” Kennedy asked, “the Kresnik plan, is it going to work?”
“Never tried it,” was the reply. “Never had a Kresnik before.”
Kennedy rolled her eyes, but didn’t comment on the response. “So we get to the magic room or whatever, then what? Do I just walk through the door and into my living room?”
“Have to make the door first,” the gray creature said.
“Make the door,” Kennedy repeated. She raised her head a few inches off its stone pillow. “With what? A chain-saw? Helpfully provided by the magic room?”
“With magic. Your magic.”
“Of course,” Kennedy sighed, letting her head fall back down with a loud clunk. “Ow.”
Council Lobby – Day
Faith, Willow, and Casey entered the large, white Council lobby. Faith roughly pushed the demon in the direction of the Coven room. “You. Go spell,” she stated. Casey glanced at Willow, who displayed a rueful grin but nodded her head in assent. She set off for her headquarters, and he followed.
Faith watched the pair leave, then noticed Rowena nearly hidden behind the front desk. The slayer walked over to the blond woman. “Whatcha doin’ here, Blondie? Thought you were supposed to be researchin’ up a storm.”
“I am,” Rowena responded, holding up the thick leather-covered volume she was reading. “I just needed to get out of the library.”
“Thought that was your natural habitat,” Faith said, surprised. “Aren’t you chosen to become one with the words or whatever?”
Rowena looked unsure for a moment before putting her book down on the desk. She kept her voice low. “Okay, look, don’t tell anyone but…well, is it just me, or is, you know, the next generation…really annoying. Especially when Starbucks take-out is involved?”
“You mean Dawn and the gang?” Faith asked. Rowena nodded. “I don’t know what you mean, Blondie, they’re the most…yeah, I know what you mean.” The watcher and slayer shared a small smile. “So you find anything during your time flyin’ solo?”
“Well, not ‘find’ as such,” Rowena answered, “but I think I might have realized something. You know how these Black Scimitars police the boundaries of the Spirit World, and punish violators of that boundary?”
“Yeah,” Faith replied, “but I’m still not sure what that has to do with Slick.”
“You said the member you spoke to called Kennedy ‘the Gypsy’?” Faith nodded. “Well, it occurred to me that, well, Kennedy IS a Kalderash. Ancestrally, at least. And, from a certain point of view, possibly the most magically powerful member the clan has seen.”
“And this clan’s idea of revenge is bringing vampire souls back from the spirit world.” Faith finished. “Got it. So, what, they just deport Slick on principle?”
“The Black Scimitars are magically powerful,” Rowena pointed out. “They may believe Kennedy is destined to do something that would violate that boundary.”
“You mean…in the future?” Faith and Rowena just looked at each other for a long second before the slayer shook her head. “Whatever. Let’s get her back first.”
“Agreed,” Rowena nodded.
Coven Room – Day
Casey nervously paced the length of the Coven Room, glancing occasionally at Dawn, Skye, Jeff, and Andrew as they set up a sacred circle in the middle of the floor. Willow reviewed some notes she had taken in a large, red chair off to the side of the room.
“So what we’re really doing here is focusing all the energy inside the circle to create a doorway.” The redheaded witch looked to the blond man for confirmation.
“Yeah,” Casey agreed, “basically. Look, I’m kinda nervous about this. Kol-Mar is blocked off. There’s a reason Kol-Mar is blocked off. It’s unstable.”
Willow reached into a bag and pulled out a chocolate-chip cookie, tossing it to the skittish demon. He hungrily bit into the cookie, his eyeballs rolling slightly towards the back of his head in pleasure.
“Okay, I think we’re good,” Jeff announced, as Skye placed the last chalky white stone of seven on the boundary of the sacred circle. The four younger coven members sat down around the circle, leaving one spot open. Casey moved to sit down, but Willow got up from her chair in the corner to shoo him away.
“Your energy’s too unfocused for energy focusing,” she said. “You’ve done your part. Now it’s time for me to do mine.” Casey moved to the opposite corner of the room as Willow took her place in the circle. Unable to stand still, he began to shift his weight repeatedly, from one foot to the other.
Willow closed her eyes long enough to take one deep, calming breath, then slowly opened them again. “Everybody ready?”
