Act 1



Black Out

The sound of a low rumble gave way to a spark of static, which then gave way to frenetic shouting, closely followed by screams.

Woman (V.O.): “Atrium abandoned, squads three, five and nine redeploy to ground floor corridor B, squads four, six—”

Woman (V.O.): “Where the fuck are the wards?!”

Man (V.O.): “Counterspells have no effect. Coven moving to-AH-AHHHHHHH—”

Churning metal preceded an almighty crash of rubble, splintered wood and shattering glass.

Fade To:


Watchers Council – Command Center – Early Morning

Light flickered in Willow’s eyes, flashes of images coming and going. She stared ahead at the bank of screens before her. Her eyebrows pinched and her mouth hung slightly open. She did not blink.

Woman (V.O.): “Oh God oh God oh God oh NO NO NNNN—”

A palpable crack echoed around the room. Robin stood beside Willow. He recoiled at the noise, turning his gaze away, but only for a moment. He winced, his weight shifting. His attention held on the screen, he sat down on a chair behind him. As he sat, his hands reached under his left leg and gripped his knee.

Man (V.O.): “Bunkers in East Wing are fucking gone, man.”

Man (V.O.): “JESUS, WE’RE—”

The sound of something akin to a sword whipping through the air was followed by a wet spray and a harrowing scream, petering out into a gurgle.

Jim swallowed hard, the Oxford knot bulging forward in his collar. He reached for his glasses and took them off.




Furious pounding on metal filled the room, along with rattling, hacking, and exhausted and terrified breathing.

A woman screamed. Then silence.

Her head bowed, Shannon stared down the screens. She didn’t flinch as Jim threw up his hands and walked away.

Woman (V.O.): “Weapons hot, open fire!”

The onslaught of bullets tore into concrete and wood. There was also what sounded like an explosion of some sort. Shortly after, the guns fell silent, signaled by the hollow reverb of spent shell cases clanging on the floor and panes of glass quietly shattering.

Her jaw set and her irises blazing, stoked by the changing colors of the flashing images on the monitors, Shannon’s eyes narrowed.

The silence was brief as another rumble thundered over the speakers, as if the very foundations of the D.C. building were faltering. Then another, and another. The bass and repetition were almost like footsteps. Heavy, deliberate footsteps.



Uncontrollable, inconsolable sobbing wailed over the speakers.

Jeff pushed Grace through the door of the Command Center in her wheelchair. She looked around at the group standing and watching the screens, taking in the scene for a long moment.

“What the hell is everybody standing around for?” Everyone turned to look at Grace at the sound of her raising her voice. “People are dying. Right now. What are we doing about it?”

Robin spoke first. “It’s been difficult to get confirmed reports, but we know there’s been a major attack on the Council branch in Washington, D.C. The defense system has been engaged, and no one can get into or out of the building. It was meant as a defensive measure, but–”

“It’s keeping all of our people trapped in there with…whatever this is,” Grace finished. “I got that. How are we gonna fix this?”

“Baltimore’s scrambled a full force,” he explained, “but they’re forty minutes out minimum. And honestly, D.C. should have been much better equipped to face something like this. Given the late night timing of this attack, most top personnel were out of the building, but as you know branches are active at all hours, which means lots of staff on hand…”

Robin trailed off, his eyes moving back to the screens. Around them, a buzz of activity had returned to the room as various personnel spoke on radios and monitored computer feeds.


“Can somebody turn that down!” Grace barked. The sound of screams faded away a moment later. She had balled her left hand into a fist, the chain of her necklace taut in its grasp. Behind her, Jeff shut his eyes and swallowed hard. He touched his wife’s shoulder, and she nodded. He wheeled Grace forward toward the group.

“What else we got?” she asked. “I need ideas. I’m not leaving those people to die.”

“Unfortunately we’re past that point. What’s done is done,” Shannon told her, her voice quiet, but even. “The police are outside the building, but…we had dozens of well-armed slayers already in there and it’s like we threw them into a meat grinder. What do you think the police or the army are going to do?”

