Transport Ship – Just After Sundown
Cassandra and a large number of her vampire minions were in a large transport that was just pulling up to the gate of the Special Detention Center. From the co-pilot’s seat of the cockpit, Cassandra activated the video phone and contacted the security station at the gate. Within seconds, her vid-screen showed a guard standing in front of a control panel.
“Are you ready?” she asked.
The guard vamped out and grinned. He stepped aside so that the camera showed his co-worker slumped in his chair, dead. The guard scanned a card and punched in a code on his panel. Cassandra looked ahead to see the gate opening. She turned back to her screen.
“Are the others in place?” she asked. “And the security system disabled?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said the guard.
Cassandra nodded to the guard and then motioned to her pilot.
Watchers Council – Giles’s Office – Same Time
Giles was double-checking some of the records from the testing stations when his intercom chirped.
“Mr. Chairman, Anita Devereux is here to see you,” said the voice of Mr. Snyder, his secretary.
Giles seemed surprised. “Send her in.”
The regal blonde woman entered the office, followed by a slayer guard. The slayer closed the door behind them and took position there. Giles stood up and gestured toward the chair in front of his desk.
“Hello, Mr. Chairman,” Anita said as she sat down.
“Hello, Ms. Devereux,” he replied formally as he returned to his seat. One-on-one with a werewolf, Giles seemed uncomfortable, shifting frequently in his chair. “Was there something you wanted to talk to me about?”
“I wanted to express my condolences for the loss of your slayers,” she said. “I am sure they will be missed by their friends and families.”
“Thank you, it’s, um, it’s much appreciated,” Giles managed. “I’ll…pass that along.”
“All the members of my delegation have passed your tests,” Anita continued. “If there is anything we can do to aid the Council, anything at all, we –”
“Thank you,” Giles interrupted, “but I doubt that will be necessary. I have my best people on this, and they have never failed to come through.”
Anita nodded cordially. “I’m anxious to get the Conference back underway,” she said. “I felt that we were on the verge of making real progress.”
“We’ll see how the congressmen feel about that,” Giles replied, his voice noncommittal. “In any case, the testing is nearly complete. We hope to discontinue the lockdown soon, once everyone has been cleared.”
“Perhaps it was a good thing for us all to take a break,” Anita said, getting up from her chair. “The fur has definitely been flying.”
Giles stopped in the middle of getting up from his own chair. “Was…that a joke?”
“Sorry, werewolf humor,” Anita told him with a grin. “I’ll see you later, Mr. Chairman.” She left the room, trailed by her guard. Giles simply stood at his desk, a strange look on his face.
Watchers Council – VIP Quarters – Same Time
“I can’t just sit here,” Oliver said, now pacing in his own quarters. “The future of werewolves is at stake, and someone is trying to frame us for these deaths.”
Reese and Cooper listened from a nearby pair of modified doggy beds. Cooper barked a response.
“I heard what Anita said,” Oliver replied, “but I’m not sure she’s right this time. There’s only so far that appeasement can take you.”
Another bark. Oliver sighed and stopped his pacing. He turned to the two wolves, a smile on his face.
“Look, I’m not asking you two to do anything illegal,” he said. “All I want is for the two of you to look around, find out what you can.”
Reese made a yelping noise.
“See?” Oliver asked. “Reese is with me on this.” Cooper made a low noise in his throat. “Then we’re all agreed,” Oliver announced. “You both know what to do.”
He walked over to the door and opened it. A young slayer was standing guard. “Hello,” he said. The slayer looked nervous.
“Is there a problem?” she asked quietly.
“I was just wondering how much longer this lockdown is going to last.”
The girl bit her lip. “I’m…not really allowed to divulge that information,” she said.
“Of course you’re not,” Oliver agreed amicably. “What was I thinking?”
He moved into the hallway and walked in a semicircle around the girl, positioning himself on the opposite side of her from the door. The girl eyed him suspiciously.
“I was sorry to hear about those slayers,” he said. “Nobody should go like that.”
The girl seemed touched by Oliver’s words. She looked sadly down at the floor. “Jordyn taught me how to shoot a crossbow.”
