Special Guest Stars: Seth Green, Amy Acker, Sarah Michelle Gellar
Guest Starring: Lindsay Wagner as Velika Petrova, Bonnie Hunt as Veronica Wyndam-Price, Emma Caulfield as Anya, Iyari Limon as Mira,D.B. Woodside as John West, Harris Yulin as Morgan Travers, Andrea Parker as Eris Pantelles, Katie Couric as Lisa Lance, Ronny Cox as Senator Townsend, Allison Mack as Jessica Wells, Maggie Grace as Brianna, Indigo as Bunni, Don S. Davis as Robert Lake, George Wendt as Bob and John Ratzenberger as Charlie.
Three Days Later
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Dawn
Mira and Brianna entered the rec room together and snagged a couple of seats in the front row. The room was already filling, but most of the slayers were still walking around—mingling, gossiping, talking about the previous night’s patrol. There was very little discussion of the upcoming contest. Perhaps they were so certain of victory that they could focus on other things, or perhaps no one wanted to take a chance on jinxing things.
The room was dominated by a huge vidscreen, which filled the far wall. A younger slayer and some of her friends settled in behind Mira and Brianna, and one of them asked, "Have they shown it yet?"
Brianna turned back to her and asked, "Huh? Have they shown what yet, Bunni? It’s still a bit early. The official start time isn’t for another hour yet."
"The movie trailer," Bunni explained. "The new Jessica Wells flick, the one she was here doing slayer research on. I’ll bet it kicks ass!"
Brianna just shook her head, and she and Mira shared a little what’s-the-younger-generation-coming-to look before turning their attention back to the vid screen.
Imperial Palace Casino, Las Vegas – Same Time
"I can’t believe you’re actually bettin’ on this thing, Bob. It’s fake, I’m tellin’ you."
"You think that everything is fake, Charlie. The Moon base, the Mars colonies, vampires…"
"Oh, vamps are real, all right. They’re just grown in some government lab rather than being some supernatural demon things. That supernatural stuff is all fake. It’s just a way of the government covering up the fact that they’re really controlled by aliens."
"Yeah, whatever. If it’s all fake, why’d you drag me down here at this ungodly hour? The thing isn't even started yet!"
"I didn’t want to be around when the Missus woke up with a hangover. Besides, she always gets amorous when we’re in Vegas, so I try to stay out of the room as much as possible."
"Gotchya. Good call."
Anomalous Zone – Same Time
SUPER: "Waxahachie, Texas / The Anomalous Zone"
From the sky, the Waxahachie area looked much as one would expect of an urban area gone wild. Here and there were the shells of abandoned buildings, and the outlines of major roads were still visible through the forest of trees.
At the center of the area was a shimmering blue-white light, easily visible even from great height. Concentric rings of mist spiraled outward, as if the Breach were the eye of some mystical storm. Surrounding the area was a circle of containment towers. The mist pressed against them as if looking for escape.
Council Staging Area – Same Time
VOICE OVER (a man singing): "Well, John Henry told his captain, / He said, ‘A man ain’t nothin’ but a man. / ’Fo I would stand and see your power-driver beat me down, / I would die with my hammer in my hand. / Whoa, I would die with my hammer in my hand...’ "
VOICE OVER (Livia, impatiently): "James, will you tell the synthetic songbird to knock it off? It’s really startin’ to get on my nerves."
Anya stood with her mouth open and unmoving, while the sound of folk music issued forth. Around her, the camp on the outskirts of the Anomalous Zone was alive with activity. Armed military guards patrolled the camp’s perimeter, and camera crews from the various networks were everywhere.
Livia was splitting her attention between suiting up in the Seraphim armor and glaring at Anya. Lex and James assisted her (with the Seraphim suit, not the glaring). Lex was snapping cables into the suit’s access ports, while James monitored the data dancing across his monitoring equipment.
