ISS – External Hull – Resume
The three quietly observed the vamps for a few minutes. Finally, Darby, obviously growing impatient, started forward.
“Wait,” Jocasta said, and Katherine pulled him back.
“What’s the problem?” Darby said. “Those bloodsuckers killed my corporal. I’m taking them out now.”
“Not without backup,” Jocasta said as she accessed her communications unit. “Rosenberg to Allister, come in.”
After a moment, the comm-link crackled. “Toni here,” the pilot’s voice came through their headsets. “What’s up, Jo?”
“Katherine and I are outside the station, maintenance sector 27,” Jocasta said. “We found the nest on the dark side of the station, but with these stupid suits, it’s not going to be easy to take them out.”
“Understood,” Antonia replied. “On my way.”
“Thanks, Toni,” Jocasta replied and re-keyed her comm.-link. “Rosenberg to Administrator Giles.”
“Alan, we found the vamps,” Jocasta said. “We could use a little backup.”
“Darby,” Colonel Hartman’s voice came across the link. “What’s going on, son?”
“The situation is secure, sir,” Darby reported. “Small nest of vamps, nothing we can’t handle.”
“Then take care of it,” Hartman ordered.
“Jo,” Alan said over Hartman’s voice. “Stand by. We’ll send out a crew to help.”
“Let them handle it, Administrator,” Hartman argued. “We’ve got one of the best soldiers in the Corps out there. I’m sure he can take care of the problem, even if the Council can’t.”
Jocasta rolled her eyes and muted the comm-link, leaving the two men to argue with each other.
Darby started forward again.
“Hold, Darby,” Jocasta said in a firm voice.
“I have my orders,” he said.
“My orders to you are for you to stand by and wait for backup.”
“I don’t have to listen to you,” Darby sneered. “You’re not Corps.”
“No, I’m Council,” Jocasta said. “That means I not only outrank you, but Hartman as well.”
Darby ignored the watcher.
“Slayer, if you will,” Jocasta said, and Katherine moved to block Darby’s path.
“Please, Trent,” Katherine said, her eyes pleading with him. “Let’s just wait.”
“I’m not taking orders from her,” Darby said. Then he began to move around the slayer.
Katherine put out an arm to stop Darby, but the captain clumsily jerked away, forgetting where they were. His magnetic boots lost their grip on the hull, and he floated around the structure and into full view of the nest. Before Darby could regain his footing, the vamps saw him and started moving towards them, quickly slithering across the hull and walls.
CSS Joyce Summers – Cockpit – Same time
Antonia strapped herself into the pilot’s seat of the shuttle and began the start-up sequence.
“ISS control,” she said, opening a channel to the station, “this is CSS Joyce Summers, requesting immediate emergency clearance.”
“Council shuttle,” a familiar voice came over the link, “this is Colonel Hartman. Clearance is denied. Your services are not needed.”
“With all due respect, Colonel,” Antonia replied as she continued to work. “I’m a civilian, and I don’t answer to you.”
“I’ll make sure your license is revoked, young lady,” the colonel raged. “Now you listen to me…you are ordered to stand down!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Antonia muttered. “Bite me.”
She flipped off the communications link and began to work on the computer. “Ha!” she exclaimed after a few minutes when the clamps securing the shuttle to the dock suddenly released. “Jo’s not the only hacker in the family.”
She initiated the maneuvering thrusters, and as soon as the shuttle had pulled safely away from the dock, she headed off into space.
ISS – External Hull – Same time
Katherine swiftly grabbed hold of Darby’s flailing arm, pulling him down until his magnetic boots clamped to the hull. She made sure his stunner was on the highest setting and pressed it into his hand.
“Take care of Jo,” she said as she checked the setting on her own stunner.
“Can’t the watcher take care of herself?” he sneered.
“Just do it, Trent!” she said forcefully and turned back to the swarm of vampires that was quickly approaching.
Jocasta had readied her stunner, but she looked at Katherine with fright in her eyes.
“It’ll be okay, Jo,” the slayer said. “Just don’t let them get close enough to damage your suit. We don’t have the luxury of being dead like them.”
Jocasta nodded. Then she said, “Be careful, Katie.”
Katherine looked at the redhead with love in her eyes. She seemed about to say something to the watcher, when suddenly the vampires were upon them.
As the fight began, the slayer positioned herself protectively in front of the other two, but the demons concentrated their attack on her. Before long, Katherine was separated from the others and fighting for her life.
Darby was surrounded by three of the vampires, all of them seemingly aware of the human’s vulnerability while fighting in the weightless environment of space.
Jocasta was forced to retreat until her back was pressed against the unyielding bulkhead of the structure. A single vampire broke off from the hoard fighting the slayer and crept toward the watcher. Jocasta saw it approach and protectively held out her stunner.
The vampire’s arm suddenly swiped out, knocking the stunner from Jocasta’s hand and sending it floating off into space. The vampire grinned at the weaponless watcher.
