Watchers Council – Council Chambers – Night
Veronica and Giles watched the big screen as the votes continued to come in. Giles and Travers were neck and neck in the results, first one leading, then the other. When the latest tally put Travers ahead, Giles shifted nervously in his chair.
Veronica leaned over toward Giles. “How does it feel to be in the hot seat?” she asked with a playful nudge.
Giles pulled at his collar and said, “I feel like I’m already in the fire.”
Sisters of Grace Hospital – Night
As Katherine and Jocasta backed away from the growing flames, they looked frantically around the room, trying to figure out what to do.
Katherine activated her comlink. “Livia!” she called. There was no answer. “Livia, this is Katie, do you read me?”
Katherine looked at Jocasta, who tried her link with the same result.
“There’s got to be another way out of here,” Jocasta said, leading Katherine to the back where the Vritrani demon lay.
As smoke poured in, the two women searched the room for any kind of exit. Stifling their coughs as best they could, they checked the walls, examined the storage closets, and moved aside equipment. In the corner, they shoved the last large piece aside and discovered a door.
“Oh, thank god!” Katherine said with relief.
Jocasta turned the knob and pushed. The door didn’t move. “Damn it! It’s locked!” she said in frustration.
“Let me try,” Katherine said, moving in front of the door. Using all of her Slayer strength, Katherine kicked the door several times to no avail. “It’s no use,” she said. “It’s reinforced steel, the frame and all. It won’t budge.”
They both looked around them in desperation, their coughs becoming worse.
Jocasta looked at the door then at Katherine. “Do you think you could do that ‘magic blast’ again, like you used on Mr. Roboto in there?”
“I don’t know,” Katherine said. “It was kind of an adrenaline thing. I was just reacting without thinking.”
“What if I help?”
“Maybe. We can try, anyway.”
Katherine and Jocasta joined hands, closed their eyes, and concentrated. Oblivious to the flames that were now engulfing the back room, Katherine let the energy build. When the fire was just about to reach them, Katherine released the blast.
Blam! The steel door blew completely off its hinges and slid clanking down the narrow crawlspace that had been behind it. Katherine and Jocasta opened their eyes and dashed through the damaged doorway.
They ran down the tiny corridor until it ended at the front of the big boiler room. As they re-entered the boiler area, a huge explosion rocked the room behind them. Jocasta and Katherine involuntarily turned toward the sound and saw a huge wall of flame surging towards them.
Watchers Council – Council Chambers – Night
The voting period was in its last minute. All eyes were on the screen as the final votes were tallied and totaled. Giles and Travers were tied with only a few votes uncast.
Suddenly, Giles shot up from his chair and rushed to the console. He quickly logged in and cast his vote. Then he returned to his chair. Feeling Veronica’s stare, he said sheepishly, “In the excitement, I forgot to vote.”
Veronica rolled her eyes then turned back to the screen. When the time ran out, Veronica stood and took her place at the podium. She rapped the gavel soundly. “Voting is now closed,” she announced. “And it looks like we do have a winner. Our new Chairman is…Sebastian Giles.”
As the Council erupted into applause, Veronica turned to Giles and smiled, joining the group in congratulating the new Chair. Giles stood and smiled, waving and nodding at the Councilmen to indicate his sincere thanks. Then he joined Veronica at the podium.
“Before I pass the gavel to our new Chairman,” Veronica said, “I make the motion that any illegal actions that Councilor Giles and his colleagues made in their investigation of Tyrell and Project 314 be forgiven in light of the disaster they prevented—as long as such incidents do not recur.”
A voice quickly piped in with a second. Veronica called for a vote, and the motion was passed. As the Council applauded once again, Veronica made a dramatic presentation of the gavel to Giles and then took her seat.
Giles held the gavel in his hands and stared at it a moment. Then he faced the Council.
“Thank you again for your confidence,” Giles stated. “I promise you that I will do my very best to serve and to lead. And with no further ado, I declare this meeting adjourned.”
Giles gave the gavel a firm rap on the podium with a satisfied smile as he did so. His smile quickly faded as a wave of Councilors descended upon him, bombarding him with congratulations and requests. As he struggled to field the questions shot at him, Giles noticed Travers a distance away.
