Special Assignment Part 2

Act One

Fade In:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Day

The demons pressed in on Rowena and Dawn, reaching for them with gaunt, reptilian arms, murmuring in their own language.

"Ro," Dawn whispered. "Ro, what do we do?"

"Hold still," Rowena said. "Hold very still."

Dawn felt a tug on her sleeve. She looked down. It was a young Ravana, maybe five years old. Its eyes were hollow in their bony sockets, and its wrists were as thin as one of her fingers. Dawn stared at the kid.

"Hello."

Dawn and Rowena looked up see an old human man, shaved bald and wearing a carefully-hung orange robe. The crowd had parted on either side of him.

Rowena raised one hand, very slowly. "Hello."

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Day

Rowena and Dawn followed the monk into the heart of the camp, past rows upon rows of tents and shacks.

"We try to care for them as best we can," he said, "but there are so many."

Child demons sat in doorways, ribs visible under their skin. Old, wizened Ravana sat in groups, staring into the air.

"Who…who are they?" Dawn asked.

"The Ravana," the monk said. "They started appearing here over two years ago. They came from Burma, or Myanmar as their government insists it's called. Their people have lived there since before we began to speak. The government there has decided that the resident demons don't fit into their future plans."

"So they kicked them out?" Dawn said. Several children were following the group now, some of them laughing.

"So they started killing them," Rowena said darkly.

The monk nodded once. "The survivors fled and gathered here. We save those we can."

Cut To:

Int.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Hospital – Day

Twenty or so beds were inside a dingy structure in the center of the camp, the bright jungle sun seeping through a few dirty windows. Ravana of all ages filled the beds, some bandaged, some malnourished, some missing limbs. The beds were close together, and the atmosphere was stifling.

The screen door swung closed behind Dawn, Rowena, and the monk. Dawn put her hand over her mouth and swallowed hard. "How did…" she managed. "How did we not know about this?"

Rowena shrugged. "Not very sexy, is it? The media doesn't make money by showing people what they don't want to see." She turned to the monk. "We can help, but we need to get back to our people. Can you help us?"

"The shipments come once every two weeks," he said, "if we're lucky. It was fine when it was just us at the monastery, but…the most recent one just left yesterday."

Rowena pinched the bridge of her nose. "Surely there's a radio somewhere…or a phone?"

The monk gave her a sad, sympathetic smile. "Our order lives very simply. And these people brought no devices with them."

Dawn was not even listening to this exchange anymore. She was standing at the foot of the bed of a child missing a leg, holding her hand over her mouth and nose.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Day

Rowena and Dawn spoke in the shadow of the ramshackle hospital building, built from local wood and sun-baked mud bricks.

"We have to help these people," Dawn said, shaking her head. "This is genocide."

"Our first priority has to be getting home," Rowena told her.

"How are we gonna do that, Ro?" Dawn was nearly yelling. "I don't know if you've noticed, but we're totally cut off here in Bizarro Shangri-La. And they don't really seem to have food or clean water, and I haven't eaten for a day and a half, and suddenly I'm feeling pampered!"

Rowena placed a hand on both her arms. "Dawn, chill. We're better off than we were before we found this place, okay? Look, we're going to survive, and we're going to publicize all this in the West."

Dawn let out a long breath. "It's not enough."

Rowena pulled her hands away and nodded. "No, it's not. But our friends and our families are looking for us right now. They're coming for us."

"We're lucky, then," Dawn said, but her tone was dark.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Jengar's Camp – Cage – Day

Shannon stared out through the bars. Her foot tapped incessantly on the ground. Jeff leaned back against the far side of the cage, his eyes closed. He started singing under his breath. "It's like a stake to my heart, when you say you don't want me. It's like a stake to my heart –"

"Could you please not do that?" Lorinda asked with a sigh. "I don't want to die with that goddamn song stuck in my head."

Shannon's foot stopped tapping. She looked up to see one of the Ravana guards standing over her. They glared at each other for a moment. Then he produced a single brown cigarette and held it out towards her. Shannon kept her eyes on his as she quickly reached one hand out between the bars and grabbed it. Her hand shook ever so slightly as she brought it towards her lips.

"You have a light?" she asked. But the Ravana only stared at her a moment longer before turning and walking away. "Hey!" Shannon called. Jeff groaned and flexed his fingers. The tip of Shannon's cigarette crackled into flame. "Thanks," she said.

At that moment, all at once, a heavy rain began to fall. Huge drops rattled on the corrugated metal roof of the cage. In the distance one could hear a single rumble of thunder. Shannon and Lorinda both looked at Jeff, who shrugged with his good shoulder. Shannon took a long drag on her cigarette. She smiled, and her shoulders relaxed.

