Watchers Council – Conference Room – Late Afternoon
Jocasta and Antonia entered the conference room together, joining the group that was already there. Giles and Veronica were near the head of the table. John, Livia, and Katherine were seated in the middle. James was conspicuously absent. Jocasta and Antonia took the chairs near Katherine.
“As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, someone tried to assassinate Tyrell,” Giles said, opening the meeting. “However, Dr. McClelland reports that Tyrell is essentially unharmed from the attempt.”
“Too bad,” Antonia muttered.
“Yeah,” Jocasta agreed.
“Is it true that the assassin was Anya?” John asked.
“You mean the Annoying Neurotic Yackety Android?” Livia asked, surprised. “Wait, I thought synthetics were programmed not to harm humans?”
“They are,” Jocasta said. “The protocol is hardwired into their central processing unit, making it virtually impossible to reprogram.”
“And yet Anya’s programming was modified,” Giles pointed out grimly.
“What does James have to say about it?” Veronica asked.
“Nothing at the moment,” Giles said. “He’s been detained by Security.”
“What?” Jocasta protested. “You don’t believe that James had anything to do with it, do you?”
“It’s standard procedure,” John said. “Anya belongs to him, and he does have the skills necessary to modify her programming.”
“So do I,” Jocasta said, glaring at John. “So do you, for that matter.” Then she turned her attention to Giles. “So do a lot of people around here. And there’s no shortage of people who would be glad to see Tyrell gone.”
“Like John said, it’s just standard procedure,” Giles said. “And as for your other point, who does want Tyrell dead?”
“Besides all of us?” Antonia snorted.
“The real question is who has the most to lose if Tyrell talks?” Veronica asked.
“Indeed,” Giles said, nodding in her direction. “I think it’s clear who ordered the android to make the attempt on Tyrell: Eris Pantelles.”
“So, what do you need for us to do?” John asked.
“I’d like for you to question James,” Giles told him. “Find out everything you can about where and how he acquired Anya. And then I’d like you to analyze the android and find out what you can about how her programming was altered.”
John nodded, and Giles turned to his slayers. “Livia, Katie, I’d like you to guard Tyrell. Since someone went to such great lengths to silence him, he’s even more valuable to us than before.”
“I can help John with Anya,” Jocasta offered when Giles turned to her. Giles nodded in acknowledgement.
A look of shock and then anger appeared on Antonia’s face at Jocasta’s statement. She glared at her cousin and then looked away.
“Thank you,” Giles said. “That is all.”
Giles moved into an adjacent office, and Veronica followed him in. Once Giles had left, Antonia immediately stood up, gave Jocasta another glare, and then stormed from the room. Jocasta started to say something, but her angry cousin was already gone. John came over and touched Jocasta’s shoulder.
“I’ll see you back at the lab,” John said.
When Jocasta nodded, John gave her shoulder a squeeze, flashed an encouraging smile, and left the room. Livia followed him to the door. Katherine pulled Jocasta close and touched her cheek.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“No,” Jocasta said in a hurt voice. “Why is she so—”
“You should talk to her,“ Katherine said, looking deeply into Jocasta’s eyes until her gaze was met.
“Okay,” Jocasta said after a long stare.
“If you need to talk, you know where to find me,” Katherine said.
Jocasta forced a smile, and Katherine kissed her soundly. Then Katherine joined Livia by the door, and the two slayers headed for the infirmary. Jocasta took a few moments to center herself then left to find Antonia.
Watchers Council – Office Beside Conference Room – Same Time
As Giles began gathering his belongings, Veronica came and perched on the corner of the desk.
“And what do you need from me, Sebastian?” Veronica asked.
Giles looked up at her and blinked in confusion. “What?”
“Well, you gave everyone else a task…” Veronica prompted.
“Oh, yes,” Giles said. “Yes, I did.”
“So, what do you need me to do?”
Giles sighed. “Support me…as you always have.” He took her hand in his and then kissed her knuckles. “Oh, and keep Travers off my back.”
Veronica let out a bark of laugher as she pulled her hand away and stood up. “What do you think I am? A miracle worker?”
Giles let out a rueful chuckle.
Watchers Council – Outside The Conference Room – Moments Later
Jocasta strode out of the conference room and headed for the elevator. She stopped when she noticed Antonia standing in the windowed alcove nearby. Jocasta took a deep breath then walked slowly over to her cousin. She placed a gentle hand on Antonia’s back.
