Council Skimmer – Night
Giles jumped into the pilot’s seat and closed the door. Then he initiated the powering sequence and lifted off. As soon as he was in the air, he activated the communications link.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Velika strode purposefully down the corridor leading away from Slayer Command on her way back to the infirmary. When her link went off, she activated it but kept walking.
“Petrova,” she said.
“Velika, what’s—?” Giles’s voice came over the link.
“Where the hell have you been?!” the commander replied angrily.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Velika said instantly in apology. “I assume you’re calling about the slayer situation. What have you heard?”
Council Skimmer – Night
“Not much,” Giles replied. “Just that there have been reports all over the city that the slayers have lost their powers. Is it true?”
“I’m afraid so,” Velika’s voice said over the comm-link. “And it isn’t just here. It’s everywhere. Everywhere we’ve got slayers stationed. There is good news, though.”
A look of hope entered Giles’s eyes. “What’s that?”
“Not all of the slayers are affected. There is a very small percentage, a little less than one percent, who are completely unaffected.”
“We need to find the link, the common thread among the ones unaffected.”
“Dr. McClelland and his colleagues are on it.”
“Good. I’ll be back at the Council shortly,” he told the commander. “I’ll call you when I get there.”
After ending his call with Velika, Giles immediately punched in another number and waited.
Watchers Council – Computer Center – Same Time
James worked diligently at his station, his fingers flying over the keys. When his computer beeped at him, he struck a nearby key to answer the incoming call.
“Computer Center. This is James,” he said into his headset mic.
“James, this is Giles,” came the chairman’s voice in James’s earpiece. “I want an immediate activation of the ‘security feature’ we discussed earlier. I also want a complete media red alert—no information going out of the Council at all.”
“It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?” James said with a hint of sarcasm.
“Just do it!” Giles barked.
“Yes sir!” James replied.
Council Skimmer – Seconds Later
After ending his call to James, Giles immediately punched in the number for Veronica. He took a deep breath and waited for her to answer.
When she did, he said, “I know I’m the last person you want to talk to right now, but I need your help.”
Watchers Council – Hallway Near Giles’s Office – Later
Giles hurried through the corridors of the Council Headquarters, ignoring both the stares and the averted eyes of the various employees he passed. When he got near his office, Travers met him in the hallway.
“That was quite a performance,” Travers said with the merest hint of a grin.
“I’m well aware of the disastrous results of my appearance,” Giles said curtly. “I don’t need you reminding me.”
When Giles tried to pass by, Travers stepped into his path and looked him in the eyes. “This is the last straw, Sebastian. You are finished in the Council!”
“I’m not finished yet,” Giles said, leaning forward until he was nearly nose to nose with Travers. “For the moment, I am still the Chairman, and you had better treat me as such. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to actually deal with the crisis at hand instead of making threats in the hallways.”
Giles pushed past Travers and strode away towards his office.
“By the way,” Travers called to Giles, “you don’t have to worry about that demon bar problem. I took care of that for you.”
Giles froze in place and turned around. Travers gave a satisfied smile and then walked away. Giles narrowed his eyes and glared at Travers’ back.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Conference Room – Later That Night
As usual, Giles sat at the head of the table. Jocasta and Lex sat to his right while James and Velika sat to his left.
“Thankfully, Veronica and Lucretia are handling communications with the Command Council and the High Command. Velika, what’s happening on the medical side?”
“Dr. McClelland is investigating all possible causes for the power loss,” Velika reported. “Infections, viruses, even poisons. He’s also cross-referencing all the medical records of the slayers to see if there’s a pattern in the histories of those affected.”
“What about a spell?” Lex asked Jocasta. “We already saw what a spell did to Katie. Could somebody cast a spell that would affect all the slayers, well, nearly all of them?”
“I’ve examined a number of the affected slayers,” Jocasta replied, “and there is no sign of any spell being cast on them. Of course, it could be something beyond our capabilities. We are still learning, after all.”
“What about the original spell—the slayer empowerment spell that Willow Rosenberg cast 130 years ago?” Giles asked. “The ritual she performed activated all of the slayers, then and for the future. Could that spell have somehow failed after all this time?”
Jocasta shrugged. “I just don’t know at this point, but I’ll get with Willowgram and start digging.”
“Excellent,” Giles answered. “James, how is our ‘security failure’ holding up?”
