Sunnydale Wasteland – Morning
“Guys, I need help!” Livia shouted.
Mira and the other Slayers formed a circle around her. Cherise rushed forward and punched the vampire with a closed fist, but it didn’t have an effect. He turned toward her, looking annoyed. With a casual backhand he sent her flying 15-feet away until she landed heavily on her backside.
“Break out the stakes!” Mira ordered.
“No!” Livia shouted. “We need this thing alive.”
“Are you kidding?” Mira asked incredulously as two more girls fell.
“Go for the stun gloves!” Livia ordered.
Mira and other girls went to their belts and quickly put on their electrically charged gloves.
Mira charged the vampire and hit it full-on in the chest with her glove. However, it had little affect on the vamp, which backhanded Mira out of the way and advanced towards Monique, who fumbled with her glove.
Livia charged behind the demon, but it stopped and turned to face her, sending her sliding to a halt.
“Come on, ugly. Me and you; womano e vampire,” she said.
The demon seemed to hesitate, but then picked up a cinder block and hurled it at Livia. She ducked, but the block moved much faster, striking her in the head.
“Livia!” Mira screamed as she watched the Slayer fall hard to the ground, unmoving.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same Time
Sebastian Giles sat at his desk poring over a large stack of reports. Sighing, he pushed some of the reports aside, took off his glasses, and began to lightly massage his temples.
“What do we have here? Our esteemed Councilman lounging about on the job, perhaps? Maybe I should report this to the High Command,” a voice said.
He looked up to see Veronica Wyndham-Price at his door. She entered the room and gave him a teasing grin.
“Hello, Veronica,” Giles said as he straightened his position again.
Veronica studied Giles’s face for a few seconds. He looked haggard and grim, as if he hadn’t slept at all.
“You look like hell, Seb,” she said bluntly.
“I’m not surprised,” Giles said with a forced grin. “I’m beginning to feel as if I made the wrong decision and pushed too soon. Especially since the Council is nothing more than a bureaucratic hell.” Giles sighed again. “I have three witnesses-all respected members of this Council,” he went on to complain. “Why is this not enough?”
Before Veronica could reply, a knock came on the doorframe. A few seconds later, Jocasta poked her head inside the office. She began to enter but paused when she noticed Veronica.
“You got a minute?” Jocasta asked.
Giles, sensing urgency in her voice, exchanged a glance with Veronica before replying “Yes. What’s up?”
Jocasta entered further into the room. “Have you looked at the news net today?” she asked.
Giles, sensing an undercurrent of urgency in her voice, exchanged a glance with Veronica before replying, “No. What’s wrong now?”
Jocasta walked inside and went to the large monitor on the wall to activate it. “We might have a situation – another situation.” Jocasta corrected herself.
Veronica cleared her throat, momentarily breaking in. “I’ll just excuse myself and leave you two to your work,” she said. She then turned to go.
“Veronica,” Giles called out. “Did you need something?”
“No,” she said, smiling warmly. “I just wanted to check on you and let you know that if you need me I’ll be in my office.” With that she walked out, leaving Giles and Jocasta alone.
“Now, what’s so important?” Giles asked.
Jocasta waited until Veronica had cleared the outer door of the office.
“If you need me I’ll be in my office,” Jocasta teased putting a sexy spin on her voice.
Giles held back a smile. “She didn’t say it that way, and she’s just a colleague, a friend. Now what do you have?”
Jocasta gave him another grin but soon looked sobered again as she leaned over to turn on the teleprompter. “This,” she said, quickly using Giles’s computer to display a news report on the large wall monitor. “It came up about ten minutes ago.”
Giles stared intently at the screen as the reporter began her report.
“We’re here on location at the Visio Night Club with a breaking news story. We just learned, at approximately 2:00 this morning two club goers were attacked as they exited the nightclub directly behind me – one fatally. It was only an hour ago when the owner of a convenience store, adjacent to the club, discovered the grisly scene of two people in his dumpster. Information about the attack is scarce at this time, but we were able to speak momentarily with the one victim. She gave us a vague description of the assailant – large and, from what she claims, partially robotic. We will continue to monitor the situation and will report further details as they become available. This is Lisa Lance, reporting for Channel 21 News, Cleveland.”
Giles frowned and began to furtively chew on his pen.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Jocasta asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Giles said. “Something survived.”
Jocasta sighed and nodded her agreement. “And we need to catch it first.”
Watchers Council – Progenitor Room – Later That Day
Jocasta hesitantly entered the conference room on the fortieth floor, where earlier that week she and Giles had immediately returned the Progenitor File when they had gotten back from Sunnydale.
“Hello?” she asked.
“Hello, Jocasta.” The air directly in front of Jocasta shimmered and the grainy holographic representation of Willow Rosenberg appeared.
“Did you need something?” Willow asked. “Or is this just a social call?”
Jocasta laughed. “The Council’d probably have my head if they found out I was befriending a hologram, even a semi-sentient one. Actually, I was hoping you could help me. Have you accessed the news net for today?”
Willow shook her head. “I’m still only connected to the main data network. If it didn’t show up there, then no,” she said.
Jocasta sighed. “I’ll have to talk to Giles, see if he can do something about that once this thing with the High Command gets resolved,” she muttered under her breath before addressing Willow again. “Anyway, about ten minutes ago, a news report came up about an attack that happened earlier this morning by something ‘partially robotic’.” She paused to let Willow absorb the information before continuing. “Giles and I suspect that it’s something from the High Command’s Project 314, although the blast Aurora triggered to take out the facility was so powerful that I can’t fathom how anything could have survived it,” Jocasta said.
