Alicia Silverstone as Heli, Lacey Chabert as Skye Talisker, Elijah Wood as Jeff Lindquist, and Norika Fujiwara as Mia
Faith gently but frantically shook Rowena by the shoulders. "C'mon, Blondie, wake up. We need your brain working here."
"Mmm, Will, just five more minutes, 'kay?" Rowena murmured sleepily.
"Wrong Hottie," Faith said tightly.
Rowena's eyes snapped opened. "Faith? What are you doing in my…" She paused as her eyes focused on the room around her. "Where are we?" she asked, suddenly alert.
"Good question," Faith replied.
Willow's knuckles whitened as she gripped the edges of the monitor. Her breathing came in short gasps, and her body shook as she stared at the computer screen.
"Willow, what's going…" Xander drew up short as he stepped into the computer room. He quickly glanced around the room, his eyes darting over the dozens of computer screens. "What is this?" he asked quietly.
Willow said nothing. Instead, she stepped aside, giving Xander an unimpeded view of the screen in front of her.
Willow nodded. "Faith, Ro, Heli…" She paused, bracing herself, "…and Vi."
On the screen, Vi and Rowena were just rising from the ground.
"This is a joke, right? Another Halloween prank? I mean, that can't be Vi, can it?" Xander's voice shook slightly. "I mean, I just saw her last night. She stayed at my place."
"I was holding Ro, and it looks like they grabbed her, too."
"But this is a hoax, right?" Xander said hesitantly. "Halloween as usual…"
Willow closed her eyes. Her breathing was fast and shallow.
"It is, right?" Xander asked again, quietly.
"Get Robin," Willow said softly. "Have him check last night's tapes. We have two hours, and the clock's already ticking."
"God, I've got a headache," Rowena muttered. "How long were we out?"
"I don't know. All I do know is that we've got less than two hours to find our way out, or they'll be picking us up with a sponge," Faith replied tightly.
For the first time, Rowena's eyes drifted down to the timer in the center of Faith's chest, and her eyes widened. She glanced down at her own chest, breathing in sharply. She automatically reached for the clasp on the front of the vest.
Faith's hand darted towards Rowena's wrist, halting its progress. "Think about it, Ro, and look around. Whoever did this was smart enough to figure out how to sneak us away without anyone noticing. You don't think they'd hand us a bomb we could just take off, do you?"
"Then even if we get out of here, what good'll it do us? I don't know anyone who can defuse a bomb; definitely not someone we can find in two hours." A slight note of panic began to creep into Rowena's voice. She took a few deep breaths, trying desperately to steady herself, then she looked at the timer on Faith's chest more closely, then again at her own.
"What?" Faith asked.
Rowena ran her thumb over a small protrusion on the bottom edge of the timer. She began pointing at hers and then Faith's. "A keyhole," she said softly. "It's like the ignition on a car." Her eyes widened. "Someone has a key."
On the screen the four figures were frantically searching their bodies, digging through their pockets, and patting their clothing down.
Willow again opened the envelope in her hand and shook it, inverted, over the counter in front of her. The key fell out, clattering heavily onto the wooden counter.
"Oh god," she whispered.
Elsewhere in the Stone Room
"Guys?" Vi was kneeling next to the heavy metal door centered in one of the walls of the room. "Any idea what you make of this?"
"What is it?" Rowena and Faith stalked over to kneel beside her, looking at the door.
In childlike block letters, someone had carved seven words into the metal of the door.
Willow leaned close to the screen, squinting.
"How far are you willing to go?" she read quietly.
"What does it mean?" Vi asked.
Rowena frowned. "It means we're being tested."
"What does that mean?" Heli asked.
"It's a game," Faith elaborated. "A sick, twisted, sadistic game."
"So…games have rules, right?" Heli asked. "There has to be a way to win this."
"Yeah. There's a way out of here," Faith said. "But I guarantee that whoever the sicko is who set this up, he's watching us right now, and he ain't gonna make it easy on us."
Heli looked up, her eyebrows arched as she scanned the corners of the room. "Camera, back corner of the room," she announced.
The other three women followed her gaze. A small camera hung from the low ceiling, completely unhidden from view. Faith clenched her jaw. "This bastard likes to watch, huh? Let's see what he thinks of this."