"Probably not the best little ditty to be playing right now," Lex agreed as he slotted a circuit board into the suit’s backpack. A WorldNet News hover-cam flittered close, and Lex shooed it away with an annoyed swipe. "Would you mind keeping these overgrown flies out of the way?" he asked the remote cameraman by talking directly into the camera’s lens. "We would like to keep some of this technology secret, ya know?"
"Umm, Lex? Maybe we should use the LVJ3v2 heartbeat connectors for the power clusters. I’m showing some power spikes with the 3v3 connectors." When Lex nodded, James turned to his android. "Anya, how about playing something where the hero doesn’t die at the end?" James looked over at Livia. "She has over a million songs in her database," he beamed proudly. Then he glanced over at the camera and added nervously, "All legally purchased, or from the public domain."
"Am I the only one who gets the obvious metaphor here?" the synthetic in question asked. She neatly sidestepped a couple of Hubris techs who were lugging a supplies container between them. "It’s the classic tale of man vs. machine. Can I help it if the song’s writers recognized the ultimate futility of that particular scenario? You can kill yourself trying, but you can’t stop progress."
"I doubt that this was the interpretation embraced by the balladeers," Sebastian Giles observed as he approached. "It’s more likely that they saw it as the triumph of the human spirit, an exploration of how one man’s will to-to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds inspired him to surpass all expectations and achieve victory, albeit at great personal cost."
"But when it’s all said and done, he’s still the one staring up at daisy roots while the guy who invented the drill is living it up in robber-baron-luxury," Anya replied with blunt honesty.
Giles sighed deeply as he pinched the bridge of his nose, his lack of sleep apparent.
"I’m really starting to wonder just whose side the walking PDA is on," Livia said. "Just keep in mind that I’m looking for something to test these fancy new weapons systems on, Blondie," she added with a feral grin.
Anya quickly stepped behind James. "I’m loyal," she protested. "I’m as loyal as you can get. Hell, I’m programmed to obey! That’s more than any of you can say." She bent down and whispered in James’s ear. "Be a man and stand up for me! Giles won’t let her hurt you."
James shot a sheepish grin at Giles and mouthed, "Twitchy."
Giles shook his head. "Anya, why don’t you put your abilities to their best use and go see if you can overhear anything in the Hubris camp. Any information may be critical to our efforts," he suggested.
"I thought that was what Jocasta was doing: using her admittedly lackluster feminine wiles to ferret information out of her ex-boyfriend," Anya tossed over her shoulder as she stalked off. "You should never send an organic to do a synthetic’s job!"
Once his android had left, James turned his attention back to the job at hand. His hands flew across the keyboard. "Okay," he announced. "That’s the last of the code. Do you really think this will work?"
Lex smiled confidently. "I’m guessing that our friends at Hubris haven’t limited themselves to just stealing our hardware designs. I’ll bet they’ve lifted code as well. If that’s the case, then our friends at Hubris are going to get a nasty little surprise."
"And if they haven’t?" James asked.
"Then we’re not out much."
"Not out much?" James protested. "I’ll have you know that the late hours we’ve put in on this little project of yours has really cut into my social life."
Lex just looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
After a moment of defiance, James caved. "Okay, okay. If I actually had a social life, it would have cut into it."
Hubris Staging Area – Same Time
"So, this is the wonderful Katie I’ve been hearing so much about," Dixon Osbourne announced amiably. "I always said you had good taste, Jo. After all, you did date me."
Dixon had an easy air about him and, evidently, a mouth that never stopped. He was busy chatting away while the Hubris techs busied themselves preparing his Kerberos armor for the upcoming challenge.
"But it’s a good thing you didn’t email me any pictures of her," he said. "Otherwise, I might have swooped in and snagged her away from you."
Dixon grinned at Katherine and winked, causing the slayer to blush and drop her head in embarrassment. Jocasta smacked him lightly on the arm, a barely restrained grin on her face.