Grace took a deep breath. “Not all the slayers in D.C. are in the building. What about the rest?”

Jim cleared his throat. “We did put out an urgent alert to all users of the WatchR app, asking for any assistance possible. But given that these are mostly lancers who didn’t sign up with the Council in the first place, I find it hard to believe they would–”

“Actually,” Dawn spoke up from a nearby computer station, “it looks like a lancer ran her pick-up truck into the shutters over the entrance to the parking garage and she’s inside now. A few people have already gotten out that way, we’re sending whoever we can there now.”

“See, somebody’s not sitting on their ass,” Grace told them, receiving twin glares from Shannon and Willow.

“But I notice that someone’s not you,” Willow pointed out, earning a derisive snort from the Chairwoman.

Jeff wasn’t paying attention, instead walking a few steps closer to the now-silent monitors showing the carnage at the D.C. branch. “Were we asleep?” he asked quietly.

“How did we not know this?” Shannon broke formation and paced forward, fists clenched, toward the screen and then turned back to the others. She turned her eyes to Jeff, who said nothing. “You’re our oracle. How’d you miss this one?” she asked angrily.

“Leave him alone,” Willow shot back.

“It’s not your job to defend my husband,” Grace told the witch.

“I’m defending my clairvoyant high priest,” Willow replied. “He’s home one night and suddenly he’s your husband again?”

“You should talk,” Grace countered. Ignoring Willow’s flared nostrils, she turned to Robin. “But speaking of, where’s Faith? She needs to be here.”

“I-I…don’t know,” Robin said. “We’ll find her.” He motioned to a nearby watcher and leaned down to speak in their ear.

“What’s Faith got to do with this?” Shannon demanded. “I’m in charge here, not her.”

Grace fixed Shannon with the best glare she could manage from a wheelchair. “Faith knew about the assassination plot. She might be the only one who knows what’s going on here, and if you’re going to get your panties in a bunch about it, you can–”

“Stop,” Jim called out. “This discussion gets us nowhere.”

“True,” Robin said as he sank into a nearby chair. “So how did this happen? Who’d do this?”

Willow turned on the spot and slowly walked towards the door. No one else seemed to notice, except for Jeff, who only watched in silence.

“Zorgy. Who the fuck else?” Grace said.

“This is an escalation,” Jim moved to be beside Robin and rested a hand on the back of his chair. “Maybe the start of that invasion we keep hearing about.”

“This is war,” Shannon growled.

Willow continued to head for the door.

“We knew this was coming…” Grace began.

“Then why weren’t we prepared?!” Shannon screamed.

“Not this! We knew she was coming,” Grace barked, “but not this, Shannon! We still don’t even know what the fuck this is. We need to figure that out, then make a plan that will actually stop her.”

Shannon scoffed. “Yeah, you have fun with that. I’ll be actually killing this bitch.” She moved to walk past the Chairwoman, jostling her wheelchair as she went, but Grace grabbed her arm as she passed, stopping her. Shannon glared. “Get your hands off of me,” she said flatly.

“And what are you going to do? Go in swinging, bat first? Against something that just destroyed an entire branch before we could get our asses in gear? Do you think Zorgy’s there in person? She’s sitting in Vor, laughing at us!”

Shannon threw Grace’s grip off and stepped forward to loom over her. “Better than anything you’ve suggested. Wait. You haven’t.”

“Ladies, please…” Jim moved to try to get between them, raising his hands.

“Well, maybe if I had your support, instead of going behind my back to Willow–” Grace snarled.

Enough!” Robin shouted, his chair screeching back on the hard floor.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Hallway – Same Time

Her hand grasping the doorframe, Willow pulled herself out of the Command Center as the others continued to argue, her face devoid of color. Her breath came in gasps, and she flexed and unflexed her fingers.

With a small gasp, her eyes went black. They stayed that way for a full five seconds before turning green again.

