Marc Blucas as Captain Trenton Darby, Jenette Goldstein as Corporal Melinda Collins, Pierce Brosnan as Administrator Alan Giles, Lindsay Wagner as Velika and R. Lee Ermey as Colonel Hartman
Watchers Council – Jocasta’s Office – Morning
Chairman Giles briefly knocked then waited only a moment before entering. Jocasta and the Willowgram both looked up.
“Hi Giles,” Willow said brightly and turned back to the computer.
“Giles!” Jocasta said excitedly. “You wouldn’t believe what we’ve found out. Did you know that during the Inquisition, the Council had to have the slayer rescue the high priestess of the coven from the stake? It was after that they moved the coven to Devon and magical shields were erected around the shire to keep out the notice of the secular and ecclesiastical authorities.”
“How fascinating,” Giles said sincerely before pausing and frowning. “Unfortunately, we must put the magic project on hold for the time being.”
“What?” Jocasta exclaimed. “No! Why?”
“I received a call from my brother Alan,” Giles said. “He said there was a vampire attack in his sector of the ISS.”
“Impossible!” Jocasta said. “There’s gotta be some mistake. Not that I doubt Alan, ’cause you don’t get to be the AC’s administrator of the space station by being stupid, but…there has never been a demon in space, Giles.”
“I’m afraid the evidence is quite clear,” Giles stated, handing Jocasta a data pad. “The autopsy report.”
Jocasta scanned the report. “The victim had been turned,” she noted grimly.
“Yes,” Giles said. “And Alan said there has been a rash of missing person reports recently.”
“They’re building a nest,” Willow interjected helpfully.
“Have any of the other conglomerates had problems?” Jocasta inquired.
“No, but the AC wants us to keep this as low profile as possible,” Giles said. “If word of this gets out, it could severely curtail not only the AC’s interests in space, but ours as well.”
“What’s the plan, then?” Jocasta asked.
“I want you and Katherine to go to the ISS and take care of the problem,” Giles said. “Quietly and without attracting a lot of attention. Most of our slayers are not subtle.”
“Katie is,” Willow noted.
“Indeed,” Giles agreed with a nod toward the hologram. “Even though you are not her watcher, you two work well together, and I know that I can trust you to handle the mission professionally.”
“Thanks, Giles.” Jocasta nearly glowed under the praise. “How are we getting there? Regular transport?”
“I’ve assigned Antonia to fly you,” Giles began until Jocasta groaned dramatically.
“God, Giles, she’s bad enough in the air, but in zero-g she’s horrible!”
“She regularly makes runs to the ISS on Council business, so it won’t arouse suspicion,” Giles explained in a firm tone.
Jocasta grumbled resignedly. “I hate to have to suspend the magic project, though, now that we’ve started it,” she mourned.
“I’ll be happy to help,” Willow offered. “You can take along my mobile emitter, and I can continue the research by interfacing with the station’s computers.”
“That’s very kind of you, Willow,” Giles said with his eyebrows raised. “Thank you.”
“I like to help,” Willowgram said cheerfully, and Jocasta smiled at her fondly.
“Antonia will have the shuttle ready by noon,” Giles said. “I tried Katherine’s quarters earlier, but she wasn’t there.”
“Oh, uh…she’s at my place,” Jocasta said sheepishly. “She was sound asleep, and I didn’t want to wake her just to do research.”
“I see,” Giles said.
Out of Giles’s view but well within Jocasta’s, the Willowgram chuckled and counted off three fingers before Giles started to clean his glasses.
Watchers Council – Lex’s Office – Afternoon
The remains of lunch lay scattered around the small conference table in Lex’s office. Mira took a final swig of her drink and belched contentedly.
“Good one,” Livia noted.
Lex rolled his eyes dramatically, his cybernetic eye glinting at the two women. “That’s what I love about you slayers…you’re so classy.”
“Etiquette don’t mean crap when you’re fighting vamps,” Mira pointed out.
“I guess not,” Lex allowed. “Anyway, ladies, are we all set on the changes you want for the Seraphim suit?”
“Pretty much,” Livia said, looking at the holographic display of the suit suspended over the table. “The biggest problem is the servos locking up when we put our strength into it. It’s almost like they’re fightin’ against us. If you get that solved, it’ll get us on the right track.”
“Got a real treat for you then. Take a look at this,” Lex said, and the holographic display changed to display a subtly different profile for the suit. “See these additions?”
“Yeah,” Livia and Mira both said. “Looks almost like muscle,” Livia finished.