"Shouldn’t you be suiting up instead of hitting on my girlfriend?" Jocasta asked. Then she glanced across the encampment towards the Council staging area, where Livia was just finishing up her preparations. "Livia’s been at it for an hour now," Jocasta observed, the smile fading away as the sight of guards patrolling the encampment’s perimeter drove home the seriousness of the upcoming event.
Katherine seemed to notice Jo’s sudden shift in mood. "Or you can keep on hitting, if, you know, it’ll help our side." She aimed a lopsided grin at Jocasta, who responded with one of her own.
Dixon laughed. "As tempting as the offer is, I’ll have to take a rain check. Duty calls, ladies." He strode confidently over to the combat suit and asked the techs, "Is it ready to go, guys?"
"As ready to go as a slayer after a fight," quipped a tall dark-haired man. He shot a leer in Katherine’s direction, and she took a half step forward before Jocasta’s hand on her arm pulled her to a stop.
"Good work on the suit, Joey," Dixon told him. "But now, you can just get your gear and head back to Corporate."
"What?!" Joey exclaimed. "But you’re gonna need me to—"
"No, I’m not," Dixon said as he stopped and shook his head. "Talk to personnel. One of the other teams may take you. Bev’s short a tech, so she may take you on, but as of now, you’re off my team."
Dixon gave a low whistle, and the Kerberos armor split open. Grabbing one of the shoulder grips, Dixon swung himself up and into the suit with one smooth motion.
Hiss! The suit slid closed. Snackt! Klack! Seals snapped shut, and the faceplate dropped into place. Weapons bristled.
Dixon Osbourne was gone, the slight young man replaced by an eight-foot tall figure of titanium alloy and polymer composites. Even his voice was metal as he said, "Ladies, you can tell Livia that I’m ready when she is."
Jocasta shared a worried look with Katherine as Anya walked up behind them.
"Would it be considered disloyal if I put my money on the big metal guy?" Anya asked.
WorldNet News Tent – Same Time
Lisa Lance smiled as the camera moved in for a close-up.
"Thank you for joining us on this momentous occasion. You are witnessing history-in-the-making. In the hours before us, the fate of humanity itself may be decided."
Lance shifted to face the second camera. "The question is simple. Do we stay the course and continue to leave the defense of humanity in the hands of the Watchers Council? Or do we place our trust in new defenders, in Hubris Inc.’s promise to bring new tactics and vision to an ancient battle? This is what will be decided before your very eyes."
Lance faced front once again. "WorldNet News is proud to bring you live and exclusive coverage of the contest for the rights to the Human Defense Treaty." Lance grinned and pointed at the camera. "And don’t forget to place your bets! Just click on the link at the bottom of your screens. Betting is secure and confidential. Best of all, ten percent of the proceeds go directly to funding the fight against the forces of darkness. Place a bet—kill a demon! You just can’t lose."
Lance transitioned to the second camera. "You don’t want to miss a moment of the action and drama. So, stay tuned! We’ll be right back!"
Home of Buffy Summers – Circa May 2003 – Day (on-screen)
Andrew Wells, a confident young man dressed in military fatigues, commanded the attention of his troops.
His voice was calm, cool and collected: "Tomorrow, Willow will use a spell of my devising, and the essence of the scythe that I had Buffy recover, to change your destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a slayer will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power will have the power. Every girl who could stand up will stand up! Slayers! Every one of you. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?"
VOICE OVER (male narrator, overdramatically): "See the true story of the last days of Sunnydale."
Smash Cut To:
Huge Cavern – Day (on-screen)
The cavern swarmed with Turok-Han, the shortest of which was over nine feet tall. The ancient primordial vampires were overwhelming the army of slayers, whose clothes had, by this point in the battle, been strategically ripped to shreds.
Suddenly, Andrew entered the cavern, carrying the scythe. "Buffy!" he yelled before tossing the scythe to the blonde slayer.
Nearby, Faith struggled against one of the Turok-Han. Right when it was about to cut her down, it was literally frozen in its tracks when Andrew hit it with a freeze grenade, turning the creature into solid ice. Faith shattered the ancient vampire with one mighty kick.