James gave the chairman a thumbs-up. “It’s A-Okay, boss. They may be tryin’, but there ain’t no spyin’.”
Giles cracked a momentary smile. “Well, good, keep that up then.” He turned to the head of Slayer Command.
“Velika, I’d like you to continue monitoring Dr. McClelland’s progress,” Giles told his former slayer. “Send me regular updates.”
Velika nodded in acknowledgement. Giles turned his eyes to Lex.
“Speed up production on the seraphim suits as much as you can,” Giles said. “We need as many slayers suited up and on the streets as we can get.”
Giles looked around the table. “Anything else?” When no one had anything to add, he dismissed the group.
Renegade Mobile Base – Same Time
“Blasted piece of machinery!” Sean Rayne cursed and slapped his monitor with the palm of his hand.
The red light on his vid-phone began to blink, signaling an incoming call. Grinding his teeth in annoyance, Rayne activated the link and glared at the face on the screen.
“What is it?” he snapped.
Tyrell did not look pleased at Rayne’s tone.
“What is going on?” Tyrell asked.
Rayne shook his head and gestured to the sky. “Hell if I know. The system’s down. Some kind of security glitch. I have no idea what’s happening in the Council.”
Tyrell started to say something, but stopped and took a breath. He fixed Rayne with a scathing glare. “Get around it,” he commanded.
Watchers Council – John West’s Office – Same Time
John West tapped his keyboard again and frowned at his screen.
“Well, that’s odd,” he said, looking between several monitors. All were blank.
West shook his head and continued trying to access the security grid.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
Dr. McClelland strode over to an area where technicians were examining slide after slide of slayer blood. He touched the senior technician on the shoulder to get her attention.
“Whatcha got?” he asked.
The technician shook her head ruefully. “Nothing yet.”
Dr. McClelland gave the tech a squeeze on the shoulder then strode over to another area where more technicians were at work. He went and stood beside two techs who were running blood samples through a battery of analyses.
“How’s toxicology coming?” he inquired.
“Slowly but surely,” the one on his left said.
“Unfortunately, the first run of comparisons showed nothing unusual,” the one on his right said.
“All right then,” the doctor replied. “Keep at it.”
Then he moved to the doorway of the infirmary’s computer center where data assistants were busy calling up all of the slayers’ medical records and running them through a processor. He waved down one of the clerks.
“A few commonalities are emerging, but only in portions of the affected group,” the clerk replied. “We haven’t found anything that ties all of them together.”
“Okay,” Dr. McClelland said disappointedly. “Call me the minute you know something.”
Dr. McClelland walked a few feet away and stopped. He rubbed his forehead worriedly and said, “Damn.” Then he took a deep breath and headed back into the fray.
Watchers Council – Jocasta’s Office – The Next Morning
Jocasta sat wearily at her desk, scanning through a set of files that Willowgram had just called up.
“I don’t see anything here that could—” Jocasta started to tell Willow before she saw Giles enter her office. “Giles, hey,” she called to her friend and mentor.
“How’s Katie?” Giles asked.
“She’s okay. She’s still in the infirmary, hopefully resting,” Jocasta replied. “I swear that woman’s as stubborn as a mule. Last time I checked on her, she was in her hospital gown helping the nurses deliver snacks to the other slayers.”
Giles chuckled at the description.
“Have they found anything in medical yet?” Jocasta asked.
Giles shook his head. “No. I was hoping you might have something for me.”
“I wish I did,” Jocasta said sadly. “We haven’t found any kind of spell that could drain the powers of a slayer, much less bunches o’ slayers all at once.”
“What about the original empowerment spell?” Giles asked.
“Willow and I have been over it and over it, and we just can’t see anything that could have gone wrong with it, either then or now.”
“We did find an interesting note in Willow’s journals, though,” the cheerful hologram interjected. “Apparently, there was an archaic test employed by the Old Council to evaluate a slayer upon her eighteenth birthday. It was called the ‘Cruciamentum’, and it involved setting a powerless slayer against a vampire in an enclosed space.”
Giles’s face lit up in an expression of hope. “And h-h-how did the Council render the slayer powerless?”
“The slayer’s watcher would inject her with a combination of drugs that suppressed her powers,” Willowgram answered.
“Unfortunately, there was really nothing unusual about the combination of drugs,” Jocasta continued. “Plus, they did require manual injection, and they had a very limited period of efficacy, so that really doesn’t fit what’s going on here.”