“Exactly!” Lex exclaimed. “It’s a polymer contractive material.” Off their blank looks, he continued. “Real muscle contracts. So does PCM. When you apply an electrical charge, it contracts just like a muscle does, only much stronger. And as an added benefit, it won’t ‘fight’ your slayer strength like the servos do. It’ll amplify whatever you put into it.”
“Very cool!” Livia said.
Lex turned to Mira. “Since you’re so familiar with the suit, I’d like you to hang around while we work on the modifications.”
“Sure, no problem,” Mira shrugged.
“Great,” Lex said and made some notes in the computer.
“Hmph,” Livia snorted. “You just want Mira around just so that you can hit on her. I’ve got your number, Harris. Better watch out for that pretty lady of yours, though.”
“I have no intention of hitting on Mira,” Lex protested. “No offense to you, Mira.”
“None taken,” the slayer laughed.
“Besides,” Lex smirked. “Toni’s off shuttling Jo and Katie to the ISS. She won’t even be around for a few days.”
“What?” Livia said, her tone no longer teasing. “What are Jo and Katie doing on the space station?”
“Dunno,” Lex shrugged. “Toni just said that Giles had rescheduled her regular run and that she was taking them. Some mission for the Council, I guess.”
“Sonovabitch!” the slayer growled and stormed from the office, leaving behind a stunned Lex and Mira.
Lex turned to Mira. “Does this mean she doesn’t want to help?”
Council Space Shuttle (CSS) Joyce Summers – Aft Compartment – Sometime later
Jocasta let out a small sound of dismay as the shuttle suddenly accelerated in a turn, the g-force pressing her and Katherine deeper into their chairs. As the craft’s trajectory returned to normal and the gravity lessened, Jocasta angrily unbuckled her safety harness and floated out of her seat.
“Jo?” Katherine asked. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” the watcher said. “I’m just gonna go see if this is Toni’s way of trying to kill me.”
Katherine chuckled as Jocasta disappeared into the forward compartment. She turned back to her terminal, but after a moment she looked over at Jocasta’s station where the Willowgram’s mobile emitter was stowed. She shook her head and tried to read again, but with a decisive sigh, she reached over and pulled the emitter over to her.
With a touch she activated the device, and the miniature hologram based on the appearance and personality of Willow Rosenberg materialized.
“Hello, Katie,” the Willowgram said. “How may I help you?”
“Hello, Willow,” Katherine returned politely. “I’m not sure if you can help me, or even if it’s within the Council’s protocols for you to do so.”
“Hmm,” Willowgram pondered. “Then I can assume this is a personal matter and not Council business.”
“Very personal,” Katherine admitted.
Willow appeared to think for a moment. “Since the Council has seen fit to grant me certain rights, then I’m confident in my ability to decide if your request will violate certain ethical boundaries. In other words, what can I do for ya?”
Katherine smiled at the hologram. “I’ve been trying to find information on Tara Maclay.”
Willowgram’s eyes grew distant as she apparently accessed her memory. “Tara Maclay, born October 16, 1980, died May 7, 2002. She was a member of the Scooby gang, the nickname for the group of heroes who assisted Slayer Buffy Summers. It was Tara’s murder which was the catalyst for a near apocalypse which was later prevented by fellow Scooby member Alexander Harris.”
“That’s the information available to the public,” Katherine said. “But who was she? What kind of person was she?”
“You’re right that there’s very little in the Council’s records about her,” Willow said. “However, my database does contain all of Willow Rosenberg’s writings. That’s the best source for information about her. What’s this about, Katie?”
Katherine hesitated a moment. “Jo told me that after reading Willow’s journals, she began to dream about Tara…but not just about what she had read. She said that it was almost as if she was experiencing these events herself. She said that…that what she feels for me is what she remembers Willow feeling for Tara.”
“That’s pretty powerful,” Willowgram said somberly. “And how do you feel about her?”
“The same way,” Katherine said. “But…I just want to know…I mean, what kind of connection can two people have that can transcend the boundaries even beyond death?”
“Well, Willow did vow that she would find Tara again some day,” Willowgram answered with a tone of wonder in her voice. Then she perked up and said, “Come on, Katie. Let’s explore Willow’s journals together, and maybe we can find an answer.”
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same time
Livia stormed into the Chairman’s office with Giles’s executive assistant right on her heels.
“Dammit, Giles,” Livia fumed, “I’ve been waiting out there for hours!”
Giles stood up from behind his desk and said to his assistant. “Thank you, Mr. Snyder. I’ll see Ms. Hansen now.”
The short man nodded and softly closed the door behind him.
