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                                  Teaser
                             Story by Chris Cook
        Written by Chris Cook (with additional writing by Susan Carr)
            Produced and Directed by Chris Cook and CN Winters
                           Edited by Angie Wilson
                                Sound by CSR
                         Art Direction by Chris Cook
                             Artist – Chris Cook

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Fade In:
Int.
Rowena’s Bedroom – Evening

Candlelight flickered in the room and
made shadows appear and disappear
against the wall as cries of passion
filled the air. A thin line of smoke
curled upward from the burned-out
incense stick, and the feet of two
women mingled together in a sea of
cotton sheets on the bed. The couple
lay on their sides facing each other,
with the sheet covering their
nakedness.

Fade Out

Fade To:
Int.
Rowena’s Bed – Evening

Rowena clutched the redhead’s back, her face buried in Willow’s neck.

Willow continued to move sensuously, apparently ignoring any pain she might
feel from Rowena’s nails leaving red marks across her back. Rowena
shuddered, mouth open with no sound as her body convulsed in ecstasy.
Rowena loosened her grip as she tried to catch her breath, but Willow still held
Rowena tightly to her. After a few moments of stillness, the blonde broke into
sobs and Willow’s happy expression melted into concern. But instead of pulling
away, she kept Rowena’s head in
place by stroking her hair and not
letting the woman look up.

"Shh." Willow whispered softly, trying
to get her own rapid breathing under
control. "It’s okay. I’ve got you, Ro.
You’re safe," she coaxed.

After a couple of seconds, Rowena
pulled away slightly and wiped her
wet face. "I’m sorry," she said
obviously embarrassed. "Here I am, blubbering like an idiot."

"Is it happy or sad blubber?" Willow asked as if she was unsure she wanted the
answer, but needed it just the same.

Rowena smiled and stroked Willow’s cheek. "Quite happy."

Willow smiled gently and her shoulders relaxed against the bed. "Then there’s
nothing wrong with that," she answered. "It’s not only about physical
release…it’s an emotional and spiritual one too, sometimes. Tears are perfectly
acceptable and even laughter now and then."

Willow’s index knuckle grazed Rowena’s face and when the finger came close
enough to her mouth, Rowena’s tongue snaked out giving a small lick before
she kissed it softly. The blonde watcher seemed to silently consider Willow’s
words.

Finally she pushed away a sweaty strand of red hair from Willow’s face and
smiled. "Wow, that’s some spell, eh?" she said.

Willow’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. "Spell? What spell?"

"That spell you just cast. I’d say you’re getting your powers back quite nicely.
It’s kind of like that Beltaine thing, except I hope you kept it just between us."

For a moment Willow remained confused and then her eyes hardened slightly.
"You think I cast a spell on you to make you…feel that?"

"Didn’t you?" Rowena asked.

"No," Willow replied.
"Well, I never felt that before. I mean, even when I had your body, it was, well,
not like that."

Willow pursed her lips as if trying to hold back a smug expression and a small
giggle escaped.

"Okay, I know you just said that laughing was okay, but…?" Rowena said
indignant.

"Oh Sweetie, I’m not laughing at you. I swear. I’m…I’m delighted really," Willow
said getting herself under control. "Come here." She rolled back towards
Rowena and once again took the blonde into her arms. "Now," she continued,
finally calm. "I swore I’d never cast a spell on someone without their consent
again, well, unless they’re evil, but I think that goes without saying. But what
happened at Beltaine, that was an accident caused by the Presidium messing
with my magic."

"So, you did that all on your own? That was all natural?" Rowena asked.

Willow looked into Rowena’s eyes with a loving grin. "One hundred percent
unsweetened," Willow teased, "but…yeah, just us, no mojo."

Rowena’s face blushed brightly even in the dim light from the candles. She
tangled her fingers in Willow’s hair and pulled her face closer until their lips
met in a passionate kiss. Breaking off she asked, "Does this mean I can make
you feel that way, too?"

"Oh yeah," Willow said, her voice heavy with renewed arousal.

"Will it always be that…" Rowena paused as if searching for the right word.
"Good?" she finally settled on, heat still gracing her cheeks.

"Oh no," Willow said and Rowena’s eyes raised questioningly. "Sometimes it’s
better."

"Better?" Rowena answered amazed before a smile slowly took shape on her
face.

"Um Hm," Willow answered as she rolled Rowena on top of her. "I hope you’re
up on your multiplication tables, because you’ve only just begun your lessons."

Rowena smiled sensuously before she began to kiss her way down Willow’s
neck.

"Good thing I’ve always been a quick study," she said before she wiggled her
eyebrows and darted under the sheet.
Willow opened her mouth as if to say something, but instead let her head fall
back against the pillow. "Good thing," she muttered absently.

Fade Out

Fade In:
Int.
TransWorld Atlantic Shipping – Nightwatchman’s Office – Same time

The office was old and cluttered, dominated by a wide window looking out over
the expanse of water beyond the piers, the glass panes tinged with grime at
their corners. A lone guard sat reading a magazine with his feet up on the desk,
ignoring the portable television perched atop a filing cabinet. He turned the
magazine sideways to let the centerfold open, gave an appreciative whistle,
then hurriedly stuffed it in a drawer as the door behind him opened with a
squeak from its old hinges.

"Nada," the second guard said, giving a cursory glance through the window at
the dark bay dotted with the navigation lights of various late-working boats.

"Told you," the first guard shrugged, nudging a wheeled chair towards his
comrade with his foot. "Take a load off Lenny. You’re new, eager, I get that, but
trust me, ninety percent of the alarms here don’t work too good. And the other
ten only pick up rats. I got no problem with rats, they stay in their holes, we
stay in our office, everyone’s happy."

"What’s on?" Lenny asked, settling down and opening a can of beer from the
bar fridge beneath the desk.

"SVU," the man shrugged, opening a can for himself. "Beats walking the
perimeter. Cheers." They sat back
and gazed at the battered old TV for a
moment.

"Doesn’t it get to you, how formulaic
this is?" Lenny asked after a moment.

"Hmm?"

"I mean, every episode they start with
a couple of random people, they talk
for fifteen seconds about something
that’s nothing to do with the plot, then- bam! The victim shows up, random
person A and B never show up again. Why not just skip to the detectives?"

"You think too much."
"Anyway, it’s a rerun."

"Reruns are better," the guard said with authority, "that new ADA, she doesn’t
do it for me. The one they used to have was hot."

Both men winced as a spotlight
crossed the window, shining
blindingly bright for a moment into
the dim office before it moved on.

"Aw, goddamnit," the seated guard
complained, "jerks not looking where
they’re shining those damned
things…"

"She’s a big one," Lenny noted,
"anything due?"

"Uh, the…" he searched the crowded drawer for a shipping timetable, "the…
yeah, the Ceres, due eleven-thirty for pier ten, down east. She’s early."

"Yeah," Lenny agreed, peering through the grimy glass at the collection of
spotlights on the lake beyond, "she…Carl…"

"What?" The guard stood and looked through the window.

"Oh Jesus! Run!"

Cut to:
Ext.
TransWorld Atlantic Shipping Pier – Same time

Heedless of anything in its way the Ceres, a gigantic cargo ship riding high in
the water with empty decks, continued on its course straight towards the
Cleveland shore. As distant sirens sounded from police boats the ship rammed
through the flimsy wooden piers, crushing motorboats and moored tugs as it
went. Two tiny figures burst from a warehouse, running as fast as they could,
when the massive freighter crashed into the dock proper, driving up an
eruption of shattered concrete and
twisted metal like a bow wave of
debris before it.

A second later its prow, bent and
scarred but still plunging forward,
smashed through the front of the
warehouse, tearing through its thin
metal walls like paper. Amid showers of sparks, gushes of flame and the
deafening din of the collapsing building the ship reared up, tilting sideways as
its hull scraped against the shattered ruin of the dock, the sound of screaming,
tearing reinforced steel blanketing the night as the huge vessel entombed itself
in the wrecked dockland.

Fade to:
Int.
Ceres Bridge – Same time

An eerie silence descended over the devastated dockland, as the last screech of
tearing metal died away, and even the distant emergency sirens, and the
bleating alarms from the bridge’s computers, seemed to become hushed as the
great vessel stilled.

Radio microphones hung at an odd angle from their cords, unheeded as faint
voices emerged through their static, the dockland authorities repeating again
and again their call for the ship’s crew to reply. A couple of pens rolled off the
slanting consoles, clattering away on the floor.

At their stations, the bodies of the crew lay motionless, slumped over like rag
dolls.

Cut to:
Ext.
Ceres Main Deck – Same time

The searchlight of the first helicopter
on the scene panned over the vacant
container deck. A figure garbed in a
tattered black cloak walked the length
of the vessel, heading for the prow. It
didn’t hurry or dodge about, but
whenever the searchlight swept
across the deck, the figure was
always just outside its path.

As more helicopters approached, and
the sirens of fire trucks and police
cars drew near, the figure reached the prow, now tilted up twenty meters above
the wreckage of the obliterated warehouse. It calmly stepped off the edge and
dropped into the shadows without a sound.



                                  End of Teaser
                                Act One


 With Felicia Day as Vi, Norika Fujiwara as Mia, Lindsay Felton as Skye, Asia
    Argento as Marie, Alicia Silverstone as Heli and Avril Lavigne as Janet

Guest staring Hank Azaria as Carl, Harry Shearer as Lenny, Chris Bath as the
TV newswoman, Barbora Kodetova as the rave girl, Christopher Meloni as the
                                  detective
                    and Kate Beckinsale as the Kudlak.



Fade In:
Ext.
TransWorld Atlantic Shipping Pier/Ceres Wreck – Later

Evening was becoming night, but the area around the wrecked cargo ship was
bathed in light from circling helicopters and huge floodlight towers that
emergency crews were hastily moving into position. A ring of red and blue
lights a mile wide, from police cars and barricades, surrounded the scene of
devastation, keeping back a small armada of news vans, while the local news
helicopters hovered warily overhead, the journalists within speaking quickly
while looking enviously at the police and rescue choppers that were allowed
over the wreck itself.

On the ground a crowd of reporters and general onlookers, waiting eagerly for
news, gathered around the entry point in the police cordon, watching as each
ambulance, rescue vehicle and personnel carrier moved through. Inside the
barricades a mobile command post stood to one side of the convoy of vehicles,
the police officers around it doing
their best to ignore the shouted
questions from the press behind the
barricades.

"At present the authorities haven’t
elaborated on their earlier
statements," one of the reporters was
saying breathlessly into her camera,
"but a quarantine zone remains in
place around the docks here, adding
weight to the speculation that the
crew of the ship may have succumbed to some kind of virus, which rendered
them unable to prevent this catastrophic collision. We have no word yet on
their condition, but there are emergency vehicles within the exclusion zone
now, so it’s possible there are survivors being treated."

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Same time

"That’s in addition to earlier concerns about the possible ignition of spilled
fuel," the reporter continued from a wide-screen TV positioned between the
shelves, largely ignored by the various watchers and watchers-in-training who
were busying themselves around the room. Andrew kept an eye on the screen,
making the occasional note, and looked up when the doors near him opened to
reveal Faith, in motorcycle leathers.