“All systems go,” Andrew breathed. Willow glanced at Jeff out of the corner of her eye, and he nodded slightly.
“All things are nothing, all things are everything,” he began.
“All places are nowhere, all places are everywhere,” Dawn continued.
“The universe is ungoverned, and yet all bends before the great rule,” Skye intoned.
“All worlds are one and the same, for saying makes it so,” Andrew said.
“Kennedy we seek, Kennedy we find,” Willow breathed urgently. “She is no longer there, she is now here.” Willow closed her eyes, tighter this time, and the rest of the group followed suit. In a moment, a faint blue light began to glow in the center of the circle. It increased in intensity and strength exponentially, soon growing large to engulf the circle and its occupants.
“Guys,” Casey urged, “I think…I think it’s getting too big.”
“We’re almost there!” Jeff shouted.
“I’m telling you,” Casey yelled, “it’s unstable! Someone’s going to get…”
With a crack like lightning, a blue dagger of energy sliced across the room, straight at Casey. Before the demon could dodge, it seemed to enter his chest, throwing him against the wall with its sheer force. Dawn and Willow leapt to their feet, breaking the circle and causing the energy to pull back into itself and disappear. Skye was the first to reach Casey. His once-blonde dreadlocks had become black, and a sickly smoke was coming from them. She reached for his neck to feel a pulse, and pulled back because her fingers were burned.
“He’s dead,” she announced unnecessarily. Quiet descended on the Coven Room for a few seconds.
“What do we do now?” Jeff asked quietly.
“Well,” Willow answered, “for starters, I don’t think we’re getting Kennedy back any time soon.”
End of Act III
Main Conference Room – Day
“So you’re telling me there’s nothing we can do?” Faith asked, the volume of her voice rising over the course of the sentence. “And you just… accept that? You know the spell, you said it was working!”
Willow, Rowena, and Giles sat around the conference table, a Watchers Council crest projected on the screen behind them as a screen saver.
“Faith, Willow has determined that the spell is too risky,” Giles said, attempting to soothe the angry slayer, “and I believe that she may be correct.”
“I can’t believe this!” Faith fumed. “I know you guys broke up, Red, but that’s cold. Or maybe the ice queen here is rubbing off on ya…”
Rowena looked offended and opened her mouth to defend herself, but Willow silenced her girlfriend with a look and a hand on the arm. Then the witch turned her attention to Faith.
“I understand how you feel,” she began, “I shared all of myself with Kennedy. I’ve never been more intimate with anyone in my life.” Rowena fidgeted uncomfortably with her coffee cup, but said nothing.
“If there was anything I could do,” Willow continued, “but that dimension is being torn apart by magical forces. It’s simply not accessible. Unless we find a new spell, I’m not trying it again.”
“But you said you had it!” Faith insisted. “We can get her back!”
Willow sighed and picked up the remote control sitting on the table in front of her. She pointed it at the screen at the head of the conference table and pressed a button. The screensaver vanished and was replaced with a rather graphic photograph of Casey after his death.
“Faith, this is what the energy from Kol-Mar does to people,” Willow said. “The dimension is being ripped apart by magicks. It’s unstable. Very unstable.”
“He was a demon drug dealer,” Faith said quietly.
“Yes, Faith, he was,” Willow said. “And maybe he wasn’t about to win the Presidential Medal of Honor. But this could have just as easily happened to any of us. To me, or Jeff, or Skye… or Dawn. You want to explain to Buffy how we got her little sister burnt to a crisp?”
The conference room was silent for a moment. Giles quietly took a sip of his tea.
“No,” Faith finally sighed. “But I refuse to accept that Kennedy’s gone. You said yourself, Calimari…”
“Kol-Mar,” Rowena half-heartedly corrected. Faith ignored her.
“… is being torn apart my too much magic. Kennedy is there. In the being-torn-apart place. I know Slick can take care of herself, but that’s a lot to ask. If we don’t do something, she’s gonna die.”
Giles placed his tea-cup down with a clink. The three women looked at him.
“We will make every effort to recover Kennedy,” he said. “But we may have to face the fact that, in this fight, it is inevitable that we will experience losses.”