She pressed herself against the wall outside the room. The back of her neck, exposed with her hair tied up, met the cool marble. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

With an exhale, her eyes flickered and landed on something down the hall. Pushing herself away from the wall, she gingerly walked toward the water cooler. Once there, she stumbled forward and gripped the upturned plastic jug, steadying herself. Then her shaky hands reached for the paper cups. She watched as black veins began to trail up her arms slowly. Struggling to keep the cup still beneath the tap and to place her hand on the valve, she managed to pour herself a drink.

She took a deep breath and brought the cup to her lips. As she took a long drink, her head raised toward the ceiling, the strip lights above began to flicker. She frowned and stopped drinking. The lights returned to normal. As she looked back down, her hands had regained their usual appearance. She scrunched the cup up in her hands, turned and headed back to the Command Center. She tossed the cup toward the wastebasket beside the cooler, but missed. She didn’t bother to pick it up.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Command Center – Same Time

What are we supposed to do?!?” Grace shouted in Shannon’s ever-reddening and scrunched up face. “Invade Vor? Again?”

Slowly, Willow entered and shuffled towards the group.

Shannon noticed and pointed at Willow. “Yes, actually. Will. Will’s been there, done that and gotten the t-shirt. Get her to D.C., pick up some magical signature or-or some shit, and we’re on our way.”

Coming to a stop, Willow shook her head. “No. No, there’s…there’s nothing I can…You weren’t there last time, you don’t know. It-it…it took months to put together that alliance, and…I don’t even know where to start in finding most of our old contacts. Plus, many of them are here now so…we don’t have an immediate way to find Zorgy.”

What sounded like a generator abruptly stopped, and the lights suddenly went out. The group gasped and huddled together in the dark. The red glow of the emergency lights kicked in shortly thereafter, but then these began to flicker off, as well.

“Shit, it’s happening here,” Jim bleated.

“I’m on it,” Robin pulled out his iPhone and began to dial, but then his phone abruptly shut off. “The hell…?”

“Shannon?” Grace said quietly. “I think maybe you should stay for a minute.”

“I’m here, I got you. I got all of you,” Shannon answered in the dark.

Sol invictus!” Willow said. She snapped her fingers, producing a faint glow around the group that lit up their immediate surroundings. She, Jeff, Dawn and Shannon all took a defensive stance in front of the door, putting Robin, Jim and Grace behind them.

“You may not have a way to find Zorgy, but I do,” a woman’s voice called from across the room.

The sound of the generators sprang back to life and the lights came back on. Gwen Raiden stood in the doorway. Her eyes moved over the group and landed on Willow’s. She gave her a small smile.

Willow’s brow dipped and she softly smiled back.

Cut To:


Vor – Palace Throne Room – Same Time

“So what do you think?” Zorgy said. She sat splayed sideways upon her throne, legs draped over one armrest. “Should I move this to Earth or make a new one?” She patted the chair. “I was thinking maybe something with human bones? Very hygge, right? A gabrit for your thoughts, Krog? Actually, that reminds me of another question. Should I make gabrits the standard currency of both Vor and Earth? It would make my life easier in the immediate, but in the long term, physical money just seems so…maybe I should just have everybody use Apple Pay? Hmm, I’d have to keep the satellites around for that to work, so…Yeah, that might be out as an option. What do you think?”

Krog seemed unsure of what to say at first. “What does my Empress want?” he asked.

Zorgy tossed her legs around so she was sitting at the edge of the seat. “I want your real thoughts. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear. Tell me what you really think.”

He paused for a moment and then said, “I like this throne in Vor. I would like to see you have a throne in every kingdom you command. Construct each throne with elements of that dimension after each conquest. That is what I want, my Empress, but it is your decision of course.” He inclined his head in a slight bow.

Behind Krog, two other demons tiptoed toward the throne, large hoods leaving their faces covered in shadow.

“Thank you, Krog! I can always count on you to tell it like it is. I love that about you!” Noticing the other two approaching, she turned to them with a look of annoyance. “What?! Me and my number two are talking about important life stuff here, so this better be important.”