As she spoke, Cooper and Reese, now in human form, sneaked out of the room behind her. Cooper was tall and square-jawed with dark hair, possibly in his late twenties. Reese was a young blonde woman with short hair and an impish grin. When the slayer began to turn back to the door, Oliver put his hand on her shoulder. She looked uncomfortable but turned back towards him. The two werewolves walked down the hall in the opposite direction and turned the corner.
“We’re all very sorry for your loss,” Oliver said, sincerity in his voice.
“Thanks,” the girl said.
Oliver smiled sadly and walked back through the door.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
“Maybe we should split up,” Reese said. “We’ll find out more that way.” She and Cooper were walking down another hallway in the Council’s residential wing, glancing around to make sure no one saw them.
“We’re also less likely to be able to put up a fight,” Cooper said warily.
Reese wasn’t listening. She was concentrating on scratching the back of her shoulder. With a happy sigh, she noticed Cooper tapping his foot impatiently.
“What? There are just some places you can’t get to as a wolf,” she defended. “Anyway, nobody’s going to recognize us. We’ve been wolves the whole time we’ve been here. As far as anybody knows, you’re just another stuck-up watcher, and I’m just another sassy slayer.”
Cooper thought for a moment before nodding. “Okay. Meet back here in an hour.”
“Will do,” Reese agreed. “I’ll howl if I need ya.”
“You’re on your own,” Cooper tossed over his shoulder, already turning to walk in the opposite direction. Reese watched him go. As he turned a corner, she smiled wickedly and turned to keep walking down the hall.
Watchers Council Special Detention Facility – Later
Cassandra stood in a large circular area surrounded by multiple levels of cells. Crowded around her were the newly-freed prisoners of the facility: demon lords, mages, and sorcerers. On the outer perimeter, her heavily-armed minions guarded the exits. On one side, additional guards watched the captured humans, who were kneeling with their hands on their heads. Among them were Veronica and her bodyguards.
Cassandra circled once, making eye contact with those nearest her. Then she stopped and began to speak.
“I was a watcher once, many centuries ago,” she said. “Then a slayer. Now, I am a vampire and a witch. I am more powerful than you can imagine.” She paused and swept her gaze over the group. “I have fought slayers and won. Countless times. As you can see,” she continued, gesturing at her minions, “I have turned slayers, and now they serve me.” She dropped her hand and stared hard at the group. “You too will serve me, or…you will die. Painfully.” The prisoners began to grumble, but she went on. “In return, I will give you the entire world as your personal playground, your personal hunting grounds if you so choose, all without the distractions of Councils or governments.” The grumbling turned into interested murmuring, and smiles began to appear on the faces of the crowd.
“And how, precisely, are you going to manage all that?” came a skeptical male voice.
Cassandra whipped around in recognition of the somewhat familiar voice. A weakened but unafraid Sean Rayne stepped out from the crowd. He folded his arms and waited. Cassandra’s eyes widened, and her body trembled.
“How can this be? How – ?” she whispered. “You!” she spat before thrusting out her hand and sending out a magical tendril that wrapped around Sean’s body and dragged him to her, forcing him to his knees before her. She grabbed him by the throat. “You pathetic, little man…you thought your magicks could hold me, but now you shall reap the wrath you so richly deserve!”
With her free hand, Cassandra curled her fingers into talons, letting a bright energy build then extend from her fingertips. Sean’s eyes were bulging in fear as the sorceress brought her hand closer.
“Stop! Please don’t kill him!”
Surprisingly, Cassandra did stop. When she turned to the voice, she found Veronica rushing towards her. The blonde watcher knelt beside Sean and put her hands on him in a protective gesture.
“Please don’t kill Sean,” she pleaded.
“Sean?” Cassandra whispered, more to herself than to Veronica.
“Kill her!” said one of the prisoners.
“Yes, she’s a watcher, a councilor even. Kill her!” another prisoner added.
