James’s Apartment – Living Room – Resume
“I don’t believe it,” James muttered, staring at the laptop screen.
Lex looked very confused as he glanced back and forth between James and Anya. “What? What’s wrong with her? We didn’t mess anything up. I double-checked everything, I swear!”
“It’s not you,” James said. “It’s nothing we did. I don’t think…”
While he continued typing, Anya scrambled to her feet and looked happily around the room. Lex regarded her warily, but she didn’t seem to recognize her location, or either of them.
“Kurva drát! I don’t freaking believe this!” James exclaimed.
Startled, Lex jumped, nearly spilling his coffee. He set the mug on a low end table. “What? Jeez, what?”
James stared at Anya. She chirped happily and waved at him.
“Hello!” she said.
“Hello,” James replied. “I’m sorry, but you have no idea what’s going on because the government completely screwed up your brain!”
Lex frowned and leaned over James’s shoulder to look at the laptop. James pointed to something on the screen, and Lex grimaced.
“Oh. Yeah, that’s not good.” He glanced up at Anya. “Well, at least they didn’t completely wipe her personality.”
James looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. Lex gave him a look and pointed at Anya, who was standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at a potted plant. James’s eyes widened, but he still looked angry.
“Maybe not, but how the hell am I supposed to unscramble her? I don’t even know if there’s enough of her there to salvage.”
Lex opened his mouth to reply but stopped when James growled and got to his feet. He snatched up his coffee mug and stomped into the kitchen. Lex started to get up to follow him, but the crash of something breaking made Lex sit back down.
“Those morons!” James cried as he stalked back to the living room. “What the hell were they doing tearing her to pieces anyway? And for that matter, why did the Council let them have her in the first place? We’ve got plenty of techs that could’ve looked at her. And oh, boy, don’t even get me started on Eris Pantelles! If I ever see her again…”
James kicked a chair as he ranted. Lex sat patiently, waiting for him to finish, while Anya stood passively off to the side, looking very confused. After a few minutes of angry pacing, James sat down heavily beside Lex on the couch. Lex opened his mouth again, then shut it. The two men sat in silence as Anya looked on.
Watchers Council – Basement Electrical Room – Same Time
Eris and Rayne eased into the electrical room and quietly closed the door. Once the door was shut, they both visibly relaxed. They looked at each other and smirked, clearly pleased with themselves.
They turned their eyes to a large, free-standing enclosure in the middle of the room. It was a metal dome about the size of a personal skimmer. On the side facing them was an entrance. From the side away from them emerged a pipeline of electrical conduits. Similar but smaller tubes came out of the other two sides.
“Do you have the device?” Eris asked as they approached the dome.
“Right here,” Rayne replied, gingerly pulling out a high-tech gadget from his duffel bag.
Eris held out her hand expectantly. When Rayne hesitated, Eris simply plucked it from his grasp.
“Hey! Careful!” he warned.
Eris ignored him and brought it close to her face, examining it carefully, her eyes gleaming.
“And you, my sweet,” she told the device, “are going to help us hit the Council where they hurt. Isn’t that right?”
Eris’s face lit up in a devious smile.
James’s Apartment – Living Room – Later That Afternoon
“Anya! No, would you…stop. Would you just sit down, please?” Lex pleaded with the android.
Anya stepped away from where she’d been fiddling with the window blinds and sat down on the floor. Lex sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. When he pulled it away, he saw it shake. He looked over at James, but he was still hunched over his laptop.
“Anything?” Lex asked, his voice strained.
James shook his head. “I’ve tried the backups, but they don’t seem to be working. Arg!” He slammed the laptop closed. “I don’t get it! What am I doing wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Lex replied, running his hand through his sweaty hair. “Should we try deactivating her and rebooting? Maybe we could—”
“I already thought of that,” James interrupted. “It’s not a system problem. Not completely anyway. There are just pieces missing. Even if we could unscramble her memory and personality pathways, she’d have huge blank spaces.”
Lex groaned in frustration. “This is insane. I just…I don’t know. I can’t think. Why don’t…why don’t I make some more coffee?” Without waiting for a response, Lex walked off to the kitchen, limping heavily.