“Losses?” Faith nearly yelled. “LOSSES!?!? You’re talking like she’s already…”
“Dead?” Giles interrupted. “Yes, I am, Faith. This is not easy for me. Kennedy was a vibrant, promising young woman. The idea that I have now somehow failed both mother and daughter has indeed occurred to me. But I will not allow others to die in a futile attempt to save her life. Now, we will continue our research, and I pray that we will find another way, but we will not attempt to access Kol-Mar in that manner again.”
Faith set her jaw and glared at the older man for a moment, but he didn’t give any ground. With a huff, she got up from the conference table and left the room. In her wake, the door swung closed with a bang. The remaining trio looked at each other.
“So that’s it?” Rowena asked. “Giles, you know we’re at a dead end in the research. Are we really just leaving Kennedy for dead?”
“I am afraid we are,” he said slowly.
At that, Willow’s business-like wall came crashing down, and she let out a loud sob. Rowena put her arm around her lover’s shoulders.
“It’ll be okay, baby,” she assured Willow. “It’ll be okay.”
“No,” Willow managed through the tears. “It won’t be okay. She’s gone. She’s really gone.”
Giles looked on as Willow buried her head in Rowena shoulder.
“She’s really gone.”
Tunnel Beneath Kol-Mar
A low rumble caught Kennedy’s attention as she walked down yet another branch of the tunnel through the rock. The rumble became a roar, and then the ground beneath the feet of the slayer and demon began to shake.
“What the hell?” Kennedy wondered, shielding her head from falling rocks with hands.
“All things fall apart,” the creature shrieked, dodging a falling stalactite. “Some things sooner, some things later.”
“Is this tunnel one of the sooners?” Kennedy yelled.
“Maybe,” came the reply.
“Okay,” Kennedy shouted, trying to make herself flat against the wall to avoid the falling ceiling. “I’m a slayer. We’re trained to think clearly in stressful situations. I have plan. The first thing we have to do is… RUN!!!
The slayer took off full speed down the shaking tunnel, and her companion followed as well as he could. A few turns later, the demon launched himself at Kennedy from behind.
“LOOKS OUT,” it yelled, as it pulled Kennedy away from a huge boulder that fell where she had just been.
“Oof,” Kennedy exhaled as she hit the ground with the creature on top of her. At that moment, the shaking stopped as quickly as it had begun. A last few stray rocks clattered to the floor. The slayer looked around cautiously. “Is that it?”
“More later,” the creature assured her, as if she should look forward to the next earthquake, “Don’t worry.”
“Oh, I’m not worried,” Kennedy said, getting to her feet. She stopped when she saw what lay beyond where she had fallen.
The tunnel opened out into a huge cavern. Huge murals covered the walls, faded colors depicting ancient battles. Grotesque creatures three times their original size tore each other to pieces. In the center of the floor, there was the faint white outline of a wheel with four spokes. It was the same symbol Kennedy had seen carved at the top of the stairs.
“Definitely not worried,” she continued, a nervous smile briefly crossing her face.
Slayer Exercise Room – Evening
Faith stood still in the dark. Her face betraying little, she fixed her gaze on her favorite punching bag. She didn’t move when the voice came from behind her.
“Thought I might find you here,” Robin said, standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the light from the hall. “I expected the bag to be a little more pummeled by this point, though.”
“I thought I wanted to,” Faith answered without turning, “and then I realized that I didn’t really want to do anything, y’know? I just came here ’cause I felt like I should. It’s what I do.”
“It isn’t your fault, you know,” Robin said.
“So you know what’s happening.” Faith turned to look at her lover. Robin took a slow, labored step into the room, aided by his cane.
“Yeah, I know,” he confirmed. “Place like this, word always gets around. Did you know we have an intercom in our room?” Faith didn’t respond or change her expression. “It isn’t your fault,” he repeated.
“Isn’t it?” Faith asked flatly. “I was there, I was in the alley, but I let that thing distract me.”
“You were doing your job,” Robin said, “just like Kennedy was.”
“Did you know the demon knocked me down?” Faith queried. “Vi had to finish it off. And when I got up… she was just gone.”