"Just got in," she said, handing him her helmet. "What’s up? Some tanker hit
something?"

"A freighter," Andrew clarified, "sailed right into the docks – it’s kind of
Dracula-ish." He stood and followed her to the main table, where Robin and
Giles were conferring, while Willow sat nearby voicing the occasional thought
as she worked through the books in front of her.

"I’m assuming there’s a demon angle to this," Faith went on, nodding her
greetings to the others, "not that I
wouldn’t want to help out, but we
weren’t emergency services last time I
checked…"

"One of our contacts put in a call,"
Robin said. "According to him the
crew were all dead, at their stations,
quote: ‘completely drained, through a
neck wound.’ We’ve had word passed
around to the authorities to be
careful, but so far there’s no sign of
whatever did this. They won’t put out a statement denying the virus story until
tomorrow morning, so we’ve got all night to search the quarantine zone without
being seen."

"We’ve got slayers on the scene?" Faith asked.

"Kennedy was leading a patrol nearby," Giles said, "they’re in the docks now,
coordinating with our people in the police."

"And Ro’s with Dr. Miller," Willow spoke up, "they’re heading to the temporary
morgue on the scene, to check the bodies. The report we got specifically said
they had a single neck wound, not two, so whether it’s a vampire or something
else…" she shrugged.

"It’s possible it was a miscommunication," Robin added, "they’re not as
experienced as we are with checking vamp bites. Either way we’ll know for sure
soon."

"Right. How’s Ken doing?" Faith asked.

"They haven’t found anything yet," Giles said, "they’re continuing to search. If
they haven’t found anything by daybreak we’ll try to arrange for Willow to be
escorted onto the vessel, to check for signs of what kind of creature did this."

"And if they do find anything, stake it," Faith nodded, scooping up her helmet
from Andrew again. "I’ll head out there. So much for a night off," she said to
Robin with a rueful grin.

"I second that," Willow mumbled to no one in particular.

Cut to:
Ext.
Dockland Warehouses – Same time

Kennedy walked silently through the gap between two warehouses, her eyes
alert for any sign of her prey. She
paused as her radio earpiece spoke to
her, and slid the stake in her hand
back into the sleeve of her white
jacket.

"Ken here, what’s up?"

"Faith’s on her way," Robin told her,
"she’s got backup with her."

"Okay," Kennedy nodded, heading for
another alleyway, "I’ll finish this sweep then we’ll switch over. Out." She flipped
a switch on the radio controller on her belt. "Girls? The cavalry’s on the way.
Finish your patrols and meet back at the rendezvous point." She listened as the
other slayers confirmed their orders, then dropped the stake back into her
hand and prowled forward into the mouth of the alley.
All was still as she walked its length, the only sound coming from a helicopter
that passed by overhead. Kennedy
glanced absently up at it, then
lowered her gaze again to ground
level.

A woman was standing in front of
her, only a few feet away. She wore a
dark, ragged cloak, black but stained
by grime and dirt in patches, making
it seem a dirty gray. Her head was
lowered but she was staring at
Kennedy, through her tangled black
hair. Kennedy frowned at her, and surreptitiously thumbed a button on her
belt radio.

"I’m at the eastern corner of my search block," she said quietly when the
channel opened, "we’ve got a suspect here…hold on." She lifted her head, her
eyes never leaving the silent woman, and spoke out loud.

"Hey-"

The moment the word left her mouth the woman leapt forward, seeming to fly
the distance between herself and Kennedy. The slayer dodged instinctively,
rolling backwards as a pair of hands that were suddenly long-fingered, vicious
talons struck the concrete ground where she had been standing.

"Woah!" Kennedy had time to yell, before the vampire leapt again, a feral hiss
emerging from her throat. Kennedy caught her wrists as she lunged and rolled
again, pulling the vampire with her and using a foot planted in her stomach to
toss her away. She scrambled to her feet just as the vampire hit the side of the
warehouse and crashed to the ground.

"Oh-kay," Kennedy muttered, "come get some." She flipped her stake, catching
it point-down as the vampire rolled upright and charged again. Kennedy leapt
at it, and the two collided in mid-air, crashing down to the concrete. Kennedy
grunted in protest as one of the vampire’s claws gripped her arm tightly,
tearing her jacket and drawing blood, but her other hand drove the stake into
the creature’s chest. She rolled, keeping the vampire in her grip, and pushed
her body weight down, impaling her opponent.

"There ya-" she began to say, then she hesitated as the snarling woman
remained solid. "-go?"
The vampire pushed itself upright, tossing Kennedy to the ground in one fluid
motion. The slayer rolled with the impact, ending up crouched a few feet away
as the vampire pulled the stake from its chest and looked at it.

"Ken!" Heli called from the end of the alley, skidding into view.

"Stay back!" Kennedy yelled.

The vampire’s head flicked around, fixing Heli with a stare, and it threw the
stake at her with one flat swipe of its arm. She jerked back with a startled cry,
clutching at her side as the weapon cut a gash in passing before punching
through the metal side of the warehouse behind her.

"Oh no ya don’t," Kennedy growled as she charged, wielding a foot-long blade
that extended from the hilt she let fall out of her other sleeve into her hand.
The vampire whirled to face her and caught the blade between her open palms,
and with a terrific heave lifted Kennedy off her feet and threw the slayer over
her head behind her.

On the verge of colliding painfully with the warehouse wall, Kennedy somehow
twisted around in mid-air, planting her feet on the wall and pushing back off,
catching the vampire around the waist as she cannoned into her and sending
them both to the ground. She wasted no time in pressing her advantage,
rearing up astride her opponent and aiming a swipe at her neck. The vampire
twisted her torso around, barely avoiding the blade’s swing, then rolled,
pinning Kennedy beneath her.

"Get off!" Kennedy shouted, kicking at the vampire’s legs to throw her off
balance. The two struggled apart just as Heli, limping slightly from the pain in
her side, reached them, aiming a crossbow at the vampire.

"I don’t think that’ll-" Kennedy said as the other slayer fired, putting a foot-long
wooden bolt through the vampire from chest to back. She calmly reached
behind her and pulled the bolt through, keeping her eyes on the two slayers as
if her wound was barely noticeable.

"Damn," Heli said, surprised.

"Yep," Kennedy agreed. Two more slayers appeared, one at either end of the
alley, and the vampire looked back and forth, judging the odds.

"Okay," she went on, advancing slowly on the cornered vampire, "now let’s just
be nice and civilized while we rip your skanky head off and see if that dusts
you." She feinted a kick at the vampire’s legs, but had to lunge to catch the
creature as it dodged unnaturally fast. She caught her prey’s leg, and slayer
and vampire both fell to the ground, with Heli closing in quickly, blade in hand
to deliver the final blow.

Instead the vampire struck out, and with an audible cracking of ribs Heli was
thrown across the alley, crying out in pain as she landed in a crumpled heap.
The vampire flipped to her feet and made to close in on the fallen slayer, but a
hand on her shoulder stopped her. Kennedy spun her around and landed a
heavy punch directly on her jaw, sending her reeling.

"Not so nice when you’re on the receiving end, huh?" she said, following up
with two more punches. Seeing the vampire staggering she kicked her squarely
in the chest as hard as she could.

She and the other slayers were surprised to see the vampire literally hurled
back, leaving a body-sized dent in the warehouse wall where she hit two yards
above the ground before falling. Before she landed she twisted around,
reaching out a claw to snag the end of a ladder bolted to the wall. Before
anyone could reach her she had swung onto the ladder and darted up towards
the rooftop.

"Come back here!" Kennedy yelled, leaping after her. She cleared two rungs in
one jump and scrambled up after the retreating vampire.

"Circle around!" she ordered the other slayers, "make sure she doesn’t get down
the other side! Lyn, check on Heli!" Just as she reached the top, though, the
vampire, an indistinct shape in the gloom above the faint spotlights below,
leapt from the top of the ladder, flying 20 yards clear across the alley, landing
with a clunk on the opposite rooftop.

"What the hell," Kennedy said, staring after the retreating shape as it vanished
into the night.

Fade to:
Int.
Watchers Council – Corridor Outside Council Room – Next morning

"What are you doing here?" Kennedy asked, approaching Bonnie who was
waiting outside the Council meeting
room, deliberately avoiding eye
contact with the various people
passing through the doorway.

"Restricted area," the woman noted
sourly, nodding towards the door, "I
can’t go in unless- Mr. Giles?" she
broke off, seeing Giles approach.
Kennedy shrugged and walked past her.

"As you can see we’re busy," Giles said evenly, "if this is about your living
conditions it can wait until later."

"It’s about the ship that wrecked itself last night," Bonnie replied.

"Yes?" Giles asked. Bonnie raised an eyebrow and tilted her head towards the
Council room.

"Willow," Giles asked, seeing the witch approaching, "her ‘invitation’ can be
revoked, can’t it?"

"Oh, yeah," Willow said, "as soon as she leaves the room the barrier re-
establishes itself."

"Very well," Giles sighed, "come in." Bonnie silently followed Giles and Willow
into the room.

"To start off," he said, taking his seat at the head of the table, "just to bring
everyone up to speed, Faith?" The
senior slayer, looking somewhat tired,
looked up from the cup of coffee she
was nursing.

"Our girls went over every square
inch of that place until dawn," she
said, stifling a yawn, "and nada. We
know the vamp didn’t double back to
the wreck, she’d have been seen – our
people and the police. Delta got a
glimpse of something moving fast over
the rooftops, south of where Ken met her vamp, my guess is that she gave the
cops the slip somewhere on the perimeter and is lying low in the city."

"We’ve had the police rule out the virus story," Robin added, "no need to panic
people."

"And it definitely was not a virus that incapacitated the crew?" Giles asked.

"No," Ro said, "not unless you can catch disembowelment and neck rippings
now. Some kind of demon definitely killed the ship’s crew. Whether it was a
vampire, though…"
"What I fought last night was a vampire," Kennedy said firmly, "no question. No
demon sets off my vamp radar like that. It was different, though. For one thing,
the usual stake through the chest didn’t seem to have much of an effect."

"You mentioned it had claws?" Giles prompted.

"Like, wolfman claws?" Andrew asked, handing a fresh coffee to a grateful Faith
from his breakfast trolley, "or more Lady Deathstrike?"

"The latter," Kennedy said with a wan grin, "plus no teeth, and no ‘grr’," she
gave an exaggerated frown, mimicking a vampire forehead. "But other than that
she was grade A vamp. Real fast, and strong."

"The autopsies of the crew support that," Ro noted, "they weren’t your usual
draining victims."

"How so?" Robin asked.

"Well for one, there was only one puncture. And they weren’t just drained of
blood, the entire torso had been emptied. From the remains, I’d say the
internal organs were shredded and consumed. The ribcage and spine were
largely pulverized as well, within the damaged area we didn’t find any remains
larger than splinters half an inch long."