“I’m gonna enjoy sucking your blood before it boils away,” it growled, its voice tinny through the poorly maintained comm-link.
“Katie!” Jocasta yelled.
The Slayer glanced at her and then at Darby, who by now had dispatched two of the three vampires fighting him.
“Trent!” she yelled, pressing the stunner against another vampire. With a flash of power, the demon dissolved into the vacuum of space. “Trent! Help Jo!” Katherine was forced back as another vampire tried to grab her suit.
Darby paused a moment to look in Jocasta’s direction. The watcher was pressed against the bulkhead struggling with a vampire who was trying to rip open her suit. Then the vampire Trent was fighting yanked on his suit’s temperature control panel, ripping it off, and he turned back to defend himself.
Jocasta yelled once again. “Katie!”
CSS Joyce Summers – Cockpit – Same time
Antonia watched as Marine fighter craft pulled out of their bay and vectored toward her.
“Too late, guys,” she muttered to herself. Lining up the shuttle, she hit a control knob on her console. From the underside of the ship, a tow cable shot out. With an unheard clang, it attached itself to an orbiting solar reflector panel.
An angry voice once again came over Antonia’s speakers. “Allister! What do you think you’re doing?”
“Just borrowing a piece of equipment, Colonel,” she replied. “I’ll bring it back, I promise,” she added with a grin.
ISS – External Hull – Same time
Katherine frantically tried to fight off the vampires surrounding her, but she was able to only hold them off without making much progress.
“Trent!” she called to the captain again, but Darby seemed to be concentrating on the vampire that was attacking him.
Suddenly, with a crackling sound that did impossibly carry over the vacuum, the vampire attacking the watcher was flung backward. Jocasta’s eyes tracked the vampire, and against all laws of physics, the bloodsucker abruptly changed direction and was flung against a support joist, the impact neatly taking its head off. A moment later the creature turned to dust.
Katherine didn’t have time for relief, as the vampire’s attacking her redoubled their efforts.
Another voice came over the trio’s comm-links. “Hang on, gang,” Antonia said, “I’m on my way!”
“Hurry, Toni!” Jocasta urged, moving towards Katherine as fast as her suit would allow.
Before Jocasta could reach her, a dark shadow eclipsed the background of stars as the Council’s shuttle passed overhead. A few heartbeats later, the solar panel came into view. Instantly, dawn seemed to rise on the dark side of the station. With a soundless cry, the remaining vamps broke off their attack and tried to launch themselves to shelter. Before they could get more than a few meters, the reflected sunlight vaporized them.
Katherine moved as quickly as she could to Jocasta’s side, looking for damage. “You all right?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” the watcher said, with a glare in Darby’s direction. “Let’s get back inside. I’ve had enough adventure for now.”
The other two silently followed her back into the airlock.
ISS – Maintenance Deck – Short time later
After stowing the suits back in the storage locker, Jocasta started to head back to the upper deck.
“Jo?” Katherine asked in a tentative voice.
The Watcher turned around. “I’ve got to arrange with Alan to have these bodies picked up and then make my report to Giles,” she said curtly. “I’ll see you later.”
Without even a glance at Darby, Jocasta left.
Katherine watched her go and then angrily turned to Darby.
“What the hell did you think you were doing out there, Trent?” she demanded.
Darby took a step back. “What do you mean?”
“I asked you to look out for Jo, and then you just ignored her when she needed help!” Katherine accused.
“Look, she’s not a civilian,” he said. “She was able to take care of herself.”
“You’re a trained soldier,” Katherine said. “I’m a slayer. She’s an administrator with only basic self-defense skills. She needed help!”
“She did okay,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
“Trent, you deliberately watched as that vamp attacked her, and you didn’t make a move,” Katherine said. She looked at him hard and then cut to the chase. “What did you think…that if Jo was killed, I’d come crawling back to you?”
“What?” Darby said in a shocked tone. “Katie, that’s nuts. Look, you know how things seem in the heat of battle, perceptions can get skewed, but I would never allow someone to be deliberately hurt.”
“Save that line of bull for your grunts, Trent,” Katherine said with disgust. “I’m through with you.”
“What do you mean, Katie?” Darby said.
“It’s over, Trent,” Katherine replied. “I thought maybe we could be friends, but not after this.”
“Come on, Katie,” he begged. “We can give it another try. After all we’ve been through, it just can’t end like this.”
“It can, and it will,” she stated resolutely. When Darby gave her a pleading look, she paused and shook her head. Then she stared right into his eyes. “Let me put it in a way your limited Marine mentality can fully understand,” Katherine snarled. “A…M…F,” she said, enunciating each letter carefully.
Without a backward glance, Katherine turned and walked away.
ISS – Katherine’s Guest Quarters – Later
Katherine looked up from the data pad she was reading when the door chime rang. Walking quickly to the door, she pushed the button to open it and smiled happily when she saw Jocasta standing on the other side.
“Jo!” she said opening the door wide. “Come in.”