“We have unfortunate news,” the shorter of the two said. When they didn’t continue immediately, Zorgy waved her hand impatiently.

“Umm, the Chairwoman lives,” the taller one said.

Zorgy stood up, staring at the two of them. Then she held up her phone and said, “Ya think? It’s all over the socials. Do you guys think I live under a rock?”

The two demons turned to face one another, then the shorter one said, “We think you live in this palace, Empress.”

Zorgy rolled her eyes and took another step down from her throne. “It’s not a disaster, I just had to put one of my contingency plans into motion. I was saving him for a rainy day, too.” She sighed and put her hands on her hips. “What I’d really like to know is, why is she still alive? I need details.”

The taller demon rambled in a nervous tone. “Well, Fiznark spoke to Shikka who spoke to M’brot who spoke to–”

“What happened?!” Zorgy said, sounding increasingly annoyed.

“They said the Council uncovered the painting prior to the attempt. The living painting told the tale, but it…didn’t come to be as expected,” the shorter one offered.

“Her assassination was averted by Faith Lehane,” the taller added.

At first, Zorgy did nothing. She didn’t move. She didn’t speak. The news bearers continued to stand nervously. Finally, she took a seat back on her throne and calmly said, “Bring me the mage Telartis.”

Happy for the escape, the two demons nodded quickly and moved even quicker from the room.

“Krog,” she sighed. “You try to do something clever, diabolical even, and then it backfires, when it wasn’t supposed to…at all!”

She took a calming breath as they brought in Telartis. The robed mage’s face was deeply scarred in a mystical pattern. He nodded and said, “You needed me, Empress?”

“It seems like the head of the Watchers Council still lives. What’s up with that?”

“The future isn’t written. Anything can–”

“Stop!” she yelled, bringing everything in the room to a halt. “You personally guaranteed that the painting wouldn’t be discovered until after the assassination – my final ‘fuck you’ to the Council. But, somehow, they got tipped off. So I repeat…and keep in mind that a wrong answer will lose you all of your points and limbs…what happened?” she asked with a tight grin.

Slowly, the mage began to grin, too. “As you often say, my Empress, the best way to destroy an enemy is from the inside.”

The smile immediately slipped from Zorgy’s face. “Is that so?” she asked.

“Yes, Empress,” Telartis said confidently.

Zorgy snapped her fingers once, and two guards came to stand beside Telartis. She cleared her throat and said, unflinching, “You will die. Slowly and methodically, but I think you knew that.”

“Vor finally has stability. The majority of your subjects don’t want a war just because of your vendetta against the Council.”

Zorgy ignored his remarks and continued to speak as if she hadn’t heard him.

“First, I will find everyone you have ever cared about and have them torn apart in front of you. It seems like I need to provide another example of what happens to people who betray me.”

His resolve didn’t slip in the slightest. “The course you’re charting is wrong. We will continue to shed our blood to end Vor’s senseless war.”

She walked down the steps and then moved her face closer to his ear.

“We’re just getting started,” she whispered.

She then stepped back and motioned with her head. The guards immediately took Telartis away as he dragged his heels, not making it easy on them.

“You’ll never win, Zorgrafilloraxtragor!” he yelled. “Never!”

She turned to Krog. “You believe him?”

“No,” he answered immediately. “He’s vermin.”

“I hate to think we have people in our ranks who aren’t on board the Zorgy train, y’know what I mean?”

“Yes, your highness,” he told her.

“Find them,” she said with a hint of anger. “Find his buddies and bring them to me.”

“I will make them feel pain,” he told her.

“No,” she told him. “Don’t harm a single hair, tentacle, scale or whatever on any of them. I’ve been itching to stretch the creative muscles lately, y’know? I’ve got some pain ideas I’m achin’ to try out.”

“As you wish,” he told her and then motioned for two other guards to follow him from the room.

