Fade In:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Resume

Dixon held his clasped fists above his head, ready to pound the fallen slayer. He paused, his lips twisting upward in the sweet smile of victory.

Smash Cut To:

Int.

WorldNet News Network Control Center, New York – Same Time

Chaos.

Images from the hover-cams flashed across vidscreens. Technicians scrambled, and directors shouted orders.

"There!" the director said, pointing at one of the monitors. "Camera three, it’s got the best close shot. Give it primary, and see if we can bring six up for an aerial overview. We’ll cut to it after he bashes her head in."

"Are we going to air the actual blow?" the director’s assistant asked.

"It’s tempting to save it for pay-per-view, but that’s our money shot. The ratings are going to be through the roof!" The director waved at a technician across the room. "Tom, cue the somebody-just-died music. And make it somber—we don’t want to be accused of being crass." Then he turned back to his assistant. "Do we have her bio ready yet?"

"Ready to go," the assistant replied. "We’ll put it on screen as soon as she’s dead. Are we going with the she’s-a-martyr version or the she’s-a-failure version?"

"Hmmm, good question..." The director struck a thoughtful pose before quickly coming to a decision. "Okay, let’s hold the bio until the first public opinion flash polls are in." The director turned and addressed the entire group, barking out orders. "Larry, where do we stand on getting audio back after that sonic blast took it out? Sue, get the reporters out there for some man-on-the-streeters. There’s a huge bonus for the first next-of-kin interview. And for all that’s holy, someone get some more betting servers online before the whole system crashes. Move it, people!"

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Resume

With a dazed look in her eyes, Livia glanced up at Dix. She blinked as if trying to focus. Dix’s smile only grew wider...until his face suddenly changed and grew hard as he took in a deep breath.

Cut To:

Int.

Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time

There was a sharp snap as the chair arm broke under Mira’s anxious grip.

"Oh, god...he’s really going to kill her," Brianna whispered.

Cut To:

Int.

Council Command Center Tent – Same Time

"He’s gonna kill her!" Jocasta exclaimed. "I can’t believe— How...why...?" Her breath was coming in ragged gasps. Unable to watch, she buried her face against Katherine’s shoulder.

Giles’s face was a mask of control—no hint of emotion showed as he watched the vidscreens.

Willowgram’s emitter was on the control panel beside James, and she watched nervously as Lex and James scrambled into action.

James’s hands flew across the keyboard. Lex snapped together components and slotted them into a patch panel.

"Got it! Go!" Lex ordered.

"On it," James answered. He rat-a-tat-tatted the last few commands into the console. "We’re in!"

"Yes!" Lex exclaimed. "Willow, you’re up. Go!"

"Okay! Later, guys," Willowgram said with a grin before winking out.

Anya walked over to Lex and James with a puzzled look. She gave James’s arm a poke. "What did you do?"

Lex and James just looked at each other and laughed wickedly.

"Somebody want to explain what’s going on?" Anya asked. "And why is the synthetic always the last to know?"

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Same Time

As Livia watched helplessly, Dixon’s fists came barreling down...

...only to stop in place at the last second.

Dixon grimaced and groaned, seemingly unable to force his own fists down. Then his arms suddenly crossed against his chest and his legs backed him away.

"What the hell?!" he growled.

Cut To:

Int.

Hubris Command Center Tent – Same Time

"What the hell?!" Eris asked angrily. "He had her! He had her dead to rights! This should be over! What the bloody hell happened?"

"Don’t know, Ma’am," one of the techs answered, as he banged uselessly on his keyboard. "We’ve lost telemetry, everything. We’ve got no idea what’s going on with Kerberos right about now."

Cut To:

Int.

Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time

"What the—?" Mira asked, tilting her head at the screen. "What the hell is he doing now?"

"It kinda looks like he’s...Is he dancing?" Brianna asked.

Cut to:

Int.

Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Cleveland – Same Time

"What the hell is going on?!" Tyrell demanded. "What does that idiot think he’s doing?"

"The hokey pokey, it looks like," Rayne answered with a chuckle. "That, or he’s trying to summon the spirit of the First Slayer."

Tyrell buried his face in his hands.

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Same Time

"What the hell?" asked a bewildered Livia as she got to her feet.

"You put your left foot in, / You put your left foot out, / You put your left foot in, / And you shake it all about..." sang Kerberos in a curiously familiar female voice.

"Dixon, have you gone completely around the bend?" Livia asked. She took a few steps back from the dancing Kerberos and braced herself for a possible attack. "What do you think you’re doing?"

