Arena – Same Time
At spear-point Vi and Cynthia emerged from the tunnel into the empty Arena. Upon seeing them the crowd erupted into derisive cheering, yelling their contempt to the two slayers. Their guards made them cross the sand to stand before Imbethit’s ornate platform, then vanished through their doorways.
"You will fight," the demon rasped.
"You want a fight?" Vi shouted up at him. "Get your tin-plated butt down here and I’ll give you a fight!"
"You will fight," Imbethit repeated. "The rules are the same. If you kill, you will continue to live."
Vi and Cynthia looked at each other a brief moment. "We’re not killing each other for you!" Cynthia shouted.
"You refuse?" Imbethit hissed.
"You’re damn right we refuse!" Vi shouted back, stepping in front of the English slayer.
"Disobedience has consequences," the demon said levelly.
Coils of black iron erupted from the sand around Cynthia’s feet. There was a brief impression of chains, tipped with wicked barbed hooks, then they were striking the girl like cobras, again and again. Vi stared in abject horror, frozen – then a spray of blood hit her and she collapsed in a stunned expression. As the screaming slayer began to be dragged beneath the surface of the Arena floor, Vi shook off her shock and lunged for the sinking young woman.
With chains surging beneath the sand, like snakes, burrowing, still striking, the girl slipped further down as Vi tried to get a solid hold on her. Without a firm grasp Cynthia’s hands slipped from Vi’s and the slayer slid below the surface. Then the sand settled, becoming once more smooth and level, it was as if the sudden horror had never happened. But as a red stain appeared, spreading as it welled up from beneath, Vi realized the truth and soon tears streamed down her face.
The demon guards appeared and surrounded Vi, prodding her with their spear-tips until she staggered to her feet.
"From now on," Imbethit said to her, "when two slayers enter this arena, one will die. Tell your fellow humans this."
Presidium Citadel – Chorum
"You see," the Lover noted to the Flayer, as they walked slowly around Imbethit’s immobile figure, "this way is far more enlightening."
Infirmary – Same Time
Xander stood beside Dr. Miller as he showed him how to put the last suction cup on the slayer before them. "Got it?" he asked.
"Yeah," Xander said a bit nervous. "Yeah I think so. You’re gonna double check though, right?"
"Absolutely. The nurses will be coming around too but we need to get as many of these girls hooked up as soon as possible."
"Right, okay," Xander said before the doctor walked away. Xander moved to the next girl. He looked down toward the bed and then to the monitor beside her before looking back down at the bed again to reveal Vi.
"You gotta hang in there. I can’t lose my best helper after all." Xander bent down and placed a lingering kiss on her forehead. With a heavy sigh, he started to hook up the equipment.
Willow’s Coven Room – Later
Willow, Jeff, Dawn, Skye and Andrew all sat in a circle with a host of books.
"Miss Rosenberg?" Everyone sitting in the coven room jumped at the intruding voice on the intercom.
"Yes?" she replied.
"Mr. Robson on line three for you or Mr. Giles."
"I’ll take it," she answered as she walked over and picked up the phone. "Hey Robson. Willow here…What? Oh no, ohhh no…Okay, okay…No nothing yet I’m afraid. We will. I promise…Thanks and, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. You too."
"What was that about?" Dawn asked.
Willow seemed reluctant. "One of the girls in London…She lost all brainwaves."
"She’s dead?" Jeff asked.
"Not technically," Willow answered. "She still has a heartbeat and she’s breathing thanks to a ventilator."
"You mean she’s like…a vegetable?" Skye asked.
Willow nodded sadly.
"And no news from Buffy yet?" Dawn asked.
"I’m sure she’ll be okay Dawnie," Willow said as she tried to reassure her. "Let’s focus on finding a cure for this, okay? There’re a lot of girls out there to save."
They all bobbed their heads in agreement.
Arena – Same Time
The gateway to the underground tunnel opened, admitting two slayers to the Arena – Faith and Mia. Their guards walked them in front of Imbethit’s platform then stood back. Opposite them another gateway opened, and two more young women were prodded into the open at spear-point.
"I know you…don’t I?" Faith asked as the pair were forced into place.
"Jena," Mia said, wide-eyed, "Gil…"
"They got you too, huh?" one of the girls said dryly.
"They’re Julia’s girls," Mia said to Faith, "at least, last I saw them-"
"Only two of you will leave," Imbethit’s rasping voice boomed out, drawing the slayers’ attention. He raised a glittering dagger above his head, drawing a cheer from the crowd, then tossed it. The weapon landed blade-first in the sand, between the slayers.
"Fight," the demon ordered.
"What the hell is this?" one of the slayers, Gil, asked warily.
"No!" screamed Faith as the sand around the girl erupted. All three lunged for her, trying to reach her, but they were driven back, bleeding from cuts inflicted in passing by the lashing chains. They fell, staring dumbly at the terrified girl as the living metal tore at her, until she sunk out of sight, sand choking off her screams.
"Move," a demon guard ordered, jabbing its spear into Faith’s thigh, leaving a shallow cut. It had to cut her again before she noticed – she whirled to her feet, and only the sight of the dozen guards kept her in check.
"Move!" the guard said again, using its spear to force her away from the remaining pair of slayers. She cast a helpless glance back at them, as their stares moved from the blood-stained sand, to each other, to the knife buried in the sand between them.
"I’m not going to die like that!" Jena wailed, her hands clutching into fists.
"Jena-" Mia began, taking a step toward her. Faith saw the other slayer recoil from Mia, then launch herself forward, lunging for the dagger. Then the guards dragged her into the tunnel, and the gateway closed behind them.