James watched him curiously, then shook his head and opened the laptop again. He was tapping his fingers against side of the computer, lost in thought, when the door chime sounded. Anya perked up, looking longingly at the door.
“Pizza’s here!” she chirped.
James rolled his eyes as he stood. “Oh for crying out loud…”
He went to open the door and was visibly surprised to see Antonia standing outside.
“Hi,” James said.
“Um, hi,” Antonia replied, looking slightly out of place. “Is Lex here?”
“Oh! Right, yes.” James stepped back and motioned for her to enter. “He’s in the kitchen.”
“Hey, James? Where do you keep the—” Lex froze as he walked into the living room. He and Antonia stared awkwardly at each other for a moment before Lex seemed to remember the rest of his sentence. “Sugar?”
Antonia smiled. “That’s okay. I’m pretty sweet already.”
Behind her, James choked on a laugh. Coughing to cover it, he wound his way around the couple and went back to his spot in front of the laptop. Lex and Antonia stood in silence; Lex fidgeted nervously.
Finally, Antonia said, “This is ridiculous,” just as Lex said, “Okay, this is dumb.”
They both stopped speaking and smiled hesitantly at each other.
“Can we talk?” Antonia asked.
Lex glanced back at the living room, then sighed and waved a hand at the kitchen. Antonia followed him in.
James’s Apartment – Kitchen – Moments Later
Once they were inside the kitchen, Lex hobbled to the far side and stood with his back against the counter. He gripped the edge tightly to steady himself. Antonia stopped a few feet away from him.
After a brief moment of awkward silence, Antonia got the ball rolling. “I just wanted to say I was sorry for walking out on you the other morning. I—”
“You don’t have to apologize,” Lex said, cutting her off. “I was being a royal pain in the ass. I’d’ve walked out on me too. Of course, I would’ve limped my way out…”
Lex tried to laugh at his weak joke but instead grimaced in pain. Antonia frowned, noticing the sweat on Lex’s forehead and the trembles running through his arms and legs. Lex ignored her stares and went on.
“Toni, I want to tell you how…” Lex swallowed hard. “…how sorry I am for blowing up at you.”
Lex took a deep breath, and once again, his expression fell as sharp pains shot through his body. Antonia started to interrupt, but Lex wouldn’t let her.
“No, let me finish,” he said. “I need to get this out.” Antonia complied, and Lex continued. “I know you’re just trying to help me, and I really do appreciate it very much. I don’t want you to think—”
Lex groaned aloud, prompting Antonia to step forward. “Lex, please. Let’s sit down,” she suggested, holding out her hand toward him. “You don’t look—”
“Oh for god’s sake!” Lex yelled angrily. “Can’t I finish one freakin’ statement before you start—”
This time, the pain made Lex double over and then crumple to the floor.
“Lex!” Antonia cried out as she kneeled beside him. Lex curled into a ball, making sounds that were a cross between a groan and a hiss. “James!” Antonia called out.
“What is it?” James said, running in.
“Call an ambulance,” Antonia told him, and he dashed out.
Antonia lay on the floor beside Lex and stroked his hair. “Baby…what’s wrong?”
The veins on Lex’s face and neck were bulging; his face was sweaty and red. “It hurts,” he said. “It hurts so bad…”
“Where are your pain meds, honey?” Antonia asked urgently. “Tell me, and I’ll get them for you.”
Lex just shook his head. When he met her gaze again, he forced himself to say, “I’m sorry.” Then his eyes rolled back in his head, and his body went into convulsions.
Antonia screamed Lex’s name.
Cleveland Street – Early Evening
Livia and Mira strolled slowly down a street of small shops and restaurants. Although their pace seemed casual, their eyes were alert. When they reached the end of the street, they stopped.
“You ready for a break?” Livia asked.
“You bet!” Mira replied enthusiastically. “How ’bout we head over to Luigi’s? We haven’t been there in a while.”
Livia took a step back and pointed her thumb over her shoulder. “Actually, I’ve got some errands to run. You go. I’ll meet you there for the rest of our patrol. Say…in about an hour?”
Mira looked a little confused, but then she shrugged and said, “Okay. Your loss. It’s all-you-can-eat linguini night!”