"No thanks," Kennedy quietly said to Andrew, who was offering her a toasted
sandwich, "I just lost my appetite."

"All in all," Ro finished, "I’d say we’re looking at a vampire subspecies. They
turn up occasionally-"

"Like Dracula," Willow muttered.

"Oh not again," Xander grimaced.

"-usually the result of black magic, or a kind of quasi-evolution that seems to
go on to fit localized niches."

"Claws, no fangs, consumes internal organs," Giles mused, "it doesn’t ring a
bell."

"We’ve got until nightfall to hit the books," Willow suggested.

"Not so sure," Kennedy answered. "If this thing can survive a stake it might
survive sunlight too. We don’t know what we’re dealing with."
"We should be safe there," Rowena said warily, "there’s never been a recorded
subspecies with resistance to direct sunlight. Unless we’re dealing with
something new…"

"Once we narrow down the type of vampire," Willow added, "we’ll be able to look
up ways to get rid of her."

"And given that she gave us a run for our money," Faith added, "we’ll be
fielding all our best in a single unit tonight. Me, Ken, Vi, Mia, Marie – I’d have
liked Heli but she’ll be off duty for a couple of days. We’ll take our heavy-duty
gear. Xander, you up for being wheel-man?"

"I’ve got no plans," Xander said.

"We’ll spread everyone else on patrol as usual, and the moment someone spots
our mystery girl we’ll intercept her and do whatever you guys think will kill her.
Or, you know, just beat the hell out of her and chop bits off until she dusts, I’m
willing to bet that works too."

"Very good," Giles said, "Bonnie, does your contribution involve the slayers at
all?"

"Not that I can think of," she replied.

"In that case, Faith, Kennedy, you might prefer to get some rest."

"I hear ya, boss," Faith yawned, rising from the table as the watchers remained
seated and turned to Bonnie.

"TransWorld Atlantic is a legitimate company," she began, "but there’s a group
within them that deal with demon migration – as you know vampires prefer to
travel by sea, so as to remain out of
sunlight-"

"Yes," Giles said impatiently.

"They’re a benign group," Bonnie
went on, ignoring his tone, "they don’t
deal with hostile vampires as a rule."

"The evidence kinda suggests they did
in this case," Willow noted.

Bonnie shrugged. "It’s possible they
weren’t aware of what they were transporting."
"They thought it was a nice vampire?" Ro asked skeptically.

"Since the Council was established here," Bonnie continued, "a minority of
vampires would rather survive on legally-obtained pig’s blood than risk being
hunted and killed by a slayer patrol. It’s not a matter of being ‘good’ or ‘evil’, it’s
just a matter of being smart enough to survive. These vampires need to do
business just like everyone else – they need jobs, food, shelter and transport,
and they know better than to kill the people who provide them. Does anyone
else have any sarcastic comments they’d like to air?"

"You’re complaining about sarcasm?" Willow asked.

"I don’t like competition," Bonnie said, waving a hand dismissively. "The
TransWorld group won’t deal with the Council – if you make enquiries you’ll get
no answers, and if you push harder they’ll destroy their records and relocate."

"But you know some people?" Robin asked rhetorically.

"I know some people," Bonnie said with a faint smile. "Get me a phone and a
laptop with broadband and I’ll get you everything the company knows about
this creature." The various watchers exchanged glances.

"Set me up in the library with someone to watch me, if you like," Bonnie added,
"in case you’re worried that I’ll try to contact the Presidium and try to get
myself reinstated in their good books."

"Why are you suddenly eager to help?" Giles asked.

"Because I’ve got no better option," Bonnie said flatly. "You people burned my
bridges with the Presidium when you killed my former boss, so that puts me on
your side. Take it or leave it."

Cut to:
Int.
Slayer Gym – Later

The largest punching bag swung alarmingly on its chains as Kennedy worked it
over. Mia wandered in from the
dorms, headed for the weight sets,
but changed course when she saw
Kennedy.

"Don’t you sleep?" she asked, as
Kennedy backed up and moved to
kicking routines.
"I slept," she replied in between blows.

"For an hour," Mia countered.

"I am a slayer," Kennedy retorted, giving the bag a particularly vicious
roundhouse kick. "At least," she added in an undertone, "I’m supposed to be."

"Who says you’re not?" Mia asked, moving in behind the bag to hold it as
Kennedy continued her pummeling.

"Well last night wasn’t exactly gold star material," she complained. "I mean, on
principle, when a vampire slayer meets a vampire, it should really end up with
the vampire being slayed. Not cracking half of Heli’s ribs and getting away."

"On principle," Mia added, "a vampire with a stake through her heart should
end up gritting someone’s driveway. And Heli’s going to be fine – no harm, no
foul."

"Yet," Kennedy scowled. "I was this close to her, had her pinned, swung at her –
and I missed."

"You missed or she dodged?"

Kennedy shrugged and moved back in to punching range. "Does it make a
difference to the next person she jumps?" she asked bitterly, as Mia let the bag
go and circled to stand beside her. Kennedy drew back and let fly a full-body
swing at the punching bag, then leapt back in surprise as the bag tore free
from its chains and smashed into the mirrored wall several meters behind it.

"That’s seven years bad luck," Mia observed, as the remaining shards of the
mirror tinkled to the floor.

"Great," Kennedy sighed, "put it on my tab. Was that thing half-broken of
something?"

"I’m thinking more along the lines of ‘frustrated slayer taking it out on
inanimate object,’ myself," Mia shrugged. "If you’re not tired, how about
lunch?" Kennedy nodded, then paused a moment while Mia turned away,
staring at the ruined punching bag with a frown.

Fade to:
Int.
The Boiler Room Nightclub – Evening

The converted warehouse was packed with ravers, gyrating in time to the
deafening staccato beat thudding out of the gigantic speakers surrounding the
floor. Black leather dominated the crowd, with a sprinkling of PVC, tattered
lace and metal studs. Eyes closed, the dancers thrust together, many a hand
moving roughly over a partner’s body.
In dark corners money and pills
changed hands. Just above the heads
of the crowd, dancers dangled in
harnesses fashioned from leather
straps attached to chains fixed to the
ceiling, the dancers running through
choreographed routines like
debauched cheerleaders.

The thunderous music completely
covered a commotion from the main
door. The dancers remained unaware as the slim figure of the vampire wove
her way through them, ignoring the vague glances and occasional rough
fumbles from the tightly-packed crowd. Something caught her eye and she
came to a halt, staring at a teenage girl in front of her clad in shining black
from neck to toe, her face a mask of white and carefully-applied black shadows.

"Girl!" the teenager shouted above the din. "Wicked makeup!" She looked up
and down the vampire’s body, taking
in her tattered cloak. "What’s with the
rags?!"

The vampire appeared to study her
for a moment more, then opened her
mouth, her tongue stirring. With only
a second’s hesitation the teenager
stepped forward and put her hands
on either side of the vampire’s face,
leaning in to kiss her.

Instead though the creature’s tongue shot out from between its lips, the razor-
sharp tendril piercing the stunned girl’s throat, throwing a fine spray of blood
back over the vampire and the dancers behind her. Shouts of aggravation
turned to screams as the girl collapsed, convulsing, her hands clutching at her
stomach in agony as the vampire’s lash-like tongue drove further and further
into her esophagus, writhing inside her.

The press of people panicked and tried to flee, as the vampire began to feed.

                                End of Act One

                                 Act Two
Fade In:
Ext.
The Boiler Room Nightclub – A short time later

Police cars formed a blockade at the end of the dead-end street leading to the
converted factory that housed the nightclub. Distraught ravers, their clothes
and faces spattered with blood, were being checked by EMTs, and police were
moving quickly from person to person, trying to gather any information on
what had happened inside. SWAT officers were crouched behind the blockade,
covering the entrance to the club.

Faith led her group of slayers, with Xander in tow, through the crowd, and
caught the eye of a particular detective. He passed word to a colleague, then
looked back at Faith and glanced to the far corner of the street, where the
crowd was thinnest at the edge of the police lines. She nodded, and a moment
later she and the others were through
the perimeter, shielded from the view
of the crowd by a SWAT van.

"Ma’am," the detective said, "the
description is a Caucasian female,
early thirties, wearing black. Some
people said…well, it was dark in
there, and probably stronger stuff
than a few joints doing the rounds-"

"Thanks officer," Faith cut him off,
"the description matches, she’s a code five. We’ll take it from here. Any other
exits to this place?"

"There’s a fire exit to that alley there," the detective said, pointing, "we’ve got
men covering both ends. No ‘laymen’, no cameras."

"Ken, Marie," Faith said over her shoulder, and the two slayers headed for the
alleyway, Kennedy carrying a bulky bag almost as long as she was tall. Faith
pulled a mobile phone from her pocket and hit the speed-dial, then handed it
to the detective.

"Robin Wood," she said, "if you need to know something, talk to him."

"Yes ma’am," the detective said, standing back.

"I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to being called ‘ma’am’ by senior cops,"
Faith grinned to herself as she led Mia, Vi and Xander down the dead-end
towards the club’s entrance. "It’s good to be the Council. Slick, you set?"
"We’re ready," the reply came through her earpiece. "Fire exit’s closed from the
inside, no one came out this way."

"Xander?" Faith asked.

"Give it a go," Xander replied from behind the other slayers, turning on his light
and raising a video camera. Faith grinned and waved into the lens.

"Hey Giles," she said to it, "are Red and Ro playing footsies under the table?"

"Faith!" Willow’s voice sounded through the earpiece.

"Giles is cleaning his glasses now, isn’t he?" Faith asked with a smirk.

"Furiously," Ro deadpanned.

"Nice one," Faith nodded to Xander, "Project: Virtual Watcher works like a
charm. Girls, choose your weapons, let’s go bag us a vamp, huh?"

Cut to:
Int.
The Boiler Room Nightclub – A moment later

Faith, Mia and Vi walked slowly through the open front door of the club, with
Xander following, carrying a weapons bag in his free hand. The beams of their
flashlights and the searchlight on Xander’s camera panned through the
darkened space, which without its inhabitants was gloomy, cavernous. As the
lights moved, the pillars and hanging light fixtures cast eerie shadows.

"Body," Faith noted.

"You getting this?" Xander asked, kneeling by the corpse with his camera.

"Same unique neck wound," Ro noted via the radio, "it’s definitely the vampire
from the Ceres." There was a clang from the far side of the floor, making all four
start.

"Just us," Kennedy apologized. "We’re in, checking the corridor now."

"More bodies," Mia said quietly, panning her light around.

"Oh jeez," Xander said weakly.

The slayers looked to see the beam from his searchlight illuminating one of the
suspended dancers, now a hollowed-out shell, limp in her harness. Blood
dripped from her mouth, nose and ears, and ran down her legs, pooling on the
dance floor beneath her. The searchlight passed across the other dancers, all
dead.

"Someone was hungry," Faith said grimly, glancing across the floor as Kennedy
and Marie emerged from the distant fire exit. She looked back down, spotting
another corpse.

