Watchers Council – Jocasta’s Office – Evening
Jocasta looked up at the soft knock on her partially open office door. A big grin spread across her face when Katherine pushed her way in.
“Katie!” Jocasta said, standing up and coming around the desk to embrace the slayer.
“Ummm,” Katherine purred as Jocasta nuzzled her neck, “I thought we’re supposed to save this until after the date.”
“Before, during and after,” Jocasta chuckled. “I have been looking forward to this all day. If I have to read another report about teenage witchy wannabes spooking the natives with their skyclad rituals, I think I’ll start screaming.”
“Now don’t go and have a nervous breakdown, Jo,” Katherine said with a suggestive look. “I’ve got plans for you later.”
“Why Miss Katie!” Jocasta said with mock surprise. “Does this mean I’m gonna get lucky with the most beautiful slayer in the Council tonight?”
“Only if I can get lucky with the most beautiful watcher in the Council,” Katherine said.
“It’s a deal,” Jocasta replied and leaned in for a kiss.
The embrace was interrupted by an embarrassed cough. They turned to see a red-faced Giles standing in the open doorway.
“Hi Giles!” Jocasta said, moving out of Katherine’s arms, but keeping a firm grasp on the slayer’s hand.
“Chairman,” Katherine said more formally.
“Ladies,” Giles returned. “Jo, I’ve been thinking about what you’ve been saying about the Council and about its use of magic – or, perhaps I should say, its failure to use magic – as part of its arsenal in the fight against evil. A-And I think it would be beneficial for us – the Council, that is – if we started looking into ways in which magic can be reintegrated into our operations.”
“Really?” Jocasta interrupted enthusiastically. “That’s great, Giles.” The watcher moved immediately to her computer, letting her fingers fly over the touch pad. “I think the best place to begin is to get everything we can on the history of magic, because you can’t know where you wanna go until you know where you’ve been, and then I think….”
Jocasta looked up in confusion at the sound of Katherine loudly clearing her throat. Katherine stood there smiling with her arms folded and one foot tapping the floor. Even Giles was looking at Jocasta with amusement.
“What?” she asked.
“There’s no need to start it now,” Giles said. “I just want you to come up with an action plan on how we can begin to implement magic into our arsenal of weapons and tools.”
“Oh,” Jocasta said, momentarily deflated. “But I can at least start the search engines pulling the information we need.”
“Not now you won’t,” Katherine said firmly while moving over to the computer and turning it off. Jocasta looked at the slayer with dismay. “I traded with three slayers to get out of patrolling tonight. Therefore, you belong to me.”
At that, Jocasta smiled happily into Katherine’s eyes, the new project completely forgotten.
The Chairman coughed uncomfortably. “Yes, well…be that as it may, I don’t think I need to remind you, Jo, that the magic ban is still in effect, so I’ll expect you to limit your research to the more mundane methods.”
“All right,” Jocasta said with only a slight pout.
“Very good,” Giles said and prepared to leave. “Enjoy your evening ladies.”
When Giles had left, Katherine turned to Jocasta and smiled. “Have I told you how much I love your enthusiasm for everything you do?”
“Once or twice,” Jocasta answered, returning the smile. “But never for my research abilities.”
“Good,” Katherine said, taking Jocasta’s hand and pulling her to the door. “Let’s go see if you can maintain your reputation tonight.”
Ritz-Carlton Cleveland Hotel – Evening
Sean Rayne tossed his bags into one of the suite’s two bedrooms and then moved to the bar, where he pulled out a glass and a bottle of whiskey. Before Rayne could pour himself a drink, Horatio Tyrell came out of the other bedroom and silently took the bottle and the glass from the ex-watcher’s hand.
Rayne sighed in resignation. “What’s for supper, then?” he asked. “With your vast resources, I assume we can order the most expensive dishes from room service and still not put a dent in our budget.”
“My vast resources are mine, and you will treat them as such,” Tyrell warned. Tyrell poured himself a whiskey from the bottle he had taken from Rayne. “You can grab something for yourself on the way out. I have a job for you.”
“That slayer of yours. I want you to keep an eye on her.'”
“Oh, I’m already doing that,” Rayne replied with a malicious grin.
“Well, I want you doing it now,” Tyrell said gruffly. “Find out what she and her friends are up to. I don’t want any surprises, understand?”
Rayne grabbed his coat. “Right, no problem,” he mumbled, swinging the leather around his shoulders as he headed for the door. “Shouldn’t be too hard to find her. She’ll probably be right where she usually is these days – with her face buried in some red hair.”
Tyrell watched as Rayne closed the door behind him, then he took a sip of his drink.
