Rundown Building – Night
Katherine crept along the rear of the building, a small pack on her back. She paused and looked over her shoulder. She nervously scanned the area beside and ahead of her. She squatted and tried to calm her breathing. After a moment, she stood and continued moving.
Katherine finally approached an alcove near the rear entrance to the building. With her back against the wall, she inched her way to the opening.
“Jo?” Katherine whispered.
“Katie?” Jocasta called from the alcove.
“Yeah,” Katherine said, slipping quietly into the darkened space.
“Oh, thank, god,” Jocasta said, hugging the blonde slayer quickly. “I was so worried.”
“Slayer, remember?” Katherine said with a weak smile.
“Did you get it?” Jocasta asked anxiously.
“Yeah,” Katherine replied.
Katherine slid the backpack off her shoulders. She opened the pack and pulled out an object enclosed in several tattered cloths. She gently unwrapped the layers of fabric. Inside them lay a fist-sized purple crystal with multiple jagged facets. She handed the crystal to Jocasta.
A smile of relief appeared on Jocasta’s face as she took the crystal into her hands. She touched the crystal with the tips of her fingers as if it were precious. Then she looked up at Katherine. Her smile fell away.
Katherine was shaking her head and backing away. “I’m sorry,” she said in a choked voice.
“Katie, what’s wrong?” Jocasta asked, concerned.
Katherine flattened herself against the inside wall of the alcove. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she continued to shake her head.
Suddenly, Jocasta heard the thunder of soldier boots on the pavement and the clanking of weapons being carried. She turned toward the sounds.
“Jocasta Rosenberg!” a male voice boomed. “We have you surrounded. Do not attempt escape.”
Jocasta snapped her eyes back to Katherine. A look of betrayal and then anger passed over her face. She tore her gaze from Katherine.
The male voice boomed once again. “Surrender now, witch, and you will not be harmed.”
Jocasta snorted derisively as she tucked the crystal into her pocket. “Yeah, right,” Jocasta said. “Till you pump me full of drugs and throw me into prison with the rest of the Coven.”
Jocasta started looking for a way out of the alcove. She glanced once to each side, trying to determine which path offered the best hope of escape.
“Jo, please,” Katherine begged, “don’t—”
“Don’t you even speak to me!” Jocasta threatened, pointing her finger at Katherine.
Jocasta took one more quick look out and then bolted from the alcove.
“No! Don’t run!” Katherine screamed, reaching out too late to stop Jocasta from dashing away.
Katherine hit the ground the second she heard the first spray of bullets blast into the wall of the building. She threw her arms protectively over her head.
When the gunshots ended, Katherine crawled to her feet and stumbled out of the alcove. She forced herself to walk the short distance away.
Jocasta lay dead on the pavement. She was on her back, but slightly twisted, courtesy of the violent force of the bullets that had claimed her. She was covered in blood, yet her eyes remained open, frozen in place, lifeless, unseeing.
Katherine fell to her knees, crying. “Noooo!” she screamed in anguish.
Katherine’s Quarters – Night
Katherine shot up from her couch, still screaming and sobbing. She struggled to regain her breath. Tears shone on her cheeks, and a fine sheen of sweat covered her face and upper body.
After a moment, Katherine raised a trembling hand to her forehead and pushed her damp hair out of her face. Then she wiped the tears from her cheeks.
As the last shudder of a sob left her, Katherine glanced at the clock. Her eyes grew wide when she realized she was late.
“Oh, crap!” Katherine said, jumping to her feet.
She grabbed her long coat and ran from the room.
Assault Transport – Cockpit – Night
Antonia scanned the readings on her flight display, then checked her coordinates.
“Livia, we’re almost there,” Antonia spoke into the microphone of her headset. “Renegade lair now in visual range.”
“Roger that,” Livia’s voice replied in Antonia’s earpiece.
“Switching to silent flight,” Antonia said, as she reached over and flipped a switch on her console.
Assault Transport – Troop Bay – Same Time
As the roar of the transport’s turbines dwindled to a mere whisper, Livia grinned widely. Then she turned to Katherine and Mira, who sat beside her.
“I love it when she does that!” Livia exclaimed.
“I know,” Mira said, adjusting the glove of her seraphim suit. “That new sound-cancellation device is awesome!”
“Yeah,” Katherine agreed blankly.
Livia stood and moved to face the rows of slayers awaiting her commands.
“Okay, girls, listen up!” Livia said, drawing their attention. “It’s a standard circle-and-storm. We want the targets alive, though, so no killing, unless you hear otherwise from me. Katherine and Mira are with me. The rest of you have your team assignments. As soon as we’re on the ground, take your positions. When you hear the signal, go for it. Any questions?”
A young slayer at the end of one row raised her hand.
“Yes?” Livia said.
“What’s the signal?” the slayer asked.
“Boom,” Livia said, smiling.
Abandoned Factory – Moments Later
Antonia set the assault transport down a few hundred yards from the facility.
When the external hatch opened, the slayers slipped into the darkness and crept toward the factory.
When they reached the main entrance, Livia motioned to her team leaders to take their positions. The three teams fanned out and surrounded the back and sides of the building, leaving Livia, Katherine, and Mira crouched behind some brush near the front.
Livia waited a moment, looked around, then glanced at her watch. After another moment of waiting, Livia turned to Mira and Katherine.
“Ready?” Livia asked.
“Oh, yeah!” Mira said with wicked anticipation.
Katherine didn’t answer; in fact, she showed no sign of having heard Livia at all. She just stared off into space.
“Katie!” Livia said, thumping Katherine on the arm.
Katherine was startled and fell out of her crouch, right onto her backside.
Livia raised her eyebrow at Katherine in silent accusation.
“Sorry,” Katherine mumbled, dipping her head in embarrassment. She quickly resumed her crouched position.
Livia rolled her eyes then looked at her watch once more. “Here we go,” she said, standing.
Mira and Katherine joined her. Livia nodded at Mira, who moved to the point position as the three slayers stalked towards the main entrance.
When they reached the huge doors, Mira fired up the new missile launcher in the right arm of her seraphim suit. Within seconds, a barrage of mini-missiles blew the entrance to pieces. Three smaller explosions from the back and sides of the building quickly followed.
When the smoke cleared, Livia, Katherine, and Mira entered the gaping hole that used to be the main entrance.
Abandoned Factory – Moments Later
Livia, Katherine, and Mira ducked and weaved through the factory, dodging equipment and boxes, checking an area and clearing it before moving on to the next. Finally, the trio made their way to the middle of the facility.
When Livia and the other three teams converged on the factory’s command center, they found…absolutely nothing.
The High Command fugitives were nowhere to be seen. It was clear that the abandoned offices had been used recently, but the renegades had apparently left long before Livia and her slayers had arrived.
“Damn!” Livia shouted, looking around in disgust.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later That Night
Giles sat at the head of the table. To his right sat Jocasta, Antonia, and Lex. To his left were Livia, James, and Katherine. Livia paced behind her chair.
“The place was completely deserted, you say?” Giles asked Livia.
“Yes, and had been for hours, looked like,” Livia said.
“Which means we’re back at square one in terms of finding the renegades,” Antonia said.
“We’ll just have to find new leads and follow them,” Jocasta said with forced enthusiasm.
Renegade Mobile Base – Same Time
“Do we have any idea where they might be?” Katherine’s image on a computer screen asked.
The image of Giles simply shrugged in response.
Sean Rayne leaned forward in his chair towards the screen.
“Closer than you think,” he said, smiling.
End of Teaser