"Huh," she muttered, "naked girl…even I wasn’t that forward back in my rave
days." She stepped back and reached into Xander’s bag, drawing out a hand
axe.

A hiss echoed around the empty space, startling all six. Vi and Mia closed
around Xander, two swords snapping
into place in Vi’s hands, Mia leveling
a bulky crossbow.

"There!" he yelled, pointing with his
free hand. The spotlight from the
camera lit the vampire, crouched
vulture-like on top of a wall of
darkened video screens. The tattered
cloak was gone – now she wore her
first victim’s outfit, sleek and black.
Faith, closest to her, advanced.

"Marie, stay with Xander," she said calmly, as Vi and Mia moved up on either
side of her, "no stakes, go for the neck. Ken, you feel like working out that
frustration of yours?"

"You don’t need to ask twice," Kennedy replied grimly, dropping her large bag
to the floor and unzipping it. She reached inside and pulled out her heavy
polearm, one end a huge axe blade, the other a vicious flail.

"C’mon Larry," she said, starting to swing the weapon around herself, "I know a
vamp who’s just dying to meet you."

Faith lifted her axe in one hand, pointing the top of its blade at the vampire as
she advanced, with her sword held back in her other hand. Vi circled to the
left, while Mia held back, her crossbow whirring quietly as it drew back the
string on a heavy-headed bolt.

"Crew of thirteen on that ship," Faith said to the vampire, "and I count maybe
ten in here… you’ve been a bad girl."

The vampire hissed again, and Faith whirled into action, swinging her axe and
sword at once. The vampire sprung out of her crouch, just ahead of the
descending axe blade which smashed through the TV screen she had been
atop, and she twisted in mid-air to avoid the sword which swung just past her
legs as she moved. Vi leapt forward, swinging one blade then the other, but the
vampire caught both in its claws as it landed, striking sparks in the darkness.
In the space of a heartbeat it straightened, pulled Vi’s arms wide, and butted
her in the forehead, releasing her swords as she reeled back.

As if gifted with prescience it leapt a second time, flipping backwards as Mia
fired from behind it. The bolt passed beneath its body, then struck the far wall
a second later, splashing fluid across a square yard and instantly igniting it.
Mia barely had time to react as the vampire landed in a handstand in front of
her and kicked her hard in the chest with both feet.

"Hey bitch!" Faith yelled, charging again. Her axe and sword flashed through
the air in lightning arcs, striking again and again as the vampire deflected the
blows with its claws. Vi recovered and charged in from behind, adding her
swords to the whirling steel surrounding the creature, but still it dodged and
parried, its arms moving at superhuman speed.

Without warning it leapt straight up, one leg stretched in either direction,
catching both Vi and Faith in the jaws as they reacted, sending both slayers
sprawling. The vampire was twisting around, at the apex of its jump, when the
flail end of Kennedy’s whirling polearm caught it squarely in the back and
hurled it with shattering force to the ground.

"Round two to the human," Kennedy grunted as she spun the weapon behind
her back, the spiked flail building up momentum again.

"Nice," Faith coughed, getting to her feet and taking a step towards the
crumpled vampire.

"Careful!" Kennedy warned, at the same time as the vampire launched itself off
the ground. Faith threw herself back to dodge a scything claw, parrying by
instinct with her axe, while Mia hefted her crossbow and aimed a second
incendiary bolt.

"The old one-two!" Faith called to Mia, who nodded. The vampire’s claws dug
into the concrete ceiling, supporting it as it crouched, inverted, its eyes fixed on
Kennedy and the weapon in her hands. Faith drew back her arm and hurled
her axe at its head, already dodging in anticipation as it wrenched a claw free,
snatched the weapon out of the air and sent it spinning back towards her. The
second’s distraction was enough for Mia’s bolt to strike home, thudding into
the vampire’s stomach and drenching it in flames.

"Now is it dead?" Mia asked, as it dropped from the ceiling into the pool of fire
on the floor. Kennedy, Faith and Vi approached warily, but it took only a
moment for the vampire to rise again,
seemingly oblivious to the immolating
liquid coating it.

"Oh you have got to be kidding me,"
Faith hissed, exasperated, as it
turned to face her. "Girls, all in!" Mia
tossed aside her crossbow and drew
swords, Marie drew a pair of sais
from beneath her thigh sheaths, and
all five slayers charged the flaming
vampire.

Xander watched in horrified fascination as the vampire ducked and weaved at
the center of the deadly melee, her arms blurring as she parried with her claws,
sparks flying in the darkness, her legs lashing out as she dodged sweeping
swords and the ever-present whirling flail strikes Kennedy was aiming at her.
With every turn the flames trailed and failed in the wake of her darting,
spinning body, until none remained.

"Holy hell," he whispered, "are you guys seeing this?"

"We’re cross-referencing resistance to fire," Willow’s voice said. "Faith,
decapitation’s still your best bet unless we turn up something."

"Screw this," Faith growled. "Girls, let’s give her a Thunderbird!"

In the space of a second all five slayers synchronized their attacks, Kennedy
swinging at the vampire’s shins with the axe end of her polearm, Mia slashing
at its waist, Vi sweeping her swords in from the creature’s right, Marie stabbing
her sais in from the left, Faith driving her sword edge in from above, aimed
straight at its neck.

Impossibly, the vampire countered – it twisted around in mid-air, as if it
weighed nothing, its legs flying up, out of the axe’s path, torso contorting
around Marie’s attempted stab and Vi’s cuts, its body rising up, away from
Mia’s slash, and its claws closing around Faith’s sword. In the next moment it
was turning on its attackers – it kicked Vi and Mia as it rose, craned its head
backwards to strike Marie’s crown, then wrenched Faith’s sword from her hand
and cracked its hilt across her jaw. Finding herself the only slayer on her feet,
Kennedy desperately heaved on her heavy weapon, turning its sweep into an
upward slash, but the vampire let Faith’s sword fly away and instead grasped
the polearm in both claws.
It landed facing Kennedy, the pair of them holding the weapon between them,
struggling for control of it. Faith spat out a mouthful of blood and looked up at
the two combatants.

"God!" she coughed. "What the hell was that?"

"Guys," Xander said urgently, "we need backup, real quick!"

"Gimme that you hellbitch!" Kennedy snarled, hauling on her weapon. As she
spoke the nightclub’s fire alarm started blaring, and the ceiling sprinklers
burst into life, dousing the fires burning on the far wall, and the floor from
when the vampire had fallen. Its head snapped up, confused by the sudden
deluge soaking it, and Kennedy took advantage of the split-second distraction,
head-butting the vampire, then flipping backwards, wrenching the polearm
from its grasp as she flew. Her boots splashed on the concrete as she landed,
axe raised.

"Want it?" she yelled. "Come on, come get it!"

The vampire hesitated, for the first time, then leaned forward until it was
crouching on all fours. It stared at Kennedy, its lips curling into a gleeful,
savage grin, emitting a throaty hiss.

"Okay," the slayer responded, "have it your way."

She swung the weapon around herself once, twice, building up speed, then
lunged forward, smashing the concrete floor to dust with the massive flail, then
spinning the weapon again to bring the axe to bear on the vampire as it leapt to
dodge the first strike. The blade caught it in the stomach, and Kennedy drove it
down to the floor, which cracked
beneath the creature’s back as the
slayer embedded the axe in her
midriff.

"You ain’t so tough," she sneered, as
the other slayers closed in.

"You ain’t so tough," the vampire
echoed, in Kennedy’s own voice.

The vampire then struck Kennedy in
her momentary shock, driving its hand palm-first straight through the massive,
thick shaft of the polearm, sending shards of black metal flying as the weapon
broke in two. It was on its feet a second later, the flow of blood from its
ruptured body already slowing to a trickle. As Kennedy watched in disbelief the
wound closed, leaving only the thin gap in the black PVC she wore as evidence
that it had ever been.

The vampire turned lightning-fast, flinging the half of the broken weapon she
still held at Faith and Mia, missing by inches as the axe whirled over their
heads. Then it leapt forward, past Kennedy, and as it flew it blurred, changed,
its whole body remolding itself. By the time it hit the floor it was a huge jackal,
black as night, sleek and powerful, racing blindingly fast towards the
nightclub’s main door.

"Come back here!" Kennedy yelled, giving chase without a second thought.

"Ken!" Faith called, sprinting after her, barely keeping up. By the time they
reached the street outside the vampire-jackal was already leaping upward,
crunching the top of a dumpster then somehow sprinting up an almost sheer
wall towards the rooftop. Faith and Mia, the closest behind her, drew up short,
but Kennedy simply kept going, leaping onto the crumpled top of the dumpster
then launching herself up after the fleeing creature.

"Holy crap," Faith whispered, as Kennedy sprinted up the wall, as if she
suddenly weighed next to nothing.
For a moment it seemed as if she
would catch the jackal’s leg, but her
hand was an inch short, and as it
scrambled to the safety of the roof
Kennedy began to fall. Mia leapt
forward to catch her, but succeeded
only in breaking her fall somewhat as
she slammed into the dumpster,
buckling its lid in completely.

Kennedy looked up from where she
had fallen, dazed, oblivious to Mia’s desperate pleas for her to say something.
The jackal looked down at her from the rooftop with baleful yellow eyes, then
leapt, blurring in mid-air, becoming a huge black-feathered hawk. It vanished
into the night, and Kennedy’s eyes fluttered closed.

Fade to:
Int.
Watchers Council – Infirmary Waiting Room – Later

"Doctor?" Mia, Faith and Willow all said at once, as Dr. Miller emerged from the
examination room.

"I’m confident she’ll make a full recovery," he said, "she’s unconscious, but I
believe there’s no permanent damage."
"Can we…?" Mia asked, gesturing to the examination room. The doctor nodded,
and followed the group into the room.

"There’s no spinal damage," he went on in a hushed voice, while Mia stood by
the bedside and gently took Kennedy’s hand in hers, "which under the
circumstances you described is next to miraculous. She has some head
trauma, and there’s a chance there will be short-term damage, but I consider
that remote. All in all she’s a very lucky woman."

"Her and me both," Mia whispered. She looked around, her eyes settling on
Willow warily, but then her face relaxed and she gave a brief, relieved smile,
which Willow returned.

"When will she wake up?" she asked.

"Naturally it’s difficult to be precise," the doctor replied, "but I think she will
remain unconscious for some time. Perhaps 48 hours."

"Thank you, Doctor," Willow said, "do you need any help from the coven?"

"If you can spare someone capable of aiding diagnosis, I’d like to confirm my
examination," he said, "but unless the situation changes I think it’s best if she
recovers in her own time." Willow nodded.

"Faith," she said quietly, "they’re waiting for us."

"Be right with you Red," the slayer said. As Willow left the infirmary, Faith put
a reassuring hand on Mia’s shoulder.

"She’s a tough kid," she said gently, "she’ll be back on her feet in no time."

"Yeah," Mia nodded, suddenly looking tired as she stood by Kennedy’s bedside,
"five by five, huh?"

"You better believe it." Faith grinned. She pulled a chair over for Mia, then
followed Willow.

