Cleveland Alley – Resume
As the bat-like creatures moved closer, Livia activated her radio. “This is Livia,” she commanded. “We need backup behind the Buccaneer!”
Livia didn’t have time to wait for a confirmation because just then the demons attacked. The two slayers stood back to back, swiping and hacking, trying desperately to keep the horde at bay.
“The alcove back there!” Livia called out. “If we can get to it, we can bottle-neck them!”
“Got it!” Mira yelled.
As they continued fighting off the hissing creatures, they inched their way toward the alcove. By the time they got to the opening, they had been clawed multiple times, but they had managed to take out two of the eight demons.
“On my mark, jump in the alcove!” Livia told Mira.
“What about you?” Mira countered.
“Just do it!” Livia ordered. “Now!”
Mira jumped into the alcove. Livia followed immediately after but kept herself in front of Mira. As she kept her sword in one hand, she lifted the other and held it palm-out; then she belted out an incantation. Instantly, a barrier materialized over the entrance to the alcove, repelling the attacking demons. Furious, they pummeled the barrier, causing Livia to groan with the strain of maintaining the shield.
One of the demons raked his claws along the barrier and glared at Livia. “You can’t esssscape, ssssslayerssss…”
“Oh yeah? Looks like we already did,” Mira shot back.
“Not for long,” the demon replied as he and the others renewed their efforts to bring down the magical barrier.
Livia face was contorted in pain, and her arm began to shake.
“Sssseeeee? Sssssooon she shall ssssucumb to our sssstrength,” the demon taunted.
Livia growled and met the demon’s glare. “Two words,” she told him.
His eyes narrowed as he waited for her to continue.
His eyes widened, and he turned, just in time to see two of his fellow attackers get incinerated by a blast from a seraphim descending into the alley. The demons yelped and scattered.
Livia dropped her sword and let out a big breath as she released the barrier. She stumbled, and then her legs finally gave out. Mira caught her as she fell.
“Hang on, I’ve got you,” Mira said as she eased Livia into a sitting position.
Livia blinked and shook her head woozily. “Whoa…head rush.”
As Livia swayed in place, Mira kept her hand firmly at Livia’s back until she was practically cradling Livia in her arms. “Are you okay?” she asked.
Livia didn’t answer at first. Her dizziness did end, and she was finally able to focus her eyes. She stared at Mira for the longest time, then swallowed and cleared her throat. “Yeah,” she said, looking away and sitting up straight. “That spell…it just took a lot out of me is all.”
“Well, it worked great,” Mira said.
“Thanks,” Livia replied without making eye contact. “Why don’t you go check in with our backup, see what’s happening?”
“Will do,” Mira said before heading out of the alcove. Livia watched her go, then sighed heavily as she ran her hands through her hair.
Nearby Rooftop – Same Time
From his vantage point under a satellite dish on the roof of a nearby building, a cloaked figure watched as the slayer in the seraphim suit systematically annihilated the gang of demons which had attacked Livia and Mira. At the sound of scuffling footsteps behind him, the figure turned, dropping the hood of his cloak to reveal a bald head and mottled orange face.
A demon like those being slaughtered below approached and bowed before the cloaked figure.
“Masssster, I apologize,” he said. “We were unable to kill the sssssslayerssss.”
“Rise,” the figure commanded. As the demon scrambled to obey the command, the figure waved his hand, and an invisible force slammed the demon into one of the metal supports of the dish. The demon’s body made a sickening squishing sound as it impacted with the support.
“I want results, not excuses,” the mage said.
The figure let his hand drop, and the demon’s body slid down the support. The mage then waved his hand again, and the demon’s body began to convulse as if stabbed by thousands of unseen needles. With the demon’s screams reverberating in his ears, the cloaked figure turned and walked away.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Conference Room – Later
John West sat at the head of the table talking with Velika Petrova. Perched atop her mobile emitter was Willowgram. Nearby, Mira sat leaning forward with her arms on the table while Livia sat slumped in her chair.