As Mira headed toward the restaurant, Livia watched her. Once Mira had gotten halfway down the block, Livia turned in the opposite direction and hurried away.
Mira stopped on the sidewalk, listened intently, then turned. When she saw Livia disappear around the corner of a building, Mira dashed after her. She slowed at the building and peeked around the corner. After a moment of waiting, she slipped silently around the corner to follow Livia.
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Lab – Later
Livia crept into the lab and made her way to the storage cabinets on the far side. She forced the lock on one of them and removed a bin from inside. She set it on the table and carefully opened it.
Inside were the items Katherine had used in the locator spell earlier that day, including a datapad containing the ritual’s details. After checking the list on the datapad, Livia set it aside. Livia’s eyes settled on the necklace of runes and raven feathers. She took a deep breath and picked it up.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a voice shot across the room, scaring Livia into nearly dropping the necklace.
When Livia saw Mira standing in the doorway to the lab, she glared and shook her head. She put the necklace back inside the bin and closed it up.
“Nothing that concerns you,” Livia said coolly.
“You’re gonna try and do that locator spell, aren’t you?” Mira demanded.
Livia didn’t answer. She just picked up the bin and tucked it under her arm. Then she headed for the exit.
“No way you’re doin’ that spell,” Mira said firmly as she stepped into Livia’s path. “You saw what happened to Katie.”
“Look…I’ve been thinkin’ about this all day,” Livia began to explain. “And I know why it didn’t work before. We need to do the ritual where we know the mage has already been. It’ll work faster that way. We can track his location before he has time to react.”
“It’s too dangerous, Liv. Especially by yourself.”
“Then help me,” Livia countered.
“I can’t, remember?” Mira said irately.
“You don’t have to do any magic,” Livia said. “You just have to…be there. Be my anchor.”
Mira looked torn between surprise and confusion.
“I can do this, Mira. I know I can. And we’ve got to catch this guy…now…before more people get hurt and killed. Are you with me? Will you be my anchor?”
“Are you sure?” Mira asked nervously. “Wouldn’t it be better if you got Damesha? She could—”
“No,” Livia said, shaking her head. “It has to be you.” Livia looked deeply into Mira’s eyes for a long moment. Then she chuckled and glanced away, shrugging. “Hey, who else would I trust for something like this except my best friend?”
Mira eyed Livia suspiciously at first, then finally nodded her assent. “Okay,” she said.
Appleton Complex – Rooftop – About An Hour Later
Livia and Mira sat next to each other in front of the ritual items they had laid out.
“Here we go,” Livia said before reaching for the evergreen sprig.
Livia duplicated Katherine’s actions from earlier in the day: anointing the altar, tracing a rune symbol on her own forehead before doing the same for Mira, making the incantation to Odhinn, then donning the necklace.
As soon as Livia put on the necklace, she jerked several times then relaxed into the spell’s power. Like Katherine, her eyes moved rapidly behind her closed eyelids. A small smile creased her lips as she let herself “see” the city through the spell. She quickly sobered and said, “I’m honing in now.”
As before, a shape emerged from the shadows cast by the candles. It coalesced into a humanoid form and reached out with hands made of darkness.
“Livia!” Mira cried out in warning before trying in vain to grab the dark shape.
Although Mira’s grasp met only insubstantial air, the shadow’s hands seemed to be solid when they wrapped around Livia’s neck. Livia didn’t open her eyes, but instantly grabbed the shape’s arms and began pulling them away from her neck.
The mage’s shadow gave a roar and squeezed harder, cutting off Livia’s air. Livia began to choke.
“Livia! I’m stopping the spell!” Mira said.
Livia grimaced and then growled before forcing the shadow’s hands away again. “No!” she called out to Mira, stopping her just in time. “I’m…I’m almost there,” she croaked. “Along the river…the Flats…West Bank…”
As Mira watched helplessly, the shadow form slammed Livia, knocking her to the floor, now wrapping completely around her legs and torso, squeezing her like a python around its prey. Just when Livia was about to pass out, her eyes shot open. They narrowed and blazed as she sat up and whispered an incantation. She took her hands from the mage’s shadow arms and grabbed his head instead. When she spoke the final words of the spell, an energy burst left her hands and entered the mage’s shadow. The dark form screamed in agony and shuddered violently before dispelling completely. Livia screamed with him and then fell back to the floor with a groan.