“How could you?!” Antonia demanded, whirling around to face Jocasta.
“What? What did I do?” Jocasta asked, truly confused.
“You chose to stop helping Dr. McClelland so that you could work on that stupid android!” Antonia accused. “Lex is dying, and you don’t seem to care!”
“Of course I care!” Jocasta said. “How can you say that?”
“Then why aren’t you helping Dr. McClelland find a cure?”
“Because Dr. McClelland doesn’t need me. Willow’s helping him. She’s actually more useful to him than I am.”
Antonia huffed in retort and shook her head. She gave Jocasta a final glare and pushed past her. “Fine. Go play with your little circuits and your subroutines. Maybe Lex will still be alive when you’re done!”
Antonia stomped away. Jocasta watched with a pained expression as Antonia passed the elevators and went straight to the stairwell, slamming the metal door behind her.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Later
Jocasta sat behind a computer, monitoring the read-outs as John began attaching cables to the access ports in Anya’s arm.
“Is all this really necessary?” Anya asked, looking around at the equipment. “I’ve run a full diagnostic, and there’s nothing wrong with me.”
“Anya, you tried to kill someone,” Jocasta replied. “I think that falls in the ‘something is wrong’ category.”
“Well, I only have your word for that,” Anya answered testily. “Sounds like a bunch of nonsense if you asked me. I have safety protocols, you know.”
Jocasta looked up and smiled reassuringly at the android. “I know you do, but something is overriding them or bypassing them. It’s buried so deep in your programming that you’re not even aware of it.”
Anya scoffed and then pinned Jocasta with an icy stare. “If it is, you’ll never find it…Colonel.” Jocasta and John both froze at the cold tone. Then, Anya winced and slapped John’s hand. “Hey! Watch the upholstery, mister. I’m not made of plastic here.”
John rolled his eyes. When all the cables were hooked up, he moved to sit at another computer. He typed a few keys then said, “Okay, give it a try.”
Jocasta typed in a series of commands and then groaned. “I can’t seem to get past this coding. All I’m getting are error messages.” She looked up at John, but he shook his head and shrugged. Jocasta sighed. “Let’s try another route then.”
As they typed, Anya sat silently for exactly ten seconds before blowing out an irritated breath and trying to fix her mussed hair. “I don’t know why I have to be treated like a prisoner,” Anya muttered, glancing darkly at the armed guard standing by the door. “If someone did tamper with my programming—which I seriously doubt—then it’s not really my fault, now is it?” Anya softened her tone and continued. “I mean, it’s not like I would’ve had a choice. It wouldn’t really be me doing it…right?”
Jocasta gave Anya a sympathetic smile, but it didn’t seem to comfort Anya. The android huffed and turned her attention to John. Her eyes narrowed as she watched him pick up another tool and approach her.
“That better not be what I think it is,” she growled.
John held up the tool and twirled it slightly. Anya rolled her eyes and lifted up the back of her shirt to reveal another panel in her lower back.
“Why I let you two clowns tinker with my highly sophisticated body is beyond me,” she grumbled. “Where the hell is James?”
Watchers Council – Detention Area – Later
James sat on the floor of his cell, thumping his head lightly against the wall. Every time his head knocked against the wall, the guard outside the cell tensed and glared. James smirked and then glared right back.
“Unbelievable,” he mumbled to himself. “High-profile guy like me, and I get the jumpy rookie.”
The door to the cell wing slid open, and Jocasta and John walked in. James scrambled to his feet as they spoke to the guard and then approached the cell.
“Can somebody please tell me what’s going on?” he asked through the perforations in the glass wall. “They said something about Anya going crazy and trying to kill someone, but they wouldn’t tell me anything else.”
“Well, they’re half right,” Jocasta said. “Anya hasn’t gone crazy, but she did try to kill Tyrell.”
James looked shocked. “That’s impossible! She’s programmed not to hurt anybody. I updated her security protocols myself!”
John shared a concerned look with Jocasta then cleared his throat. “Are you sure you’re the only person that’s ever worked on her?”
“Of course I am. Well, except for the techs that built her. But I’ve taken care of all of her maintenance, personally.”
“And why is that?”
James crossed his arms and glared at John. “Wait a minute, you think I stripped her protocols? Zasranec! You—”
“No, we don’t,” Jocasta interrupted. “And where did you learn that kind of language?”