"How you feeling?" Lorinda asked Jeff. She placed a hand on his forehead and frowned. "I can't tell if you've got a fever or not. If you don't by now, it's sort of a miracle."

"My shoulder is…the least of our problems," Jeff said, grunting as he strained to straighten up. "If he uses that machine…"

"What?" Shannon asked, pulling the cigarette out of her mouth. "I'm not clear on what the hell is going on here. There's a humongous machine that does…what exactly?"

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Library – Night

Skye dropped the ancient, hide-bound book on the table with a thud. "I give you the Uncreation," she pronounced, "Destroyer of Worlds."

Buffy, Grace, and Lori leaned forward to see a picture of a man in medieval dress, grimacing as if in terrible pain, watching as his hand appeared to disintegrate into the air. Above him hung a sun-like ball of light.

"It's…a spell?" Buffy asked uncertainly.

"Yeah-huh," Skye said. Around her a few dozen watchers swarmed around the library's study tables, though it was late at night and many looked disheveled. "It's not that complicated, actually. It's sort of the front half of a teleportation spell. You know, the disappearing without the reappearing."

Grace frowned. "But…to do that to the whole world, or even to a few villages, you'd need a lot of power. I mean, probably more power than there is in the world, all together at once."

Skye shrugged.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Jengar's Camp – Cage – Day

"I'm guessing that all that mechanical business is an amplifier," Lorinda said. "If you got the right electromagnetic charge going at the right moment, you could probably get several hundred times the power for the price of one spell."

"How do you know all this?" Shannon asked. "I've never seen you read."

Lorinda smirked at her. "It's controlled from up on top there. If we want to stop it, we might have to do some climbing. You ever get that rock wall in Cleveland?"

Shannon blew a puff of smoke in Lorinda's face, grinning as the other slayer wrinkled her nose. "Okay, I'm on board with the badness, but…it seemed to me it was just inside the Thunderdome there. How does that translate into the end of the world?"

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Library – Night

"Usually there's a companion spell that goes along with it," Skye said. "A magical shield, so it's confined to a specific area and doesn't, y'know, also dematerialize you when you set it off. But if there wasn't a shield and you had enough power…"

"It'd keep growing," Lori breathed.

"Wait," Buffy said. "You mean…the whole planet?"

"Like it never existed," Grace nodded. "It wouldn't even take that much extra juice once you got it going. It's like a chain reaction."

Buffy blinked then put her hands on her hips. "Okay, how does that track? There's no world left for the evil whosit to rule over, right? Or to send to hell, or to take over with a biomechanical demonoid army, or whatever. Is it just, like, a suicide bombing times a billion?"

"Maybe," Grace said, gears turning wildly behind her eyes. "Or maybe not."

The other three women looked at her expectantly.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Jengar's Camp – Cage – Day

The rain continued to fall outside the cage, creating a din.

"I think they're tuning it," Lorinda said.

"They're what now?" Jeff asked, fatigue in his voice.

"It explains why we're not dead," Lorinda said. "If they let it loose beyond that shield and it doesn't discriminate between demons and humans, we all go to the big slay-a-thon in the sky, not to mention trees and rocks and everything else. But if you can set it to just do the humans, then you have this nice human-free world for your demons to live in. Problem solved."

The three of them sat in silence for a moment, taking this in.

"So we're just extra guinea pigs?" Shannon finally asked, taking a long drag on her cigarette.

"Better than being dead already," Jeff managed.

"Okay, but I'm not getting something," Shannon said. "What happened with that guy who reappeared? He didn't get uncreated or whatever."

"He got dead," Jeff pointed out.

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Library – Night

"So, why hasn't…whoever just ended the world already?" Lori asked. "I mean, if they can do villages…"

"You remember when I said it was easy?" Skye said. "Yeah, I kinda lied." Buffy glared at her. "Oh, so stake me, I'm youthful and impulsive. It's actually really hard to perfect because if you do it wrong it just ends up as a crazytastic version of a teleportation spell. Still fatal to humans because their organs end up in, y'know, a different order, but there's an annoying mess to clean up afterwards."

Buffy gripped the top of one of the library's wooden chairs. "We need to figure out who's doing this."

"I know where to start," Grace said and took off towards the stacks.

Buffy's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You do?"

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Buffy's Office – Night

Buffy and Grace now sat in the two chairs in front of Buffy's desk, away from the bustle of the library. Grace handed over a thick green folder with several tabs sticking out.

"The Ravana," Buffy read.