Mira ran to Livia’s side. She was panting, trying desperately to get her breath back. When Mira bent over to check her, Livia grabbed her shirt and pulled her close.
“The old Powerhouse,” she gasped. “Make…call.”
Mira activated her comm link. “Dispatch, mobilize all available slayers on the Powerhouse, now! That’s where the mage is!”
When Mira turned back, Livia was beginning to lose consciousness. She grinned and mumbled, “Kicked his ass…” Then she passed out.
“Livia!” Mira cried out frantically, giving the slayer a small shake. Getting no response, she got back on her link and called for medics.
Watchers Council – Infirmary – Same Time
Jocasta and Katherine hurried through the main entrance and made their way to the examination area, where they found Lex’s room. Jocasta eased open the door and peeked inside. She saw Antonia sitting beside Lex’s bed holding his hand as he slept. Antonia looked up and saw Jocasta at the door. She got up, tiptoed across the room, and slipped outside into the hallway.
The two cousins hugged tightly. When they pulled apart, Jocasta asked, “What happened? We just got your message.”
Antonia shook her head sadly. “He collapsed. When we were at James’s. We were just talking and…” She stopped and swallowed hard. “Jo, the doctor says he’s in withdrawal, from his pain meds.”
“He stopped taking his meds?” Jocasta asked incredulously.
Antonia shook her head again. “No. He’s been taking too many. He ran out and couldn’t get more. When he went cold turkey, his body just…couldn’t handle it.”
“Oh my god,” Jocasta said worriedly. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Yes, he’ll be fine,” the pilot said, “but the abuse of his meds…it’s something he’s gonna have to deal with.”
Suddenly, an alarm began blaring in the infirmary. A medics team grabbed a gurney, tossed their kits on top of it, and headed for the exit. Katherine reached out and caught a nurse rushing by.
“What is it? What’s going on?” Katherine asked.
“Slayer down,” the nurse said. “Here in HQ, in Gray Sector.”
“Gray Sector?” Jocasta exclaimed. As if on cue, Jocasta’s comm link went off. She answered it, listened, then disconnected. “They found the mage,” she told Katherine before turning to Antonia. “I’m sorry but…”
“…you’ve gotta go,” Antonia finished. “It’s okay. I understand.”
“We’ll be back as soon as we can,” Jocasta assured her cousin. She gave Antonia a quick hug; then she and Katherine rushed from the infirmary.
The Powerhouse – Moments Later
When Jocasta and Katherine arrived, the battle was already underway. The old building had been scheduled for renovations, but had since been abandoned. Outside it, multiple teams of slayers were engaging the hordes of demons that the mage had summoned. The mage himself wasn’t visible. The two witches joined the fight.
“Bri!” Katherine called to her friend Brianna, who was finishing off a squat, quill-covered demon. When Brianna looked up, Katherine asked, “Where’s the mage?”
“Inside,” Brianna replied, pointing at the main entrance to the former cable-car power station. “He’s erected a barrier, but so far, the MT’s aren’t having any luck bringing it down. Look out!”
Brianna and Jocasta ducked as a huge chunk of concrete came hurtling toward them, thrown by a Fyarl demon. Katherine whipped around and thrust out her hand. The concrete exploded, causing bits of debris to rain down on them.
“Holy crap, Katie!” Brianna said in amazement. “Remind me never to piss you off.”
Katherine grinned then turned to Jocasta. “Come on, Jo. Let’s go get that barrier down.”
The Powerhouse – Main Entrance – Seconds Later
When Katherine and Jocasta and Brianna got to the main entrance, Damesha and Jordyn were working on the mage’s barrier, without much luck. When the two slayers saw the others approaching, they stopped, a look of relief on their faces.
“Thank god,” Damesha said. Jordyn nodded her agreement.
Katherine went straight to the barrier and ran her hands along it, as if she were gauging its strengths and weaknesses.
