Story by CN Winters and Dan Joslyn
Written by CN Winters (additional writing by Dan Joslyn and Gelfling21)
Produced by Susan Carr
Directed by CN Winters
Editing by DragonWriter17
Sounds by CN Winters
Art Direction by Robert Kidman
Artists – Robert Kidman, Zahir al Daoud, Mattxxx, Isis and CN Winters
Cover Art by Robert Kidman
In loving memory of "Auntie" Doris Kidman
Cleveland, October 2007
Lenore's Chamber Occult Shop – Day
"And now, at this crossroads in history, America chooses hope!" The woman's voice rang out loud. "We will not cower in fear any longer. We will not wait in our homes for the next horrible thing to happen. We will shine out as a beacon of freedom in a troubled world. It is time for a new era of hope on this Earth, and that starts right here in the United States of America."
On the flickering screen of a television set that had seen better days, the crowd roared. A middle-aged red-haired woman in an impeccable pantsuit stood behind a podium, waiting for the applause to die down.
The television sat on a shelf in the corner of a cluttered magic shop, surrounded by strange things in jars. Jocelyn O'Hara gave it only a cursory glance as she browsed through a section marked "Amulets, Talismans, and Miscellaneous." A sign in the window read, "Under New Management." A boy about Jocelyn's age stood watching the TV screen, arms crossed over his chest.
"Is she the one you're working for, Trevor?" Jocelyn asked.
"Yeah," Trevor nodded, looking over at Jocelyn. "Autumn O'Mara. First Independent elected to Congress from this district in, well, forever. Everybody thinks she's gonna run for President in a few years."
Jocelyn looked up at the screen, examining the woman more closely. "She just looks like a politician to me."
Trevor shrugged. "Well, yeah. I mean, she never met a photo op she didn't like, and she works us like dogs, but I feel like we're really doing some good things, going in the right direction. I mean, it's kind of like what you do. We're both trying to save the world, just in…"
He didn't notice that Jocelyn was distracted. Trevor's voice faded into the background, along with the rest of the world, as Jocelyn stared at a small, ornate wooden box, inlaid with some sort of ancient runes in silver. Her eyes couldn't tear themselves away. Very, very slowly, she reached out one hand and brushed the tips of her well-manicured nails against the side of the box. Her breath caught.
Jocelyn's fingers moved to the top of the box and slowly slid off its lid. Inside, without the usual cushioning one would find in a jewelry box, was a small, rough black stone, attached to a simple gold chain.
She looked at the stone for a long moment in silence. Then she whispered, "I understand."
"What was that?" Trevor asked, turning to look at her, and the world came rushing back to her.
"Um, nothing," Jocelyn told him, shaking her head. She picked up the stone from the box and held it up to her chest, smiling. "What do you think?"
Trevor walked towards her. "A black rock? Not your usual look."
Jocelyn's smile instantly faded. "I'm getting it." She sounded very serious as she put the stone back in its box.
"Okay," Trevor said with a grin. "You know I think you look beautiful in anything."
He stepped forward, and the two teenage lovers shared a brief but lingering kiss.
"If you really want it, I'll pay for it," Trevor said after Jocelyn pulled away. "Anything for my magic girl."
Jocelyn nodded and embraced her boyfriend. Trevor didn't notice that her eyes drifted back to the necklace in the box.
Cleveland, Present Day
Watchers Council – Lobby – Day
O'Mara was examining the vacant lobby with a smug look of satisfaction. At either side of her stood two armed guards. Around her neck hung the Loathestone. A third guard walked up to her and said, "There're two more left, ma'am. They're on the way now."
"Thank you," she answered him.
Down the stairs walked Rowena and Buffy, each holding a box. When they came within a few feet of O'Mara, they stopped.
"This isn't over," Rowena told her.
O'Mara said nothing at first; she simply walked over to the box Rowena was holding and peered over the top. She took out a picture of Willow and Rowena.
"Such a handsome couple," O'Mara mocked before tossing it back into the box.
Rowena dropped the box and began to charge the woman. Buffy did the same, but instead of going after O'Mara, she hooked Rowena around the arms and pulled her backward. The guards came forward, guns drawn.
O'Mara didn't seem the least bit fazed by the ruckus. She only arched an eyebrow.
"Let her go, Miss Summers. I'm sure Alexander and Jennifer would love their life if you did – one mother a jailbird and the other one…dead."
Rowena tried in vain to struggle free. "Not here," Buffy whispered in her ear, trying to calm her down. "Not like this…You know better, so think."
Rowena, although still breathing hard, relaxed in Buffy's arms. As Buffy let go of her, Rowena picked up her box and swiftly walked out the door, not looking back.
"One down," O'Mara said as she looked at Buffy and motioned her toward the door.
"Like she said, this isn't over," Buffy told her, meeting her stare for stare.
O'Mara grinned and waved her hands around them, at the quiet emptiness.
"Obviously, you're wrong."
Buffy bent down and picked up her box and started toward the door.
"Oh Miss Summers?" O'Mara called out, making Buffy stop and turn around just shy of the entrance. "Do you have a place to stay, or should we just drop your extra belongings we find at the nearest I-90 viaduct? I have plans to turn this place into a needed parking lot soon."
Buffy grinned. "Don't pay your architect just yet," the slayer warned. "We'll be back." She then left without saying anything else.
O'Mara just shook her head and began to look around the empty space again. Her smug grin returned.
"Lock it down, boys," she told the guards. "The Council is closed for business."
End of Teaser
To Act One