Travers glared at first, but then he smiled, a secret little smile that conveyed Giles’s troubles were far from over. Then he walked away, leaving Giles to fend for himself amongst the horde.
Sisters of Grace Hospital – Night
Katherine and Jocasta sprinted out of the boiler room and into the stairwell just as the flames rushed past the doorway. They didn’t stop to watch, though. They ran as fast as they could up the stairs, though the maze of hallways, and out the nearest fire exit.
Sisters of Grace Hospital – Night
Katherine and Jocasta dashed away from the building until they were a safe distance away. Then they plopped to the ground, exhausted, breathing hard.
Livia and a couple of Slayers ran up to join them.
“Are you guys okay?” Livia asked. “We heard the explosion, but couldn’t get you on the radio. I thought you were dead!”
Katherine coughed a couple of times then answered. “We’re fine, but the killer got away.”
“He teleported,” Jocasta added in a ragged breath. “And he might still be close by, so get your slayers on it.”
“No problem!” Livia said, turning to the slayers who were with her. After a few instructions, the slayers spread out to search.
As they struggled to get air into their lungs, Jocasta reached over and took Katherine’s hand.
“That was close, huh?” Katherine said with small grin.
“Too close,” Jocasta replied.
“Well, we were trapped in a burning building and managed to escape, so the rest of the night should be a piece of cake, right?”
“Right,” Jocasta said in a totally unconvinced tone as she looked over Katherine’s shoulder.
Katherine turned to see what Jocasta was looking at. It was the arrival of a host of emergency vehicles, followed shortly by a Channel 21 news van.
“Yeah…piece of cake,” Jocasta groaned.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Night
Giles entered his office, trudged to his desk, and sank wearily into his chair as the rush of the day’s proceedings finally took their toll. He took off his glasses, rubbed the bridge of his nose, massaged his forehead and temples, and then put his glasses back on.
He sighed and activated his computer. He started to scan his email, but quickly abandoned it, choosing instead to turn on the news. As he scanned the channels, the image of a fire caught his eye. He went back to that channel and turned up the volume. Then he leaned forward in his chair.
“As you can see, the fire here at Sisters of Grace hospital is now raging completely out of control, despite the best efforts of firefighters,” Lisa Lance said as she stood in front of the burning building. “Some local residents, however, are actually pleased by the fire.”
The screen cut to an earlier video of an older man being interviewed. “It’s good riddance, I say,” the man said angrily. “It’s been nothing but a demon haunt for years now, and the Watchers Council hasn’t done a damn thing about it!”
The screen cut back to Lance. “The Council was here in force tonight, but the representatives who were present refused to comment on the situation.”
The screen cut to another pre-recorded scene. Lisa Lance was trailing Jocasta and Katherine as they moved towards their skimmer.
“Colonel Rosenberg!” Lance said, shoving her microphone in Jocasta’s direction. “Is it true that the Council has known about the demon population living at the hospital and has taken no actions against it?”
“No comment,” Jocasta said, pushing the microphone aside.
Lance immediately thrust the microphone forward again. “But isn’t it true that–”
Lance’s question was cut off as Katherine stepped between Jocasta and the intruding microphone and grabbed the female reporter by her lapels. “She said, no comment,” the slayer responded coldly. Katherine maintained eye contact then slowly released Lance’s jacket. Looking suitably frightened, the reporter didn’t follow.
“Oh, brother!” Giles lamented as he dropped his head into his hand.
Sisters of Grace Hospital – Skimmer – Night
As Katherine started up the skimmer and prepared to depart, Jocasta leaned back in her chair with her arm over her eyes.
“I hate reporters,” Jocasta groaned.
“Yeah, me, too,” Katherine agreed. “They’re so rude, always getting in your face. I hate that.”
Jocasta leaned up in her chair and grinned. “Betcha that reporter won’t be getting in your face any time soon.”
Katherine blushed a little and then said, “I just didn’t like the way she was shoving that microphone at you.”