“I’m concerned about the apparent focus of these attacks,” Velika said. “Livia and Mira weren’t the only ones who got ambushed tonight. These demons were clearly targeting slayers on patrol.”
“I concur,” John said solemnly. “But what I’m worried about is what was doing the attacking,” John said. “Your slayers have documented at least ten different species of demons that were involved in these ambushes.”
“And most of them are not even indigenous to this area,” Willow added.
“That’s right,” John agreed. “Basically, we don’t know how they got here or why they’re here.”
“Other than the fact that they seem to want us dead,” Mira commented before glancing over at Livia, who showed no reaction. Mira frowned.
“What do you propose?” Velika asked John.
“Put your slayers on high alert, and switch to patrol teams of four or more,” he said. “At least until we figure out what the hell is going on.”
“Agreed,” Velika stated. Then she stood and turned to her slayers. “Livia, Mira, go home. Get some rest. You did good work tonight.” Velika gave them a wink.
“Thank you, ma’am,” Mira said. Livia merely nodded.
After Velika left, Mira and Livia made their good-byes to John and Willowgram and left the conference room.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Hallway – Seconds Later
As the two slayers walked slowly down the corridor, Mira looked over at Livia, who was as silent and withdrawn as she had been during the meeting.
“Livia, are you sure you’re okay?” Mira asked.
Livia stopped walking. “Why do you keep asking me that?” she said, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “That’s like the tenth time you’ve asked me since we got back here.”
“Sorry,” Mira said. “You’ve just been so quiet, like something’s bothering you.”
“Well, unlike you, I don’t feel the need to run my mouth all night,” Livia replied more hotly than she meant. She looked away and then changed her tone. “I’m just tired,” she said, “and I’m going to bed. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
At that, Livia walked off, leaving Mira standing in the hall, looking a little bit hurt and a lot more confused than she had been.
Lex’s Apartment – The Next Morning
Lex awoke with a start, as if he had been having a nightmare. He put his hand to his chest as he slowly got his breathing under control. He looked over at the other side of the bed, but it was empty. Lex sat up in bed and listened intently, hoping to hear the familiar sound of Antonia milling about the apartment. The rooms were all silent, however. Lex slumped back against his pillow.
He stared at the ceiling for a while before letting out a deep sigh and throwing back the covers. The telltale scars left behind by the petrifaction virus were streaked across his body; they were fading but still very visible.
Lex swung his legs over the edge of the mattress, grimacing in pain as he did so. He reached instantly for his dispenser pen and went to click the button on its top. He paused with his thumb directly over the button. Then he pulled his thumb away, flipped the pen so that he could see the small screen on its side. He punched the button next to the screen; it lit up with a beep and told him that only one pill remained.
Lex looked away, thinking deeply. Then he turned his eyes back to his pen. With a small shake of his head, Lex clicked the dispenser button, retrieved the last pill, and popped it into his mouth. He closed his eyes and allowed the drug to take effect. Then he got up, set the pen aside, and started to get dressed.
Watchers Council – Infirmary Pharmacy – Later
Lex limped up to the pharmacy counter and gave the technician a smile. She smiled back and said, “Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” he replied, handing her his I.D. card. “I’m just picking up a prescription I submitted earlier this morning.”
The technician took his I.D., slid it over her scanner, and then looked at her computer screen.
“I’m sorry, Colonel Harris,” she said, handing back his card. “It’s too soon for that prescription to be refilled. You’ve got several more days to go. You’re not out yet, are you?” she asked.
Lex gave a nonchalant wave of denial. “Oh no…not yet,” he lied. “Just making sure I’ve got them.” He chuckled and flashed her his most charming smile. “It was just a reason to get out of the house, actually,” he explained. “I’m going kinda stir-crazy being stuck at home.”