"Faith, we don't have time for this," Vi said sharply.
"This'll only take a second," Faith replied as she strode over the corner of the room, and ripped the camera free of the wall. In a sudden flash of anger, she hurled the camera at the concrete floor.
"Dammit, Faith!" Willow yelled as the computer screen in front of her turned to static.
Heli arched her eyebrows at Faith's outburst. "Feel better now?"
"I know, I know," Faith said quietly, "I shouldn't have done that. I'm just so…"
"That's okay, Faith," Rowena said. "Stay mad."
Vi blinked at the blonde. "Say what?"
"Right now, I'd rather have an angry Faith with me than a calm one," Rowena replied. "Whatever's on the other side of that door, I've got a feeling it's not going to be daylight so it's gonna take every ounce of strength we have to get through it. Whatever you've got, wherever you need to draw it from, find it, 'cause there's no way I'm getting blown to kingdom come."
"Um, not to point out the obvious or anything," Heli pointed out, "but we've got to get out of this room first."
Rowena took a step forward, twisting the doorknob.
"Oh boy," Rowena sighed. "That was really dumb."
"Locked?" Faith asked.
"Unlocked," Rowena said as she still held on to the knob.
"But unlocked is good, right?" Vi replied.
"Everyone stand back," Rowena told them. "We've got bombs strapped to us so that means the door might be triggered too."
Vi and Heli both went to the far corner of the room but Faith didn't move.
"Faith, get over-," Rowena began.
"Nah, Blondie. I got your back so give it a push."
Rowena paused a moment longer and took a deep breath. Rowena gave it a shove, they both jumped backward. The door swung open to reveal a second room and little else. Rowena and Faith both released the breath they were holding.
"That worked out okay I guess," Rowena replied. "But from here out we need to think before we do anything."
"Okay, does that make anyone else nervous?" Heli asked. "That they didn't even bother locking us in?"
Rowena carefully stepped through the doorframe and reached around the door, feeling the knob.
"It locks from the outside," she pointed out. "They could have locked us in if they wanted to."
"So why didn't they?" Vi asked.
"'Cause they are playin' a game with us," Faith replied. "They lock the door an' there's no way we'll get out of here before the timer runs out."
"So," Heli said, "we're dealing with a polite psychopath now?"
"I'm only asking this once, Andrew," Willow said, her voice hard, as Xander stood behind her. "Did you have anything to do with this?"
"What?" Andrew asked, confused.
"We have four council members trapped, so I need to know, right now. Do any spells? Play any pranks?" Willow's voice hardened further.
"Willow, I don't know what you're talking about, and that's the truth," Andrew held up his hands in surrender.
Willow stood up and began to move toward Andrew but Xander put a hand on her shoulder.
"It's not him, Will," he told her. She seemed to relax to his touch for a brief moment. "We've got to figure this out and quick."
Andrew stood by still looking confused.
Willow sighed. "Call Buffy on her cell," she said turning to Xander. "Tell her the situation here."
Xander nodded and began to dial.
The four women squinted as a line of bare light bulbs above their heads flashed on in sequence.
"Motion detector?" Rowena asked.
"Or someone's still watchin'," Faith added.
"Jeff, how quickly can you get a locator spell working?" Willow was fidgeting.
"Is there a hurry?" Jeff asked.
"Four people are going to die in one hour and," she turned to the computer screen, "fifty-seven minutes."
"I'm on it," he said before swiftly leaving the room.
Willow turned to Andrew. "I want you to run the technology end of things, see if you can track the signal coming into this room. If Jeff's locator spell doesn't work…"
"Got it," Andrew told her.
"And Andrew?" Willow called as he kneeled by one of the computers, "Don't lose the signal. I want to know what's going on in there."
Xander cleared his throat. "What can I–?""
"Get Jeff something personal of Vi's," she said tossing her keys to him. "Ro and Faith too. Let Robin know what's up. Marly should have something of Heli's in their room."
Xander nodded and swiftly left the room.
The quartet drew to a halt as they rounded a corner. The hallway was only barely wide enough for Rowena to spread her arms. A number of vertical metal bars stretched from the ceiling to the floor, too tightly spaced for even Vi to squeeze between them. The ceiling was high above their heads, almost fifteen feet.