As Zorgy watched them leave, she picked up a goblet and took a drink. After she finished, she squeezed the metal cup with enough strength that it crumpled like paper under her grip.

“If you want something done right, you’ve just got to do it yourself,” she sighed, before tossing the crushed goblet to the floor.

Cut To:


Watchers Council – Main Conference Room – Later that Morning

Most of the Council’s main players had piled into the room, including several who had not been in the Command Center earlier that morning. Grace leaned heavily on the podium at the front of the room, her wheelchair still sitting next to her. Gwen leaned against the front wall behind her, arms crossed.

“As you all know by now,” Grace spoke slowly and clearly, “the Council branch in Washington, D.C. was attacked early this morning. I want to say, first of all, that our investigation indicates that the immediate threat has been neutralized.” This brought on murmuring and several audible sighs of relief. “I repeat, the immediate threat has been neutralized.”

Grace looked down and licked her lips before speaking again. “We’re still putting together what happened, but it seems like a single local lancer managed to bulldoze her truck into the building and eventually beheaded the attacker.”

“Sounds like the Council owes this chick a new truck,” Faith pointed out from her seat.

“Actually, I think the Council owes her more than that,” Grace agreed. She turned to Jim. “I want to talk to this lancer. I’ll go to her personally if I need to, OK?” He nodded.

Xander raised his hand, but didn’t wait to be called on. “Wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t hear an ‘s’ on the end of ‘attacker’ there. You’re saying one bad guy, or bad something, did this?”

Grace took a deep breath, then said, “Yes,” which set off a much louder set of murmurs around the room. “And before you ask, no, I don’t know exactly who or what it was. But we don’t know if this was a one off, or if Zorgy has twenty more juggernauts up her sleeve just like this one.”

“Have we heard if–?” Rowena began, but Grace held up both hands for quiet, though only briefly before falling heavily down on the podium again.

“I can’t tell you about specific individuals, unfortunately. We’ve set up a system for survivors to check in and let us know where they are and how they’re doing. Carolyn assures me all that information should be in your emails before the end of this meeting. But I can tell you right now, in terms of casualties…the last death toll I heard was well over two hundred.”

This statistic was met with grim silence in the conference room.

“So, who wants to do something about it?” Gwen said loudly, kicking off from the wall and walking up next to Grace.

“For those of you who don’t know,” Grace said, “this is Gwen Raiden. She’s an…independent contractor who’s helped the Council in the past. She is going to talk now for a bit, and I am going to sit down, thank God.” With that, she dropped unceremoniously into her wheelchair.

“Again, sorry for the scary power surge earlier,” Gwen said. “But the zap was needed. She’s watching you, and I shouldn’t be seen coming in here.” She deftly flipped a business card from her fingers. It dropped directly in front of Robin, who raised an eyebrow at it. The small white card bore a large emerald “Z,” with social media icons below.

“She gave you a business card?” he scoffed and touched the ‘Z’. “Embossed. Classy,” he said sarcastically.  He inspected the card before handing it to Rowena next to him. The pair’s fingers met for what might have been a moment too long before she pulled the card away. Willow, sitting nearby, stared at the two of them and then shook her head ever so slightly.

Rowena turned the card over to see the front. She blinked and looked up at the group, aghast. “She’s on TikTok?!”

Grace pulled out her phone and immediately began using both her thumbs.

One arm resting back on her chair and the other outstretched on the table in front of her, Shannon tapped her nails on the glass top. “How did you find out? About the attack? Did you know?”

“Shannon…” Willow chastised with an obvious side-eye.

Gwen cocked her head to the side and set a hand into her left hip. “Seriously? You think if I knew about…about that! That I wouldn’t have sent up a signal flare? That I wouldn’t have stopped her myself? No, Shannon, I did not know.”

“At least she’s not flossing outside the goddamn building,” Grace muttered to herself, then put her phone down with a clang and a roll of her jaw.