At James’s abashed grin, she shook her head. “Look, we all know that Eris Pantelles and Hubris are the bad guys here, but we need to figure out exactly when Anya’s program was tampered with so that we can prove it. And we can’t do that without your help.”
James looked unconvinced. “Well, you can’t just pick her apart and go rooting through her systems! What if you damage her personality? Or-or her memory or something else that’s important?”
“James, please,” Jocasta pleaded.
“No way,“ James said defiantly.
“James, if we don’t do it, someone else will. You know we’ll take every precaution.” Jocasta stepped closer to the cell and lowered her voice. “Look, we’ve run into nothing but error messages and weird code loops when we’ve tried to find the subprogram that’s been controlling her. If there’s anything you can do to help us figure it out, you need to tell us.”
James cast a wary look at John then let out an exasperated breath. “Fine! The errors you’re getting are probably just the trap doors I put in to keep anybody from ever tampering with her.”
At Jocasta’s raised eyebrow, he shrugged. “Yeah, yeah, fat lot of good it did me. Anyway, Anya’s backups are in a security box in my quarters. The key code is ‘two two beta charlie.’ They contain all the passwords you’ll need to get into the basic structure of her programming.”
Jocasta glanced at John, who nodded and hurried out of the room. She turned back to James. “Thanks. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise.”
“Yeah, right. And then you’ll get me out of here?”
“Count on it.”
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Night
Jocasta stood beside a table where Anya lay, still connected to the diagnostic equipment. John finished loading the backups into his computer.
“I told you before, you should let James do this,” Anya snapped. “He does all my maintenance. At least he knows what he’s doing.”
John sighed and shot a pleading look at Jocasta. She only shrugged helplessly.
“Don’t look at me,” she said. “I even specialized in cybernetics, and she doesn’t trust me anymore than she does you.”
“I guess she really is a one-man synthetic.”
“Oh yes, fantastic. Mock the dying android,” Anya griped. She crossed her arms over her chest, then sighed when Jocasta moved them back into position at her sides. “You know, if I actually received a paycheck, I’d be asking for a raise right about now,” Anya muttered.
Jocasta ignored the android’s ranting and walked over to her computer. “Okay, this is much better,” she said as she typed.
The three sat in silence as Jocasta and John worked. It took several minutes before Anya finally opened her mouth to say something. Before she could, though, John cursed quietly.
“I still can’t get far enough into the program. It’s not even asking for passwords anymore; it’s just looping me back to the beginning.”
Jocasta nodded. “I’m seeing the same thing. Look, what if we—” She paused and turned to Anya. “I think this might work better if we…deactivate you temporarily.”
John murmured his agreement, but Anya gasped and sat up.
“Deactivate me?! No! What? You can’t just turn me off! What if I never wake up? Do you have any idea how hard it is to reinitialize a synthetic? Why do think they only deactivate older synthetics? I’m not supposed to be turned off until I’ve outlived my usefulness. Oh no,” Anya looked up at Jocasta with wide eyes. “Have I outlived my usefulness? Is James going to get a new synthetic?”
“Anya! Calm down. We know what we’re doing.” Jocasta got up and gently patted the android’s shoulder. “James wouldn’t let us do it if he thought you wouldn’t be okay.
“I don’t think he’d let you deactivate me!”
“It wouldn’t be for very long,” John said. “We’re already pretty close. I’d say an hour, tops.”
Anya was silent for a moment. She glanced back and forth between Jocasta and John. Finally, she lay back on the table and waved a dismissive hand at them.
“Well, get on with it then.”
John began the deactivation process. Jocasta moved closer to Anya and looked down at the android with concern.
“Don’t worry. I’ll monitor your personality and memory pathways the whole time. The computer will alert us before we can mess anything up. Is there anything else that—”
“Will I dream?” Anya interrupted. She no longer looked cross, only worried.
Jocasta blinked in surprise. She hesitated for a moment then smiled. “Probably. Your brain’s very advanced. Practically human. I bet you’ll have lots of dreams.”
Anya sighed. “You’re a horrible liar. You see, this is why you’re so bad at poker.”
“How would you know? You’ve never played poker with me.”
“Exactly. It wouldn’t be a challenge at all.”
Jocasta chuckled. “Well, we’ll see about that when you wake up.”