"They've lived in Myanmar since the beginning of, well, everything, basically," Grace recited. "They claim to be descended from dragons. Historically pretty peaceful, though they've never really gotten along with people. Then again, neither have I."

Buffy did not comment on this. Her eyes were glued to a particular page in the folder. "They were massacred."

"We think," Grace said. "Vague reports. When the supernatural world came to light, the junta running Myanmar closed its borders to the Council and instead decided to take care of the demon problem its own way. Unilaterally, with machine guns. But we're really not sure."

"So…that's a motive," Buffy sighed, "though this is just a guess, I take it."

"It always is," Grace nodded. She sounded very tired.

Buffy looked up from the folder. "How you holding up, Grace?"

Grace's mouth tightened. "They're still alive. And we're going to find them."

"Well, Amira's already in the air," Buffy said, "and Kennedy's running things on this end with Bangkok. But –"

"We're. Going. To. Find. Them." Grace repeated insistently.

Buffy nodded, satisfied.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Day

Rowena was in the center of a group of elderly Ravana, attempting what could only be described as a mime routine. "No…radio. It's a…box." She tried to make a box with her hands. Badly. "And words come out of it from far away." She gestured expansively. "Far away." She was getting no response. "Nothing?"

Dawn walked up behind Rowena and grabbed her by one arm, leading her away. "If this was an old cartoon, I'd get out a hook and drag you off-stage, but it's not, so this will have to do."

"I can't believe there aren't any radios in this whole place," Rowena pouted. "I've been to Siberia. They have radios there. Or satellite phones. It's frickin' 2014." She put her hands on her hips and looked up at the sky. "At least this amalgamation is easier to spot from the air."

Dawn put a hand on Rowena's shoulder. "Ro, they're not an amalgamation. They're people. And seriously, I'm a dork, and even I don't use 'amalgamation' in conversation."

Rowena sighed. Then she felt someone tugging on her sleeve and looked down. A young Ravana boy, maybe ten years old, looked up at her. "I ask for you if want," he said in English.

Rowena looked up at the sky again. "Thank you."

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Watcher Rec Room – Night

His face in shadow, Norman sat in an easy chair, his back to the door. Light streamed into the room from the hallway, but there were no lights turned on within.

"Taking a break, I see," Robin said.

Norman swallowed then spoke without turning around. "How did you do it?" he asked.

Robin leaned on the door frame, silhouetted. He put his weight on his good leg. "How did I do what?"

"When you…lost her. When she left. How did you deal with it?"

Robin's face grew stern, but not angry. "Shannon didn't leave, Norman. Not like Faith. She loves you."

"She only took this assignment because I pushed her too far," Norman said. "She's not ready. And I don't know where she is now. We've got a lot in common."

"I know exactly where Faith is, thanks to the tabloids," commented Robin. "And exactly who she's with…" He shook his head. "But I emphasize again, your girl didn't leave you. And she's going to come back."

Norman turned to look at Robin over his shoulder. "You can't know that. Especially at four in the morning."

"I know that you should be back down there helping them find her rather than moping in the dark," Robin said. "That's what the man Shannon would want to marry would do."

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Command Center – Night

When Norman walked into the Command Center, every single seat was filled, every station had someone working at it. Kennedy stood at a central table, her brow furrowed as she looked at several black and white photos.

"Hansen!" Kennedy called. "Thank you. These are terrible."

Norman hurried over. "What?" The photos on the table were grainy high-altitude surveillance photos, probably taken by satellite, and showed a tropical forest from above.

"We have better satellites than this," Kennedy said. "I can't see jack in these."

"Technically," Norman pointed out, "we don't have satellites. We don't even have a space program."

"Then we need to get the government to send us the good stuff. They'll listen to you. They know you."

"They know my mom," Norman said quietly.

"It's Shannon, Kid!" Kennedy slapped him on the shoulder. "We all swallow our pride today." Norman nodded and picked up the photos. Kennedy immediately moved on to where Casey stood by the "big board", looking over a map with her good eye.

"This quadrant's done," Casey said. "Except for this stretch here." She pointed.

"Where?" Kennedy asked.

Casey poked the image with both hands and pulled them apart, causing it to zoom in on one section. "It's Myanmar territory. They didn't have clearance."

"Okay, two things," Kennedy said. "One, when did the wall become an iPad? I missed that."

Casey shrugged. "Couple weeks, maybe less. They never keep us in the loop, do they?"

"Two, don't talk to me about clearance. They're off the grid. We can't rule out whole swaths of –"

"We also don't have clearance," Casey pointed out.

"Well, we need to get some, don't we?" Kennedy said. "Get me Yangon on the phone. And get me a watcher who speaks Burmese."