At that, Jim’s phone began to ring. He shot a fevered look over at Grace, and she simply nodded. As he pushed his chair back and took to his feet, he answered, “Jim Pollan… yes…this is an emerging situa—”

As the door shut behind him, Robin turned to Faith and said, “Actually, the person I want to know about is you, Faith. Did you know about this before it happened?”

Faith stared at him, wide-eyed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said edgily.

On the far side of the room, Kennedy sat forward curiously. “Why would Faith have known about this?” she asked.

Faith took a deep breath and said, “I, uh, I got a heads up about the assassination attempt from my, y’know, my sources. But they didn’t tell me anything about D.C. This didn’t happen before…I only found out when Robin just called me.”

“You knew about Zorgy trying to kill Grace and didn’t tell us?” Kennedy pushed in an accusatory tone.

Faith opened her mouth, as if to say something, but stopped.

“No,” Xander put in with an awkward laugh. “Nooo. It was more of a need-to-know thing. She told some of us.”

Buffy turned to her husband with two raised eyebrows. “Some of us? Meaning you knew about this and you didn’t tell me?”

Xander laughed again, awkwardly. He glanced at Faith, who held up both hands in a “don’t look at me” gesture. “That came out wrong. No, see, it was a security thing, we had to keep everything…secure so the enemy didn’t find out.”

“Uh huh.”

Gwen smirked and shook her head. “That raises a good point. Faith and I, we move in very different circles. Circles that, only a few years ago, you had an in with. There was no build-up chatter. I got a ping… toward the end of that massacre, so point is, when I heard it was the Council, and after my…proposition…I was here in a—”

“And where were you?” Kennedy asked, raising a brow. “Got here awfully quick.”

“—flash…” Gwen stifled a laugh. “Thanks to Ethan. Oh, yeah, he’s fine, by the by, but not that any of you, not one of you have asked.” She turned to Shannon and gave her a look. “Ever asked since.”

Shannon shifted her weight in her seat and cast her eyes to the window. Gwen then turned toward Willow and added, “Except for you. You never gave up on him, and I never forgot that kindness. So, thank you.”

Gingerly, Willow shrugged and said, “A-Addiction doesn’t define someone. So, how is he?”

“Still sober. He’s good, finally, after he got the help he needed.” Though she snapped, her tone pitched downwards from abrasive. “He’s protecting our son.” The smallest of smiles curled from the corner of her lips toward Willow, before she looked down at Grace. “Way I figure, she came to me, so I’m in play here, and there is no one on this Earth who I’d rather protect Vaughn than his dad. He would bring this world down to save him, which, by the way, is what Zorgy is shooting for.”

“You know this how?” Robin asked her.

“Aside from the pretty standard Big Bad fare, she offered to give me Tahiti when the world ends, if I help her with an ‘electrical’ job.” Gwen dropped her hands by her side and paced for a moment behind the podium. “If I had to guess…she needs power to open something very big very quickly.”

“The Hellmouth,” Rowena said to no one in particular.

“Can’t say. Vegas odds? I’m betting you’re right. But that’s your job to figure out for sure,” Gwen replied.

Buffy tilted her head to the side and blew a raspberry with her lips. “I mean, as offers go, Tahiti’s not bad. Why are you here slummin’ with us when paradise literally awaits you?”

Willow’s phone began to ring, and she jumped to answer it, her brow dipping slightly. “Hello. Willow Rosenberg-Allister speaking,” she said softly as she moved to a corner of the room.

Gwen stopped and threw her hair back over her shoulder. “Why am I here? Seriously?!”

“I am being serious,” Buffy replied curtly.

“We know you’re an opportunist,” Shannon told Gwen. “You came here for, what? A counteroffer?” The slayer scratched her hair and gave a smirk, then folded her arms.

Gwen blinked and looked between the seated heads before landing back on Shannon. “Real opportunistic when I saved you and Lorinda’s asses, huh? When Felix took your slayer powers and killed magic? Not to mention a bunch of the rest of you. Oh, and kinda dying on a sub, you know, to save you. How many years ago was that, now?”