Cut to:
Int.
Council Room – Moments later

Willow and Faith entered and took their seats, joining Giles, Robin, Rowena
and Dawn.

"The doctor says she’ll be fine," Willow said as she sat down, causing a general
sigh of relief, "she’ll be up in a few days."
"Isn’t it past your bedtime?" Faith smirked at Dawn, who gave her a friendly
scowl in return.

"She’s been helping with the ancient language work," Willow said, "did that idea
you guys were working on while they brought Ken in turn up anything?"

"Actually yes," Rowena said, "we’re pretty sure we’ve identified the subspecies
we’re dealing with, it’s-" She was cut off by a loud knocking at the door.

"Yes?" Giles called impatiently. The door opened to reveal Andrew, who entered,
and Bonnie, who remained tapping her foot on the threshold.

"Come in," Giles sighed.

"Thank you," she said perfunctorily, "your femme fatal is a Kudlak." She took a
seat, and returned Rowena’s and
Dawn’s stares with blank
indifference.

"How the hell…?" Rowena asked.

"Lots of phone calls," Andrew said
wearily.

"And don’t think it didn’t cramp my
style to have Mr. Wells here listening
in," Bonnie added. "The TransWorld
group dealt with a man in Trieste,
where the ship last stopped, who was working for an Insatia succubus-"

"They’re not hostile," Willow interrupted with a frown, "they just want, well…"

"Sex in massive amounts, hence the name, I know," Bonnie finished. "May I
continue? Succubi, at least the Insatia variety, aren’t a threat to anything
except the happiness of insecure men with delusions of virility, but they do
greatly dislike anything that upsets their routine. Now, I spoke to one of the
Succubus’s happily exhausted legion, and he said that she hired this man to
arrange for a creature she called the Kudlak to be removed from her city."

"Well, thank you," Giles said in the ensuing silence, "that’s most…helpful. If
that’s all, then…" he added, glancing at the door.

"Oh come on!" Bonnie protested. "This is the first time in weeks I’ve had
something better to do than watch reruns of Farscape. Seriously, what’ve you
got to lose here?"
"Very well," Giles nodded, after a brief glance around the table, "stay."

"‘Roll over’, ‘fetch’," Bonnie muttered, settling back in her seat.

"But no sarcasm," Giles frowned.

"Sorry. Reflex action."

"It is a Kudlak," Rowena said once
Giles’s attention was back on her,
"the strength, speed, agility, healing,
the immunity to fire and stakes-"

"Shape-shifting was a giveaway,"
Dawn interjected. "Surprisingly few
kinds of vampires can actually do
that, it’s mostly a myth, or people
getting vamps mixed up with other
demons."

"They’re Slovenian in origin," Rowena went on, "Trieste is the nearest major
port. Kudlaks are a combination of vampire and village bogeyman. According to
folklore they’re responsible for everything that can go wrong in a small farming
community – illness, crop failure, death of livestock and so on. The usual
vampiric behavior applies, aversion to sunlight and crosses, need for blood, et
cetera."

"And turning into jackals and giant bats?" Faith asked.

"There’s references to Kudlaks taking the form of village animals, horses, oxen,
pigs-"

"No kidding?" Andrew asked. "A vampire pig? Count Oink-ula?"

"Either this Kudlak has learned to vary its forms," Rowena continued ignoring
Andrew’s comment, "or the people telling the folk stories weren’t very creative.
Whatever the case, it’s definitely a Kudlak. Everything matches."

"You and Dawn got all that in the ten minutes I was away?" Willow asked,
beaming with pride.

"Only ‘cause you’d already ruled out the entire northern European and African
branches of subspecies," Rowena complimented and then smiled back.

The others around the table grinned indulgently, while Bonnie rolled her eyes.
"Sixty-four million dollar question?" Faith spoke up. "How do we kill it? Is it
still decapitation ‘cuz, if it is, I think we’re gonna need a bigger decapitator."

"Ah, that’s actually quite interesting," Rowena began in a delighted tone,
leaning forward.

"Do tell," Faith replied in a mock chipper voice. "Because getting our asses
kicked and having no way to kill it, well, not as fun as it sounds."

Rowena just sighed and went on. "In folkloric tradition the Kudlak is opposed
by a being called the Kresnik, a sort of vampire hunter – in fact, it’s possible
the story originated from tales referring to a slayer at some point."

"A slayer," Faith said flatly. "If you watch that video tape again, you’ll see we
did bring one or two of those and they didn’t seem to work so well."

"Not just a slayer," Rowena explained, "a Kresnik is a kind of divine anti-
vampire, a magical warrior with all the same abilities and powers that the
Kudlak has. In every variation of the story, the Kudlak and Kresnik confront
one another, and eventually the Kresnik prevails. People like stories with a
happy ending, generally." She shrugged.

"So we need a slayer who can turn into barnyard animals?" Faith asked and
watched as Rowena nodded. "Okay, we don’t have one of those, I’m sure I
would’ve noticed."

"Actually, Dawn has a theory," Rowena said as she motioned to the young
woman. Dawn looked at her, and she smiled encouragingly.

"Okay," the young watcher-in-training began, "I was thinking about this whole
Kresnik thing, and what we saw via Xander’s camera, and did any of you notice
anything unusual during the fight?"

"I noticed how this Kudlak ignored catching on fire and then made us look like
a bunch of amateur potentials," Faith suggested, "most notably busting out of
our five-on-one Thunderbird attack, and I’ve never seen anything get out of a
Thunderbird in less that seven separate pieces."

"Why ‘Thunderbird’?" Andrew asked suddenly.

"Vi invented the move," Faith said ruefully, "so I let her name it. Five-girl
attack, so-"

"Ohhh." Andrew grinned. "I get it, ‘Thunderbirds are go’. Clever."
"Yeah you’d probably think so. Last time I let her name anything," Faith
grumbled good-naturedly. "Sorry, go on," she added to Dawn.

"Anyway, I was thinking," she continued. "Of all five of you, the only one who
landed a hit was Kennedy – twice, in fact. Well, and Mia with the crossbow, but
you drew its attention to distract it for that shot. And then you said Ken leapt
up a three-story wall and nearly made it to the top-"

"You think Kennedy is this Kresnik thing?" Faith exclaimed. "Since when can
she turn into a pig? I mean, I know I say that when she gets to the table early
and grabs all the pop-tarts, but…does she know?"

"Last night," Bonnie interrupted, "she fought the Kudlak, yes? What was she
wearing?"

"Huh?" Faith asked. "I dunno, black rags or something-"

"No, not the Kudlak. Was Kennedy wearing anything white?"

"Was she…uh, yeah. Yeah, that jacket Willow got her for Christmas but what
does that have to do with anything?"

"Ohh!" Dawn and Rowena said at once.

"The succubus in Trieste," Bonnie explained, "was adamant that the people
who put the Kudlak aboard that ship avoid the color white, especially on
clothing. She seemed to think if the Kudlak saw someone wearing white it’d
trigger some kind of aggressive response – more aggressive than usual, that
is…"

"The Kresnik is associated with the color white," Rowena said, "that’s the basic
imagery, Kresnik white, Kudlak black."

"Like Spy vs. Spy," Andrew chimed in.

"So," Dawn continued as Rowena paused, "the Kudlak got here, and ran into a
vampire slayer wearing white who fought it-"

"Naturally it would assume Kennedy was the Kresnik," Giles spoke up for the
first time, "if it’s as folklore-driven as it seems."

"But she’s a Kresnik just because it thinks she is?" Robin asked.
"Folklore can be funny like that," Rowena said. "On the surface it’s just stories,
but if it’s old enough – especially if it’s
been truly believed, even feared,
generation after generation…"

"That’s true," Willow added, "I’ve
studied the phenomenon briefly, with
Al. A kind of latent power builds up,
and when events occur that conform
to the beliefs, the power…it sort of
becomes self-fulfilling. Given what
happened tonight, I’d say there’s an
excellent chance that this Kudlak
folklore is playing itself out, with Ken as the Kresnik. She was in the right place
at the right time - or wrong place, wrong time - and boom, instant folkloric
figure."

"So what’s the problem?" Andrew asked. "If this folklore stuff is self-fulfilling,
we just wait for her to get better, then point her at the Kudlak and stand back
while she plays out the story and dusts it, don’t we?"

"Why didn’t she win?" Faith asked before anyone could answer. "They went
head-to-head tonight. If the story goes that the Kresnik beats the Kudlak, how
come it’s still flying around and our Kresnik girl is lying in the infirmary?"

"Oh," Willow said, suddenly sounding worried, "I think I know…the Kresnik is
magic, right, a sorcerer kind of figure?" Dawn and Rowena both nodded. "That
might mean," Willow went on, "that to defeat the vampire, Kennedy has to
actually play the role she’s been cast in – a magical warrior. It might…just
defeating it by force, or, or being lucky, that won’t work, the magic surrounding
the Kudlak won’t let it be defeated like that. It has to face a Kresnik, someone
who’s consciously wielding the power she’s got."

"Kennedy’s got to do magic?" Faith asked skeptically.

"Not spells, not magic the way we do," Willow replied, "but on some level, yeah,
she may have to accept her role, a magical being, in order to fulfill the story."

"So if she’s just being her usual Kennedy self, no deal?" Andrew asked.

"It’s hard to say for sure," Willow said, "this kind of magic is really primal, it’s
not easily predictable…I’ll double check with the Devon Coven but yeah, it
could be."

"And no one but Kennedy can do it?" Faith asked. "We can’t just all dress up in
white and take it on?"
"Again, I’m thinking no. The magic is playing out through her, so she’s got to
be the one that defeats the Kudlak. But to do that she’ll have to immerse
herself in the magic."

Everyone at the table descended into a somber, thoughtful silence, except for
Bonnie, who looked warily confused.

"So what?" she asked. "Kennedy doesn’t like magic?"

                                End of Act Two

                                Act Three
Fade In:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Morning

Rowena entered the library carrying coffee in one hand and a folder full of
printed pages under her other arm. She gave a quick wave to Dawn and Skye,
secluded in a corner with a copy of Vampyres and Ghouls of Eastern Europe
open between them, then she crossed to the main table where Willow was
flipping through the pages of an old, faded diary. She walked up quietly behind
Willow and reached around her to set the coffee down, making her jump
slightly.

"Meanie." Willow grinned. "Thanks. So how come I get mocha-y goodness and
you only get…what is that?"

"Faxes from Robson," Rowena replied, taking a seat next to Willow and
spreading the folder’s contents around, "everything about myth and folklore as
a motive force. You know, once everything has calmed down I’d love to do a
paper on this. It’s fascinating." Willow’s grin widened and Rowena blushed. "I’m
a total geek, huh?"

"Yeah," Willow said affectionately, "but you’re my geek and that’s the way I
want it."

Rowena smiled and began to sort
through the stack of faxes. "How’s
Kennedy, same as before?"

"She’s awake," Willow said. "Mia was
there so I didn’t stay long, just said
‘hi’ and ‘glad-you’re-better’ and left them to it."