"Andrew’s here, girls! Let’s kick some ass!" Faith yelled.
At that, the troops rallied, beating back the forces of darkness.
VOICE OVER (male narrator, overdramatically): "See the true story, as it has never been told before."
Smash Cut To:
Huge Cavern – Day (on-screen)
Spike stood at the back of the cavern. On his bare chest was an ornate amulet that glowed with an inner light. The souled vampire was well over six feet tall, and his chiseled muscles stood out in the dim light of the cavern. His long, blond hair reached his shoulders. The amulet blazed!
Buffy approached. "Spike..." she began.
"Go, Buffy. I have to see this through," he told her.
"No! God, no! You’ve done enough. We could still—"
"No, Andrew has led you to victory. It’s time for me to earn my redemption!"
Boulders fell around them.
As she herded slayers out of the cavern, Faith called over to Buffy, "Buffy, come on!"
Buffy laced her fingers through Spike’s, and their intertwined hands burst into flame together. She looked into his eyes and said, "I love you."
"I know," he said. "But my heart belongs to another..." He looked across the cavern to where Andrew was helping wounded slayers get to safety.
VOICE OVER (male narrator, overdramatically): "You only think you know the true story. From the newly discovered journals of Andrew Wells: Army of Slayers! Coming soon to a holo-theatre near you."
Watchers Council – Slayer Rec Room – Seconds Later
"Yeeuck!", "No way!" and "That sucks!" were just a few of the comments from the assembled slayers. Some were on their feet, making rude gestures at the vidscreen. Bunni sat still in her seat behind Mira and Brianna. Her mouth was hanging open in dismay.
"Nooo! Tell me that’s not it. Jessica wouldn’t do that to us. She’s nice; she signed my stake!" Bunni protested, pulling her precious stake from her pocket and holding it out for others to see. "She wouldn’t let us down! She wouldn’t! Besides, she wasn’t in the trailer. She’s the star—she’d have to be in the trailer. Wouldn’t she?" Bunni shook her head violently. "I refuse to believe that this is Jessica’s movie!"
Brianna elbowed Mira. "Nice to see that the younger slayers have faith in something, isn’t it?" she asked Mira out of the corner of her mouth. Mira replied with a roll of her eyes.
Outside The Anomalous Zone – Morning
The fence surrounding the Anomalous Zone stood twelve feet tall and was crowned with razor-wire. It stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see, its length broken only by the occasional tower. Atop each tower was an electrical display that would have done Tesla proud.
Beyond the fence lay mist.
Squads of marines stood guard on either side of the group gathered before the gate. Their eyes and weapons were locked onto the mist as if they were expecting it to attack. Two attack skimmers patrolled overhead.
As hover-cams floated nearby, Senator Townsend addressed the group, which consisted of Livia, Dixon, Eris, and Giles. "Your goal is simple," he said to the two combatants. "Accomplishing it is not. Each of you carries a sophisticated measuring device. Guard it with your life. Not only did it cost more to build than a fully-decked-out fighter craft, the science geeks who created think that the data it collects may be critical to developing a means of finally closing the anomaly. To that end, you are to penetrate to the center of the Anomalous Zone and pass through the Heisenberg Breach while carrying the sensor."
"So," Livia clarified, "you want us to jump into a big ball of light that’s some type of dimensional vortex? Gotta tell you, that’s not high on any slayer’s to-do list."
"Well, young lady, that’s entirely up to you," Senator Townsend said. "If you want to chuck the thing through the Breach and walk back out the way you came in, you be my guest. Keep in mind, though, that the team of medics will be waiting on the other side. Whether you get to take advantage of them is your call."
"With all due respect, Senator," Giles interjected, "there is only one recorded instance of someone passing safely through the Breach. One. And we have no way of knowing whether or not that was a fluke. What you are asking of Slayer Hansen and Mr. Osbourne is incredibly risky, and I must once more object to this whole affair. Surely there is a better way of deciding a matter of this importance than resorting to this…this blood-and-circuses spectacle." He waved his arms to indicate the mass of hover-cams flitting around the group.
