Story by Gelfling21
Written by Gelfling21 (with additional writing by Zahir al Daoud, Robert Kidman and DragonWriter17)
Directed by Gelfling21 and CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by DragonWriter17
Sounds by CN Winters
Art Direction by Zahir al Daoud
Artists – Robert Kidman, CN Winters, Zahir al Daoud, Isis and Mattxxx
Cover Art by Robert Kidman
Bureau Nine Headquarters – Evening
Emily Hoffman emerged from her limo and walked directly to the front door of the high-tech building before her. It bore no logo on the outside, and the windows were clearly all one-way. Like many, the building appeared an icon of corporate efficiency. At the door, she pressed a button. The speaker next to that button crackled to life.
"State your business," said a voice.
Looking up at the camera mounted a few feet away, Emily Hoffman stated her name in a clear voice. "I have an appointment," she finished. Almost immediately, the front door buzzed, and she used it to enter.
Bureau Nine – Lobby – Continuous
She looked around her at the foyer. It looked very modern, almost like the set of a science fiction film. In the corners of the room, men with machine guns remained in the shadows. At this time of night, few noises reached her ears. Those that did sounded much louder than they truly were. Included among those sounds was the opening of an elevator door, followed by the footfalls of a young man approaching her. He was her height, with brown hair and a moustache. Interestingly, his clothes were business casual – dark slacks, a simple shirt and no tie.
His smile was polite and friendly.
"Miss Hoffman? I am Jason Felix."
She nodded. "And Mister Daniels?"
"Right this way," he gestured. She moved in the direction Felix had pointed, and he followed. "Since you contacted us, Miss Hoffman, you must have some idea of our work here."
"So it will come perhaps as little surprise that we keep odd hours, and sometimes emergencies chip away at the pleasantries. Curtis wanted to greet you himself, but he needed to attend a debriefing."
"Anything I'm likely to read about in the newspapers?"
Felix shrugged. "False alarm more than anything. Some very conservative businessmen were trying to sell their souls to insure the re-election of Mr. Bush. Or perhaps the better way of putting it, they were desperately trying to prevent Governor Clinton from winning the election. Fortunately, the businessmen in question seem to be the most rank of amateurs."
"No demon appeared?"
"Evidently not. They did manage to turn one of their number into a frog, however."
She snorted. "Typical."
At the end of the hallway was a spiral ramp, leading down. Felix led her down two levels. Here there were no windows, but banks of lights were built into the walls.
"Your decorator has seen rather a lot of James Bond films," she said after a time.
"Such is my opinion as well," he almost grinned. "Yet one cannot deny it has a certain gravitas, a sense of the extraordinary."
"Ah – and here is your destination." Felix indicated a door, which slid open as he pressed his palm to a sensor plate. "I believe you indicated the desire for a private meeting?"
"Exactly. But I am a little surprised not to have been searched."
The expression on his face didn't change, but somehow his eyes twinkled. "What makes you believe you were not?"
Bureau Nine – Curtis Daniels' Office – Moments Later
The man who rose as Emily Hoffman entered was thin and on the short side. He looked older than she, with a grizzled beard as short as his crew cut, yet his eyes were like laser beams.
"Miss Hoffman? I am Curtis Daniels."
"How do you do?" Daniels indicated a chair, and Emily sat. She immediately began to speak, "I shall assume you've already checked my bona fides."
He nodded, taking his own seat behind a desk. "And I know you've been looking into magic users, hiring several over the past few years. None, by the way, would reveal the work for which you hired them."
"It is the same for which I wish to hire your organization. Quite simply, there is something I want warded. The contents of a box."
"What does the box contain?"
"That I cannot tell you."
"Methinks that will prove something of a problem."
"Perhaps you misunderstand. My vocabulary in this case is very precise. Cannot. Not will not. Nor may not. I have never opened the box. Frankly, I live in fear of doing so."
"Well, you've certainly intrigued me."
"It already is surrounded by wards and enchantments, holding whatever it contains at bay. The box itself seems to be a powerful talisman against evil, but even so I've good reason to believe some kind of evil continues to reach out from the interior. If you have done as thorough a check on my background as I hope, you have perhaps noted a certain pattern?"
Daniels took a deep breath, looking at her. "My executive assistant did. He was the man who showed you here. Frankly, when he showed me the raw data I was skeptical, but his intuitions have proven their worth. Many times." He waited for another moment or two. "What precisely do you want?"
"Another layer of protection. More wards around the box."
"Surely you've done that already?"
"Yes, and the effect has been real. But not complete. The box – whatever it contains – continues to influence those around it. Not so much as at first. Quite a bit less, in fact. But more is needed." She said this without blinking.
"If you'll forgive me," Daniels said, "you don't look like you've been getting enough sleep."
"Very true. I have dreams – dreams I do not care to discuss."
"Understood. In that case, I would recommend some kind of protective custody for the box. A storage facility with barriers both mystical and conventional…"
She interrupted him. "No. I already tried that. You've heard of the Watchers Council?"
"I contacted one of them, a Miss Gwendolyn Post. She designed exactly what you describe, but turned out that she'd made sure there was a flaw in the arrangement. Quite simply, she had arranged to take the box for herself."
"There is no guarantee that others might not – oh, I see."
"After all," Emily said, nodding, "there is no reason to suppose she was truly interested in such an object ever before. Quite the opposite, or I should never have contacted her at all."
Leaning back in his chair, Daniels considered this for nearly a full minute. "Records of this must be erased when we're done."
"And I will personally arrange the delivery of something that might help. A magical device, if you will, that shapes mystical energy into crystalline form. Once used, it will create a crystal-like box over the current box, one that interferes with all known form of magic."
"I must say – that sounds quite useful."