"Awake already?" Rowena asked.

"The doctor said there’s no trace of any of the injuries from last night. She’s
good as new. Already discharged from the infirmary."

"Wow," Rowena murmured, "that is fast, even for a slayer…I wonder if she did
actually take some more serious injury from that fall? The doctor said she was
very lucky not to…"

"Miraculous," Willow agreed, mimicking Dr. Miller’s voice.

"Maybe she did, and healed before they even got her back here to do an exam."
Rowena shook her head. "Does she know? About the Kresnik issue, I mean?"

"Faith told Mia what we’d figured out," Willow said, taking a sip of her coffee.

"So she’ll fill up Kennedy," Rowena mused. Willow choked on her coffee. At first
Rowena looked worried, then confused, before she started to blush. "I meant fill
in Kennedy!" the blonde protested.

"Sure, I know what you meant," Willow teased.

"Hey, my mind’s not the one in the gutter here," Rowena countered as she
leaned over and whispered in Willow’s ear.

"Uh huh," Willow said knowingly before taking a drink from her cup. Rowena
began to look at the faxes as Willow returned to her book. With a smile
creeping to Willow’s face she asked, without looking at Rowena, "Soo, think you
can fill me up later? I mean fill me in. You know, more info on Eastern
European vampires and such?"

Rowena looked over at Willow and then playfully smacked her on the back of
the head with the faxes and muttered, "Smart ass."

Willow softly chuckled in response.

Cut to:
Int.
Kennedy’s Living Room – Same time

"No," Kennedy insisted. "No, no way."

"What do you mean ‘no way’?" Mia asked, remaining seated on the couch as
Kennedy paced back and forth.
"‘No way’ as in I’m not some fairy tale sorcerer hero thing!" Kennedy exclaimed.
"I’m not anyone’s Kresnik. I’m me, just me."

"Ken," Mia said, her tone soothing, "last night you jumped twice your height
straight up that wall. I saw it with my own eyes. Then you scrambled up almost
to the top of that building like you
were on a ladder, and most
importantly-"

"Okay I get it!" Kennedy scowled.

"-most importantly," Mia went on
determinedly, "you’re on your feet
without a scratch on you, when by all
rights you should be flat on your
back in the infirmary hoping you’ll
ever have the ability to walk again."
Kennedy paused in her pacing, and
sat on the coffee table just opposite her. "Don’t tell me I should be pissed off
that you’re safe and well," Mia said quietly.

"Sorry." Kennedy hung her head. "Okay, you’re right, it’s…it’s just, this isn’t
me. I’m not built for magic-."

"I could disagree there," Mia smirked, tracing a fingertip over Kennedy’s knee.
Kennedy managed a smile. "Anyway, you’re magic already," Mia went on, "we
all are, aren’t we? I’m pretty sure your standard-model girl can’t bench-press
twice her weight, or sense when there’s a vampire within twenty yards. Or even
lift that poleaxe of yours which, as I’ve said before, is just stupid big."

"He gets the job done, though," Kennedy grinned, then her face fell, "or did
until now, anyway. But that’s not really magic, that’s just being a slayer. We’re
all like that."

"Right, so now you’re a Kresnik too," Mia suggested. "What’s the problem with
that?"

"It’s not the same," Kennedy insisted, "it’s- I’m a slayer, fine, but I’m not the
slayer, and I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be the anything."

"Why not?" Mia asked simply. Kennedy met her gaze, and sighed wearily.

"Because I screw up," she said in a small voice. "That nickname Faith’s got for
me-"

"Slick?"
"Brat."

"It’s hard to keep track sometimes."

"I know," Kennedy grinned, "she just does it on purpose these days, I’m sure.
Andrew says it’s so she’ll get ‘bonus XP for staying in character.’" She sighed
again. "It’s true. I’m kind of a brat. I’m brash, loud. I say whatever dumb
thing pops into my head some days, and do whatever seems like a good idea at
the time."

"You’re pretty good at picking the good ideas," Mia noted.

"I do okay most times," Kennedy admitted, "but then again, sometimes I just
mess up – and it’s not just because sometimes I’m angry or depressed or not
concentrating. It’s just, a lot of the time I think, ‘Yeah, this’ll work,’ and it
doesn’t."

"Sorry, but welcome to being human," Mia said with a faint grin.

"Fine if I’m a human," Kennedy frowned, "or a slayer. If I screw up there’s
always someone who’s got my back. That’s how it’s always been, and it works.
One potential among many, one slayer among many – now I’m just one. If I
drop the ball now, who picks it up and runs with it?"

She got up and began pacing again.

"Seriously, who in their right mind would give me the shot, if there was only
one chance to do it right? Willow, or Faith, or you – you buckle down and do
what needs to be done. I take wild shots, and they pay off, or they crash and
burn. This Kresnik thing, I…what if I crash and burn? Seriously, when you’ve
got one chance you don’t take a wild shot, you play the odds. I suck at that."

"Is that really what you think?" Mia asked.

"It’s kind of borne out by the evidence." Kennedy shrugged.

"Do you really think you’d be second-in-command of all the slayers in the
Council if you weren’t reliable?"

"That’s why I’m second," Kennedy said, "I get to go charging around like a
maniac getting in over my head. Faith’s the leader, she’s the one the girls look
to when they know it’s do-or-die. She’s been-there, done-that with the whole
making mistakes and life experience thing. Me, I’m just…I’m still at the making
mistakes stage, the screw-up stage-."
"Now you listen to me!" Mia insisted, gripping Kennedy’s shoulders to stop her
pacing back and forth. "You are not a screw-up, you hear me?"

"I know, I know," Kennedy said, placing her hands over Mia’s, "it’s not that, it’s
not a crisis of confidence thing…this is just how I am, and," she added quickly,
before Mia could protest again, "I’m not saying I can’t do anything right…but
I’m a gambler. That’s me – risk big, win big. Or lose big. I mean, that Kadin
woman, for example, that plan was a big damn risk."

"And it paid off," Mia pointed out.

"Right, but if it didn’t? Willow was there as backup. But now, there’s no Plan B.
I fail, that’s it. Game over. Not just me, but the whole city – hell, maybe even
the world. You saw what she did last night."

"I sure felt it," Mia admitted.

"I don’t want to be able to screw up that much," Kennedy went on, "I-if it’s just
me, fine, but it’s not just me. Millions of lives are resting on my shoulders and
if I drop it – head for the hills." She fixed Mia with an intense stare. "I don’t
want that power."

"I’ll…I’ll tell you something," Mia said after a pause. "I’m afraid of guns."

"Huh?" Kennedy frowned, confused.

"I knew Julia had one, under her mattress," Mia explained patiently, "‘just in
case,’ she’d say. It was like a comfort to her, but I was afraid of it. I…even back
then I knew she was, you know, a bit…not so stable, really. I was always afraid
that one day I’d need to talk her out of doing something dumb, and she’d just
pull the gun and say no. And there’d be nothing I could do – wouldn’t matter
who was right, or how persuasive I was, it’d be just, shut up or lights out. It
wasn’t her that bothered me – well, not like that – but the gun, itself. It was
like, power, just waiting, not caring who used it, or what for."

"But I’ve seen you," Kennedy said quietly, "rescuing Ro, you were…fearless."

"No I wasn’t. Not during all the training, either. Guns still give me the willies
deep down," Mia answered. "But even if I’m scared as hell, I have to look
confident to those other girls so they’ll have courage and get the job done."

There was a long pause, while Kennedy stared at Mia, and she calmly returned
the stare, unflinching.

"You’re saying I’m afraid of this?" Kennedy asked finally, quietly.
"You saying you’re not?" Mia countered. It was Kennedy who broke the stare,
looking down, away.

"No," she said. "No, I’m not saying that."

"Good because you’d be crazy if you weren’t scared. And I know you. You’re not
crazy but I also know that, in the end, you’re not a coward."

Kennedy gave her a soft smile. "Say? You up for some gym time? I think best
when I’m working out."

Mia returned the smile and motioned with her hand. "Lead the way."

Fade to:
Int.
Slayer Gym – Later

"I need lunch," Mia said a couple of hours later, standing away from the
dummy she had been practicing kicks on.

"Be there soon," Kennedy said, without pausing in her punching routine.

"Hey," Faith called, entering the gym in her workout gear and approaching Mia
as she headed for the door, "how’s Slick?"

"Thoughtful," Mia grinned, "and not short on stamina." She pointed to
Kennedy, whose hands were a blur as she rained quick punches into her
target. "She’s been doing that for two hours non-stop."

"No kidding," Faith raised her eyebrows, "well, you oughta be the happy girl
tonight." Mia rolled her eyes, and left Faith to approach Kennedy.

"Hey," she said, starting her warm-up stretches, "turned into any cool animals
yet?"

"Har har," Kennedy deadpanned, continuing to pummel the target.

"Let me know if you’re gonna try a panda," Faith shrugged, "I always wanted to
see one of them up close. My teacher once told me they look cuddly but they’d
rip my head off."

"I can’t speak for all pandas of the world but this one just might if she has to
listen to anymore animal jokes," Kennedy countered.

Faith smiled and gave a soft laugh, making Kennedy finally grin.
"So," Faith began, "aside from endless stamina and overnight healing, how’s life
treating you?"

"It’s…complicated," Kennedy admitted, looking serious again.

"I bet. Anti-magic girl gets magic powers, jeez," Faith gave a bark of laughter.
"That’s the kind of thing I hear Andrew springs on his RPG group that he keeps
wanting me to join. I tell ya Slick, I’d be pretty unhappy if I got roped into some
damned story without asking for it."

"‘Pretty unhappy’ kinda sums it up,"
Kennedy nodded.

"Still," Faith shrugged, straightening
up, "whatcha gonna do, find the
storyteller and kick him in the teeth?
You know what - hey, stop me if
you’re not in the mood, yeah?"

"I could do worse than getting some
Faith-counseling," Kennedy admitted
with a sly grin.

"What I’d do," Faith went on, "I’d say screw the story, and just do what I do.
There’s a vampire, I slay it. If some messed-up fairy tale logic says I get to use
wire-fu and hit like a sledgehammer, fine – I’ll take that, and hit that vampire
in the face with it."

"That’s…actually, that’s useful," Kennedy said, turning to face Faith.

"I am a genius counselor," Faith agreed. "So, whaddaya say we break out the
heavy equipment and see what you can really do?"

"You’re on." Kennedy grinned.

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Later

"My goddess," Willow said in bemused amazement. She and Rowena were
sitting opposite each other now, each surrounded by dozens of bookmarked
volumes and piles of printouts on vampires in folklore, myth and legend.

"What?" Rowena asked, looking up from a particularly gruesome woodcut in
the Liber Ordo Malleus.
"Vampire watermelons," Willow said
blankly.

"Yeah," Rowena nodded absently,
going back to her reading,
"Yugoslavia, Muslim Gypsies…"

"What do…I mean, they…how?"

"If you keep a watermelon without
eating it for ten days after Christmas
– pumpkins too, I think – they can become vampiric. Not a very widespread
belief, doesn’t happen a lot." She frowned at what she was reading.