“Hey, enjoy it while you can,” the woman advised. “Once you’re back at work, you’ll be wishing you were kicked back in your recliner.”
“Yeah,” Lex agreed flatly, forcing a smile. “You’re probably right. I’ll see you in a few days then.”
The technician gave Lex a wave and then went back to her work. As Lex turned to go, his smile faded. He ran his hand over his face and let out a shaky breath. Then he limped away.
Watchers Council – Computer Center – Later
In the center of the floor, James was spread out on his stomach. He fitted a small, metal piece into a larger piece and then set them aside. As he reached for a soldering iron, his headset beeped. He sighed as he activated it.
“Yes?” he snapped.
“James, this is Giles. I realize you must be busy…” James heard the chairman pause as if collecting himself and then continue. “But I was wondering if you could get the quarterly report to me this afternoon.”
“Sure. No problem,” James replied.
“Excellent. Thank you, James.”
James deactivated his headset and continued what he was doing. After a few minutes, a shadow loomed over him. James groaned in annoyance and pointedly didn’t look up.
“Aidan, I thought I told you I didn’t want to be bothered.”
“Okay,” said a voice that was not Aidan’s. “I guess I’ll just take these doughnuts down to the slayers then…”
James sat up quickly and snatched the box away from a grinning Lex. He tore it open, grabbed a chocolate-glazed doughnut, and took a bite as he glared up at Lex.
“You are an evil man,” he muttered through a mouthful of doughnut.
Lex shrugged. “It’s this new thing I’m trying. So, what are we doing?”
James blinked questioningly then swallowed. “What do you mean ‘we’, kemosabe?”
“James, I’m dying here.” Lex flinched. “Figuratively speaking, I mean. I’ve been sitting on my ass, watching television for weeks. I need something to do.”
James continued to regard Lex suspiciously. Lex gave an exasperated sigh.
“Come on, man. Help a guy out!”
“Well, since you did bring me sugar, I suppose I owe you.” James smirked.
Lex sat down gingerly. His hands twitched as he grabbed the soldering iron away from James. “You won’t regret it, I swear.”
James blinked. “Okay, well, now I’m worried.”
Lex just chuckled and reached for a doughnut.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Conference Room – Same Time
“So…were there any other attacks on slayers after that first wave?” Jocasta asked John and Willowgram, who were updating her on the events that occurred during the night shift.
“A few,” Willow replied, “but nothing like what we had seen earlier. We’re not even sure if the later attacks were related to the ambushes.”
Jocasta scanned the report on her screen one more time. “The variety of demon species involved…that’s disturbing.”
“My feelings exactly,” John replied worriedly.
“Has the Hellmouth exhibited any unusual spikes?” Jocasta inquired.
“Nope,” Willowgram answered cheerily. “Peterson in Portals reports only periodic peaks in power patternage…clearly a propitious prognostication!”
John and Jocasta looked at Willowgram pointedly. She merely grinned even more. The two watchers then rolled their eyes. Jocasta turned back to John.
“We need to make sure that all slayer teams contact Gray Sector immediately if they come across anything even remotely unusual,” Jocasta said.
“Already done,” John informed his boss.
“You are so good,” Jocasta complimented her second-in-command.
“I know,” John said with a grin.
“Come on, I’ll walk you out,” Jocasta said, getting up from the table. “I’ll be back in a bit,” she told Willowgram.
“Okey-dokey,” the hologram replied with a salute before blipping away.
Then Jocasta and John slipped out of the conference room.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Hallway – Same Time
“So how’re Michael and Michelle?” Jocasta asked.
John groaned. “As rambunctious as ever,” he answered. “You know, I really thought the worst was over when they passed the terrible two’s, but now…” John shook his head as if completely befuddled. Jocasta laughed amiably. “What about you?” John asked. “How’s the whole ‘moving in together’ adventure going?”
“It’s…good,” Jocasta said in a tone that wasn’t particularly convincing. John eyed her warily. “It’s good,” she insisted.