“I know you and Kennedy were close…” Robin began, taking another uncertain step towards the slayer.
“Close?” Faith snapped. “CLOSE? She was my best friend, Robin. She could be such a brat sometimes, but what am I, perfect?” Faith paced a few steps back and forth, gesturing wildly with her hands. “We’re out there every day, risking our necks for mankind, and there we are, two wild and crazy kids. We both screwed things up left and right, but neither one of us would give up on the other.”
Faith stopped her constant movement. Slowly, she swallowed, her voice cracking. “I’m sorry, Ace, but nobody got me like she did.”
“I know,” he said quietly. There was a moment in the dark where neither person seemed to want to look at the other. Faith ran a hand slowly over the rough leather surface of her favorite punching bag.
“I’m talking about Slick in the past tense,” she breathed softly. “Never thought that’d happen.”
“She had a dangerous job,” Robin said.
“Yeah, but I was the one who took all the risks,” Faith told him. “Who woulda thought she’d kick it before I did?”
“We don’t know Kennedy’s dead,” Robin tried to assure her.
“If she isn’t yet, she will be soon,” Faith said, a little louder. “Ro says we’re looking, but…” she trailed off, shaking her head.
For a moment Faith just stood there. Then she suddenly grabbed a large weight off a nearby rack and, with a pain-filled yell, threw it at the large mirror lining the far wall of the exercise room. The panel the weight hit shattered into hundreds of pieces, which fell to the floor with a crash.
Faith’s breaths came hard, as if she’d just run several miles. She walked over to the remains of the mirror and knelt on the floor. Deliberately, she picked up a long, sharp piece of glass in one hand, examining it closely.
“It’s all in pieces,” she said finally.
“I know, baby,” Robin said, “I know.”
Large Chamber Beneath Kol-Mar
A bruised, bloody, dirty Kennedy knelt awkwardly in the center of the wheel symbol, the vast cavern rising around her like the belly of a whale she’d been swallowed by.
“You’re sure this is the place?” she asked, sounding uncertain.
“Only place there is,” came the somewhat crazed reply from the gray creature, which was circling her with its typical ungainly gait.
“Right,” she said. “Keep in mind I’m not exactly magic gal, so I may need instructions from time to time here. Why do we have to do this here?”
“This place is falling apart, outsides in, insides out,” it told her. “Magic rips, tears, grabs. But not here. Because magic has to come from somewhere.”
“So you’re saying we have to do this here because this chamber is the center, the source of whatever’s causing this dimension to be unstable?”
“So wouldn’t that make this the most dangerous place to do magic of all?” Kennedy asked, still nervous.
“Most danger, yes,” it said, “But magic is only strong enough here.”
“Right,” Kennedy said with a sigh. “Double or nothing.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Let’s do this, then.”
Watchers Council Lobby – Night
With both hands, Rowena pushed her blond hair back, away from a face that spoke of the stress she had been under the past few days. Her eyes were tired. She sighed and cleared her throat.
She sat behind the reception desk in the Council lobby. Giles leaned on the desk across from her, watching his protégé with interest. His posture was casual, but from his lined face this was more out of exhaustion than anything else.
Rowena cast a glance in the direction of the hallway that led to the library. “I should be in there,” she said.
“You’re no use to us if you work yourself to death,” Giles told her. “We have the best staff in the world looking into this.”
“The trail’s gone cold,” Rowena remarked. “We’re not going to save her.”
“No, we’re not.”
“It’s time, then.”
Giles simply nodded. Rowena leaned forward and pressed one of many buttons on the desk, opening a channel that let her be heard all over the building.
“Attention all Council personnel, this is Rowena Allister,” she began. “I’m sorry, I know it’s late, but I felt that everyone should be told as soon as possible. As many of you know, the slayer Kennedy has been marooned in the Kol-Mar dimension.” The watcher took a deep breath.
“Efforts to retrieve her have failed.”
Slayer Rec Room – Same Time
“It has been determined that the risks in taking any rescue attempt forward at this time are too great,” Rowena’s voice said over the intercom. “As Kol-Mar is in the process of being destroyed by magical forces, we can only assume that if Kennedy is not dead already, she will be before any safe attempt can be made to save her.”