"Did we miss a turn back there somewhere?" Heli asked.
"I don't think that there was a turn," Rowena told her.
"Well, this looks like a dead end, then," Heli added.
Just beyond the gate, a single light bulb hung from the ceiling, casting a meager amount of light on the device in front of them.
Rowena gritted her teeth, "Okay, it's official, we've been kidnapped by Rube Goldberg."
A pair of large, heavy-looking rotary saw blades hung from an intricate device, the blades hung from the ceiling by thick, rusting metal girders which angled out from a central point right above their heads.
"Is anyone else getting a Pit and the Pendulum vibe right now?" Vi asked.
"Poe?" Rowena asked.
"Corman," Vi replied.
Faith kneeled by one wall. In the same childlike writing, someone had painted on the wall push here. She turned around, facing the opposite wall, finding similar writing, which read push here too.
"You're not actually gonna do it, are you?" Heli asked. "I mean, that's a pretty obvious trap." She gestured at the saw blades hanging ominously directly above Faith.
Faith turned to Rowena. "So what's our play?"
Rowena frowned, "Whatever he wants us to do, we do something else." She jerked her head at the metal bars in front of them. "Do you think you can get us through that?"
"How close are you?" Willow asked as she kneeled next to Andrew.
"Not at all," Andrew said tightly. "Whoever set this up was smart. Every few minutes it switches to a new server. But there's a pattern, I should be able to crack it."
Willow let out a long breath. "How long?"
Andrew chewed his lower lip. "An hour, maybe two." He took a long breath. "I wouldn't…" His voice caught. "I wouldn't count on this working in time but I'll do my best."
"Jeff's on a locator spell," Willow said. She glanced back at the door as Kennedy pushed her way into the room. "Just…find them, please," she said softly. "You know what's happening?" she asked as she walked up to Kennedy.
"Robin filled me in," Kennedy replied.
"Does he have anything yet?"
"No, he was on his way to the security center when I saw him…Are we sure that this isn't just the normal Halloween hi-jinks you watchers love to pull?"
Willow shook her head. "It's way too elaborate to be a prank, way too well thought out to be Luna, and way too sadistic to be Andrew."
"How did they get them in the first place?" Kennedy asked. "Everyone but Heli is living with another person and even she bunks with Marly."
"I don't know," Willow said, exasperated. "It doesn't really matter. Whoever's holding them, he's playing with us, and whoever he is, he understands what being a watcher is really about."
"What do you mean?" Kennedy asked.
"Watchers…watch," Willow shrugged. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to sit back every single night, watching someone you care about put themselves in harm's way, and just hoping that you've trained them well enough to handle whatever trouble they encounter?" She took a deep breath. "The worst part of this job isn't the endless training sessions; it's not the all-night research binges and it's not even the annual apocalypse. It's watching. It's knowing that no matter what happens, there isn't much you can do to help your slayer except watch, and wait. Being a watcher means being helpless," she gestured at the computer screen where Faith and Heli were pulling against a set of metal bars in front of them. "He gets that. And he's using it against us."
Faith braced her foot against one of the metal bars and strained against the one immediately to its left, attempting to spread them apart.
"Come on," Faith grunted through gritted teeth.
"No luck?" Rowena asked.
"None. Whatever these things are made out of, they were made slayer-proof," Faith said.
"Options?" Rowena turned to the three women in front of her.
Faith looked back at the large apparatus over their heads. "We'll just have to hope I'm a little faster than it is."
"We don't have much time," Faith snapped. "An' I don't wanna die in a rat maze any more than you do." She took a couple of breaths to calm herself. "You said this was a game, right? Does it make any sense that whoever did this would make it impossible for us to win? What's the fun in that?"
"You're assuming that whoever set this up has something you or I would consider a logical thought process," Heli pointed out. She held up her hands quickly. "Don't get me wrong, it makes sense; but it makes sense to me. Whoever did this might not be playing with a full deck."
"Fine," Faith said, "give me another option."
"Simple," Heli replied. "I'll do it."
"No way," Faith shook her head adamantly, "it's my insane idea. I'm doing it."