Anya just nodded. Jocasta looked up at John. He reached for the keyboard and entered the commands that would deactivate the android. As her systems began shutting down in sequence, Anya looked up at Jocasta with wholly human fear in her eyes.
“Listen, if I don’t…I mean, if I’m—” Anya swallowed and then blinked a couple of times. “Will you just tell James that—” She stopped and looked away.
“What do you want me to tell him?” Jocasta asked.
Anya was silent for a moment, then she sighed and rolled her eyes. “Never mind. You wouldn’t get it right anyway.”
As her last system finally shut down, Anya closed her eyes and lay still. Jocasta watched the android’s unconscious form for several moments. Then she turned and walked back to her computer.
“Okay,” she said to John, “let’s make this quick.”
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Same Time
Willowgram and Dr. McClelland watched the holographic simulation of a virion attempting to attach to a cell. The viral particle’s capsid latched onto the cell wall, and the observers held their breaths—the last several simulations had been disappointments. The stress was beginning to show on McClelland’s face.
After a moment, the virion unrolled and broke apart.
“Yes!” McClelland exclaimed, pumping his fist. He smiled widely and turned to Willowgram. “We don’t go after the viruses themselves—instead, we eliminate their molecular chaperones…”
“…thereby destroying their ability to co-opt the cell’s manufacturing infrastructure and to reproduce themselves,” Willowgram finished.
“I do believe this is going to work,” Dr. McClelland stated optimistically.
“So, we try it out?” Willowgram asked.
“Normally—and ethically—I should try it on animal subjects before using it on a human being. But I’m not sure that Tyrell has the time to spare,” the doctor answered.
“I’m not sure that Tyrell counts as a human being,” Willowgram replied.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Same Time
Tyrell’s face was pale, and his breathing was shallow. The monitors tracking his vital signs beeped and chirped in increasingly irregular patterns. Livia and Katherine watched with concern.
“He’s not looking so hot,” Livia observed.
“Yeah,” Katherine agreed. “He’s not a good man, but to die like this…”
Livia snorted in rebuttal. “He’s the bastard that had this stuff developed in the first place. So as far as I’m concerned, he’s gettin’ what he deserves. The only reason I’m hoping he hangs on is ’cause it might help Lex and all the other victims.”
A nurse entered and took Tyrell’s vitals with grim efficiency. She reached out and thumbed the intercom. “Doctor, you’d better get down here. Tyrell’s room,” she told him.
Watchers Council Infirmary – Quarantine Zone – Later
Dr. McClelland inserted a hypodermic needle into a small vial and extracted a dose of the new antiviral serum.
“How long will it be before we know if the cure is effective?” Katherine asked as the doctor injected the syringe’s contents into Tyrell’s I.V. line.
“It had better work quickly or…” He trailed off before glancing worriedly at Willowgram as she stood atop the bedside table.
They waited in awkward silence. Dr. McClelland watched the monitors as they beeped and chirped. Livia shifted her weight several times before shoving her hands into her pockets. Katherine wrung her hands nervously. No one seemed inclined to engage in small talk. They waited some more, watching Tyrell anxiously, until Willow broke the silence.
“It’s working!” the hologram announced happily.
Everyone looked at her and then at Tyrell. There wasn’t any visible change in the former chairman’s condition.
“I’ve interfaced with his monitoring equipment,” Willowgram explained. “His blood oxygen level is increasing, and his pulse has steadied. His temperature has increased, but that’s good because it means his body is fighting the infection.”
The room erupted in celebration.
Dr. McClelland held up the vial of antiviral serum. “Let’s go check on Mr. Harris,” he told Willowgram.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Same Time
John looked up at Jocasta, watching her hands fly across the keyboard. “And?” he prompted.
Jocasta didn’t look up as she continued scanning the computer screen. “It was buried way down in the basics of her programming. See this?” She pointed at an area on the screen and waited for John to move around behind her before continuing.
“This is what a normal activation sequence looks like. The safety features here and here are typical for all brands of synthetics. And these few down here are upgrades specific to the Hyperdyne series. Now, this is what Anya’s looks like.” She typed a few more commands and then sat back in her chair. “Behold the magical disappearing code.”
“Wait a minute. You’re saying this was done when she was activated?”
“Yep, right there at Hubris, Inc.” Jocasta rubbed her forehead wearily. “At least this proves that James didn’t do it.”