International Space Station (ISS) – Docking Port – Same time
The American Conglomerate Marine Corps colonel silently watched the transport pull into its docking bay. His expression didn’t change until the airlock had cycled and the heavy door rolled open. Then a wide smile softened his stern features as the first uniformed Marine appeared. The private dropped his duffle bag on the deck in his haste to salute.
“Colonel, sir!” the young man said.
“At ease, son,” the colonel said as he returned the salute. “Now why don’t you move your gear aside and let your fellow marines disembark.”
“Aye, sir,” the man said and quickly moved off.
The colonel waited as the other military personnel and passengers disembarked, his expression growing more impatient. Finally, he scowled as a tall figure appeared.
“Gadzooks, Darby,” the colonel exclaimed. “Do you always have to be last?”
The captain offered the colonel a salute followed by a sheepish grin. “Good to see you, too, Colonel Hartman,” he replied and then shook the colonel’s hand. “Sorry, sir. Just making sure everything was secure.”
“Glad to know the Corps trained you well, son,” Hartman grinned. “I’d hate for the American Conglomerate to waste its investment in you. Welcome home, Trent.”
“It’s good to be home, sir,” Darby said, following the colonel toward the docking bay exit. “Well, almost home, that is.”
“You’ll be back on Earth soon enough,” Hartman said. “But after spending three years on the Mars mission, I can understand your eagerness.”
“It has been a long time,” Darby agreed. “Seems like most of that time has been spent just traveling back and forth.”
“Now that you’ve rotated back to Earth, when are you gonna marry that beautiful lady of yours?” Hartman asked.
“Just as soon as my promotion comes through, sir,” Darby beamed. “You’ll come to the wedding, won’t you?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, son,” Hartman said. Then he leaned in closer. “And off the record…you and your little lady won’t have to wait much longer,” he said conspiratorially and clapped Darby on the shoulder before continuing on.
Captain Darby smiled happily and dug out a small device from his pocket. As he pressed the touch pad, the digi-frame activated and a photo of his fiancée appeared.
“Soon, baby,” Darby whispered to the photograph. “Soon.”
ISS – American Sector’s “Red Light” District – Late evening
Three Marines, two male privates led by a female corporal, strolled down the busy promenade.
“Yo, what about that place?” one of the privates asked his companions as he pointed to a bar named Lunarticks.
“Looks fine to me,” the other private said. The ruddy-faced soldier turned to the third member of the group. “What you think, Collins?”
The thin Hispanic woman quietly scanned the people moving into the club. Her eyebrows rose as she spotted a tall blond man dressed all in black entering the club.
“Perfect,” she said as she started for the entrance, not bothering to see if her companions followed.
ISS – Lunarticks – Minutes later
Collins pushed her way through the crowd to the bar to stand next to the blond man.
“Hey,” she said to the bartender in a Spanish accent. “Gimme a bourbon, no ice.”
The blond turned around and looked Collins over from top to bottom, amusement highlighting his eyes. “Take it like a marine, eh Corporal?”
“Damn straight,” she said and stuck out her hand. “Melly.”
“Willy,” he said.
Collins shot back her drink and slammed her glass on the bar. “Now that we’ve gotten the niceties out of the way, where can we go?”
Willy chuckled. “Deep space mission?” he asked.
“Mars,” she said, simply. “Three years.”
“In that case, far be from me to deny a patriotic soldier,” he said taking her hand.
Collins caught the eye of the ruddy-faced soldier, and he nodded. He watched as the couple disappeared into the back room. Then he turned back to the young man he was speaking with.
ISS – Lunarticks – Later
The ruddy-faced private made his way through the crowd. He spotted his friend.
“Where’s Melly?” the other guy asked as he approached.
“Haven’t seen her since she went with that guy,” he answered. “She should have been done by now.”
The other private pulled his communicator from his fatigues pocket.
“Robson to Collins,” he said into the mouthpiece. “Come in, Corporal.”
He waited a minute and then tried again. When there was no answer, he stood up, and the two soldiers quickly moved to the back room area.
Despite the air filters, the room was filled with the sweat and musk of many bodies in motion. The privates moved through the dim room, glancing briefly at the couples and occasional threesomes. Spotting something in a dark corner, the ruddy-faced private called out to the other. He pulled out his penlight out and focused it on what at first appeared to be a bundle of rags. The private knelt down as the other joined him.
When they turned the half-clad body of Corporal Collins over, both privates drew in a surprised breath. On the corporal’s neck, clearly seen in the harsh glare of the penlight, were twin puncture marks, each with a single drop of blood running down her neck.
End of Teaser