“Does it go all around?” Jocasta asked Damesha and Jordyn.
“As far as we can tell,” Jordyn answered. “We’ve tried hitting it at different places, but nothing’s worked so far.”
“Katie?” Jocasta prompted the blonde slayer for a report.
Katherine pulled her hands away and turned to Jocasta. “It’s strong, but it’s fluctuating. My guess is he’s getting weak. Between dealing with Livia’s attack, summoning and controlling the demons, and maintaining this barrier, he’s losing power fast. We need to make a joint effort. Hit it hard and hit it now.”
“Okay then, let’s do it,” Jocasta said.
“I’ll be the focus point,” Katherine said. Then she positioned Jocasta so that she would stand right behind her. She placed Damesha and Jordyn on each side of Jocasta. “You two, just funnel your energy into Jocasta, then she’ll pass it on to me. Got it?” With nods from them, Katherine turned back to Brianna. “Watch our backs, Bri. We won’t be able to shield ourselves.”
“I got ya covered,” Brianna promised, hefting her laser rifle.
Katherine turned to face the barrier. She bowed her head and left her arms loose at her sides. Jocasta placed her hands on Katherine’s back. Damesha and Jordyn placed their hands on Jocasta’s shoulders. They closed their eyes, took deep breaths, and concentrated, letting the energy build. Brianna watched nervously, cutting her eyes between the magic workers and the demons nearby.
After a seemingly interminable amount of time, the foursome opened their eyes. In tandem, the three stepped back, separating themselves physically from Katherine, though it was clear from their posture that they were still magically connected. Katherine lifted her head and raised herself to her full height. For a moment, her eyes seemed to glow. Then, with a roar, she reared back and punched the barrier.
The magical wall flashed and immediately collapsed.
“All right!” Brianna cheered. She activated her comm link and said, “Come on, girls! The wall’s down! Let’s storm the castle!” Then she raised her laser rifle over her head.
“MT’s take the lead,” Jocasta instructed over the link. “Shield your slayers. That mage is still in there.”
“No heroics, folks,” Katherine added. “Leave the mage to us.”
At that, Katherine and Jocasta went inside the Powerhouse, with Damesha and Jordyn and Brianna right on their heels.
The Powerhouse – Moments Later
Except for a few surprises here and there, the inside of the Powerhouse was remarkably free of demons, the mage having apparently concentrated his forces outside the barrier. Katherine quickly tracked the mage to the cavernous main room, where he was climbing a ladder on the far side that led to the catwalks that lined the upper walls.
Jocasta and the slayers did the same, climbing the ladders and scaffolds that were nearest to them. As they ran along the metal grates of the catwalks, they saw the mage picking his way toward a hatch that led to the roof.
“See if you can cut him off,” Katherine commanded, sending Damesha and Jordyn and Brianna along the lone catwalk that crossed the room.
When the trio got about halfway across the catwalk, Brianna stopped and aimed her laser rifle. She shot once and missed. Enzo turned and sent a magical blast right at Brianna. It knocked her back and toward the chain rail. She flipped over the chain and started to fall, but she caught the edge of the catwalk with one hand just in time, still refusing to let go of the laser rifle with her other hand.
“Brianna!” Damesha cried out. Then she and Jordyn ran back to help.
Enzo wasn’t done. He sent a flurry of blasts their way. They ducked but realized too late that he wasn’t aiming at them at all; he was aiming at the supports that held the catwalk up. Suddenly, the catwalk gave way, secured only by the supports on the near side. Like Brianna, Damesha and Jordyn could only hang on as the grate swung downward and slammed into the wall. When it hit, they tumbled to the floor.
Katherine and Jocasta pressed on and closed the distance between themselves and the mage. Right as he was about to ascend the ladder to the hatch, Jocasta called up a fireball and slung it at the mage. He turned at the last second and raised a shield, causing the fireball to glance off and explode against the wall.
Enzo grinned and said, “Two can play at that game.” Then he raised two fireballs at once, one in each hand, and sent them flying at Katherine and Jocasta.
The witches joined hands and cast a deflection. The fireballs bounced off their shield and went speeding back at the mage.