"I was hoping you could tell me what was going on, because I really don’t have a clue," Dixon admitted over the continued singing by Kerberos. "This isn’t something you’re doing?"

"What? You think I used my magicky, slayer mind-control powers to make you go nuts or something?"

"If it’s not you, then who?"

Kerberos stopped dancing. "That would be me," it said with Willowgram’s voice. She raised Kerberos’s arm and gave a shy little wave. She looked down. "Wow. Look at me—mighty, metal muscles! How cool is that?"

"Willow?" Livia asked.

"Yep," Willowgram replied.

Dixon groaned.

Cut To:

Int.

Council Command Center Tent – Same Time

On the vidscreens, Kerberos was helping Livia to her feet. Giles left the viewing area and joined Lex and James.

"Good work, gentlemen," Giles said as he clasped the two men on the shoulders. "Now, if you don’t mind, Anya isn’t the only one who would like an explanation of how you managed to pull this off."

"It’s not nice to steal," James answered.

"Yeah," Lex added. "Hubris has some pretty advanced technology in that suit, but the only reason they’ve been able to pull so far ahead of us is because they’ve been building on our designs. We’ve been doing all the hard work for them. There’s just one problem with that scenario—no one knows that technology as well as I do."

James poked him in the side.

"Ow!" Lex said then amended his report. "Oh, and it looks like they lifted James’s latest code along with our hardware designs. That made it even easier."

"Made what easier?" Jocasta asked as she and Katherine joined the party.

"And where’s Willowgram?" Katie asked.

James grinned widely. "She’s taking Kerberos for a test drive. Ya see, we established a connection between the wireless data ports on the Seraphim and Kerberos suits, hacked in, and created a secure data link that allowed Willogram to upload herself to the Kerberos system."

"Right now, she’s probably having the ride of her life," Lex added, smiling broadly.

Cut To:

Int.

Hubris Command Center Tent – Same Time

Eris’s eyes narrowed. "They've hacked us," she said. "They’ve taken Kerberos away from us." Her tone was almost admiring. Then she shook her head.

"We’re taking it back," she announced. "Job one, people! We take Kerberos back, right now! We take it back, or heads will roll!"

She looked across the tent and spotted a dark haired young man.

"Meers! Get over here; your talents are needed."

Cut To:

Int.

Imperial Palace Casino, Las Vegas – Same Time

"I’m tellin’ you, Bob, it’s all fake. They’re working from a script here. The guy’s about to smash her head in, and then all of a sudden he’s dancing? Come on! Are we watchin’ a musical here or what? I’m tellin’ you straight out—it’s as fake as my ex’s boobs!"

"And just as much fun to watch, so quit your belly-aching, and watch the show. Yo, Jake! How ’bout another round?"

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – An Hour Later

After an hour of trudging through the thick fog, Livia, Dixon, and Willowgram had finally made it to the edge of the mist. Ahead lay a forested valley that looked deceptively peaceful and inviting.

"Uh oh!" Willowgram suddenly said. "Somebody’s knocking. Or hacking, to be more precise. I’m not sure how long I’m gonna be able to hang around, Livia."

"Thank god," Dixon said with a groan of relief.

"Huh? Jo says that you’re one of the most sophisticated AI’s ever created. Can't you just firewall them off or something?"

Willowgram shook Kerberos’s head. "Would if I could, but they have a lot of the override circuits hardwired. That means there’s no way bypass them. I can move electrons around, but there’s nothing I can do about hardwired circuits. Lex pointed out some workarounds, but it’s all temporary. Hubris can override any system in the armor, given enough time. Plus, some of the systems are already locked down, so I haven’t been able to touch them. That’s why I haven’t just shut the suit down or opened it up and forced Dixon out."

Livia looked back at Kerberos. She had removed what was left of her battered helmet. One of her eyes was nearly swollen shut.

"Oh. Here I was thinking that you hadn’t opened the thing up because you were afraid I’d dish out a little payback on Dix's head."

"About that, it wasn’t really his fault," Willowgram explained.

"What?!" both Livia and Dixon asked, surprised.

"One of the things that Hubris is able to override is the safety controls on the onboard med unit. Dixon was pumped so full of adrenals that it was amygdala city all the way, baby!"

Livia raised one eyebrow. Dixon raised another.

"The amygdala is the part of the brain that—" Willowgram began.

"I know what the amygdala is," both Livia and Dixon said, cutting her off.

"Oh." She seemed disappointed.

"I can’t say it surprises me that Hubris would pull something like that," Livia said. "What about you, Dix? Are you surprised?"

He slugged her. She dropped.

"Not as surprised as you, Liv."