“How may I help you, Livia?” he asked.
“What the hell is going on?” she demanded. “Why did you send Allison to the ISS?”
“I beg your pardon?” Giles asked his voice icy.
“Just because she’s sleeping with the teacher’s pet doesn’t mean she should get the choice assignments.”
Giles took a deep breath. “I recommend that you change your tone and consider just exactly who you’re talking to, Ms. Hansen.”
“What?” Livia said, her voice growing confused.
“I wasn’t aware that it was standard operating procedure for the Council Chairman to consult with Field Slayers on command decisions.”
“No, Giles, that’s not…”
“Or perhaps you’d care for reassignment somewhere more remote…say the Gobi Desert? I seem to remember a note in the last dispatch from the Mongolian Agricultural and Herding Collective that the Ranqin demon population was on the rise.”
“Nasty creatures, I understand,” Giles said mildly. “And since they burrow in the remotest areas of the desert steppes at night, they’re best hunted at night when the temperature can drop to as low as 30 degrees below zero…Celsius. Is that where you’d like to be assigned?”
Livia appeared to wilt under his stare. “No sir,” she said softly.
“I thought not,” Giles said and sat down again. “Good day.”
Livia silently turned and left the office.
CSS Joyce Summers – Cockpit – Same time
Jocasta, strapped in the copilot’s seat, looked at her cousin. “Look, Toni,” she said as if making a last-ditch effort. “Please don’t make me embarrass myself anymore than I have to in front of Katie.”
The blonde smirked as if sensing victory. “All right,” she said. “But only if you tell me about the two of you.”
“What’s to tell?” Jocasta evaded.
“Oh come on, cuz,” Antonia needled. “I haven’t seen you this excited about someone since…well…ever. So give it up.”
Jocasta shrugged and looked out the view shield at the massive space station still in the distance. “I’m crazy about her, a-and I think she feels the same way.”
“And…?” Antonia prompted.
Jocasta sighed as if sensing her cousin’s desire for juicy details. Instead of complying, she said absently, “I just wish I had paid more attention to Mom’s Wiccan teachings.”
“What do you mean?” Antonia asked.
“When I met Katie, it triggered memories in me that weren’t my own,” Jocasta said softly.
Jocasta turned to look at Antonia. “Willow Rosenberg’s. Seems like I inherited much more than my great-great granny’s looks,” Jocasta said. “And I’ve been remembering the first woman she loved.”
Antonia thought a moment. “You mean the one she lost?” Antonia said as if remembering her family’s history. “Wasn’t her name Tara?” When Jocasta nodded, Antonia continued. “So if you’re having past-life memories from Willow Rosenberg about Katie, then that means that Katie was Tara.”
“Apparently so,” Jocasta admitted.
“Whoa! That’s heavy.” Antonia exclaimed. “But, you know, kinda romantic too. I mean, from the tales Grammy used to tell us, Willow and Tara were cheated out of being together. Now they have their chance through you and Katie.”
“Yeah, but that’s the problem, see?” Jocasta said, exasperated. “I love Katie, but I want to live my own life…not Willow Rosenberg’s. I don’t want to have to follow some kind of pre-destined outline. I just want to be Jocasta.”
Antonia looked at her cousin. “But if you and Katie love each other, then what difference does it make?”
Jocasta thought about that for a few minutes and then simply shrugged.
Antonia chuckled as her stomach growled softly. “Well, some discussions are simply not meant to be dealt with on an empty stomach. Let’s go get that slayer of yours and rustle up something to eat.”
“Okay,” Jocasta replied as Antonia set the shuttle on autopilot.
“Hey Jo,” Antonia said, stopping Jocasta at the bulkhead door. “Thanks for telling me. I may like to tease you about your fear of flying, but I do love you.”
“Thanks, Toni,” Jocasta said.
CSS Joyce Summers – Aft Compartment – Moments later
Katherine and Willowgram looked up as Jocasta and Antonia entered the aft compartment with the pilot heading immediately for the small galley at the rear.
“Things seem to really be getting intense with you and Lex, Toni,” Jocasta said as Antonia started inserting food packs into the heating unit. “Are you guys finally gonna unite the Harris and Allister names in marriage?”
“Hmmm,” Antonia said thoughtfully as she waited for the oven. “Wasn’t there a Harris who married an Allister about fifty years ago?”
“No,” Jocasta said. “That was Wilhelmina Harris who married Remington Giles, who was descended from Rupert’s brother’s line. But I think there was a descendant of Mary Allister who married one of Rupert’s descendants.”
