Story by Zahir al Daoud
Written by Zahir al Daoud and CN Winters
Directed by Zahir al Daoud and CN Winters
Produced by CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by Lilly
Sounds by CN Winters
Art Direction by Zahir al Daoud
Artists - Zahir al Daoud and Robert Kidman
Cover Art by Zahir al Daoud
Hotel Belvedere, Boston - Day (1986)
The limousine pulled up to a private parking area, one where other luxury cars like Mercedes and BMWs had already parked. Security guards in dark suits with ties stood at various points and a red carpet led to a set of double doors.
From the limousine emerged two men. One was tall, handsome, in a dark chauffeur's suit. He looked in his mid-to-late thirties, with dark brown hair and long features. Moving smoothly, he went from his own driver's seat to the back door without a pause, opening the back door with military precision. The blonde man emerging from the back was at least ten years younger. His own suit, clearly from Savile Row for those who knew what to look for, was gray tweed.
The businessman went straight for the entrance, his chauffeur in tow.
Meeting Room - Moments Later
Curtains hung along the walls. A string quartet played in the corner of the room while tables covered the length of one entire wall. Upon the tables lay a variety of objects, which were being examined by the guests. The guests themselves, an eclectic group to the say the least, chatted amongst themselves while accepting drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Some wore tuxedos. Others had robes, one with a train held by two short retainers with feathers instead of hair. At least three had donned uniforms of different styles.
The businessman and his chauffeur entered without much fanfare. He took a fluted glass of champagne from a waiter then wandered over to one of the tables. Picking up a program, he began to browse, while the chauffeur remained at his side.
"Ah," said the businessman, checking his program and heading for a particular table. Upon it were three objects. One was a seemingly simple wooden box. Second was a ring of crude gold with a large black stone. A triangle within a circle was carved into the stone. The businessman paid no attention to either of these.
His eyes were drawn to the third object - a cylinder a foot high built within an elaborately carved cabinet. The cabinet was covered with icons, depicted a bearded figure with a halo as well as what looked like Byzantine-style spiders. The cylinder itself looked of old glass, milky enough to obscure the contents, which looked like some kind of scroll.
"The reliquary of St. Josephus of Tyre," said a voice behind them. Arching an eyebrow, the businessman turned around. Behind him was an older man with graying hair in a three-piece suit.
"Simon Reede, is it not?" he said in an English accent to the businessman. He held out his hand. "Winston Giles. I represent the Watchers' Council of London."
"Yes," said Reede, his eyebrow still arched. "Still seeking to acquire some of my collection?"
"We are, after all, more than willing to compensate you."
"My parents insured that is not a concern." Reede managed to make the boast an insult against anyone not born to extreme wealth.
"Ah, I was speaking more along the lines of rare objects, works of art - that sort of thing."
Reede considered. "The Nyzarian Scroll is not for sale under any circumstances. And I should warn you, my security systems are not intended to leave any intruder alive."
Mr. Giles gave him the smallest of grins, which only lasted a brief moment. "So we surmised. Actually, we were hoping for a more modest item -The Gospel of Glorificus."
"Hardly my most valuable prize."
"Meaning those you will not part with, save under the most dire of circumstances?"
"Possibly not even then." Reede took a slow, deep breath and examined Winston Giles. "Your offer?"
"A trade - an authenticated map of the city of Poictisme."
For once, Reede looked surprised. "Such an item, if authentic, would be nearly priceless."
"But for our purposes, nearly useless - Hence the trade."
"The Gospel alone?"
"We are also interested in one or two other items - again, not those you yourself prize the most, despite their rarity. The Diary of Cassandra of Bruges, for example."
"You tempt me, Mr. Giles."
Mr. Giles once more afforded him a tiny grin. "Such was my hope."
Their negotiations were interrupted by the sound of a shuddering gasp. Reede's chauffeur was bent over the table, his hands hovering over the lid of the box. The lid was already lifted a couple of millimeters, revealing the tiniest sliver of black. Its contents were of course invisible to the human eye.
"Lehane!" hissed Reede.
Instantly, the chauffeur snapped out of his reverie and let the lid go. The box snapped shut again. Lehane looked at Reede with unfocused eyes.
"Who knew that you so longed for unemployment," said Reede with an unpleasant smile, "And with two daughters so dependent upon their dear father. Well, well, I suppose they had to begin to learn the harsh facts of life sooner or later, didn't they? Such as what a fool their father really is."
"Mr. Reede," began Lehane, "honestly, I have no idea why I did that - you know I've been-"
"I know that I need to find a new chauffeur," said Reede.
"But - my little girls. And my wife, she's sick -."
"Of her pathetic life, no doubt." Reede made a gesture, and one of the servants approached. This one had the air of being in charge. "This man is no longer in my employ. I wish him escorted off the premises at once. Should he resist, I can't say I care what happens."
"Very good, sir." The servant, an older man with ice-cold eyes, looked at Lehane. "Come along. Now."
For a few seconds, Lehane did nothing. Then, his features shifted from shock and fear to one of resentment. "I see," he said, voice low. "I finally see."
Without another word, he was escorted out.
Watchers Command Center - the Present
Felix sat listening to Willow.
“I thought I had it figured out before I put Gwen into the
decontamination chamber,” Willow told him. “I triple checked my estimations
and preliminary calculations and calibrate the sensors offline. Everything
should have been perfect for her new chip.”
“What happened?” Felix asked.
“You name it. Sparks aflyin’, black smoke…asmokin’…Remember
that black out a few weeks ago?” Willow asked as she raised her hand.
“Guilty as charged.”
“So back to the drawing board then?” he asked.
“Yeah, but on a positive note I learned what WON’T work,” she
Felix smiled as the door opened.