"But…no teeth?" Willow asked, staring at the book in front of her with absurd
fascination.

"No, they just roll around… growl occasionally. The old Council used to have a
pair in a glass box in its vault, some watcher in the eighteenth century brought
them back from a trip to the Balkans out of curiosity." Willow looked up, fixing
Rowena with a withering stare.

"You’re making this up," she accused.

"Ask Giles," Ro said distractedly. Willow frowned at her expression.

"What’s up?" she asked. "You’ve got doomsday-face."

"I’m a little worried," Rowena said carefully, "I’ve been cross-referencing the
various Kudlak stories – it’s difficult to tell anything with any degree of
accuracy, there’s gray areas where the records refer to a ‘vukodlak’, an older
Serbian term, and that’s mixed up with werewolves as well as vampires –
probably the shapeshifting…"

"But…?" Willow prompted

"As a rule, according to what I’ve read, a Kudlak isn’t that much of a threat.
They’re evil and predatory, but instances of them actually killing people are few
and far between – mostly it’s non-lethal feeding, during sleep, causing illness,
or they kill livestock, they’re just- they’re village vampires, they can’t do that
much damage, or they’d run out of village."

"But our gal’s killed twenty-six people already, including the freighter crew…"
Willow mused.

"And they were killed not long before the crash," Rowena added with a frown.
"You’ve got a theory?" Willow asked.

"I’ve got a bad theory," Rowena replied.

"As in, bad in terms of scientific practice and working empirically from
evidence, or bad like-"

"Like ‘that’s no moon, it’s a space station’ bad."

"Thank you Obi-Wan," Willow noted.

"God, I’m going to kill Andrew," Rowena sighed. "Okay, consider this: in a
village of, what, fifty people, a Kudlak is a fitting threat, it makes a good story
without going over the top. A few people falling sick, a few animals being killed,
and a village that size is looking at a tough season."

"Fair enough," Willow said.

"But now the Kudlak is in a city of
almost five hundred thousand
people," Rowena went on. "What if it,
I don’t know, scales up?"

"Scales up?" Willow wondered.

"The Kudlak brings death, famine,
disease – to an isolated village, losing
a crop can mean famine, ten people
catching the flu is an epidemic. To a
modern metropolis, those hardships
in proportion… it could cause disaster on a biblical scale."

"You’re right, that’s space station bad," Willow said. "We’ve got to kill this
thing."

"Kennedy has to kill this thing," Rowena corrected.

"I’m gonna go see how she’s doing," Willow said, rising from her seat.

"I’ll come with you."

Cut to:
Int.
Slayer Gym – Minutes later
Willow and Rowena entered the gym to find a crowd of slayers, watchers and
trainees clustered around the sparring mats, murmuring excitedly. The rapid
thuds of blows hitting training pads could be heard from among them.

"What’s going on?" Willow asked Andrew. "Is Ken here?"

"See for yourself," he said, standing aside. Heli, bandaged around her stomach,
made some room on his other side,
allowing Willow and Rowena to see
the group working out on the mats.

Kennedy was at the center of five
slayers – Vi, Marie, Janet, Lori and
Mia, each wielding long training
staves with heavy pads wrapped
around each end. They were fighting
as if their lives depended on it,
sweating heavily, and to all
appearances doing their level best to
pummel Kennedy into submission. For a second Willow was outraged at the
inequality, the brutal level of force being thrown into the five-on-one melee,
then she realized that Kennedy was winning. Moving so fast she was literally
blurring, the lone slayer at the center of the combat was ducking, weaving,
leaping so quickly and precisely that none of the padded staves even touched
her, unless she deliberately blocked a blow, which she did now and then with
forearms and shins, with almost
casual ease.

"She knows Kung Fu," Andrew
murmured, peering over Willow’s
shoulder.

"If I hadn’t been raised Jewish,"
Willow said, stunned, "this’d be a
really good time to say-"

"Jesus," Rowena breathed.

"Thank you. How long has she been fighting like that?"

"About an hour and a half," Faith said from the sidelines, "I’ve had girls
swapping in and out as she wears ‘em out. And she’s not fighting, she’s just
defending. She can’t actually fight back for real."

"Why not?" Ro asked.
"Because she does that," Faith said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. In the
corner of the gym were a pile of the very solid, very heavy padded targets used
for the most serious training – or at least, what was left of them, after they had
been hit so hard their dense padding had ruptured and their wooden inner
cores had been reduced to splinters.

"What’s this?" Giles asked, approaching from the doorway.

"Kennedy has entered bullet-time," Andrew replied as Giles took in the scene
with astonishment.

"How many more Matrix jokes you got?" Faith asked.

"I’m good for three more," Andrew said, "then I’ll have to start on the sequels,
and I’d just rather not go there."

"Is she…" Giles peered at Kennedy, trying to follow her motions, "how is she
doing that?"

"We started out one-on-one," Faith shrugged, "then it sort of snowballed…I’d
throw in more, but we’re not really trained for more than five-on-one, the girls’d
start getting in each other’s way and it’d just be easier for her then."

"Ask him about the watermelons," Rowena prompted Willow.

"What about the watermelons?" Xander asked, walking up behind the pair.
"Yikes," he added, seeing Kennedy.

"Hmm? Oh, yes," Giles grinned at the memory, "Phar Lap and Seabiscuit."

"What?!" Willow exclaimed.

"We used to close off a corridor in the vault and race them," he went on,
smiling faintly, "something of a student watcher tradition in those days."
Willow stared at him for a moment. "What?" he asked. "Sometimes we were
starved for entertainment at the academy."

"I don’t believe this," she eventually said, shaking her head before tugging on
Faith’s arm. "Can she spare a minute?"

"Sure," the senior slayer said and nodded. "Ken! Wrap it up!"

In a blur of motion Kennedy kicked Vi’s and Lori’s staves from their hands,
snapped Marie’s in half with a resounding crack, snatched Janet’s away and
used it to knock Mia’s upwards, where it buried itself end-first in the ceiling.
Kennedy high-fived the other slayers, touched Mia’s shoulder for a moment,
affectionately, then tossed her borrowed staff away and crossed the sparring
floor to Faith.

"Willow," she said, "news?"

"Nothing yet," Willow admitted, "at least, nothing anyone’s found and reported,
so it looks like it spent the rest of last night lying low."

"I’d say ‘licking its wounds,’ if we’d given it any that lasted more than five
seconds," Kennedy scowled, sitting on a weight bench. Willow sat with her, as
the general crowd dispersed.

"You did good," Willow insisted, "last night, a-and just now…Andrew was
making Neo jokes-"

"Original or sequel?"

"Original."

"Wow," Kennedy nodded, "he doesn’t pull those out for just anyone. It’s kind
of…I just do it, you know? No thinking, just, if I want to be fast, I’m fast, if I
want to hit hard, I hit hard."

"That’s great," Willow smiled, "you’re all okay with this? The whole sorcerous
powers deal - oh wait, Mia did tell you - tell me you already knew, I didn’t just
ruin it for you, did I?"

"Relax." Kennedy grinned. "I got the news. I ranted then spent a few moments
raving…But Mia and Faith took turns playing guidance counselor, so I’m, well,
dealing." She sighed and stared off blankly. "Honestly though, I
dunno…fighting is one thing, I’m used to fighting, but…do you really think I’m
gonna have to do real magic to beat this thing?"

"Well, yes and no," Willow said quickly, "not magic like I do, or the coven, no
rituals or spells-."

"But still magic?" Kennedy persisted. "Mystic sorcerer stuff, right? I’m not
gonna beat her until I can match her, power for power? She turned into a dog,
Will."

"I know it’s difficult," Willow said.

"Do you? Sorry, that came out harsh," Kennedy shook her head, "but I
mean…god’s honest truth, Will, I’m afraid. I’m just a normal girl, how the hell
am I supposed to cope with changing into an animal?"
"I do understand," Willow insisted gently taking Kennedy by the chin. "The first
big spell I did, I was scared witless. I shouldn’t even have been doing it, it
should’ve been Miss Calendar, only…" she hesitated, and shot an apologetic
look at Kennedy, "…only that was after she was gone, and there was only me."

"But you did it?" Kennedy asked.

"I didn’t want to," Willow admitted. "I’d done small stuff, you know, just having
fun, playing around, and it seemed cool and exciting and…and not just another
boring day being boring old me."

"Since when were you boring?"

"About grades one through eleven," Willow shrugged. "But magic was fun, like
a new toy, and then suddenly it was real. And if I didn’t do the spell, people
were gonna die…even after a couple of years of being Buffy’s best friend, that
was kind of a shock to the system. It’d never really been me, not on purpose,
but then-well, it was me or nobody."

"And it turned out to be great?"

"Heck no," Willow shuddered, "it was the scariest experience of my life to that
point. And like I said, Buffy-best-friend of two years’ standing, so ‘scariest
experience of my life’ means something. But I’d done it, and… and afterwards, I
knew I could do it again, if I had to. In spite of the scary."

"Like Mia," Kennedy mused. "But there’s a lot of scary here. Sparring’s fun, but
turning into a giant bat?"

"You do what you have to do," Willow shrugged, "because you’re like me.
Whatever it takes to fight the good fight. Plus, you’d make a cute bat. Those big
ears, cute little furry cheeks-"

"Or a frog. Green skin, hoppy legs," Kennedy offered as Willow wildly shook her
head. Kennedy smiled. She and Willow sat in companionable silence for a
moment.

"So how bad is it?" the slayer eventually asked.

"How what is what?"

"You’ve heard bad news. You’ve got doomsday-face."

"Apparently it’s contagious," Willow grumbled. "There’s reason to believe the
Kudlak being here might bring on some kind of biblical-scale catastrophe, if it’s
left unchecked."
"Never a dull moment in the Watchers Council," Kennedy quipped. "So, beating
her brains out with haste would be
good. Well I’m not going to stand on
my pride – I could use my old
watcher’s help."

"I’m not old," Willow protested. "I’ve
got an idea though. You being the
Kresnik makes you and the Kudlak
natural enemies – you’re destined to
confront each other, or something like
that. A lot of the old folk tales say the
Kresnik can hunt the Kudlak, so-"

"Maybe I can tune my vampire-sense to her specifically?" Kennedy finished.
"I’ve never been good at that stuff – line-of-sight, fine, but pretty much
everyone can do that. Some of the girls, though…" she sighed. "Marsha, she
was like a radar."

"Taught her everything she knew," Willow offered, with a kind of melancholy
pride.

"You reckon you can help me?" Kennedy asked.

"It’s worth a shot. Wanna grab a jeep and go hunting? I’ll round up Rowena
and get the keys."

"I’ll get the weapons," Kennedy said, standing.

"Hey, Xander!" she called. The young man said a parting word to Vi, whom he
had been talking with, and fell in beside Kennedy and Willow as they left the
gym.

"A-hunting we will go," Kennedy explained, "you got anything that’ll slow this
vamp bitch down?"