“Uh huh,” John said.
“It’s just…hard,” Jocasta said finally. “She brought so much stuff. I mean, you saw it ’cause you helped carry it in. And she wants to put it everywhere, and there are only so many theres left in that apartment, and…I’m being totally anal, huh?”
“Ahh…yeah, sounds like,” John said.
Jocasta sighed wearily. John gave the redhead’s arm a gentle squeeze of encouragement as they reached the elevator.
“You’ve got to stop thinking of the apartment as ‘my’ space and start thinking of it ‘our’ space,” he suggested. “It’ll take time, but just keep at it. And be willing to compromise. Remember, you want Katie to feel at home there.”
“Thanks,” Jocasta said sincerely as John pushed the call button for the elevator.
“My pleasure,” John said.
Watchers Council – Slayer Command Hallway – Same Time
As Katherine walked toward the training area, she saw Brianna coming out. She waved at her friend and then met her by the door.
“Hey, are you just coming off duty?” Katherine asked.
“Yeah. You?” Brianna replied.
“Just coming on,” Katherine said.
“Getting a late start, aren’t ya?” Brianna teased. “You and Jo stay up all night celebrating the move-in?”
“Not exactly,” Katherine said unenthusiastically.
“Uh oh. I don’t like the sound of that. What’s up?”
Katherine sighed. “It’s nothing, really. Just…” Katherine paused for a moment, then began again. “I mean, I knew going into this that Jo was…particular about her space and her things, but geez. She’s turning out to be downright obsessive-compulsive. She nearly had a conniption when I went to put up my weapons rack.”
“Well, don’t let her pigeon-hole you,” Brianna advised. “That apartment is shared space now, which means she’s got some giving to do.”
“I know,” Katherine said noncommittally.
Brianna snorted. “You are so whipped,” she teased.
“No, I’m not,” Katherine denied.
The two slayers ended up in a stare-off. Katherine was the first to look away, smiling in unwilling agreement with Brianna’s statement.
“So, what if I am?” Katherine challenged.
“Then I’m happy for you,” Brianna said sincerely. Then she shrugged and gave Katherine a pat on the shoulder. “Love makes you do the wacky, they say.”
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Later
Giles sat at his desk trying to read through a slew of daily reports from the various branches of the Council. He squinted at the data pad he was holding, closed his eyes momentarily, and then tried once again to focus. He sighed when his eyes seemed determined not to cooperate. He set the data pad down on his desk.
He got up from his desk and made his way to the executive restroom connected to his office. He removed his glasses then passed his hand over the sensor that activated the water supply. He splashed his face with water and then looked wearily at his own reflection. Then he put his glasses back on and returned to his desk. As he reached forward to pick up the data pad, an image suddenly appeared in front of him, startling him.
“Ahhhh!” Giles exclaimed, pushing back from the desk in alarm.
“Hey Giles!” Willowgram said happily in greeting, giving the chairman a friendly wave.
When Giles saw the twelve-inch version of Willowgram atop the newly-installed projector, he let out a relieved breath and relaxed in his chair, putting his hand on his chest.
“What’s the matter?” Willow asked when she saw Giles’s reaction. “Did I scare you?”
Giles scoffed as if nothing could be further from the truth, but he shifted awkwardly in his chair. “Nevertheless, I’d appreciate it if you’d announce your presence next time. Couldn’t you…beep or something?”
“Oh yeah, sure thing, boss,” Willowgram said agreeably. “Oh, by the way, Jo wants to talk to you. Apparently, there’s something demon-y afoot.”
“Very well,” Giles said. “Tell her I’ll be down to see her as soon as I finish reviewing the latest report from Red Sector.”
“Gotcha,” Willow said, giving Giles a pointed-gun affirmative.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Early Evening
Katherine and Livia sat on the floor in a meditative position, legs crossed, hands laid loosely on their knees, eyes closed.