"Ah, Miss Summers, Miss Lehane," said Felix, looking up as Faith and Buffy entered the room, dressed in jogging clothes. "Glad you could both make it. I apologize for the early hour."
"No problem," Buffy said. "Anything to get me out of Faith's jog-till-you-hurl program," she said, smirking at Faith. "I have yet to hurl," Buffy said proudly.
Giles raised an eyebrow. "Yes, well, congratulations on your lack of regurgitation."
She smiled but as she took a seat at the head of the table the expression vanished - replaced by one of pain. She rubbed the top of her thighs as her lips formed into an 'o' shape. Faith watched her with a grin as she plopped into the chair between Buffy and Xander's with no problem, which denoted her physical fitness. Others at the conference table included Willow, Lori, Kennedy, and Giles.
Buffy did a double take of Willow. "You cut your hair. Looks cute!"
"Thanks," Willow replied. "Got tired of cleaning spit-up out of the longer stuff."
"Now that's a lovely image," Faith said to Willow before turning to Felix. "So...what's new?" she asked.
"In this case, we're dealing with something old," was his answer. "A contract by Bureau Nine that has come back to haunt us. Frankly, we always thought this might one day turn out to be a problem."
"Which makes it our problem now," said Buffy.
"Yeah, I get that," said Faith.
Felix pressed a button and the screen lit up, showing a picture of what looked like a golden box. Instead of a lid, it seemed to have doors and within was a cylinder of milky glass. "This photograph was taken for insurance purposes."
"Looks like a reliquary," said Giles.
"Of St. Josephus of Tyre." Felix nodded. "A somewhat obscure saint, to be sure, and had he not died a martyr it is unlikely the Church would have canonized him. You see, he was a skilled practitioner of magic in the second century."
"So he was a pagan?" This from Willow.
"No, quite a devout Christian of the era. Technically, one might consider him more a part of the Orthodox tradition than the Roman Catholic, but this was prior to the Great Schism so he is and was counted among the latter's-"
"Could we cut to the chase?" asked Xander. "Unless theology has something to do with, I don't know, what-ever-it-is?"
"Quite right," said Felix with a smile. "St. Josephus gave his life destroying - or perhaps just defeating - a demon called Abbadon the Destroyer."
Willow and Giles did tiny takes. "I'm guessing folks have heard of this guy," said Faith.
"Abbadon is the herald of the end of epochs," said Lori. "He - or she, it depends - manifests by possessing living things in this reality and destroying all it can."
"Destruction and pain are the only kinds of pleasure Abbadon can experience," said Giles. "Legends say it becomes drunk on the sensation."
"Cute," said Faith.
"Jason was telling us," said Giles, "the museum that houses the reliquary hired Bureau Nine years ago to design a security system for their mystical artifacts."
"And the reliquary was stolen last night," Felix said. "So we are sending a team to investigate immediately. I'll be leading it, because the museum officials already know me and I'm familiar with the case. Quite frankly, I was hoping for some Council personnel as well, all the more since the precise nature of the reliquary remains a mystery. The owner, while allowing it to be displayed - for tax reasons I believe - was adamantly opposed to any examination of the artifact. And there is the troubling fact that several demonic magic users and cults have attempted to steal the reliquary before now."
"When was the last attempt?" Lori asked.
"During the French Revolution."
"Okay," said Buffy, "who do you want?"
"Willow for one. Our own on-staff magic-users are simply not up to her caliber and I'd rather be safe given the number of unknowns. Miss Rosenberg, do you mind what will hopefully be a short trip to Boston?"
"I'll have to ask Ro to double check, but I'm fine with that."
Xander shot a quick look of concern to Faith, who then turned to address the table.
"Then I'm going with," said Faith. "Boston's my home town, and besides, me and Red have this whole pattern going. She has my back. I'll watch hers."
"Well, thanks, Faith. That's kinda sweet."
"Just as a point of information," said Felix, "I was going to invite Jeff and Hope along as well. They make an effective team and Hope is as familiar with Boston as you are, Miss Lehane. Possibly more so, since she left the city later than yourself."
"Yeah," said Faith, "but she's not a slayer, and Lorinda might be coming along, but she's not up to my level."
"True enough," said Felix. "I've arranged for a helicopter to pick us up in two hours if that is all right, Miss Summers?"
"Hey, its efficient as all get out. I like it."
"And what about my request for Jeff, and Hope?"
Watchers Hallway - Later
Lori limped out of the command center, but paused briefly. Forty feet across from her, near the elevator, Xander and Faith were standing next to each other but very deliberately not talking. She watched them for a few moments. Then headed in their direction.
When the elevator doors opened, Xander and Faith stepped inside and didn't wait. The doors slid closed before Lori could reach them. She stared at the numbers above the elevator, watching them change.
Watcher Elevator - Continuous
"You think this is it too, huh?" Xander asked.
"Oh yeah. Why do you think I insisted on tagging along?"
Xander nodded, chewed his lip for a few moments. "We're not ready."
"Then we'd damn well better get ready!" Faith hissed. "If we don't, then Willow could be a goner. Whatever the hell this whole reliquary thing is, Felix knows more than he's saying and that puts a target on Red's backside. She'll have nothing but B-Niners all around her!"
"Backup. I'll get Kennedy to talk to the Watchers Boston Branch. Have them ready."
Faith nodded. "And make sure that when stuff starts hitting the fan Casey at least stays here, along with some loyalists," Faith instructed.
"Right." They rode the elevator in silence for a few moments. "Maybe Ro will ask Will to stay behind and we won't have to worry." Faith just gave him a sarcastic expression that showed chances are that wouldn't happen. "Hey, it was wishful thinking, okay?"
Faith grinned. "I'll give you points for originality."
"So, what do you think's really going on in Boston?"
"God only knows," said Faith.
End of Teaser
To Act One