Jocasta gave Katherine’s arm a poke. “It was so cute the way you stepped in there all protective-like. You wanna be my bodyguard?”
Katherine turned to Jocasta. “Oh, I’ll guard your body any time,” she said with a half-smile. She leaned over to kiss Jocasta, but stopped when the skimmer’s comlink went off.
Jocasta growled and then activated the videophone. “What?” she said abruptly. She quickly changed her tone when she turned toward the screen and realized who was calling. “Giles! Oh, sorry, it’s been…a difficult night.”
“Yes, I imagine it has,” Giles replied. “I’ve seen the news.”
“Oh,” Jocasta answered.
“You and Katie, you’re all right?”
“Yes, we’re fine,” Katherine interjected. “A little singed, but otherwise okay.”
“And the killer?”
“Got away,” Jocasta admitted. “Livia and her girls have been searching, but he’s gone. We’re back to square one.”
Giles was silent for a moment. Then he continued. “Well, I’ll be expecting your reports in the morning then.”
“Oh!” Jocasta said, suddenly remembering. “The election. How did it go? Did you win?”
“Depends on your definition of winning,” Giles replied with a wry grin. “But, yes, I was elected, and our illegal activities have been, thankfully, forgiven.”
“All right!” Jocasta exclaimed with a big smile.
“Thank goodness!” Katherine added.
“Now we can get some things done around here,” Jocasta said excitedly.
“My election isn’t going to make things easier,” Giles pointed out. “If anything, things will be harder. As Chair, I’ll be under more scrutiny than ever, and so will everyone I work with, especially you, Jo.”
Giles paused and rubbed his forehead. Then he looked back at the screen. “Get some rest, both of you, and I’ll look for your reports in the morning.”
Without another word, Giles ended the call, and Jocasta’s screen went blank. She stared at it, open-mouthed, a slightly hurt expression on her face. She frowned and plopped back in her chair, crossing her arms tightly.
“Glad you’re okay, get some rest, but I expect your report first thing in the morning!” Jocasta said sarcastically, mocking Giles’s words.
Katherine smiled at the brooding Jocasta and patted her on the leg. “Come on, why don’t we get some take-out and head over to your place? We can do our reports there, can’t we?”
Jocasta didn’t answer in words, but only grumbled in pouty complaint.
“The sooner we finish our reports, the sooner we can turn our attention to…other things,” Katherine said teasingly.
Jocasta cut her eyes at Katherine and grinned wickedly.
Jocasta’s Apartment – Night
Jocasta and Katherine sat on the floor with their backs against the sofa, the coffee table before them covered with take-out boxes from the nearby Chinese restaurant. As Jocasta sat holding her hand over her stomach as if she’d eaten too much, Katherine pointed at a box on the table.
“Are you gonna eat the rest of that fried rice?” Katherine asked.
“I couldn’t if I wanted to,” Jocasta answered miserably. “So help yourself. I should know better than to try and keep up with a slayer in the eating department.”
“Thanks,” Katherine said, scooping up the box and digging in. After getting down a few mouthfuls, she asked, “So, what’s the plan? With the killer, I mean.”
“I don’t know,” Jocasta said ruefully. “We’ve got a description out to law enforcement, and we’ve got till tomorrow night to figure out who he is and where to find him. I’m out of ideas. I’m kinda hoping something will come to me in my sleep.”
“Supposing we do find him, how are we gonna stop him?” Katherine asked nervously. “He’s a mage, and we’re…”
“Not, I know,” Jocasta admitted. “See, this is where the Council is so screwed up,” she added angrily. “How are we supposed to fight the bad guys who are using magic if we ourselves aren’t allowed to use magic? Tell me that. We were just damn lucky we knew some tonight or we’d be charcoal by now.”
“What are we going to put in our reports…about what we did?”
“We tell the truth,” Jocasta answered. “We used magic because we had to, it was self-defense, pure and simple. Besides, we told the truth in the Council today, and that turned out okay.”
Jocasta rose to her knees and began picking up the empty take-out boxes. When she had an armful, she got to her feet and looked at Katherine.
“Telling the truth is best, don’t you think?” Jocasta asked.