Council – Hallway – Same Time
Bonnie opened the door to her quarters to see Giles standing there.
"What do you know about the Presidium and its use of magic?" he asked.
"Fine. Thanks for asking. And how are you Mr. Giles?" she said sarcastically.
"I haven’t time for pleasantries," he told her as he walked inside and shut the door behind him. "Do you know if the Presidium has the powers to induce sleep?"
"Some of them probably could, sure. Why? What’s going on?"
Willow’s Coven Room – Later
The phone rang in Willow’s coven room and she and Dawn exchanged a look. As Willow walked over to pick up the phone Dawn closed her eyes and crossed her fingers.
"Hello?" Willow greeted. "Oh thank the goddess," she said in relief. She moved the phone away for a brief moment to address Dawn. "It’s Buffy."
Dawn closed her eyes and appeared to hold her hands up in prayer as Skye and Jeff both rubbed Dawn’s shoulder in support. "Thank you god," she said softly before she began to smile in relief.
Bonnie’s Quarters – Same Time
"I don’t know everything but I heard chatter," Bonnie began as she sat on her bed. "A couple of the squirrelly little minions were talking one night about some mystical place called the arena. From what I understand it was a… a Roman coliseum… A place the Presidium could create by their will to hold contests."
"Well, contest is really not the proper word. It’s kind of like the Romans tossing in Christians to fight with lions – I mean really, it’s not much of a contest. The smart money’s not on the Christians."
"Go on," Giles prompted.
"That’s all I really know. They took enemies there and killed them. Magic wise the Presidium is a powerhouse – well, Miss Rosenberg knows that first-hand. Plus they’ve got a lot of demons working for them, mages as well as warriors. But maybe they can’t physically bring your slayers to the Arena. Maybe they have to do it mystically by sleep? Or maybe the Arena isn’t a place, just a… a spell, it’s only real in the minds of the people it’s cast on. I honestly don’t know, and I doubt the demons I heard talking did either. But if you want my hunch, I’d say they’ve got your girls in this Arena, and are letting the lions loose on them. So if you want to save them, you better find a way to undo the magic they’ve done."
"But how would we even get inside to do that?" Giles asked incredulous.
"Beats the heck out of me but I’d find the answer before you’re left with a handful of slayers to stop a worldwide invasion."
Arena – Underground Cell – Later
The slayers looked up as their cell opened, and Mia staggered in, collapsing to the ground the moment she was free of the guards’ spears. Faith raced to her side and rolled her over, waving mutely for Marsha, who brought makeshift bandages.
"What happened?" the young slayer asked, surveying Mia – there was a cut on her forehead, a bruise under her left eye, scratches on her neck, sand matted onto abrasions on her elbows and knees.
"I won," Mia said in a distant voice. "They, um…after…they took the knife back. Sorry."
Faith followed Mia’s involuntary glance to a shallow cut across her wrist, and wordlessly reached for a scrap of cloth to cover it.
"Give us a moment," she said to Marsha, who nodded somberly and moved away.
"You want to talk?" she asked Mia quietly.
"No!" Mia said instantly, her eyes blazing.
"Okay," Faith replied calmly, "that’s okay. Not about that. While you were up there, was there…did anything happen different to before? Anything new we could use?"
"Nothing," Mia said, subsiding again, "we’re not gonna get out of this."
"We will," Faith insisted, "our watchers’ll figure it out, we just have to give them time. We just have to…" her voice trailed off.
"Survive," Mia whispered.
Library – Same Time
"Hey," a voice said from the doorway making Rowena look up.
"Hey Kennedy," she answered. "The girls all moved?"
Kennedy simply nodded. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to see if this has ever happened before. So far, no luck."
"Mind if I help?"
"You don’t have to. If you want to sit with Mia you can."
"Sitting won’t help her now but reading might."
"Absolutely then, the more eyes the better," Rowena told the slayer as she slid a book toward her. "Here, take this one and I’ll see if I can find anything in the other texts. Do you speak or read other languages?"
"I’m guessing Spanish doesn’t count," Kennedy answered.
Rowena gave her a small grin before going to the bookshelf. "I was thinking more like Latin and Greek but still that’s good to know in case I come across a Spanish text – the Council had several watchers from around the world."
Rowena pulled down a book, walked back to the table and sat down when Willow came into the room.
"There you are," Willow began. That’s when Kennedy turned around and the witch appeared surprised to see her. "Sitting here. Reading. With Kennedy."
"I can read Will." Kennedy then turned back to Rowena with a smart grin. "In two languages even."
Rowena smiled and tried not to chuckle. "We figured four eyes are better than two."
"Right," Kennedy agreed. "And holding Mia’s hand isn’t going to help anyone at the moment."
"Oh, well, ah…I need to speak to Ro."
"What’s going on Will?" Kennedy asked before Rowena could.
"It’s…" Willow released a deep sigh. "One of the girls in London died. I’m sorry Ken. We’re doing everything we can right now and-."
"Fine," Kennedy told her. "Just gives us the incentive to read quicker then, right?"
"Are you okay?" Willow asked.
"No, but I’ll have time to be scared later. For now…let’s just get them awake." Kennedy turned back to Rowena. "Mind if I take this with me down to the infirmary?"
"No go ahead," Rowena answered.
Without saying more Kennedy walked from the room. Once she was gone Willow turned to Rowena.
"I didn’t want to say anything in front of her and worry her," she whispered.
"No, you made the right choice," Rowena insisted. "But whatever this thing is, it’s killing slayers now and that means…"
"I know what it means. My slayer’s out there someplace too and I can’t help."
Fade to Black
End of Act Three