“I see your point,” Giles said. “Perhaps, you and Willow should tell Dr. McClelland about this-this ‘Cruciamentum’. It may have a modern equivalent?” he suggested.
“Good idea!” Jocasta said with a smile.
Just then, Giles’s link went off. He headed for the office door. “Keep me posted,” Giles said as he hurried out of her office, activating his link as he did so.
Jocasta pulled Willowgram’s mobile processor from her bottom drawer and popped it into the power cradle on her desk. “Ready to go for a ride?” she asked the hologram.
“You betcha!” Willow answered before snapping her fingers and blipping away in a flash of light.
Within milliseconds, the indicator light flashed on the mobile processor. Jocasta pulled the device from its cradle, tucked it under her arm, and rushed out of her office.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Dr. McClelland’s Office – Moments Later
Jocasta found Dr. McClelland pouring over the reports in a stack of data pads piled on his desk.
“Hi,” Jocasta said as she slipped inside the doctor’s office and took a seat in front of his desk. “How’s it coming?”
“It’s not,” Dr. McClelland said in a tired voice. “We’ve done battery after battery of tests on both the affected and unaffected slayers. So far…nothing.”
“Well, Willow and I have an idea that might be worth looking into,” Jocasta said, motioning toward the mobile processor as she set it on the doctor’s desk and activated it. A mini-image of Willow Rosenberg immediately appeared above the processor.
“What? Who?” Dr. McClelland asked, confused.
“Willow,” the hologram answered happily, giving the doctor a wave. “Willow Rosenberg.”
“You mean the—”
“Yep. Well, actually I’m a personality construct based on her. You can still call me Willow, though. Or Willowgram. That’s what Jo calls me sometimes.”
Dr. McClelland looked at Willowgram then looked at Jocasta then repeated the process and then pointed. “But she looks just like…”
“Yeah, I know. Long story,” Jocasta said.
“You must be Dr. McClelland,” Willow said in greeting. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you. I’m very impressed with your work.”
“You…you’re familiar with my work?” the doctor asked in amazement.
“Oh, absolutely! You’re the go-to guy when it comes to reticular formation in the diencephalon.”
The doctor leaned forward excitedly and focused on Willow. “Did you read my recent treatise on the sensory selection process in the reticular activating system of comatose patients?”
“Yes, it was fascinating! A whole new perspective on—”
“Uhh, guys?” Jocasta interrupted. “World-wide crisis. Needs solving. Preferably now,” she reminded them.
“Oh, right,” Dr. McClelland said.
“Right,” Willow echoed.
“Good,” Jocasta said. “I’ll leave you to it then.”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Livia’s Room – A Little Later
At Livia’s hospital room, Katherine knocked lightly on the door and then opened it. She peeked inside to see if Livia was awake. She got her answer when dark brown eyes met hers.
“Hey,” Katherine said. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Livia said hoarsely.
Katherine shut the door and came to Livia’s bed. The entire side of Livia’s upper body was swathed in white bandages. Her arm was wrapped into place against her chest. Katherine touched Livia’s uninjured arm and gave it a squeeze.
“How’re you doing?” Katherine asked.
“How do I look like I’m doing?” Livia joked weakly.
“Like you’ve been to hell and back,” Katherine replied with a grin.
“Well, there you go,” Livia said, forcing a small smile.
“Can I get you anything? Something to eat? Some water?” Katherine offered.
Livia shook her head. Neither woman said anything for a while, and it was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Livia spoke.
“Do you think it’s permanent?” Livia whispered.
“You mean our power loss?”
“I don’t know, Livia. I hope not.”
“What if it is? What if it’s just gone? What if the empowerment spell just…ran outta gas?” Livia said, tears welling up in her eyes.
“I’m sure we’ll manage somehow. We do have the seraphim suits, after all.”
“It wouldn’t be the same,” Livia said, shaking her head. Then she put her good hand on her chest. “I wouldn’t be able to feel it anymore…inside me, that… slayerness.”
Katherine gazed at Livia sympathetically, then gently touched her arm once again. “We’re all going to lose our powers eventually, when we turn thirty. We all have to face losing that specialness.”
Livia looked despondent for a moment, then anger replaced her sadness.
“You won’t,” Livia said. “You’ve got your witchy powers to fall back on, don’t you?” Livia accused. “Well, I don’t. This is all I’ve got.”