Katherine hesitated then said, “Yeah…telling the truth is best.”
When Jocasta turned to go to the kitchen, Katherine set down the box of fried rice. She frowned and looked away, biting her bottom lip anxiously.
Killer’s Basement – Night
The killer chuckled as he shoved the plastic headrest under the neck of Ramakrishna.
“You shoulda seen the look on those witches’ faces,” he said. “When I barricaded that door and busted that lamp, they knew it was over, they knew they were gonna die.” The killer looked at his victim. “It was kinda like the look you’re wearing right now.”
The killer moved away to pick up an object from his workbench.
“Now you may be wondering why I didn’t just kill you on the spot, like I did all the others.”
The killer returned to the table holding Ramakrishna.
“Well, I couldn’t just crack your skull right then and there,” he said. “No way.”
The killer caressed his victim’s head. “This is the final piece, the most important part, the jewel in my crown, so to speak,” the killer said. “It requires a more delicate touch.”
The killer lifted his right arm and revealed an autopsy saw in his hand. With a malicious grin, he switched it on.
As the saw grew closer, Ramakrishna screamed uselessly into his gag.
Watchers Council – Jocasta’s Office – Morning
Jocasta and Katherine were sitting side by side, manning different computers.
“What about this?” Katherine asked, pointing at her screen.
Jocasta leaned over to see what Katherine was indicating. “Hmmm…‘binding an evil spirit’…well, he’s not an evil spirit exactly, but what the hell? Add it to the folder. I don’t know how much good any of this is going to do us if we can’t even find the guy.”
“The police haven’t found any sign of him?”
“Nope, not a thing. With the kind of power he’s got, there’s no telling how far he was able to teleport.”
Jocasta’s phone rang, and she answered it quickly. “Rosenberg,” she said. “Oh, hey, Giles.” After listening a moment, she said, “We’ll be right there.”
She ended the call and glanced at Katherine. “Giles wants to see us,” she said with a worried look.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Moments Later
“What?” Jocasta exclaimed, looking at the document Giles had handed her.
“Now, Jo,” Giles warned when he heard the ire in Jocasta’s voice.
“You’re writing us up?” she demanded. “For using magic?”
“Are we being arrested?” Katherine asked worriedly.
“No, not at this time,” Giles answered Katherine. “You’re only being called to a disciplinary hearing, which will take place tomorrow. In the meantime, you are as free as any other citizen and may continue your operations.”
While Katherine shifted nervously in place, Jocasta crossed her arms and glared at Giles.
“Jo,” Giles explained, “the council’s forgiveness of our 314 actions was a one-time thing. We can’t expect it to be offered again.”
“But you’re the Chair now,” Jocasta objected.
“That doesn’t mean I can break the rules,” Giles replied.
“We’re going up against a mage here,” Jocasta said hotly. “A really powerful mage. Who, by the way, we have to find and stop by tonight or he becomes a super mage. You expect us to do all that and play by the rules, to not to use magic?”
Jocasta stared at Giles expectantly, but he had no answer. Jocasta shook her head then made eye contact again.
“Why don’t you just chop off my hands and blind me while you’re at it!” Jocasta added. “If you’re going to cripple my operations, you might as well do it completely!”
Jocasta threw the document on Giles’s desk and stormed out of his office.
Katherine looked at Giles with a pained expression. Then she turned to follow after Jocasta.
Watchers Council – Elevator – Moments Later
Katherine watched uncomfortably as Jocasta fumed to herself in the corner of the elevator. Katherine started to say something but stopped. As the car neared its stop, she thought some more and finally spoke.
“Maybe we don’t need magic to defeat this mage,” Katherine offered meekly.
Jocasta glared at Katherine, but the Slayer continued in spite of it.
“I’m-I’m just saying that there are drugs we can use, drugs that will incapacitate him, block his–”
“Right, like last time when he just ripped weapons from our hands. Look, if you wanna cover your ass and play by the rules, then stay home!” Jocasta yelled, pointing a finger at Katherine. “But I plan on fightin’ fire with fire.”
The elevator doors opened, and Jocasta left in rush, stomping down the hallway. Katherine paused, as if deciding whether or not to follow. Sadly, she let the elevator doors close.