There was a mechanical roar as Kerberos’s turbines fired up, and Dixon lifted into the air and jetted towards the forest.

Cut To:

Int.

Hubris Command Center Tent – Same Time

A cheer broke out among the Hubris techs. Eris breathed a sigh of relief. Meers leaned back from the control panel and cracked his knuckles.

"Take that, Wells. My kung fu is better than yours," he chuckled.

Fade Out.

Fade In:

Ext.

Series of Shots – Later

-- Shot of Dixon being knocked from the sky by a giant eagle with

flaming eyes and claws.

-- Shot of Livia sneaking through a rocky tunnel, only to be surprised

by a band of burning people screaming for her to stop their pain.

-- Shot of Dixon firing round after round into an approaching army

of assorted demons.

-- Shot of Livia blazing away at a flock of flying monkeys that spin

around her in a maddening spiral.

-- Shot of Dixon facing off against a pack of large, savage wolf-men.

-- Shot of Livia dodging a giant snake as she runs through the ruins

of an abandoned building.

Fade Out.

Fade In:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mountain Pass – Dusk

There were shadows in the valley as Dixon passed through. Kerberos was battered but unbroken, and it was with the confidence of one proven in battle and tempered by adversity that he made his way through the shadows towards the mist.

Two of the original gang of hover-cams remained, and they were sticking close.

Dixon was half way to his goal when the first boulder came whistling down from above. As if warned by some form of on-board radar, he stepped aside at the last moment and launched a missile upward. It exploded in a flare of light, illuminating half a dozen massive stone figures. They could have been roughly carved statues except for the fact that they were moving.

They watched the flare a moment, then resumed their barrage of boulders, raining them down on Dixon, who was unable to dodge or blast them all.

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Ridge Above Mountain Pass – A Short Time Later

Livia slipped through the shadows of the ridge with a skill born of natural ability and years of practice. Even the hover-cam following her seemed to occasionally lose sight of the armor-clad slayer and had to cast about to locate its prey.

Livia looked down at the valley of the mountain pass below, where the sound of stone hammering on steel echoed like a hammer. She hesitated for a moment, then shook her head and said ruefully, "You poor bastard."

The slayer continued onward towards the mist.

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mountain Pass – Moments Later

Dixon’s faceplate was shattered, and Kerberos bled electric blood. He threw off one of his stone attackers and, with a lightning fast move, dodged another. There was a rush of air as Kerberos’s turbines lifted him from the ground towards safety.

It wasn’t to be. A large, stone fist gripped his leg and pulled him from the air. He was slammed into the ground with brutal force. The valley rang with the sound, and another pair of hands flipped him over and held him fast. A stony fist descended towards his face.

An angel flew from the darkness. The Seraphim caught the arm of stone as it descended, then lashed out against it with a blow that shattered the rock. The screams of living stone filled the valley.

A crash immediately followed when a boulder slammed into Livia’s back.

Kerberos’s chain-gun roared.

Chaos reigned.

Cut To:

Int.

Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time

Bunni jumped to her feet and gestured angrily at the vidscreen. "What the hell is she doing?" she yelled. "She had it won! Livia had the damned contest in the bag, and now she’s given it away!"

"Like hell!" Mira replied, rising to her feet and turning toward the other slayer. "She had to go back. She couldn’t just leave him to be beaten to death by those things!"

"Why the hell not?" Bunni said, moving into a confrontational stance before Mira. "A few hours ago, he was about to smash her head in!" Bunni’s friends formed a semicircle behind her. "Besides, he works for the bastards who took away our powers a few weeks ago. Hell yeah, she could have left him. She should have left him. If she loses because of this, she’s a damned traitor to the Council! Just like the Coven was, and I—"

Crack! Mira’s punch sent Bunni slamming backwards into her friends.

Brianna stepped in between the two slayers. She tried valiantly to make peace. Until a punch—perhaps accidental, perhaps not—slammed her squarely in the nose. Things deteriorated from there. Brianna gave up and waded into the fray.

Fade Out.

Fade In:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Sometime Later

Dixon stumbled into the next mist ring, carrying the unmoving Seraphim in his arms.

"You shoulda left me, Livia," Dixon told the slayer as he lowered her to the ground next to a large tree.

Her eyes were closed, and she looked dead. When they opened suddenly, Dix jumped in surprise.

"Yeah, I should have," Livia replied, coughing as she spoke. "What can I say? I can be pretty dumb." She coughed again and wiped the blood from her lips. Then she pulled herself up to sit with her back against the tree. "I almost did, but I came back at the last moment. Damned conscience."

Dixon lowered himself, a bit unsteadily, to sit beside her. "Damned inconvenient, huh?" he asked.