"No," Heli insisted. "One, you're a lot more vital to the council than I am; two, you're a lot stronger than I am, but I'm a fraction faster; and three, if there's a way of stopping this thing, frankly, I don't want to stand ten feet away and do nothing."
"Hey guys!" Vi yelled.
"What is it?" Rowena asked.
"Someone's carved something into one of the bars," Vi said.
"What does it say?" Faith asked.
"'Red, black or orange, yellow or white,'" Vi read.
"That's it?" Faith asked. "Just a bunch of colors?"
"It's a clue…I've heard that somewhere," Rowena said.
"Yeah, 'cause it's a bunch of colors," Faith pointed out.
Rowena got an annoyed look but said nothing.
"Look, guys, if we're going to do this, we'd better do it before I change my mind," Heli said.
"Heli, this could be important," Rowena said.
"Do you remember what it says?" Heli asked.
"Do you think it's going to change if I push these stones?" Heli persisted.
"Well, no, but…"
"Then we don't have time to analyze this. We have less than two hours, and we have no idea what tricks this psycho has left up his sleeves," Heli said.
Rowena looked at the Finnish slayer for a moment, chewing on her lower lip. "She's right," she admitted. "Make sure you're ready to get out of the way," she said.
"Believe me," Heli said, "that's the one thing I'm ready for."
"Everyone all set?" Willow asked as she watched Xander re-enter the room.
"Yeah…Got the feed back somehow?" he said motioning his head toward the monitor.
"No, it's a new room," Willow replied.
"What are they doing?" Xander asked as he looked to the screen. He watched as Heli took position directly under the large metal apparatus. She kneeled in the center of the hallway, placing her fingertips against two stones on opposite sides of the hall.
Heli's body tensed up as she crouched in the center of the hallway. She took a series of breaths, and pressed against the stones under her fingertips.
The two stones under her fingers sunk inward approximately five inches. The metal gate before the three women slid upwards to disappear into the ceiling.
Rowena let out a long breath. "We're clear," she said softly.
"No, we're not," Heli replied, her voice level.
"What is it?" Vi asked as they all turned to face Heli.
"I'm stuck," Heli said.
A pair of metal cords had wrapped themselves around the slayer's wrists and tightened, forcing her arms to remain spread straight out from her sides. The slayer clenched her fist and pulled against the cord around her right wrist.
With a groan of scraping metal, the rotary saws above the slayer's head lurched into motion, and with agonizing slowness, began to inch their way downward.
"Guys? Get me out of here," Heli said tightly. She pulled against the wires around her wrists with some desperation now.
"Faith, try to break her free. Vi, help me," Rowena barked the orders out as Faith slid to her knees next to Heli's right wrist.
"Help how?" Vi asked, a faint note of panic in her voice.
"There might be a switch, a button, something to let her go. Find it!" She yelled.
Faith braced herself against the wall while she gripped Heli's wrist in both of her hands and pulled against it. "Your arm or that wire," she said. "One of 'em's gonna break."
"Get me out of here!" Heli yelled as the blades above her descended inexorably towards her biceps.
"Oh god," Xander said as the scene unrolled on the screen in front of him. Rowena and Vi were frantically scrambling around the hallway, searching. In the upper corner of the screen, the timer was ticking down from 1:34:27.
Heli tried throwing her entire weight away from the cord around her wrist while Faith pulled against it. Red blood was dripping from her wrist as the cord dug deeply into it. Her motions were becoming more jerky, more desperate as she tried to free herself.
She pulled down as hard as she could, trying to extend the distance between the blade and her arm, only buying herself a few inches. "Do something!" she yelled at Rowena.
"Have you found anything?" Rowena asked desperately.
"Ro, there are a million rocks here, and maybe none of them are a switch!" Vi yelled back.
"Just keep searching!" Rowena yelled.
Willow's fingers clawed at the desktop as she watched the scene unfold. "Come on, Ro," she whispered, "do something."
Heli pulled desperately downward as the blade spun mere millimeters above her bicep. Tears streaked down from her tightly closed eyes as she tried to free herself.
"Yellow or white, yellow or white," Rowena repeated quickly to herself out loud.