“If you’d wanted money, Gwen, you could’ve just asked,” Buffy said. “I would’ve made sure you got it.”

“Money? How ’bout a thank you?” She turned toward Shannon. “And you? I don’t know if you remember, but I got hit by a desk for you. That’s not the kind of thing I do because I need some quick cash. But fine, you all think I’m a ruthless mercenary. I can see my help’s not needed so…”

She started to turn to the door, and Robin raised a hand. “Please stay. This week has been…crazy on many levels.”

“Speaking of,” Gwen said. “Heard about the ballgame. How’s the leg?” she asked Grace.

“It’s healing,” she replied. “Thanks for asking.”

Willow walked back toward the table. “Thank the Goddess. Th-that was Hannah. She, Asher and her slayer Allie made it to safety in the bunker. She and Allie dragged an injured security guard to the bunker when Hannah refused to leave him behind. A-Allie got cut pretty bad, though, and dislocated her shoulder, but otherwise they’ll be okay. She said they’re still waiting on word about the guard, but they did get him to the hospital.”

“Sounds like Hannah,” Rowena replied affectionately. Willow grinned briefly and nodded in agreement.

Jim reentered the meeting and collapsed into his chair, it creaking under his sudden weight. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Press are at the scene, of course. They got there just after the emergency services.”

“Of course they did. She wanted everyone to be one step ahead of us on this,” Grace trailed off, biting her lip and looking down with a shake of her head. “She’s smarter than us,” she whispered, as if just realizing it.

Jim raised a finger. “One bit of good news from this godawful night is that there are survivors. Not many, but some of the bunkers were untouched, other staff hid in the air ducts and other safe spaces, a few got out through the hole that truck made.” Jim’s words conferred an audible sigh of relief in the room. “I’ll let anyone who might be displaced know that they can come to Cleveland or Baltimore. We’ll know more in a few hours.”

“We can redeploy them here, or to other local branches,” Grace said, “but first they need rest and psychological services.”

“Good advice, maybe you should take it yourself,” Willow muttered to herself, fixing an errant strand of hair back into her hair tie.

“I’m sorry?!” Grace sat up, her eyes furious.

Willow sat up, about to snarl but a crackle like thunder sounded from the podium. They all snapped to attention, as much as they could without actually standing.

Gwen unclenched her fist, looking on in disbelief. “Look, I know you guys have just been dealt one hell of a major curve, but what’s even going on here? What happened to you guys?”

Most of the room looked between each other and said nothing.

“I gotta say,” Faith said quietly. “I’m with Sparkle Magic Barbie over here, the vibes here are way off. What the fuck is going on?”

While Gwen blinked at her nickname, Robin sat forward, clasping his hands, and cleared his throat. “Life. Life happened.”

Willow shot him a dirty look. “That’s one way to put it.”

Rowena shifted uncomfortably while Robin ignored the remark and continued, “And what is going on here is that you’re in play, like you said. So, Gwen…play.”

She stared at him for a good three seconds and, with a blink, she nodded. “She came for me. Threatened my family, and has now attacked my family.”

“Y-you said Ethan was—” Willow’s initial surprise and concern trailed off as her cheeks flushed in realization.

“Yeah,” Gwen looked around the room, “families fight, and sometimes they can go years without talking, but they also come together when there’s a lot on the line.”

“What are you proposing?” Grace sat up and glanced at Shannon, before looking back at Gwen.

She stood up straight. “Put out a warrant for Ethan’s arrest.”

Rowena’s forehead knitted as she sat forward, her eyes not sure where to land. “What?”

“He stole something, right? From the Council? Before you kicked him to the curb? Heck, maybe that’s why you kicked him to the curb?” Gwen ran a single finger across the podium, slowly, drawing a circle. “Let’s say…something valuable, something mystical, something you now realize you need back to stop a certain horned someone…”

Kennedy’s eyes squinted with the slightest of smiles and she nodded, “It has to be believable.” She glanced at Grace, who reciprocated with a bow of her head.