After making only a few angry steps towards her office, Jocasta stopped and hurried back to the elevator, only to find Katherine already gone.
Killer’s Basement – At The Same Time
Now dressed in a black silk robe, the killer stoked the fire in the large top-loading wood-burning stove that tied into the huge chimney in the center of the house. He left the metal door of the stove open and set the poker aside.
He slipped inside a newly-placed circle of seven pillars. Each pillar was painted a different color of the spectrum, from red to violet, and atop each one lay a different body part taken from his victims.
At the center of the circle sat a small altar covered with a red and gold cloth. Upon the altar were a silver water dish with ladle, a large silver bowl, and the vial of glowing Vritrani blood. He walked to the altar and picked up the silver water dish with ladle. Then he moved to the red column.
Draped across the top of the red column lay the spine of his first victim. The killer lifted the ladle from the metal dish and sprinkled water on the spine, reciting ancient Sanskrit words as he did so. Shifting to the orange column at his left, he did the same, then repeated the process for each column, moving counter-clockwise around the circle until he finished at the pillar of violet, which held the brain of his last victim.
The killer went back to the altar and replaced the water dish and ladle. Then he returned to the red column and lifted the spine from its place atop the pillar. He took it to the wood-burning stove and with an incantation in Sanskrit, he dropped the spine into the fire, where it landed with a hiss and sizzle. He breathed in the smoke from the burning spine, then returned to the circle. He repeated this process until all of the body parts had been sacrificed upon the fire.
He closed the door of the stove and went back to the circle. With much whirring and clanking due to his crude cybernetic limbs, the killer knelt on the floor. He closed his eyes and began to chant.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector – Afternoon
Jocasta sat slumped in her chair, staring blankly at a magical reference on her screen.
Willowgram stood atop her mobile processor, watching Jocasta. The tiny hologram twisted back and forth in place and tapped her foot impatiently. She glanced at her watch and then looked back at Jocasta.
“You’ve been staring at that same paragraph for ten minutes,” Willow said finally. “I’ve timed you.”
“It’s nothing,” Jocasta answered.
“Must be the biggest nothing this side of the ‘Never-Ending Story’.”
“Never mind. Is it Katie?”
“Yeah,” Jocasta admitted. “I kinda went off on her, and now she probably never wants to see me again.”
“So, you let your anger get the better of you?”
“Luckily for you, there’s an easy solution.”
“There is?” Jocasta said, looking up with hope-filled eyes.
“Yes, it’s called an ‘apology’,” Willow said. “Works wonders, I hear.”
“It’s not that easy,” Jocasta said, pouting again. “I mean, what do I say?”
“You say you’re sorry.”
“I can’t just say that,” Jocasta disagreed. “I mean, that’s so blah, so ordinary, everybody says that. I need to say it better so she knows I really–”
Jocasta’s words were cut off when she saw Katherine at her doorway. Jocasta froze in place with her mouth wide open.
Willow grinned and blipped herself away.
“Hey,” Katherine said.
“Hey,” Jocasta echoed, standing up from her chair.
Katherine walked towards Jocasta. “I just wanted to–”
“I’m sorry!” Jocasta blurted out suddenly and loudly, interrupting Katherine.
When Katherine looked confused at the outburst, Jocasta blushed and shrugged her shoulders in embarrassment. Then she stepped towards Katherine.
“I’m sorry for how I acted earlier…in the elevator,” Jocasta clarified. Then she added firmly, “I was wrong.”
“I understand,” Katherine replied sympathetically. “You were upset.”
“Yes, I was upset and angry and furious, but I shouldn’t have taken all that out on you.”
“It’s okay. Besides, you weren’t entirely wrong,” Katherine said. “I’ve been thinking about what you said, and I think you’re right. We should fight fire with fire.”
“Yes, I’ll help you fight the mage…with magic.”
“Even if it means getting into more trouble?” Jocasta asked.
Jocasta smiled and motioned Katherine to sit next to her. “I’ve been thinking, too, about your drug idea. If we can get it into a tranquilizer shot and can get close enough, it just might work. Besides, I have a feeling we’re gonna need every trick in the book to bring this guy down.”