John nodded. “Unfortunately, it also means that Hubris has had a spy in our midst for years.”
Jocasta stood up and crossed the room. She sighed as she looked down sadly at the deactivated Anya. “She was a pawn this whole time, and she had no idea.”
“Man, is she gonna be pissed when she wakes up,” John said with a smirk.
Jocasta let out a sharp laugh that echoed in the silence of the lab. After a moment, she regained her composure and activated her comm link.
“Giles, it’s me,” she said into the link. “We’ve found the program. It looks like Eris had it installed back when Anya was activated. It’s been running silently in the background the whole time.”
Jocasta listened and then nodded. Suddenly, she smiled brightly and glanced back at John.
“A cure? That’s great, Giles! I’ll be over in just a minute. If you can get them to release James, then he and John can start fixing Anya’s programming and—”
She paused mid-sentence, her face contorting first into a look of confusion, then into one of disbelief.
“Giles, you can’t be serious! But what about— Well, yes, but I—” Jocasta’s expression tightened. “No,” she said in a forced calm. “No, I understand. Thanks.”
Jocasta shut off the link. John began to speak, but stopped when Jocasta removed the headset from over her ear and threw it across the room. He let a few tense moments pass before speaking.
“So…they’re not releasing James?”
“No. I mean, yes, they are.” Jocasta gripped the edge of the lab table, her knuckles turning white. She took a deep breath. “They’re not letting us fix her.”
“What?!” John exclaimed. “Why the hell not?”
“I don’t know. Giles just said to leave her deactivated. He said a security team would take her down to detention until the federal agents came for her.”
John stood silently as Jocasta retrieved her link. She began gathering cables and closing Anya’s access ports.
“You want me to tell him?” John asked quietly.
Jocasta looked surprised by the question, then she shook her head. “No, I should be the one.”
John walked up behind her and gently touched her shoulder. “Let me handle it. You’ve got a cousin to see to.”
“Yeah, okay.” Jocasta sighed, still looking down at Anya. “I wonder what they’re going to do to her.”
“I don’t know. But we’ll do what we can to get her back. She’s part of the team, right?”
“Right,” Jocasta replied. “She may be an annoying part of the team, but she’s one of us.”
Series of Shots – Night
— Security guards lifting the deactivated Anya from the exam table
— Jocasta moving to stop them, but John holding her back
— The guards carrying Anya out of the lab
Series of Shots – Same Time
— A weak but cured Tyrell sitting up in his hospital bed, addressing a camera
— Giles and Travers and Veronica next to Tyrell as he makes his confession
— The Senate HDT Committee watching Tyrell on their vid screens
Series of Shots – Same Time
— Antonia sitting beside a clearly recovering Lex
— Jocasta and Katherine entering Lex’s room cautiously
— Jocasta smiling at Lex then looking at Antonia worriedly
— Antonia getting up and hugging Jocasta tightly
— Jocasta and Katherine joining Antonia around Lex’s bed, smiles all around
Series of Shots – Same Time
— A guard opening James’s cell and releasing him from detention
— John greeting James outside the cell and shaking James’s hand
— John with a serious expression giving James the bad news about Anya
— James pushing past John and running down the line of detention cells
— James walking up to the cell containing the deactivated Anya
— Anya crumpled like a rag doll in the corner of the cell
— James touching the glass of the cell wall sadly
Series of Shots – Same Time
— Black transports landing all around the headquarters of Hubris, Inc.
— Federal agents in SWAT gear pouring out of the transports
— The agents blasting through the entrances and flooding the premises
— Soldier bursting into Eris Pantelles’s office but finding it empty
Channel 21 News Net Studio – The Next Day
“The Watchers Council has been officially cleared of any wrong-doing in the case of the petrifaction virus,” Lisa Lance said solemnly toward the main camera. “In fact, it is due to the efforts of the Council that a cure was found so quickly. Federal authorities have instead turned their attention to Hubris, Inc. Last night a team of federal agents raided Hubris’s headquarters, but they were unable to locate executive Eris Pantelles, who has been implicated in both the development and the release of the deadly virus.”
Lance turned to the side camera. “Earlier today, the Senate confirmed its appointment of the Human Defense Treaty contract to the Watchers Council. Was their decision the right one? Only time will tell. Stay tuned for more breaking news, here on Channel 21!”
End of The Shadow of Death
Next on Watchers: Restoration