The group began to grumble again, and one of the demon lords let out a roar and grabbed Veronica by her hair, dragging her away from Sean. Veronica cried out in alarm, but before she could even finish her scream, Cassandra had dropped Sean and attacked the demon lord, frying him with a blast of her magic. The other prisoners gasped and stepped back, clearly frightened by Cassandra’s display of power. Cassandra circled inside the group once more, staring down everyone there. All lowered their eyes, bowing in subservience.
Veronica meanwhile had crawled over to Sean and was holding him as he tried to regain his breath. Cassandra nodded at two of her minions, and they came forward and pulled Veronica away from Sean, standing her up and holding her arms behind her back.
“The humans are to be turned,” Cassandra instructed her minions. The vampires throughout the room chuckled happily in response. “All but this one,” she added, pointing at Veronica. She looked at the two minions holding the councilor. “Drain her, but leave her alive. Is that clear?” The minions nodded.
As the room became filled with the sounds of people screaming, vampires feeding, and prisoners cheering, Cassandra turned to Sean.
“You’re not who I thought you were,” Cassandra told him. “But you’ll do.”
As Veronica watched in horror, Cassandra extended magical talons from both hands and drove them into Sean’s body. He jerked and stiffened, a strangled scream gurgling from his throat. Veronica herself had no time to scream as the pair of vampires sank their fangs into her neck.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Same Time
“Okay, Willow, you’ve been camped out in ‘virtual research land’ for hours, and Katie and I are getting nowhere,” Jocasta told the hologram. “So please tell me you’ve found something – something that doesn’t involve pop singers from the 1960s.”
“Well, based on the scant information you got out of Mitchell,” Willowgram said, “I’ve searched all the databases for ‘vampires named Cassandra’, and I finally got a hit.”
“Let’s see it,” Jocasta said. Willowgram sent an image to the holo-screen. Jocasta and Katherine looked on intently as Willow continued.
“Her name is Cassandra of Bruges. She was a vampire and a witch, a powerful one at that, but here’s the problem: According to the records, she was killed in 2006, after having been turned into a wolf the previous year by my namesake.”
“Oh! I remember this,” Jocasta said. “Willow was trying to cure her former boyfriend of lycanthropy, wasn’t she?”
“Yes, but the plan got hijacked by Cassandra, who used it to turn her werewolf boyfriend and herself into pure wolves. They ended up in the local zoo, but a dark coven later killed them as part of a ritual.”
“So this Cassandra we’re facing couldn’t be her, then, right?” Katherine asked.
Willowgram shrugged. “Apparently not.”
“What about other witchy vampires?” Jocasta asked. “Surely, there has to be more than one in the Council’s history.”
“There are, actually, but stop calling me ‘Shirley’!” Willowgram snorted and giggled at her own joke. When she realized Jocasta and Katherine weren’t laughing, she cleared her throat and went on. “None of them were named Cassandra, and almost all of the ones we have records of were defeated by the Council.”
“So we’re back to square one,” Jocasta complained. “With no clue as to who this Cassandra is or what she’s capable of.”
“I’m afraid so,” Willowgram said.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time
Cooper turned a corner in an isolated part of the Council headquarters. Glancing at his surroundings, he saw Finola walking away from him some distance down the hallway. The werewolf smiled to himself and headed in her direction.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
As Cooper approached Finola, another girl, with close-cropped black hair and tanned skin, walked out of a nearby room. Like everyone he’d seen so far, both Finola and the other girl wore wristbands to show that they had passed the tests.
“Oy, Encarnación!” Finola called out to her fellow slayer. “What the ‘ell brings you down ‘ere? Aren’t you supposed to be on testing detail?”
“Didn’t ya hear?” the other girl said, smiling broadly. “Testing is complete. We’re all clear.”
Cooper’s expression became alarmed, and he started running as fast as he could toward the two girls. “Finola, look out!” he yelled.
The red-haired slayer seemed startled and turned to see an unfamiliar man sprinting towards her. Before she could figure out what was happening, Encarnación whacked Finola in the back of the head with an elbow, knocking her unconscious.
Cooper charged Finola’s attacker. As he ran, his facial features elongated, and fur began to grow all over his body. His clothes ripped and fell away. Long, glistening canine teeth sprouted in his mouth. In a single leap, his gait shifted from two legs to four.