Casey nodded and rushed away. Kennedy called after her. "I don't care how many skulls we have to crack. I'm searching that airspace! And where in the name of all those gods whose names I can't remember is Willow?"

Cut To:

Ext.

Astral Plane – Thailand Rainforest – Day

Willow perched on the far tip of an overhanging cliff, hundreds of feet above its foot, crouched like a very cute gargoyle. Below her the forest stretched out to the far horizon, green and lush. She cocked her head, listening. The sounds of the jungle. Wind in the leaves. Birds calling out wildly complex trills. The rush of streams and rivers. And somewhere, far away, maybe…voices?

With one fluid motion, Willow rose and leaped into the void. She stretched her arms over her head and sailed down like a practiced diver. The air whispered past her ears. She disappeared head-first into the mist at the base of the cliff, then emerged a moment later, bounding forward through the tops of the trees.

From the forest floor, she was a ghostly goddess, a sudden flash that could be seen for a split second between gaps in the canopy.

Then Willow saw something ahead of her that made her eyes grow big and round. She tried to stop on a tree branch, but it didn't quite work. She slipped forward and nearly fell, catching the branch with her hands.

As she dangled, she looked up to see a great creature hanging in the air. Its upper body and torso were that of a woman, though its skin was green and scaly. Instead of legs, a very long snake tail coiled below and behind it, glinting emerald in the late afternoon sun. It wore no clothing, but beautiful tresses of snow-white hair hung low and covered the naughtier bits from sight.

"You are out of your depth, witch," hissed the creature. "You run the hidden paths, and there lurk many shadows."

Willow smirked and with an effortless flick of her wrists flipped her body up. After a somersault, her feet made a soft landing on the branch. "I'm looking for my family and my friends," she said. "Have you seen them? Bunch of mostly white women? Probably beating something up?"

"You are an outsider and a fool," said the creature. "I guard these roads, and they are not to be trod lightly. You are here without right."

"Hey," Willow said, tension her voice, "I have a right. Rowena's my wife; I love her. Even you can't break that bond, I know the rules. She's here, somewhere, or I wouldn't be able to make the connection. I can feel that thread pulling me somewhere."

"You are a mortal," the snake woman sneered. "You will not last long enough."

"I don't know who you think you are," Willow said, "but I'm on a first name basis with more than a few gods and goddesses." She wrinkled her brow, confused. "I'm serious, who are you? Some kind of…mersnake?"

"I am Naga," proclaimed the creature. "I am the ancestral spirit of my people, and they have claimed this land as theirs."

"I don't care if you're frickin' Eywa!" Willow told it, throwing up her hands. "Are you going to get out of my way, or are you going to help me?"

Naga stared down at Willow with reptilian eyes, considering this impetuous human carefully.

"I will not stop you. But you will not find your friends." And then Naga was gone, and Willow was left harrumphing with her hands on her hips.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Jengar's Camp – Night

Jengar balanced on a rickety metal beam high above the Uncreation machine, supervising several other Ravana in their adjustments to one of the control panels. Another demon clambered up the nearest stanchion and called to him in Ravana. He nodded and, after a few more words to his workers, climbed down.

An elderly demon, incongruously wearing a pair of bifocals on his face, waited at the bottom to speak with him. "How are your preparations, Ru-Te?" asked Jengar.

Ru-Te shook his head. "We lack the supplies to run another test. We require the root of the Ka-Aung-Gale. Our people work tirelessly to gather it for us, but it is scarce, and the rains have made it more so. And we need the heart and entrails of a newly-killed deer once again. This is, after all, black magic."

Jengar took this in, blank-faced. "Very well," he finally said then turned to the demon who had brought him down from the dome. "Send our swiftest runner to the monastery with word. The time has come for another supply shipment."

"Yes, Sir," the demon replied and hurried to carry out his orders.

Jengar turned back to Ru-Te with a shrug. "What is another day in the great march of eternity, I suppose? Still, it is irksome that it has not yet worked as we wish."

Ru-Te smiled wryly. "If changing the future was easy, everyone would do it."

Jengar looked at his fellow demon, and for a moment there was a nervous tension hanging in the air. Then he sighed, placed his hand briefly on Ru-Te's shoulder, and said, "Indeed they would," before he walked away.

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Night

Rowena and Dawn waited on a damp log near the edge of the camp, stained, worn, and beaten.

"How you feeling, Ro?" Dawn asked, her own voice a little distant.

Rowena tried in vain to stretch her muscles. "I haven't really eaten since the crash. Thank the Gods I don't have low blood sugar. I hope that kid comes back again soon. What was his name? Nu?"