He caught the fireballs effortlessly and combined them into a larger ball in one hand. Then he shook his index finger at them and made a tsk-tsk sound. “Oh, you won’t get me that easily,” he said.
He turned to the ball of fire, narrowing his eyes as if concentrating. Instantly, the fire began to change its shape, elongating into a serpent-like form, its head morphing into a hissing and gaping maw. Enzo smiled as he prepared to release the fire snake on the women pursuing him.
Suddenly, a laser bolt from below caught him in the shoulder. He screamed and fell to the floor of the catwalk.
Katherine and Jocasta looked down and saw Brianna, barely standing, with one arm hanging uselessly at her side, her shoulder having been dislocated, and with the other holding up the laser rifle. She gave them a weary wave before her legs gave out and she plopped to the floor.
They turned back to the mage. With Enzo’s focus broken, his fire snake had dissipated. The mage growled in rage and got to his feet. He sent a desperate blast toward them and hurried up the ladder. By the time Katherine and Jocasta had dealt with his blast, he was through the hatch and onto the roof. They quickly followed.
The Powerhouse – The Roof – Moments Later
When Katherine and Jocasta burst through the hatch, Enzo was scrambling over the rooftop. As they gave chase, he sent several weak blasts their way. He ran for the edge, but skidded to a halt when a slayer in a seraphim suit came jetting up the side of the building, nearly hovering in front of him. Before he could react, the seraphim raised her arm and shot at him, sending a capture net hurtling toward him. His energy spent, the mage couldn’t stop it. It closed around him, entangling him, and then it began shocking him. The mage jerked a few times then passed out.
When Jocasta and Katherine got to the mage, they smiled and let out a deep breath of relief. They looked at the seraphim and gave her a salute, which the slayer returned. Then Katherine turned to Jocasta.
“Natalie,” the blonde said said. “I should have known.”
Jocasta laughed and activated her comm link. “HQ, this is Colonel Rosenberg. We have the mage. I repeat, we have the mage. We’re bringing him in. Notify detention to be ready with level-ten security measures.”
Watchers Council – Gray Sector Conference Room – Later That Evening
Jocasta and Katherine sat at the conference table with Giles and Velika. Just as they were about to get started on the debriefing of the battle with the mage, the door opened, and Mira and Livia came in. Livia seemed tired, but otherwise all right.
“Hansen! What are you doing out of bed?” Velika demanded.
“Yes, you should be resting,” Katherine added.
Livia held up her hands to stop the onslaught. “No drama. I’m good,” she insisted. She forced a smile. “Besides, I wanna hear what happened to Mr. Magic over at the Powerhouse.”
“Well, ‘Mr. Magic’ has been taken care of, thanks to your assistance in locating him,” Giles said. “But that was a very foolish thing to do. You should never have attempted that spell without Jocasta or Katherine present.”
“I tried to tell her that but—” Mira said, giving Livia a playful nudge.
“You aren’t off the hook either,” Velika interjected sternly. “You were complicit with Livia’s break of protocol. Consider yourselves lucky I didn’t suspend the both of you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Livia and Mira mumbled before taking their seats.
“Okay, let’s get started then,” Jocasta said.
She activated her console and punched in the command to summon Willowgram. She looked up and waited for the hologram to appear. When nothing happened, Jocasta’s face scrunched in confusion. She entered the command again. Still, Willowgram did not materialize.
“What’s wrong?” Katherine asked.
“Um, it’s Willowgram,” Jocasta said. “She’s not coming up.”
“Perhaps there’s a problem with the new line,” Giles offered.
“But…she came up fine this morning,” Jocasta said. “I don’t understand why the line wouldn’t be working now.”
“Why don’t you try her mobile emitter?” Katherine suggested.
“Good idea,” the redhead replied before hurrying to her office.
Within seconds, Jocasta returned with Willowgram’s mobile emitter. She placed it on the conference table and turned it on. Willowgram’s familiar form instantly popped up. The normally chipper hologram looked frantic.
“Jo!” Willowgram cried. “Thank god you’re there!”
“What is it?” Jocasta asked worriedly. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve been kidnapped!” Willowgram answered.
End of Act Five