“Thank you,” Jocasta said stiffly and entered. After Katherine had closed the door behind them, she said, “I spoke with Giles, and he wants us to remain here a few days to make sure we got all the vamps. Alan’s already flooding the open areas of the sector with UV radiation, and he’s arranging to permanently position solar panels so that there are no unprotected areas of the outside hull.”
“Okay,” Katherine said. “I’ll keep up the patrols while we’re here, just in case.”
“Thank you,” Jocasta said.
“Did you tell Giles about having to use magic?” Katherine asked.
“No,” Jocasta admitted. “I…I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t say anything to him about it either…at least not until we settle this magic reintegration issue.”
“Of course not,” Katherine promised. “Besides, you were just defending yourself, you had every right to do what you did.”
“I know, but I’ve got too much work to do to waste time in the brig, so thank you.” At that, Jocasta turned and moved toward the door.
“Jo?” Katherine said. “Won’t you stay?”
Jocasta paused and then turned back around. “No,” she answered.
“Jo, please,” Katherine said. “I’m really sorry for not telling you about Trent. I know I should have –.”
“Yes, you should have, Katie,” Jocasta interrupted. “I mean…I thought I could trust you. How can I ever trust you again?”
Katherine didn’t have an answer. She hung her head.
Jocasta looked away as well, her throat moving as she swallowed hard, fighting back the tears. After a long pause, she said, “I don’t think this is gonna work.”
Katherine looked up, her face a mixture of surprise and deep pain. “But…I need you, Jo. I love you.”
“I love you too, Katie,” the watcher affirmed before continuing in a strained voice. “But, I don’t know, I just…I think we both need some space.”
“Space?” Katherine said, her face going pale. “You mean you wanna leave me?”
Jocasta nodded, looking down at the floor. “Maybe we just…moved too fast. Maybe we need to step back a-and reevaluate where we are and where we wanna go.”
“But Jo…” Katherine said, moving towards Jocasta.
“No, Katie,” Jocasta said, stepping back as if to ward off the slayer. “I think it’s best this way. For now…let’s just see what happens.”
Without another word, Jocasta turned and walked out the door. Once alone, Katherine stumbled to the couch and practically fell on it as she sat down. After a moment, her face crumbled into tears, and she lifted her legs up until she was curled into a fetal position.
ISS – Jocasta’s Guest Quarters – Minutes later
Jocasta sat at the dining table in her quarters and propped her chin on her hand. She glanced at the case containing the mobile emitter and then pulled it out, activating the hologram.
“Hello Jo!” Willowgram said in her usual cheerful tone…until she noticed the tears in Jocasta’s eyes. “What’s wrong?” she asked gently.
“It’s over, Willow!” Jocasta blurted before leaning her head on her arms and breaking into sobs.
Giles’s office – Sometime later
Chairman Giles looked up as Morgan Travers stormed into his office.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Travers asked as he confronted Giles from the other side of the desk.
“Regarding?” Giles asked innocently, weaving his fingers into a steeple at his chin.
“Hubris!” Travers nearly shouted. “It’s bad enough you imposed that ridiculously high fine on them, but you’re also…” Travers paused to read from the data pad in his hand, “…sending a team to inspect each and every one of their facilities and…and you’re ordering slayers to accompany and guard all outbound transports. How dare you!”
“How dare I?” Giles asked, his eyes darkening. “Their negligence cost the lives of a dozen innocent humans onboard the space station. The ridiculous fine, as you call it, will be used as partial compensation for the victims’ families. And need I remind you that it is within the Council’s mandate, authorized by the Human Defense Treaty, to take every precaution to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
“It may be within our mandate, but it’s not conducive to our relationship with Hubris and other corporations,” Travers said.
“Let me ask you this, Travers,” Giles said. “What business is it of yours to place Hubris’s interests over the Council’s?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That uniform you’re wearing indicates that you’re a Watcher, Morgan,” Giles said. “And Watchers work for the Council. Or are you considering resigning and going elsewhere?”
Travers narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth as if to say something, but the look on Giles’s face appeared to stop him. He simply turned and left the office.
Giles turned back to the report on his desk, but after a moment he glanced thoughtfully at the door.
Watchers Council Headquarters – Dusk
Reporter Lisa Lance glanced in the mirror her director was holding.
“Fifteen seconds,” the producer said.
“I’m ready,” Lance replied.
Moments later, her face suddenly animated as the green light on the digi-cam flashed on and her producer silently counted down and indicated they were live.
“Outrage continues to mount over the punitive actions taken by the Watchers Council against Hubris, one of the largest and most important corporations in the American Conglomerate. Hubris stock has already dropped significantly on Wall Street, fueling speculation that the Council has overstepped its bounds and intensifying fears that a major recession is imminent. Many are openly questioning the leadership of the newly-elected chairman, Sebastian Giles. Will the Council improve under his guidance, or will it fall even more deeply into public disapproval? This is Lisa Lance, reporting from downtown Cleveland.”
End of Nightcrawlers
Next on Watchers: Restoration