It was a wolf that bowled Encarnación over, sending both sprawling in the corridor. When the slayer sprang to her feet, her face was distorted, with the yellow eyes and fangs of a vampire. Both Cooper and Encarnación growled. Cooper leapt and attacked again. His fangs snapped inches from her neck. The vampire caught the two front legs of the wolf, holding their deadly claws away from her torso. With a grunt, she threw Cooper back into the nearest wall. With a loud crash, an information screen fell to the ground and shattered.
Though he was cut by broken glass, Cooper jumped at Encarnación, howling a battle cry. The vamped slayer kicked him in the face, but this stunned him for only a second. After feinting to avoid a punch, Cooper’s powerful jaws found the vampire’s shoulder and bit down. Roaring in pain, the vampire managed to shake him off her and backed away to regroup.
Finola’s eyes snapped open. She sprang to her feet, trying to make sense of the situation. She grabbed for the wolf, pulling him back to help her fellow slayer. “Bloody ‘ell! C’mere you bastard!” But then something happened, and she found herself holding onto a human foot rather than the back leg of a wolf.
“Finola, look!” gasped a bleeding, naked Cooper. She glanced up and saw Encarnación’s face. The vampire snarled, baring her fangs.
“Carny!” Finola exclaimed, then she had time to say “Oh, bollocks” before the vampire charged her. Cooper tried to get to his feet as Finola flipped the vampire over her head and to the floor with a side throw. Whipping a wooden stake out of her belt, Finola drove it down into her attacker’s heart. Both slayer and werewolf watched as Encarnación exploded into dust and disappeared.
Finola helped Cooper to his feet. “Are you okay?” he asked, though Cooper himself was obviously somewhat the worse for wear.
“All me parts are still attached, thanks to you,” she replied. “Cooper, right?” He nodded in response. “How’d you know about Carny? She hadn’t even put ‘er face on yet.”
“Better senses are part of the wolf package,” Cooper explained. “Living people and dead vampires definitely smell different.” He noticed that Finola wasn’t really looking at his face any more. The werewolf’s clothes, after all, had been torn up and discarded when he had changed. “See anything you like?” he asked with a grin.
“Just admiring the wolf package,” Finola said, a smile on her face. Cooper raised an eyebrow. Finola coughed awkwardly. “So…um…Carny had one of those bracelets, which means she passed the tests. I reckon we’ve got ourselves a poser.”
“I can try to identify any more, if that will help,” Cooper offered.
Finola smiled broadly. “I’m sure it will, thanks.” Her eyes drifted away from Cooper’s face again. “Maybe we should get your clothes, what’s left of them anyway,” she said suddenly.
“That’s probably a good idea,” Cooper replied with a wry grin.
Watchers Council – Hallway – Moments Later
Now wearing the remains of his shirt and jacket plus some standard-issue Council sweats, Cooper accompanied Finola through another hallway.
“We should find Commander Petrova,” Finola explained. “She should know that the tests are banjaxed.”
“Sounds good,” Cooper said.
Finola bit her lip, hesitating before asking her next question. “Back there, after the fight, when you were…starkers, you didn’t mind me seeing you?”
“Starkers?” Cooper asked.
“Naked,” Finola clarified.
“Ah,” he said. “You get used to it, I guess. I mean, I was naked when I was a wolf, too. You just didn’t stare as much.”
“I like dogs,” Finola said. “But they’re a different kinda handsome.” She smiled.
“You think I’m handsome?” Cooper asked.
Finola blushed and looked away again, but she was still smiling.
Watchers Council – Slayer Command Office – Same Time
Livia and Mira were huddled over two computer stations, reorganizing the slayer rosters.
“How many are unaccounted for on Wilma’s team?” Livia asked.
Mira scrolled down a list on her screen. “Four,” she answered.
“Damn.” Livia looked at her screen. “Just transfer the others to Kayla’s squad. We’ll figure out where to put Wilma later.”
Both women returned to their work, or tried to. It was clear from the awkward silence and the darting glances that tensions were high. Mira looked at the same line of names for the umpteenth time before finally stopping and dropping her gaze to her hands.