“Oh, right,” Antonia nodded. The heating unit gave a ding, and Antonia carefully pulled out the hot packs, handing two to Jocasta. “So if Lex and I do get married, I guess it will be the first ‘official’ connection. But, no…we don’t have any plans that serious yet. It’s still kind of new.”
“New?” Jocasta snorted as she placed both trays on the small galley table, the built-in magnetic field keeping them from floating off. Katherine sat next to Jocasta, bringing Willowgram’s emitter with her. “How can it be ‘new’ when you’ve known him your whole life? We all grew up together.”
“Yeah, but I really never noticed him until recently,” Antonia admitted with a faint blush as she dug into her tray. “We weren’t exactly kissing cousins as kids.”
“Unlike now,” Jocasta teased.
“Wait a second,” Katherine interrupted in a confused voice. “I knew that you and Jo were cousins, but you guys are related to Lex Harris, too?”
“Yep,” Jocasta said brightly. “Not first cousins or anything, but we are all related. I just like the look on Toni’s face when I mention it.”
Antonia agreed. “I don’t know how genealogists define the exact relationship, but in our family we’ve always just considered each other as ‘cousins’ to make it easier.”
“But you all have different names,” Katherine said.
“It’s pretty simple, you see,” Jocasta said. “When my great-great-grandmother, Willow Rosenberg and her partner, Antonia’s great-great-grandmother, Rowena Allister decided to have children, they asked Lex’s great-great-grandfather Xander Harris to do the honors, so to speak.”
“Huh? You call that simple?” Katherine said in obvious bewilderment.
“Sure,” Jocasta said and laughed. “I think all of the descendants of the founders of the new Council are related somehow or other. But our family has always been close, mostly because of the connection between Willow, Rowena and Xander.”
Katherine paused as if she was concentrating hard. “Their children were half-siblings then?” Katherine asked.
“Yeah, but it was more than just that,” Antonia put in. “We’ve always been taught that it’s the emotional bonds you form with other people that make a family, not the genetic bonds. But by having a genetic tie of some type it helped insure the children’s safety should a medical emergency come up of some kind.”
“Plus it helps that you’ve all maintained your connection through the Council,” Willowgram said.
“So you know what that means,” Jocasta said, looking at Katherine with a grin.
“What?” the slayer said, confused once again.
“Welcome to the family,” Antonia said.
Katherine’s smile lit up the shuttle.
CSS Joyce Summers – Aft Compartment – Sometime later
As the shuttle slipped into the docking bay, Jocasta breathed a sigh of relief as the station’s artificially generated gravity field kicked in.
“Thank the gods! I hate zero-g,” Jocasta complained almost to herself.
Katherine laughed and helped the watcher get down the bags from the overhead storage area. Jocasta gave a smile to Willowgram before deactivating the emitter and stowing it safely in its case.
Antonia entered from the forward compartment. “You guys ready?” she asked.
“Just about,” Jocasta said, glancing around as if looking for anything she might have missed.
“The administrator is waiting for us, as well as the ACMC’s station CO,” Antonia informed them as she started the sequence to release the airlock door.
“The Marine commander?” Katherine asked nervously. “W-What’s he doing here? Giles said he wants us to keep this quiet.”
Jocasta shrugged. “The victim was a Marine corporal, so I guess he feels this falls under his jurisdiction. You know how those military types are.”
“Almost as possessive as you watcher types,” Antonia joked as she pressed the final combination to open the airlock.
ISS – Docking Port – Moments later
Katherine hung back as the two cousins exited the airlock. Immediately Jocasta stepped forward to embrace Administrator Alan Giles, who stood at the front of the small group awaiting them.
“It’s so good to see you, Alan,” she said.
“And you, my dear,” Alan said. “You’re looking as lovely as ever. Sebastian said you were doing well these days.”
“Thanks,” Jocasta said with a slight blush.
“May I introduce Colonel Hartman and Captain Darby,” Alan said. At the introduction, the two Marines moved forward, both stiff in their stance. “The victim was in Darby’s company, so the colonel has requested that the captain act as liaison between the Council and the Corps.”
“Oh,” Jocasta said uncertainly.
“I won’t get in the way, ma’am,” Darby said, shaking Jocasta’s hand.
Antonia snorted to herself in amusement at Darby’s statement. Then her eyes grew wide as the captain let out a shout of surprise.
“Katie!” Darby exclaimed as he rushed forward to pick up the slayer in a bone-crushing hug.
As Darby twirled Katherine in an excited embrace, Jocasta’s mouth dropped open, and even Antonia seemed to be at a loss for words.
End of Act One