"Ni," Dawn replied. "Like the knights."

"What?"

"Never mind." Rowena and Dawn stared at each other in vacant confusion for a few moments before Ni did indeed come running up.

Rowena sat up, eyes much brighter than they'd been a moment earlier. "Did you find it?"

"No," Ni replied, his tone indicating that he was not that broken up over this fact. He grabbed both Rowena and Dawn by a wrist. "You come."

"Come where?" Dawn asked, dragging herself to her feet.

"Story time," Ni said. Then he turned to run and skip towards the center of the camp.

Dawn turned to Rowena and said, "Oh good, I'm delirious."

Cut To:

Ext.

Thailand – Ravana Refugee Camp – Night

Rowena and Dawn followed Ni to a fire circle at the center of the camp, around which now sat a decent portion of the demon inhabitants of the place. They sat down Indian-style in an open space next to the excited Ni. A scrawny deer carcass hung on a spit over the fire.

Around the fire confidently strode an older Ravana, wearing no clothes except for a loincloth. His face and body were painted with angular designs of red and brown mud.

"I tell you what he say," Ni assured them.

"Thanks," Dawn replied conspiratorially.

The demon in the center barked loudly three times, and the crowd, including Ni, responded in kind. The storyteller used expansive body movements as well as words to get his point across. He related the story in Ravana, and Ni translated.

"We are Ravana. Our ancestors live before moon shone and before water flow. We are Ravana. Sons and Daughters of Dragons. We live on world, world live under us. Ancestors have fighting spirit, build Kingdom of the Dragon. The bats fly free in the night."

"After long years Humans came. Humans say to Ravana, 'Give us your land. Give us your home. Give us your food. Give us your trees. Give us your water. Give us your life.' Ravana ask why, and Humans say, 'You have too much fighting spirit. You make us afraid.' And Humans forge great weapons and have many children, and Ravana can only give and never take."

"Then a Ravana was born, and his father called him Jengar, Dragon Light, and he called to the Ravana and said, 'We are Sons and Daughters of Dragons, and we must take back these things.' And there was no food for the Ravana, so Jengar stole food from the Humans. And there were no homes for the Ravana, so Jengar found new homes for them. And when the Humans came to take the lives of the Ravana, Jengar took the weapons of the Humans and used them against them."

" 'The Humans have so much,' said the Ravana, 'and we have so little. What should we do?' And Jengar said, 'We are Sons and Daughters of Dragons, and we have fighting spirit. We will fight to live.' "

At this there was a general shouting from everyone present, which Dawn observed excitedly and Rowena a little more nervously. This seemed to mark the end of the story. The demons descended on the carcass of the deer, sharing what meat there was.

Dawn turned to Ni and asked, "Who is this Jengar?"

"He gives us what we have," Ni replied excitedly. "He fight for Ravana. He live in forest."

"Demon Robin Hood," Dawn commented approvingly.

"And we're the Sheriff," Rowena said, a little edgily. But then one of the Ravana tapped her on the arm and held out a few small scraps of meat. She stared at the demon, her eyes growing wet. "I-I couldn't. No." The Ravana, a female with large, expressive eyes, held the meat even closer. Rowena took it with both hands and said "Thank you" with a great deal of feeling. The demon nodded and walked away.

She divided what there was with Dawn and Ni. "I guess Sheriffs have to eat, too." She took a bite, and her eyes nearly rolled up in her head. "Oh my God. Would it hurt our reputation if I threw up?"

Cut To:

Ext.

Astral Plane – Thailand Rainforest – Night

Willow perched on a long branch, trying to listen for the voices again. Insects and night birds made the only sounds. She blinked, hard, looking momentarily unsteady. The Naga's words hung in her mind.

"You are a mortal. You will not last long enough."

She shook her head to clear it, and for the moment it seemed to work. She took a deep breath and jumped for a nearby branch. She made it and then made three more jumps.

On the next tree, Willow stuck her head out through the canopy, looking for any signs of life. She did not see anything but bright green treetops. Then her eyelids began to drift closed. She tried to shake her head again, but this time she wasn't able to shake it off.

Her chin drooped, her arms hung. "Nnnno," she slurred.

Then her eyes closed, and she fell sideways from the branch. The forest floor came up on her body slowly, as if in a dream.

Cut To:

Int.

Council HQ – Coven Room – Night

Back in Cleveland, Willow's real body slumped unceremoniously to the floor of the coven room. Skye had been sitting in the room with her. She rushed forward.

"Willow!" she called out. She knelt next to her and cradled Willow's head. "Willow! Somebody! I need help!"

Black Out

 

 

End of Act One

Onto Act Two