There was a click as he opened a container on his belt and pulled out a pouch filled with clear liquid. He held it out to her. She hesitated for a moment and then shook her head. He tore open one end and took a sip before offering it to her once again.

"It’s not poison, Liv. Just some water, a broad-spectrum antibiotic/antiviral mix, and some non-narcotic pain suppressors. I could have left you, too, remember?" He held it out to her again. "Here, drink up."

She accepted the pouch, took a sip, then gulped down its contents. "Thanks."

"No problem," he said as he flipped open a panel on his forearm and began making adjustments.

Livia closed her eyes and leaned back against the tree. "You think we’re safe here?" she asked.

"Seem to be," was the answer. "Yeah, it looks like there’s stuff out there. Moving. But when you look at it, it’s just mist. And didn’t the Flutie expedition report the same thing? That nothing seemed to bother them in the mist?"

"The sole survivor reported that, yeah," Livia said.

"But they didn’t get eaten by the werewolves while they were in the mist, right? That was later."

"It was were-hyenas, but, yeah they weren’t in the mist when they were eaten. So, yay mist!"

They were quiet for a while, and then Dixon asked, "You okay?"

"Peachy," Livia replied without opening her eyes. "Good old slayer healing working overtime. Good thing Dr. McClelland was able to deactivate those nanobots that your bosses created, or… Well, actually, I probably wouldn’t be the one wearing the armor today. I’d still be in the infirmary."

"Livia, what the hell are you talking about? Is this about that thing in the news with slayers losing their powers? That was nanobots? Scuttlebutt was that it was probably a spell or some such. Are sure it was Hubris? How’d they manage to pull that off?"

"What’s with the ‘they,’ Dix? Shouldn’t that be a ‘we’?"

"I… Maybe. But if your annoying friend was right, they were pumping me full of chems without my knowledge. I’ll admit I’m not in a we state of mind right now. But you still haven’t answered my question. How’d Hubris manage to nanobot all the slayers?"

"Vaccinations. The nanobots were administered during the annual Council vaccinations."

"Council vaccinations?" Dixon asked. "I thought you said Hubris—"

"Tyrell, okay? Tyrell was behind the whole deal."

"Tyrell, who was practically running the Council back when I was there? Tyrell, who was one of the reasons I left in the first place?"

Livia opened her eyes and leaned forward with a groan. "Will you just…just stop it, okay? Tyrell is working with Hubris now. We have evidence that he has been working with them for some time, even before his little attempted coup blew up in his face. He's the one who activated the nanobots and got a lot of good people hurt. I’m not sure if he’s playing Hubris, or if Hubris is playing him, or if they’re all just one big happy, freakin’ dysfunctional family, but you’ve gotta get over this idea that you’re working for the good of anyone other than a bunch of power-hungry psychopaths. Stop trying to make us out to be the bad guys. You’re the one on the wrong side here, and if you don’t get your head out of your ass and see that, then you’re going to get a lot of people hurt, yourself included. I’m not about to let that happen!"

"Because you’re a slayer?" Dixon’s voice had went cold.

"Yeah."

"Chosen?" Colder.

"Hell yeah."

"So you couldn’t possibly be wrong because watchers and slayers are somehow better than the rest of us, chosen by some divine power that can’t possibly make a mistake." Dixon stood.

"That’s not what I’m saying, dammit!" Livia argued. She tried to rise, but only slid back down.

"No, that’s exactly what you’re saying, Livia, and you don’t even realize it!" Dixon began walking off. "Stay here, Livia. You’ll be safe here until you heal or until someone comes for you," he offered over his shoulder. "I’m going to win this thing."

"For Hubris!" she spat after him. "For that bastard Tyrell!"

"For me," he answered back. "For all of us who aren’t Chosen." He didn’t stop walking and had soon disappeared into the mist.

After a while, Livia gathered her strength and struggled to her feet. She made a few unsteady steps in the direction Dixon had gone then stopped.

"We’ll see about that," she said under her breath, before waving off a hover-cam that had moved in for a close-up.

Cut To:

Int.

Hubris Command Center Tent – Same Time

"Oh, no you don’t," Eris Pantelles whispered. Then she reached out and depressed a key on the keyboard in front of her.

Cut To:

Ext.

Anomalous Zone – Mist Ring – Same Time

The hover-cam circling near Livia suddenly exploded in a violent fireball, slamming Livia to the ground.

Cut To:

Int.

Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Same Time

Stunned silence filled the room of fighting slayers as Livia’s video feed went dead.

Fade Out.

 

End of Act Three

On to Act Four