As Jocasta called up a series of files on her computer, Katherine sat down. “I’ve been thinking about something else, too,” the slayer said.
“How to find him,” Katherine answered.
Killer’s Basement – Night
The killer swept the ashes of the extinguished fire out of the wood-burning stove and into a large silver bowl. He set the bowl gingerly on the stove. He removed his robe, leaving him dressed in only a loincloth. He picked up the bowl of ashes and re-entered the circle. He placed the bowl on the altar and dipped his hands into it. Reciting more Sanskrit, he began to rub the ashes onto his body. When his body was covered, the killer knelt once again and began to chant. As his words grew louder, the circle of pillars began to glow.
Killer’s Home – Night
Beneath the full moon, Jocasta and Katherine moved cautiously down a residential street lined with very old and very dilapidated homes. Jocasta adjusted her headset and spoke into the microphone.
“John, whatcha got?”
“Activity is definitely increasing,” Colonel West replied into her earpiece, “but I can’t pinpoint it anymore than I already have.”
“It’s okay,” Jocasta said. “The Gatekeeper prototype is designed to monitor Hellmouths, not to track killer mages.”
“Still, it was a pretty smart idea of yours to think of using it this way,” John stated.
“Wasn’t my idea,” Jocasta said, smiling at Katherine proudly as the slayer scanned the street ahead of them.
“I’ll buzz you if anything changes,” John said.
“Thanks,” Jocasta said.
Jocasta walked to Katherine and put her hand on the slayer’s back.
“You getting anything?” she asked.
“Yes, I can feel it,” Katherine replied. “Something big is happening.”
“Can you narrow it down, maybe follow it, like you did at the hospital?”
Katherine started walking again, looking at each house intently as they passed it. She went by several houses, moving from one side of the street to the other. When she was halfway down the block, she stopped and looked around then backtracked a short ways. After concentrating for a moment, she moved toward the house on her left, stopping at the bottom of the steps that led to the front porch.
“Is this it?” Jocasta asked quietly.
“I think so, but it almost feels like it’s…”
Katherine looked down at the ground below her feet. Jocasta followed her eyes. Then all at once they both snapped their heads up to look at each other.
“The basement!” they cried simultaneously.
Killer’s Home – Moments Later
Now joined by a host of slayers and Council ground troops, Jocasta and Katherine prepared to enter the house. Jocasta and Katherine double-checked their revamped tranquilizer guns one last time before turning to Livia.
“Keep the perimeter secure, but stay out of the basement till we give the word,” Jocasta ordered the slayer commander. “If he comes out before that happens, don’t hesitate to take him down any way you can.”
“Got it,” Livia confirmed.
“You ready?” Jocasta asked Katherine.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Katherine answered.
“Okay then, let’s go,” Jocasta said, leading the way into the house.
Killer’s Basement – Night
As Jocasta and Katherine crept down the wooden stairs to the basement, they saw the killer in the center of the circle of pillars. He was slowly getting up from his kneeling position, his eyes closed, seemingly unaware of their presence. When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Katherine aimed her weapon and pulled the trigger.
The dart shot across the room, headed straight for the killer’s chest. At the last second, the killer opened his eyes and magically deflected the dart.
His ash-covered face exploded into rage. “You?” he cried incredulously. Then he raised his hands and released a blast of energy toward the two women. Thinking fast, Katherine grabbed Jocasta so her own back bore the brunt of the blow as they crashed through the wooden stairs and into the wall behind them.
As Jocasta and Katherine climbed out of the remains of the stairs, the killer picked up the vial of Vritrani blood and held it in his cybernetic left hand. He positioned his right hand palm up and began creating a massive sphere of fiery energy in it. He looked at the fireball then at Jocasta and Katherine.
“There’s more than one way to burn a witch,” he said with a smirk. “Besides, you can’t stop the Natma Margas. It’s already begun.” He held up the vial. “Once I am anointed, it will be complete, and then all shall fear me.”