Vi and Xander looked at each other for a moment as they sat on the couch near the television. She snuggled closer to him, laying her head on his shoulder. He stroked her hair soothingly.
Dorm Room – Same Time
Shannon and another girl her own age sat up in their beds and looked at each other. The faces of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom were half-lit on the dorm-room walls.
“Kennedy was one of our finest slayers,” Rowena’s voice continued. “She touched all of us in her own way, and she touched the world with her courage.”
Council Library – Same Time
“She was both passionate and intelligent,” she said over the speaker, “and I feel no reservation in stating that she had more potential than any other slayer I have ever met.”
Dawn, Skye, and Jeff were among a slew of researchers who stopped their work to hear the announcement. Books were piled high on every available table, even on every available chair.
Council Computer Lab – Same Time
Andrew and a few other watchers were listening to Rowena’s announcement, taking a break from looking up references to Kol-Mar in the database.
“It is no secret that Kennedy and I weren’t the best of friends. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t know her, didn’t care about her.”
Hallway Outside Exercise Room – Same Time
“There is an old saying that says one should keep one’s friends close, but one’s enemies closer. I think in a way that’s what I did, though Kennedy wasn’t my enemy.”
Faith and Robin were in the middle of a long, desperate kiss. A single tear rolled down the slayer’s cheek.
Willow’s Room – Same Time
Willow had curled up under the covers of her bed. Her pillow was wet with tears.
“We were a lot alike, her and I. We both made mistakes over the years, ones we needed to forgive each other for. Most of all, we had the same love, and there can be no greater bond than that.”
Council Lobby – Same Time
“We were a lot alike.” Rowena paused and leaned forward over the intercom. Her face betrayed little, though her eyes were glistening. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here now. A lot of us wouldn’t be here.” The blond watcher paused for another breath. “The first time I met her, Kennedy pointed a cross-bow at my forehead and asked me who the hell I was. I’m still trying to figure out the real answer to that question, but I think I know who the hell Kennedy was. She was a hell of a slayer, and a hell of a person. Good night.”
She pressed the button to close the channel, and looked up at Giles.
“That was well said,” he told her quietly.
“Thank you,” she replied with a sigh. “I can’t shake the feeling though…”
“The feeling that Kennedy just might find her way back on her own,” Rowena elucidated. “If anyone could, it’s her.”
The two watchers shared a wan smile. In the lobby of the Council of Watchers, it was dead quiet.
Large Chamber Beneath Kol-Mar
Sound was everywhere. Kennedy’s scream was drowned out by the roar. Several thousand tons of rock was tearing itself apart at the seams. Something purple coursed from her fingertips, viscously floating in the air like the contents of a lava lamp.
“Yessss!” the gray demon yelled, clapping its long-fingered hands.
Kennedy managed to make herself heard above the noise. “This…HURTS!”
A very large, jagged chunk of the ceiling fell nearby, sending the creature sprawling.
“Get over here!” Kennedy shouted.
The demon clambered to its feet. “Why?”
“Come…with me,” Kennedy answered.
“Only rooms for one,” the creature replied. Another huge rock dropped near Kennedy, pitching her forward. The purple stuff stopped emanating from her hands.
“What? You mean, you’re staying here?!”
“This place won’t last much longer,” Kennedy yelled above the noise. “You’ll never make it out of here!”
“Been here long enough,” was the demon’s enigmatic reply.
Wide-eyed, Kennedy stared directly into its eyes for a full second. Then she looked up to the ceiling. The parts that had not yet fallen shook loosely. Cracks were now making their way down the walls of the chamber, splitting the silent faces of the painted warriors into two. She saw that the purple substance had formed a ring around her in the air, floating about a foot and half above the ground.
She looked back at her friend. “What do I do now?”
Kennedy’s brow furrowed. “The hell I…”
Then her pupils went unfocused. Slowly and deliberately Kennedy stood up. Her back was straight, her forehead held high. She brought her arms up from her sides, and, as she did, her feet lifted off the ground. From the ground the gray demon watched the Kresnik glide majestically upwards, her arms held straight out at the shoulder. As Kennedy rose into the air, so did the purple ring, maintaining its relationship to the slayer.