"With all due respect to you, Chairman Giles," Eris responded, cutting off the senator’s intended response, "the contracts have already been signed, and it’s a bit late to back out now." Eris sent a smile of apology the senator’s way and then continued. "Forfeiture is an option if you don’t wish to risk your personnel or equipment. Of course, without the proceeds from this—what was it you called it?—this ‘blood-and-circuses spectacle,’ the taxpayers are left holding the bag. But then, the Council of Watchers has never worried much about the cost of operations, has it?"
"We’ve been a bit more worried about saving lives than pinching pennies," Giles shot back.
"Perhaps you’ve been more worried about maintaining your stranglehold on the Human Defense Treaty and the power you derive from it!" Eris snapped.
The two leaders were face-to-face, in full confrontation mode, when a shrill whistle from Livia split the air.
"Hey, aren’t we the ones who’re supposed to be dukin’ it out?" Livia asked, gesturing at herself and Dixon.
Giles and Eris looked at each other, looked away, looked at the watching hover-cams, then took a step back from one another. Giles pulled a cloth from his pocket and began cleaning his glasses. Eris adjusted her hair.
"About the dukin’-it-out thing," Dixon added. "How’s that work? Are we supposed to go at it right off the bat, or is there a designated distance or time frame that determines when we fight?"
"That’s another one that’s up to you," Senator Townsend answered. "You can beat the crap out of each other as soon as you enter the AZ, if that’s what you want. What is certain, however, is that you will encounter resistance from the Zone’s inhabitants. You would be wise to cooperate until you near your destination."
Livia and Dixon looked at each other. "Or not," they said simultaneously.
WorldNet News Tent – Moments Later
"And they’re off!" Lisa Lance said with a grin. "As you know, a series of remote-controlled hover-cams, specifically designed to withstand the reality-warping effects of the Anomalous Zone, will trail Osbourne and Hansen as they make their way towards the Heisenberg Breach. As our two combatants enter the zone, let’s take a moment to explore the nature of the anomaly itself. We have with us Dr. Elizabeth Burkle, renowned expert in inter-dimensional physics." Lance turned to a young, brown-haired woman. "Dr. Burkle, can you explain to our audience how the Anomalous Zone came to be and how it works?"
"Not exactly, no. I-I-I mean, no one is entirely sure how the accident happened, and the physics of the Heisenberg Breach is quite complex. There are physicists who have devoted their entire careers to studying it, but I doubt you could find even one who truly understands it."
"Could you tell us what is known?" Lance asked. "Refresh our viewers’ memories as to what led up to the creation of the Breach and the effects it has had on the surrounding area."
"Certainly. After the Superconducting Super Collider was built in the early twenty-first century—" Burkle began.
"This was after the project had already been shut down once before," Lance interjected.
"Yes, it was shut down in the late twentieth century because of budgetary wrangling. But after the public revelation of forces that science couldn’t explain, there was an outcry for increased research."
"The public wanted science to explain the supernatural, correct?" Lisa Lance questioned.
"Yes, they wanted something to explain the weirdness, and physicists realized that no T.O.E. would—"
"Theory of Everything," Dr. Burkle replied. "Scientists realized that no theory could fully explain the way the universe worked unless it encompassed not only a theory of quantum gravity, but also dealt with the nature of magic."
"So, the purse-strings were loosened, and the Collider was given the green light," Lance added.
"It was a pretty heady time. The money flowed freely, and new discoveries were coming fast—"
Lance leaned forward, moving in for the kill. "And they broke something, didn’t they?" she accused. "These brilliant scientists were so eager to pursue knowledge at all costs that they overreached themselves."
"In a nutshell, yes," Burkle admitted. "While we’re not sure exactly how it happened—perhaps they punctured the vacuum—what we do know is that they broke something. They broke reality."
End of Act One
Onto Act Two