“You should replenish every day,” Katherine told Livia as the two of them worked on drawing energy from the earth. “It’s important to stay connected to your source.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Livia said, as if she’d heard this speech many times.
Katherine opened her eyes and looked at her fellow slayer. Livia seemed to sense Katherine’s glare and opened her eyes as well.
“This is important, Livia,” Katherine warned. “If you’re gonna do this, you need to do it right.”
“Okay,” Livia said, this time with more compliance in her voice.
“You keep at it,” Katherine said as she stood. “I’ll be right back.”
As Katherine headed over to the other side of the lab, Livia reluctantly went back to meditating.
Katherine joined Jocasta, who sat at a table with Giles, updating him on the slayer ambush situation.
“You said in your report that these ambushes weren’t occurring anywhere else and that many of these demon ambushers are not usually seen in this part of the country, or even in this part of the world,” Giles said. “Do you have any idea why they are here?”
Jocasta shook her head. “The Hellmouth doesn’t seem to be up to anything unusual; no apocalypses seem to be impending. Our best guess is that someone has called these demons here.”
“But for what reason?” Giles pressed.
Jocasta looked at Katherine then shrugged uncertainly.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Moments Later
Mira came in the doors and glanced around the huge lab until she saw Livia. She took a deep breath and walked toward the meditating slayer. When she got there, she started to speak but apparently decided not to. Instead, she just stood there fidgeting in place.
“You can talk,” Livia said, without opening her eyes. “I know you’re there.”
“I figured you did,” Mira replied. “I just didn’t want to interrupt.”
“It’s okay,” Livia said, opening her eyes and then standing. “I’m done anyway.”
Mira and Livia shifted uncomfortably in the silence and didn’t make eye contact. Mira shoved her hands in her back pockets.
“So…you ready to patrol?” Mira asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Livia said.
“Livia, Mira! Over here!” Jocasta exclaimed, motioning for the slayers to join her and Giles and Katherine in front of the communications screen. “There’s been another incident.”
All watched the screen as Velika gave them a report. “Something big’s going down at the Appleton Complex in the warehouse district,” the slayer commander said. “You need to get down there fast.”
“We’re on our way,” Jocasta assured her before ending the call.
“Keep me updated,” Giles said as he watched Jocasta and the three slayers hurry from the lab.
“Will do!” Jocasta called out over her shoulder.
Appleton Complex – Moments Later
As Livia, Mira, Katherine, and Jocasta rushed from their skimmer, they found the normally-quiet night marred by the uproar of a pitched battle outside the warehouse. The air was filled with war cries and screams, both human and otherwise, plus unearthly yelps that grated on the ears, and the distinctive sizzle of seraphim blaster fire.
As they approached the corner of one of the dark, hulking buildings, something on fire flew out of the alley and landed in the middle of the street with a wet squelch. Whatever it was dissolved into a putrid green puddle, and the concrete beneath it began to smoke and dissolve.
“What the hell—?” Mira said.
“I think that was some kind of hell hound,” Jocasta replied, “but it isn’t a species that I’ve ever seen before.”
“It sounds like there’s a whole pack of them,” Katherine commented.
“Let’s go!” Livia ordered.
As they made the corner and turned into the alley, they found several teams of slayers beleaguered by a pack of large, mangy, greenish-black hounds with bat-like wings. The beasts foamed at the mouth with saliva that hissed and bubbled whenever it dripped to the ground.
Several of their sister slayers were down—some screaming in pain, others unconscious or dead. There was a seraphim down as well, wordless testimony to what they were up against.
It immediately became evident that the creatures’ greatest strength was their speed and agility. While they were susceptible to the seraphim’s weapons, their numbers were simply overwhelming the armored slayers, whose suits were slowing them down. The unarmored fighters were doing somewhat better, using their own speed and agility to avoid the acid that the beasts were spitting.