He shrugged. "Not so much as you might think. It requires a special ingredient to work, one in extremely short supply. On my own authority, we'll use it up and hopefully seal away your box and whatever lies within."
"Then, it is not simply your assistant who has intuitions?"
"No, not at all. But his certainly feed into my own decision. And I'll be honest – this will not come cheap."
"Of course not. Bureau Nine is not a charity. I know that. But you are very much worth the price of your services. I know that, as well."
Casablanca, Morocco – Airfield – Night (on-screen)
Humphrey Bogart was facing Ingrid Bergman. They were surrounded by mist on a dark night.
"But I've got a job to do, too," Bogie told Bergman. "Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to realize that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world…"
From somewhere in the distance, the sound of crying drowned out the rest of Bogie's lines.
Voiceover, Giles: "Bloody hell."
Giles and Becca's House – Master Bedroom – Night
"I'll go." Becca Giles tossed the covers aside before her husband could stop her. She kissed him on the side of the head. "Stay put. I'm sure it was just a bad dream…"
Giles nodded as Becca made her way out of their bedroom and toward their daughter's room. He reached for the remote and paused the movie just as Bogie told Bergman, "Here's looking at you, kid."
Oddly, Ingrid Bergman cried out. And suddenly, Giles heard the sound for what it really was: Becca's panicked cry.
Giles leapt out of bed, his bare feet flapping hard on the smooth surface of the parquet floor outside their bedroom as he raced toward Elizabeth's room.
Giles and Becca's House – Elizabeth's Bedroom – Continuous
Giles stood in the doorway. Becca was holding Elizabeth, the child's face buried in the crook of her neck. "We have to get her to the doctor! She's got bumps all over her."
Giles came over and eased Elizabeth from Becca. The child's entire body was covered in angry red pockmarks.
"Chicken pox?" Giles guessed.
"No, it's something else," Becca answered in fear. "Look close."
Giles peered at his daughter's arm. The pockmarks looked like chicken pox, but they were vibrating.
Ethan's Apartment – Study – Later That Night
Ethan sat staring through the glass of scotch in his hand. The amber liquid glinted in the soft golden light of his missionary style desk lamp, but Ethan did not really see it. He squinted his eyes, the glass and scotch blurring into a soft yellow that brought him to another place.
Ethan's Apartment – December 2007
Cameron Rayne was arranging some fresh-cut flowers in a vase on an unusually bright winter afternoon. She smiled happily as she put the last flower in place. She was about to bring the vase into the living room when a sudden buzzing sound startled her. Before she had a chance to react, several bees flew up out of the flowers and stung her hands.
"Oh! Oh, god!"
She rushed to the telephone as the bees continued to attack. She swatted at them as she took the cordless phone and ran into the bathroom. The bees kept pace with her. She was too panicked to dial. Dropping the phone on the bath rug, she jumped into the shower and turned on the water. The moment the water hit the bees, they fell dead to the shower floor.
Breathing heavily, Cameron stepped out of the shower, her clothes plastered to her. She dialed the Council's infirmary line.
"This is Cameron Rayne. I'm in my apartment. I've been stung by bees! I'm allergic. Please send help…"
Willow and Rowena's Apartment – Bedroom – March 2008
Willow was brushing her hair out while seated in front of her dresser mirror at night. Rowena came up silently from behind her and smiled, took the brush from Willow's hand and continued to brush the red hair. Willow smiled back at their reflection.
As she watched, she saw her red hair change. She blinked, but the change was still happening. Her hair turned black, starting at the roots, and as she watched, mouth open, her eyes grew black, and her face became lined with dark, ugly veins.
"Ro! Ro, do you –?"
She stopped in mid-sentence. Rowena was no longer brushing her hair. Instead, Warren Meers – in his skinned-alive state – was standing behind her, gently gliding the brush through her hair.
"Ro!" Willow cried.
Watchers Council – Playing Field – October 2007
Shannon and Norman were walking briskly along on a Saturday morning, their breaths coming in short, steamy puffs in the chilly air.
"I'm glad you could spend the weekend, Norm!"
"Yeah, me too."
"You sure this is okay with you?"
"Yeah! I can't always stay cooped up drawing and reading, y'know…"
"Okay, I'll go out…" Shannon stepped off across the field. Norman watched her go, smiling as he focused on the slight sway of her hips.
She turned and saw him grinning stupidly. "Hey! Wake up! Here it comes!" she said and threw almost immediately. A little off-guard, he raised his gloved hand, and the baseball smacked sharply against the leather.
"Hey, go easy, will ya? Just because I don't want to draw today doesn't mean I don't ever want to again!"
"Don't be such a wimp!" Shannon giggled at him.
He tossed the ball back to her. "Don't be such a slayer!" he grinned.
Shannon wound up and threw again. Ready for it, Norman squared himself as the ball approached faster. And faster. And faster and faster and –
"Norm! Norman!" Shannon raced to him as he writhed on the ground. "Norm! What happened? What –?"
Norman's face was creased with pain. He pulled his glove off to reveal his thumb horribly twisted backwards. The flesh was torn, and there was a lot of blood.
"Norm! Omygod, I think it's broken!"
"Why?" Norman yelled at her. "Why did you use slayer strength?"
A phone began to ring.
"I didn't! I – oh, god, Norm, we gotta get you to Dr. Miller."
The phone rang again.
Ethan's Apartment – Study – Resume
Ethan squeezed his eyes shut against the ringing telephone. He dragged a shuddering breath and quickly brought the drink to his lips, about to down it in one gulp. In the living room, his wife, Cameron, picked up the phone.
"Oh, Rupert…" he heard Cameron greet their late-night caller. "Yes, he's in his study. What…?"
Ethan downed the scotch.
"Ethan!" Cameron knocked on the study door. "Ethan!"
End of Teaser
To Act One