“But it’s not,” Katherine countered. “You bring so much more to the Council than just your slayerness.” Katherine paused then gave Livia a hopeful grin. “Besides, you might even have your own ‘witchy powers’.”
“Please!” Livia denied hotly. “You think that magic test of yours can really tell you anything? Let’s face it. It’s over. I’ve got nothing left to give. Without my slayer healing, it’ll take me months to get well, and even then, I’ll never be a hundred percent. I’ll be lucky if I can tie my own freakin’ shoes!”
“Livia, I’m sure it’s not that bad. You just—”
“Would you just go? Please? I don’t wanna talk anymore.”
When Livia turned away from her, Katherine began backing toward the door. “Sure. I’ll, um, check on you later then.”
“Don’t bother,” Livia said flatly.
Katherine frowned then slipped quietly from the room.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Moments Later
With her forehead creased in worry and her eyes locked on the floor, Katherine walked aimlessly as she headed away from Livia’s room. When she felt hands grab her arms, she jumped in fright.
“Oh!” Katherine said as she looked up. Her face brightened when she saw a familiar redhead. “Jo!”
“Are you on drugs?” Jocasta teased. “’Cause you are way out there, Babe.”
Katherine swatted at Jocasta jokingly. “No, I’m not on drugs. It’s Bri who’s on drugs.”
“Brianna,” Katherine explained. “I don’t know what in the world the doctor gave her, but she was happy, happy, happy.”
“Well, what’s got you thinking so hard that you’re practically in another time zone?”
Katherine sighed. “It’s Livia,” she said. “She’s not taking this whole ‘power loss’ thing very well.”
Jocasta linked her arm with Katherine’s and gave her an encouraging smile. “Let’s go get some lunch, and you can tell me all about it.”
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Livia’s Room – Later
“I hear somebody’s down in the dumps,” Velika said with a sappy smile as she came to stand beside Livia’s bed.
“Snitchy witch,” Livia complained.
Velika’s face grew serious. “You know, it was hard for me too, when I was deactivated. I mean, I knew it was coming, the big three-oh, but still…” Velika dropped her gaze. “I felt so lost, like I didn’t have a purpose anymore. I had been special. Chosen. And then…”
“What did you do?” Livia asked.
“I did a lot of thinking. And when it was all said and done, I realized something. I realized that being chosen wasn’t just about my powers, about being a slayer. It was also about being called—called to defend this world and the people in it, called to fight the good fight, called to make a difference.”
Velika looked Livia in the eyes.
“I didn’t have a choice in being chosen, but I had a choice in answering the call,” Velika said. “I answered it when I first joined the Council, and I answered it again when I decided to stay at the Council after my deactivation.”
Velika reached out and took Livia’s hand.
“Whether you get your powers back or not, Livia, the Council needs you.”
Velika gave Livia’s hand a reassuring squeeze, then she slipped from the room.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same Time
As Veronica entered the chairman’s office, she found him pacing behind his desk, yelling into his communications headset.
“I don’t care how you do it, just get it done!” Giles ordered before abruptly ending the call.
When Giles looked up, he saw Veronica coming towards him. His face tightened, and he dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment. Then he took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and then lifted his head to meet Veronica’s eyes.
“Veronica,” Giles said evenly.
“Sebastian,” she answered just as evenly.
They stood there awkwardly staring for a moment before Giles spoke again.
“Thank you for, um, helping coordinate with the Command Council. Oh, please,” he said, gesturing to the chair in front of the desk, “sit down.”
“Thank you,” she replied before settling in the indicated chair.
After a moment, Giles finally said, “I suppose you’re here to say ‘I told you so’.”
Veronica shook her head. “As much as I would like to, I just don’t have time for that right now. I have something to show you, a video.”
“Not another video,” Giles groaned as he took the data rod that Veronica was handing over.
He reluctantly inserted the rod into the reader and sent the file to the large monitor on his wall. He and Veronica both directed their gaze to the monitor as a video began to play.
Series of Shots – Multimedia Video Presentation
As hard-hitting music played, a serious male voice thundered through a series of alarming statistics about the suspected number of demons currently living in the American Conglomerate and the number of civilian casualties attributed to supernatural and demonic influences since 2107. The statistical analysis was complemented by graphs and charts interspersed between disturbing images of the bodies of known victims of demon attacks.