“Livia?” Mira said, lifting her eyes to look at Livia.
“Hmm?” Livia replied, keeping her eyes glued to her screen.
“Livia,” Mira said more firmly.
“What?” Livia answered, finally turning in Mira’s direction.
“Do you mind if we talk?”
“I thought we were talking,” Livia said, forcing a joke.
Mira didn’t take the bait. “I mean about what happened in Orlando.”
Livia looked away and let out a hissing breath. Then she turned back to Mira. “Nothing. Happened. Okay? Let’s just forget it and move on.”
“It’s not that simple,” Mira objected. “It did happen, and we need to talk about it!”
Livia widened her eyes in an incredulous expression. “Now? Right this minute?”
“We might not have another chance.”
Livia scoffed. “Oh come on…things aren’t that bad. This Cassandra bitch is sneaky, I’ll give her that, but she hasn’t exactly earned herself an apocalypse rating.”
Mira shook her head. “That’s not what I meant, not entirely anyway.” She took a deep breath. “See, I was talking to Katie about what happened and –”
“What?!” Livia demanded in a shocked voice. “You talked to Katie about this? You told her?”
“Well, sort of…I mean, I think she kinda already –”
“I don’t freakin’ believe this!” Livia said as she angrily stood up. She raked her hands through her hair and then pointed at Mira. “Who else knows? Who else did you tell?”
Mira was taken aback but quickly stood as well. “No one,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone. I –” Mira was cut off when Livia’s comm link went off.
“WHAT?!” Livia barked when she answered.
Livia listened a moment, then her mouth dropped open in surprise. Just as quickly, it shut.
“Be right there,” she said into the link.
“What is it?” Mira asked.
“Finola was attacked by a vampire just minutes ago…here at HQ.” Livia rushed out the door.
“But…I thought they just gave the ‘all clear’?” Mira called out as she hurried after Livia.
Watchers Council – Conference Room – Later
Giles sat at the head of the table, flanked by Jocasta and Katherine on one side and Livia and Mira on the other. At the opposite end of the table were Velika, Travers, Finola, and Cooper. As always, Willowgram stood atop her mobile emitter in front of Jocasta.
“I didn’t sense anything with Carny,” Finola said in response to Livia’s question. “If Cooper hadn’t been there…” She cast a grateful glance in Cooper’s direction. Travers looked on with open disgust.
“And you’re sure that she was wearing a clearance bracelet?” Giles asked.
“Absolutely,” Cooper said.
A flash of fear appeared in Katherine’s eyes, and she wrapped her arms around herself. Jocasta reached out and placed a comforting hand on Katherine’s leg before turning back to the group.
“Our vamp tests are definitely not working,” she said. “Cassandra’s got access to some pretty powerful mojo to pull this off. I don’t recall seeing anything like this in my research.”
“We could still have infiltrators among us,” Velika pointed out. “The lockdown must remain in place until we can identify those who are compromised.”
“We can use those magic tests I mentioned,” Jocasta offered. “I can test them on Mitchell. If he’s exposed by them, then they should work for anyone else. I hope.”
“We should shut down all operations and institute area confinement,” Travers added. “Until everyone passes Colonel Rosenberg’s tests.” He cast a suspicious glance at Cooper, who just gave him a big grin.
“What about the computer equipment found at Cassandra’s lair?” Mira asked.
“James and Lex and John are still working on it,” Giles said. “Given the condition of the equipment, it’s not likely that –”
Giles stopped when a call came over his personal comm link. He tapped a button to activate his headset. “Yes?”
“Sebastian…she was here…hurry…” came Veronica’s raspy voice over the line.
“Veronica?” Giles called out as he jumped to his feet. “Are you still at the detention facility?” He got no reply. “Veronica?!”
As the others looked on in shock, Giles waited an interminable number of seconds before conceding that Veronica wasn’t able to respond. He turned to Velika with angry determination on his face.
“Get the biggest team you can spare to the Special Detention Facility now!” he ordered. “Cassandra’s been there, and God only knows what she’s done.”
End of Act Seven