The killer flung the ball of fire directly at Jocasta and Katherine. The two women calmly joined hands and cast the spell they had prepared. It activated the instant the killer’s blast hit them, reflecting the energy back towards the mage.
“No!” the mage cried.
When the fireball hit him, he erupted into flames. He fell to the floor, screaming in agony as the fiery energy consumed his body. Jocasta and Katherine watched in horror as the mage’s body finally stilled then crumbled into ash.
Jocasta and Katherine shared a relieved look then wrapped their arms around each other. Their hug was interrupted by Livia’s voice in their headset.
“Jo! Katie! What’s going on in there?” Livia shouted worriedly.
“We’re okay,” Katherine said into her microphone. “And the mage is history.”
“We’re gonna need some help getting out, though,” Jocasta added. “The stairs are history, too.”
“We’ll be right there,” Livia promised.
Katherine and Jocasta hugged again. When they pulled apart, Katherine let out a shaky sigh and kept her head leaned against Jocasta’s.
“Thank god that’s over,” Katherine said wearily.
Jocasta lifted her head and looked Katherine in the eyes. “Now all we have to do is survive tomorrow.”
Watchers Council – Council Chambers – The Next Morning
Jocasta and Katherine stood as the members of the High Command entered from a side door and took their places at the table on the dais. Once the thirteen were seated, Giles, in the center position as Chair, picked up the gavel and rapped it once on the table.
“Jocasta Rosenberg, Katherine Allison, you have been brought before the High Command on charges of using illegal magic,” Giles stated formally. “We have considered all of the evidence, and we have reached a verdict.”
Giles cleared his throat and looked down at his hands for a moment. Then he raised his head and continued.
“In a unanimous vote, the High Command finds you both guilty of the charges brought against you.”
Jocasta and Katherine look at each other and then at Giles with total shock on their faces. Jocasta’s stunned expression soon gave way to one of barely contained fury.
“Since the illegal acts were done in self-defense and in the process of a legitimate Council investigation,” Giles continued, “we have decided that some leniency is appropriate. However, we must warn you that such leniency will not be repeated should these actions recur.”
“For your deliberate use of illegal magic, the High Command sentences you to correctional detention for a period of two weeks. You will report to your assigned battalions by 6:00 this evening. This hearing is now adjourned.”
Giles rapped the gavel, and the High Commanders exited via the same side door.
Once their judges had left, Jocasta turned to Katherine and touched her arm.
“Katie, I’m so sorry,” Jocasta said. “I never thought it would come to this.”
“It was my choice,” Katherine assured Jocasta. “It’s not your fault.”
The clerk interrupted, handing each of them a sheet of paper containing their battalion assignments and instructions on what to bring with them.
“You think they could’ve at least put us in the same battalion,” Jocasta complained.
“Wouldn’t be enough punishment if they did,” Katherine said ruefully. Then she smiled encouragingly. “Come on, let’s get packed. Then we can spend the rest of the day together before we have to report in.”
Jocasta smiled and gave Katherine’s hand a squeeze.
Watchers Council – Outside The Council Chambers – Moments Later
With their arms wrapped around one another, Jocasta and Katherine left the Council chambers. They found Giles waiting for them outside.
“Jo, Katie,” Giles said nervously. “I wanted to speak with you both.”
“I think we’ve heard enough from you for one day,” Jocasta replied as she continued to walk.
“I’m sorry for what’s happened,” Giles said. “I did what I could to get the sentence reduced, but–“
“What you should’ve done was not write us up in the first place!” Jocasta retorted, moving away from Katherine to confront Giles.
Giles shook his head. “Jo–” he started to say before Jocasta interrupted again.
“I thought things were going to get better when you became Chair,” Jocasta said in a disgusted voice. “But you’re already one of them.”
“Jo, that’s not fair,” Giles began.
“And it really is true,” she went on, ignoring his plea. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely…Go have fun with your new friends, Giles. We’ve got a battalion to report to.”
Jocasta backed away and rejoined Katherine. Then the two of them walked away. Giles watched them for a moment, then sadly dropped his gaze and walked in the opposite direction.
End of Balancing Acts
Next on Watchers: Restoration