After conducting a quick scan of the battle, Livia activated her comm-link. “Seraphim, form up on Denise!” she bellowed into her mic. “Red team, close ranks! Blue, watch that left flank!”
Her tactics were designed to protect the seraphim in the middle of a formation so that they could concentrate on shooting the hounds down. One of the seraphim, Natalie, was a little slow getting into line, however, and got cut off by several hounds.
One of the hounds spit acid over the front of her suit. Natalie grabbed the creature’s foot and swung it into a concrete wall with crushing force. But then the acid ate through her suit, burning through the wiring and electronics and eventually reaching her flesh. While the armored slayer was distracted by her injuries, the other hounds closed in, spraying more acid. Natalie crashed to the ground, screaming for help getting out of her now-useless armor.
Katherine and Jocasta rushed over to Natalie, yelling out simultaneous incantations as they did so. Instantly, a pair of twin shields were erected: one around themselves and another around the seraphim armor which drove the demons back. When they got to the slayer’s side, Katherine turned to Jocasta, who quickly nodded.
“I’ve got it,” Jocasta said. “Get her out of there!”
Katherine dissolved her shield, but Jocasta immediately extended her shield to make up the slack. Katherine ripped open the armor and pulled the slayer out.
“Are you okay? Can you fight?” Katherine asked.
Natalie growled and glanced around for a weapon. She grabbed a piece of pipe that was sticking out of a dumpster and swung at one of the hounds trying to breach Jocasta’s shield. Her first blow knocked it out of the air; her second crushed its skull.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Katherine said before she and Jocasta moved to assist other wounded slayers.
Having seen the shielding work to their advantage, Livia called out to her slayers. “MT’s, use the shielding spell, protect the seraphim, and let’s finish off these suckers!”
Soon the air shimmered with multiple barriers, and that became the turning point of the battle. Once the seraphim could afford to stand their ground and aim their fire, they began systematically mowing down the pack of flying hell hounds.
As Livia provided shielding for Mira, the two of them worked on cutting out the stragglers: those hounds that were grounded from injuries. After achieving some breathing room, Mira paused and examined the battlefield. Her eye was drawn to a one-story shipping office that jutted out from one of the warehouses. A movement in the shadows of the roof caught her attention.
“Hey, Liv, who’s that?” she asked, pointing out the figure on the rooftop.
Satisfied that the battle was under control, Livia grinned and said, “What say we find out?”
The two slayers ran over to the office front and then jumped up to catch the edge of the office roof and swung themselves up.
Appleton Complex – Rooftop – Seconds Later
On the top of the building Livia and Mira found a bald, orange-skinned man in a dark cloak. He held a short staff in his right hand and a dog skull in his left. The two slayers rushed him.
The figure appeared unalarmed and simply gestured with his staff. A bolt of mystical energy slammed into Mira, knocking her straight off the roof.
“Mira!” Livia screamed as she watched her friend sail over the edge of the roof. Livia whipped back to the mage and roared in fury, rushing him once again, this time raising her hand and beginning an incantation.
Right when she was about to reach him and finish casting her spell, an invisible wall hit her from behind. But instead of falling forward, she stuck fast to it. Immobilized and helpless, she found herself lifted several feet above the rooftop. She yelled in frustration and desperation as the wizard simply laughed.
He walked around the snared slayer, admiring his work. When he stood in front of Livia once again, he cast another spell. A swarm of glowing points of light surrounded the slayer, buzzing like angry bees. Wherever they contacted her body, they seared into it, leaving a thumbnail-sized charred brand. As Livia screamed in agony and tried vainly to free herself, the mage gestured casually and levitated, flying off into the night.
Once the wizard was a distance away, the magic lightning bugs that had been attacking Livia winked out, and the force field that had been holding her dissolved, dropping her unceremoniously to the gravel-covered rooftop.
She hit the stones with a thud and didn’t move.
End of Act Three