“Yeah, and past loyalties and you giving me a normal life aside,” Gwen said, “you come for my man, my family, I either come for you or to someone who could hurt you more. Because you made me choose. Because you gave me no choice. Following me so far?”

“Take her up on her offer? A-and you meet her?” Willow said with a gulp.

“And I meet her,” Gwen agreed.

“And then you fry the bitch.” The slam of Shannon’s fist on the glass table in front of her made the others jump.

With a wide-eyed, mortified blink, Gwen’s eyebrows pinched. “Yeah, no, my days of accidental, and sometimes deliberate, killing are well and truly over but, uh, yours sure seem to be about to start any day now, kiddo.”

“No, we need to be smarter,” Grace interjected, “I want answers.”

“You…want to interrogate Zorgy,” Rowena said slowly, running the idea out for a spin. “It’s not lacking in boldness, I’ll give you that.”

Grace nodded, once. “I am bold.”

Willow rolled her eyes but said nothing.

“First, we’ve gotta grab her,” Buffy said.

“I can modulate your nanites to regulate your charge,” Willow added, sounding surprisingly chipper, though her eyes weren’t quite able to meet Grace’s. “So you can fry her just enough and we can—”

“Bring her in? We’re really going to bring in this monster? To our house?” Xander asked, his palms open towards Grace.

She nodded and then looked toward Gwen, who reciprocated the gesture.

“We literally have a baby upstairs,” Xander said. “You guys know that, right?”

“Come stay with me,” Willow offered happily. “You guys can have the spare room. Besides, I miss my Xander-shaped friend. Ooh, and it gives me a chance to give my niece extra smoochies.”

Xander just smiled and nodded his thanks. “Look at you finding the silver lining in this huge gray cloud of inconvenience.”

“No inconvenience, I assure you,” Rowena added. “You’re more than welcome to stay.”

“Living situations aside,” Shannon threw in. “Gwen ain’t going in alone. I want squads on standby.”

“We’ll have eyes on the place when there’s, well, a place,” Robin assured her. “Will, uh, can the Coven cloak the backup?”

She hesitated, licking her lips. “I-I guess, but you said, Gwen, she had portal magic on tap?”

“And she said she has a lot of mages. She said she contacted me because she needed an electrician.”

Willow’s eyes bulged as she craned her neck to the side. “And with what else we know about her from Tess Muller, we have to assume that she’ll have wards, possibly anti-magic, and employ a detection radius.”

“So you’re saying now it can’t be done?” Grace supplied dryly.

Willow pursed her lips for a moment and then she added. “At what point did I say it couldn’t be done? None, but like you said, Ms. Bold, we need to be smart, i.e., no racing blindly into bus garages.”

Kennedy put her hand up. “And we will be smart. For once, this is gonna happen on our timetable and not hers. She’s tech savvy, so wires and cameras on Gwen are out, but we will be prepared.”

Shannon stifled an incredulous chuckle. “Yeah, this is gonna go great.”

“You may not remember, Little Blue Slayer,” Gwen said pointedly, “but I can more than handle myself in a tight spot.”

“Okay, let’s get it done,” Grace said. She looked over and gave Gwen a nod. After an awkward moment, she said, “This is the part where I’d dramatically walk out of the room, but, uh…”

The others got to their feet and filed out, but Willow reached out and touched Gwen’s arm.

“Are you okay?”

Gwen softly smiled, almost puzzled. “Are you?”

Willow’s mouth hung open for a moment and then closed.

She frowned, and then looked at the door. “I guess the science lab is still in the same place, right?” Willow lightly bobbed her head. “Cool, I’ll meet you there in a few, if that’s OK? I gotta make a call first.”

“Okay,” she said quietly, as Gwen put a hand over hers and walked out, turning in the opposite direction down the hall that the others had gone.

Willow took a deep breath and looked over at Rowena, who was walking out of the room next to Robin. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder, and she smiled weakly back up at him. Willow blinked several times, then followed.

Black Out


End of Act One

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