Rowena looked over at the two women, then up at the single light bulb swinging slowly over their heads at the end of its cord. She quickly glanced over at the woman trying to free herself from the trap again, before she reached up to grasp the light bulb cord with a grin.
"That's it!" the watcher declared.
"Ro, what the hell are you doing!?" Vi demanded.
Rowena hurled the light bulb against the wall, shattering it and plunging the hallway into complete darkness.
In bright, green phosphorescent paint, someone had painted the words push here.
Rowena paused a moment, as if trying to decide to push or not. But Heli's loud, bloodcurdling scream echoed through the hallway sealing Rowena's decision. The watcher's hand slammed down upon the stone.
Willow's hands gripped the edge of the screen as it went black. "What is it?" she demanded. "What happened?"
"It's not static," Andrew said, "the camera's still running. It's just…dark."
"Are they okay? Are they safe?" Willow asked tightly.
"Will," Xander said softly, "he knows just as much as you do."
"Well, he should know where that signal's coming from, and if he were doing his job…"
"Will!" Xander said sharply. He took a breath. "Look, we're all scared, okay? But we can't help any of them if we don't keep a cool head, you hear me?"
Willow opened her mouth and had a look on her face like she was going to chastise Xander but stopped short of saying anything when she heard Andrew.
"Will!" Andrew yelled from another screen. "They're over here."
Willow took a deep breath. "Thank goddess," she whispered.
On the screen, Vi and Faith were dragging the third slayer down the hallway, leaving a long, bloody smear on the smooth floor.
"Guys, she's bleeding bad," Faith said as she tore a length of her sleeve and pressed against the large tear in one of Heli's arms. The lacerations in her wrists were shallower, and bled less.
"Can slayer healing keep her alive?" Rowena asked.
"Yeah…or until the timer goes off; whichever comes first," Faith said.
"I can move," Heli said. "Just put a tourniquet on or something. I'll keep going."
"Heli, you've lost a lot of blood. If you need to…" Faith started.
"Need to what?" Heli asked weakly. "Lie here, wait to die? No deal. I'm not going to die in a rat maze." She closed her eyes and groaned as the pain flared up. "Tie them up, I'll keep up with you."
Rowena closed her eyes for a moment.
"How far are you willing to go?" she whispered.
"How did you know to kill the lights?" Vi asked suspiciously.
"The words you found," Rowena said quietly, ignoring the tone. She turned to face the slayers. "They're from a poem by Shel Silverstein that my father used to read to me. 'Red, black or orange, yellow or white, we all look the same when we turn off the light.'"
"And what are the chances that someone would just pick a poem you know?" Vi said continuing to question Rowena.
Rowena turned sharply to Vi. "I don't like what you're implying."
"And just what do you think I'm implying, huh?" Vi countered.
Rowena took a step closer to Vi and then motioned around her. "That I had something to do with this."
"You knew an obscure poem!" Vi began to shout. Rowena set her jaw and began to shake her head. "You knew to turn out the lights!"
Rowena and Vi took another step closer and Faith put her fingers in her mouth giving a loud whistle, making everyone turn in her direction.
"Girls," Faith began looking at all of them. "Right now we need to get Heli out of here. So you two chicks can rumble later, got it?"
"You're right," Rowena answered.
At the same time Vi added, "I'm sorry."
"Good," Faith told them. "Now saving the kissing part of the make up for when we're out of here. Come on Heli," she said leading the slayer along with Rowena and Vi following behind them.
"Tell Jeff that I want that locator spell done now," Willow snapped.
"He's ready in the coven room," Andrew replied. "I'm tracing the signal."
"It would help if we knew who was doing this," Xander said. "Who has the resources to do something like this?"
"I don't know," Willow said. "One person with enough time on their hands could do it, but they would have had to work on it for some time."
"Have we received any demands, a ransom, anything?" Xander asked.
"Nothing," Willow said.
"They why do this?" he asked. "If he wanted them dead, he could've killed them outright. Why make us watch them if you don't want anything from us?"
"Because we're the victims here, too," Willow said softly. She turned around and looked up at the back corner of the room, where a small camera looked down at them. "He's watching us."
End of Act One
On to Act Two