The ceiling began to collapse in earnest. It was difficult for the creature to maintain its balance as the entire world shook. Kennedy’s ascent stopped about twenty meters above the floor, closer to the ceiling than to the ground. For a moment, she simply hung there, as if from an invisible string. Kennedy allowed herself a glance around.
The purple ring surrounding her began to spin counter-clockwise, slowly at first, but gradually increasing in velocity until the individual specks of the stuff blurred. Kennedy looked down at the gray demon on the floor, somehow still standing despite ever-thickening deadly black rain.
The noise in the chamber had increased, if that was possible. It was impossible for the demon on the ground to hear Kennedy, no matter how loud she screamed. But it could see her mouth form the words “Thank you.”
Then, in one swift movement, the purple ring around Kennedy collapses inwards, and in sudden glare of white and violet lights she disappeared. In a moment, the light was gone. Then, with one great tremor, the ceiling finally and fully descended, and all was dark.
Behind Abandoned Building – Night
The back alley where Kennedy had been taken was empty except for the whistling wind. Somewhere, a dog barked.
Then, with the same white and violet flash, Kennedy appeared in mid-air above the street. She hung in the air for a long moment. Kennedy glanced around with a smile. “This is neat,” she observed.
Then, like a snapping cable, whatever was holding Kennedy in the air was gone. With a shriek, she plummeted to Earth. The slayer disappeared into a large garbage dumpster with a thud.
A long moment later, a dirty, rumpled Kennedy climbed awkwardly out of the dumpster, not looking too pleased. She shook off a plastic bag that had caught on her sleeve. With a heavy sigh, she fished her radio, looking pretty beat-up in its own right, out of her pocket and turned it on. Miraculously, it was still in working order.
“Base, this is Kennedy,” she said into the device. “I repeat, this is Kennedy, do you copy?”
“OH MY GOD, KENNEDY!” Kennedy winced and held the radio away from her ear at Andrew’s screamed response. “IS THAT YOU?”
“Yeah, it’s me,” Kennedy said shortly.
“We thought you were dead,” Andrew told her, quieting down only a little. “Wait…are you dead? Am I having a “White Noise” moment?”
Kennedy put a hand to her forehead. “I don’t know what that would be, but I’m not dead, so…I doubt it.”
Watchers Council Front Lobby – Later
Kennedy walked through the front door of the Watchers Council to find the lobby packed with people. The thirty or so most important council members had all turned out to welcome her home. For a moment after her entrance, the place was silent. Kennedy glanced around the room, picking out various faces, and then she smiled.
“Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated,” she announced. Then Willow, standing directly in front of Kennedy, brought the slayer into a big bear hug, and the lobby erupted with cheers.
Her eyes glistening, Willow released Kennedy. Seeing Giles nearby, Kennedy strode over and hugged him. A small smile on his face, he affectionately ran his hand through the slayer’s hair until she loosened her hold. Kennedy turned around to find Faith standing in front of her.
“Do we…hug?” Kennedy asked.
“Hell yes,” Faith replied, grabbing her friend. “Don’t ever do that to me again, ya hear me?” she whispered into Kennedy’s ear.
Willow grinned as the pair separated. “Faith almost killed me with her bare hands when we stopped looking. You have a good friend, Ken.”
Kennedy smiled. “I know.”
“Shoulda known you wouldn’t let a little thing like dozens of massive volcanoes stop you.” Faith slapped Kennedy on the shoulder. “So, how’d ya pull it off?”
But Kennedy’s attention was on the blonde woman who had approached her.
“Sorry about the small turn-out,” Rowena told her. “It’s the best we could do at three in the morning.”
Kennedy glanced around the room. It didn’t really seem possible that more people could be fit into the lobby. “Trust me, I’m happy.”
“Good,” Rowena said. She looked uncomfortable for a moment. Then she too leaned forward and embraced Kennedy.
For a moment, the slayer had a surprised look on face. Then her arms rose from her sides and she returned the watcher’s hug.
“You can’t go,” Rowena said. “This place needs you. WE need you.”
Kennedy just smiled.