“This is probably an obvious question, but why not just take a team back to the Sunnydale facility and comb through the wreckage?” Willow asked.
“We did but they’ve found nothing so far,” Jocasta said.
Before Willow could reply, the doors to the Progenitor Room slid open and Anya entered and approached Jocasta.
“Here you are,” she said. “James has had me trekking all over the place looking for you.”
“What does he want?” Jocasta asked.
“He didn’t tell me; he just said it was important,” Anya replied. “If you’re done here, we’d better get going. He has a tendency to get into trouble if I leave him alone for too long.”
“I’d better go see what’s up,” Jocasta said to Willow.
“I’ll still be here,” Willow replied as Jocasta turned and followed Anya out of the room.
Watchers Council – Computer Center – Moments Later
Jocasta followed Anya into a mostly deserted computer room.
“James? I’ve found your Watcher,” Anya said. Insulted, Jocasta glared at her, but the android paid no attention.
“Over here,” James called as he waved from the corner of the room. Anya started towards him, with Jocasta on her heels.
“Just say the word Lex and I’ll be there.” James said into his headset before turning it off as Anya and Jocasta approached.
“What was that all about?” Anya asked James accusingly.
“Lex wants me to help him program the next Seraphim Suit prototype.”
“James,” Jocasta said. “Anya said you had something important to talk to me about.”
“Right,” James said. “I was going through the Council’s database yesterday looking for anything related to the High Command…”
“You had a change of heart?” Jocasta interjected.
James gave a guilty grin. “I got bored, okay? I needed something to do. Anyway, I found this.”
He picked up something from the console in front of him and handed it to Jocasta. It was a small, datapad showing video surveillance files.
“I already have this,” she answered. “Hours and hours of useless tape.”
“Okay, well,” James said as he shifted fretfully in his seat, “Not completely useless. What about this part?” he asked as he played the datapad on his screen, fast-forwarded to a different spot.
Jocasta looked bored until she watched Horatio Tyrell pop up on the screen talking to two men dressed in business suits in his office.
“Thank you for seeing us, Mr. Tyrell,” one of the men was saying.
“Please. Call me Horatio,” Tyrell said. “I’m just glad that Hubris could send someone to meet with me on such short notice.”
At the mention of the name, Jocasta squared her shoulders and listened intently.
“It was no trouble at all,” the second man said.
“I’m sure,” Tyrell said. “Now, to business. I called your offices and requested a meeting because I am interested in procuring some warehouse space for the Council in this area.” He handed one of the men a datapad which displayed a map of Cleveland and which had a circle indicating the area in question, an area made up almost entirely of warehouses owned by Hubris Inc.
“Might I ask what this warehouse will be used for?” the first man asked.
“Of course not,” Tyrell said. “The Council has recently been conducting some experiments which are too volatile to be stored here. The warehouse which I would like to rent for the Council is in an area remote enough that these experiments will pose no danger to anyone.”
“We’ll relay your request to our employers and get back to you,” the first man said.
“I appreciate it,” Tyrell said. “Have a good day.”
James fast-forwarded to a new location on the tape. Tyrell was once again meeting with the two men.
“Your terms are acceptable. Hubris Inc. is proud to be doing business with you and the Council,” the first man said. He produced a contract and handed it to Tyrell, who quickly signed it and handed it back.
“Tell your employers that the Council will assume the responsibility of seeing to the warehouse’s security,” Tyrell said. He showed the two men to the door and waited until they were gone before returning to his desk.
The vid file ended and Jocasta glanced up at James who popped out the discpad and handed it to her. She smiled broadly as she took it.
“Oh James!” she said excitedly. “I could kiss you! Oh, what the hell,” she shrugged.
Jocasta grabbed his face in both hands and planted a firm but strong kiss on his lips before she darted out the door with his discpad in hand.
“Glad to help?” James said sounding more like a question than a statement as he tried to regain his bearings at the suddenly physical expression.
Grinning widely, James turned around and found Anya standing before him with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. She tapped her foot angrily. James gulped.
“Hey, don’t be getting any ideas James,” she warned.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same Time
“He’s only renting space,” Giles argued to Jocasta as he handed her back the datapad.
“True,” Jocasta answered. “But it’s a start. If we link these recent attacks back to him and what was stored there we’ve got him dead to rights. Plus if he has guards in place at the warehouse he couldn’t be acting alone. He’d need the approval of Travers for any mission request. That means Travers knew and if he knows it’s possible that other High Commanders, hell, maybe the entire High Command knew about 314.”
“But it’s not physical evidence,” Giles insisted. “Travers can always say that Tyrell forged his approval and acted alone. We need something we can show the Council that they can touch and feel before they render the two are related.”
“And we’re working on that,” Jocasta countered. “Speaking of which, did you find out anything more about the Hubris flight directory?”
“It doesn’t list a flight time,” Giles answered.
“What?” Jocasta appeared confused.
“It’s conveniently missing. Well, convenient for Tyrell anyway. Hubris’s trip might have taken one hour or twelve. Problem is we can’t prove they were the ones out there with a G150-S.”
“Which leads us where?” Jocasta asked.
Giles closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “Back to square one,” he answered grimly.
Fade to Black
To Be Continued in Balancing Acts
End of Prices Paid
Next on Restoration