After the barrage of statistics ended, the slick image of Eris Pantelles suddenly filled the screen, the huge logo of Hubris clearly visible on the wall behind her.
“The Watchers Council has held the monopoly on the Human Defense Treaty for over twenty years,” she said solemnly. “And yet the number of civilian casualties due to demonic attacks has not decreased. In fact, it’s increased.”
Eris shifted her position to address a different camera.
“It was a good idea, and it served its purpose, but it’s clear that the Council and its slayers have outlived their usefulness. It’s time to abandon this archaic notion of the ‘chosen ones’ and instead to embrace the future of the war against the demonic menace.”
The video cut to a series of impressive demonstrations of Hubris’s new battle suit. Afterwards, Eris Pantelles returned to the screen.
“Unlike the Council, Hubris is willing and able to win this fight—to eliminate the demonic threat for good. But for that to happen, Congress must lift the monopoly on the Human Defense Treaty. It must allow other, more capable corporations to bid openly for the privilege to defend humanity.”
Eris put on a confident smile and looked directly into the camera. “Hubris stands ready to assume command and win the war, if you will give us the chance. Thank you for your time.”
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Resume
When the video ended, Giles ran his hand through this hair then looked at Veronica.
“This was sent directly to Congress, I presume?” Giles asked.
“Yep,” Veronica confirmed.
“Any ideas on damage control?”
“Damn right I’m angry!” Veronica responded. “I told you not to go on that woman’s show, and you completely ignored my advice!”
“I know, and I’m sorry,” Giles said sincerely.
Veronica’s expression seemed to shift from one of anger to a mixture of disappointment and hurt.
“You used to trust me. We used to trust each other,” she said softly. “And now…”
Giles didn’t have a response.
Watchers Council – Jocasta’s Office – Same Time
The door to Jocasta’s office opened to admit a wary Mira, carrying a bundle of cloth. The slayer peered cautiously into the room. Finding it empty, she hurried inside and shut the door behind her.
“Lock, lock, lock…” she muttered to herself, punching a few keys on the security pad beside the door.
Satisfied that she would not be interrupted, Mira hurried across the room to Jocasta’s computer. She activated the screen, then paused, her fingers hovering over the keyboard. After a moment, she put her hands down on the desk.
“Crap. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
Sighing heavily, Mira leaned back in the chair and looked around the office. “Where’s that hologram when you need her?”
Mira looked down at the cloth bundle sitting in her lap. Slowly, she peeled back the wrapping to reveal the demon’s golden knife. She ran her fingers gently over the hilt and down the blade. Then she turned the knife over and repeated the process. Her fingernail traced delicately around a symbol etched near the tip of the blade.
Mira’s fingers returned to the keyboard. She entered a series of strokes, then reached over and grabbed the handheld scanner sitting on the corner of the desk. The scanner glowed as she moved it over the blade of the knife. When the image had been transferred to the screen, Mira typed quickly, searching through any file she could gain access to for information about the symbol. A few times, her progress was halted by the computer asking for security verification and stubbornly refusing to accept her code.
“Stupid, stupid computer! Let me in, dammit! My code is perfectly fi—”
The computer beeped and opened a page. Mira blinked and stared at the picture on the screen for a moment, then glanced down at the knife in her lap and back at the screen.
“Huh. That was quick. Guess you’re not so classified after all,” she said to the knife. “Now let’s see where you come from…”
Mira punched a few more keys and settled in to absorb the research.
Hubris, Inc. – Tyrell’s Office – Afternoon
Eris walked into the office suite she’d assigned to Tyrell in the Hubris headquarters. She rapped on his door and then walked in. She was grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ve got to hand it to you,” she told Tyrell. “That whole slayer power loss thing was brilliant! I don’t know how you did it, but…I’m impressed.”
Tyrell puffed up a little and smiled smugly as he stood to his feet.
“This was the last nail in the Council’s coffin,” Eris continued. “With the power loss and the bad press it’s generated, it’s only a matter of time before Congress rips that Human Defense Treaty right out of their hands.”
“And places it right into ours,” Tyrell added as he joined Eris.
After sharing a short but devious chuckle, Tyrell sobered and stepped away. “I’m going to see Dr. So in his lab. He has a report on his latest project.”
As Tyrell walked toward the door, Eris watched with narrowed eyes.
End of Act Three