"I’ll break one of the ‘Xander specials’ out of storage," Xander smiled, "ten
bucks says your Kudlak won’t get up again, folklore or no folklore."

"You’re on," the slayer grinned.

"And don’t worry about ‘Larry’, I’ll have it back together in no time. Hey," he
added, "do you want me to do you one of the Black Ops armors? I could modify
one pretty quickly, wouldn’t hurt to have a bit of extra protection."

Kennedy thought it over.
"Thanks, but no," she said, "I’ve got a better idea."

"Cool," Xander nodded. "Oh, Will – what’s this about watermelons racing?"

"Huh? Oh, Goddess," she groaned, "ask Giles, I can’t deal with that. Lobby, ten
minutes?"

"Okay," Kennedy nodded as Willow headed down the corridor towards the
library.

"I’ll go get your weapons," Xander said. "The usual assortment?"

"Thanks," she answered.

Xander headed for his workshop, while Kennedy got a few strides towards the
slayer dorms before she stopped.

"Wait," she said to no one, "racing watermelons? What?"

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Lobby – Ten minutes later

Xander walked up to Willow and Rowena, carrying a weapons bag, a
shockproof container, and the remote camera.

"You all ready to go?" he asked, handing the camera to Rowena. "You know
how to work this?"

"How hard can it be?" she shrugged. "Fox News manages nine times out of ten."

"Yeah but they never tell you both sides of a story," Xander quipped. "We’d like
to be a little more accurate with the facts here. Okay," he confessed, "a lot more
accurate."

Rowena grinned. "I’ll get it, don’t worry," she told him before turning to Willow.
"Are we set?"

"Just waiting for Ken," Willow said.

"Let’s go then," Kennedy called from
the other side of the lobby, emerging
from the connecting corridor. She was
wearing all white – white leather
boots, white pants, a skin-tight white
sleeveless top and a white leather
jacket. Mia followed a few paces behind, stealing appreciative glances at her
girlfriend every few seconds.

"Nice," Xander nodded approvingly, which earned him a slap from both Rowena
and Willow at the same time.

"Got the idea from Faith," Kennedy explained, "white, the Kresnik’s color, right?
If some vamp’s gonna dump folklore on me, I’m gonna take it and shove it
down her throat."

"Nice to know someone listens to me," Faith said, descending the stairs.

"Yeah but I get the feeling I look like the king of rock and roll – not sexy, pelvis
Elvis but Las Vegas lounge lizard Elvis," Kennedy said as she looked down at
her attire.

"Looks good to me," Mia said with a leer.

"I’ll second that," Xander said earning another slap from the watchers on either
side of him. "Owww," he finally complained.

"I’m coming too," Faith said as she finally made it over to the group.

"Uh, guys," Rowena spoke up, "there’s only so many seats in the Jeep."

"Don’t worry, I’ll take my bike. You’re not going out there without your senior
slayer, even if I’m not The One. So c’mon."

"Kinda cold isn’t it?" Xander asked.

"Yeah, if you’re a wimp," she teased. "Let’s ride."

Fade to:
Ext.
Skyscraper Rooftop – Sunset

The last amber rays of sunset vanished from the horizon, leaving the city
bathed in the harsh fluorescents of its artificial lights.

At the top of one of the city’s tallest
buildings the change from dusk to
evening brought with it a faint silvery
glow from the weak moon,
illuminating rooftop areas that had
been submerged in deep shadow while the sun passed.

From one of them the Kudlak emerged, stalking purposefully to the edge. It
stared down the dizzying height at the ant-like people moving about the streets
below, while the wind whipped viciously at its coat and hair.

Without hesitation it stepped over, and dropped.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street Corner – Same time

Several blocks away Kennedy stood on a street corner, with Willow and Mia on
either side of her. Rowena remained in the Jeep, parked nearby, while Faith
had parked her bike on the pavement and was leaning against a lamppost,
twirling a stake in her hand whenever she was sure no pedestrians were near
enough to see it clearly.

"Okay," Willow was saying, "now, try feeling your way outwards, like… imagine
a kind of field around you, and just try to see it moving out like a ripple in a
pond, away from you on all sides. Don’t push yourself, just relax and let it
happen, it’s moving out, down the street ahead of us, behind us, taking in
more and more-"

Kennedy’s eyes suddenly snapped
open.

"It’s awake," she said, turning.

"You’ve really got a knack for this,"
Mia said to Willow.

"Wasn’t me, I hadn’t even got to the
detection part," she shrugged. "Okay,
back to the Jeep-"

"Too slow," Kennedy said quickly. She strode to Faith’s bike and swung her leg
over it, kicking the engine into life and taking off down the street.

"Hey!" Faith yelled. "That better come back without a scratch," she grumbled,
as she and the others scrambled into the Jeep.

Cut to:
Int.
Public Bus – Same time
Tired commuters filed onto the bus, and put their change into the box without
the driver really paying attention. It
was only when someone stood in
front of him, saying nothing and not
moving that the driver looked up.

"You got fare or not?" he asked,
irritated.

The Kudlak opened its mouth, and its
spear of a tongue unraveled and
pierced the man’s throat in one swift
motion. As blood spattered the
windshield, the vehicle’s other occupants screamed and started clambering
over each other, trying to escape from the monster.

                               End of Act Three

                                   Act Four
Cut to:
Ext.
Cleveland Street – Moments later

Kennedy sped dangerously through the late rush hour traffic, weaving in and
out, even veering into the oncoming traffic now and then to gain a few seconds.

"God!" Mia swore, watching from the Jeep, which Rowena was trying to keep
within sight of the slayer up ahead. "I hope she’s indestructible or something."

"My bike isn’t," Faith grumbled, though she was just as tense as Mia every time
Kennedy missed a collision by inches.

"Ro, Willow," Robin’s voice came from the dashboard radio, "we’ve got a report
of an attack that could be the Kudlak, near the corner of Fifth and Granger-"

"We’re two blocks away," Willow said.

"Lucky," Robin noted.

"Already on our way," Faith said, leaning forward between the front seats,
"Slick’s working on turning into a homing pigeon."

"Handy. Do you need anything?"
"If last night was any indication," Rowena said, hitting the horn to try to clear a
quicker path on the road ahead, "have police ready to block off the street at
both ends. We’ll let you know if the fight moves out of the area."

"Okay, good luck."

"There she is!" Willow pointed ahead. "Oh no…"

The bus had begun to pull out into the street before the driver’s demise, and
was blocking a lane of traffic. Rowena pulled the Jeep to a halt, and Willow,
Faith and Mia stood up to get a better view, while Kennedy raced ahead
between the slow-moving cars. There were dim shapes moving inside the
vehicle, but it was difficult to tell – the windows were splattered with fresh
blood, streaked where hands or bodies had pressed against them briefly.

"Ace, seal the street now!" Faith called. She grabbed a radio earpiece off the
dashboard and quickly put it on. "Ken, slow down, you’re gonna-"

Kennedy made no effort to slow down, speeding straight for the stalled bus. At
the last moment, when she seemed about to crash into its side, she kicked off
the bike, stretching her arms above her head like a diver. She crashed through
the bus’s window, while the bike tipped over and skidded to a halt. Amid the
shower of fragmented safety glass Kennedy slammed into the Kudlak,
wrenching it away from the latest of
its victims, and the pair crashed
through the opposite window, onto
the street beyond.

"Hell with this," Rowena growled,
revving the Jeep’s engine. Her
passengers sat down quickly,
scrambling with their belts as she
swerved the vehicle up onto the
sidewalk. Several loud blares from the
horn cleared the way, allowing her to
drive along beside the street, closer to the scene of the attack as she narrowly
missed the buildings and streetlamps.

"C’mon, Vi tactic time!" Faith tugged at Mia’s arm, unbuckling her belt as
Rowena slowed. The two slayers jumped out of the Jeep and ran towards the
gathering crowds of uncertain spectators, wondering whether to flee or take
pictures.

"Gun!" Faith yelled.
"She’s got a gun!" Mia echoed, pointing towards the bus where Kennedy and
the Kudlak were staggering to their feet. The crowd scrambled to clear the area,
and Faith darted into the open door of the bus, helping the terrified survivors
out.

The two adversaries faced each other for a moment, sizing each other up,
slowly circling. Kennedy struck once, quickly, a punch that the vampire
blocked with equal speed. Again they circled. The Kudlak made a lightning-
quick sweep kick, which Kennedy jumped.

"I got better," she taunted the vampire.

"I got better," it echoed back at her, once more mimicking her voice exactly.

In a flash both launched into a series of blows, dodging and blocking each
other as their limbs blurred with speed. The Kudlak was the first to grow bold,
lashing its leg up then down, missing Kennedy’s shin by a fraction as its foot
cracked the asphalt. The slayer pressed her momentary advantage, head-
butting her opponent as it leaned forward in its stamping kick, following with a
double punch to its stomach that
sent it flying away. It flipped in mid-
flight, still rising, and landed gently
on the bus’s roof.

With a hiss its mouth stretched open
and its tongue darted out, stabbing
down at Kennedy. She dodged left
and right as the razor-sharp tongue
speared at her again and again,
keeping her from approaching.

Inside the bus Faith saw Kennedy’s plight, and turned from hurrying the last of
the survivors away. A handrail had been bent half out of its bracket during
Kennedy’s flying tackle through the vehicle – Faith wrenched it the rest of the
way free, then with all her strength drove it up through the roof, aiming for the
vampire’s foot.

She missed, but the split-second’s distraction it caused the Kudlak was
enough. Kennedy gripped its whipping tongue with both hands and wrenched
it sideways, hauling the vampire off the bus and sending it crashing to the
street, where the traffic was still racing past.

"Thanks!" Kennedy called to Faith as she charged, leaping into a pair of
scissor-kicks to the Kudlak’s face, driving it further back. Horns blared and
cars swerved, one coming too close and catching the vampire’s leg as it passed,
throwing it to the ground. Kennedy darted forward, reached for a weapon –
without thinking, she closed her hand around the front wheel of Faith’s fallen
bike and swung it over-arm, bringing it crashing down on the Kudlak as it tried
to scramble back to its feet.

"Goddamnit!" Faith screamed, seeing the bike’s frame buckle under the impact.
A moment later she yowled in protest again and cringed, as the Kudlak reared
up, tossing the broken vehicle twenty feet through the air, where it crashed
into the path of the oncoming traffic.

"Robin. Roadblocks. Now!" Rowena warned into the radio, reaching under her
seat for the stowed camera.

"On the way," he replied. Police sirens were sounding distantly, and lights were
flashing from several blocks away.

"You know what?" Kennedy said, flexing her fists as she and the Kudlak faced
each other again. "I’m getting real sick of you."

"You know what?" the Kudlak mimicked her. Kennedy feinted left, then kicked
the vampire in the face, sending her flying back across the emptying street.

"Save it," she growled, giving chase. The Kudlak appeared disoriented for a
moment as it stood, but when Kennedy attacked, it discarded the ruse, taking
her unaware and delivering a series of body-blows that sent her reeling.

"Ken!" Mia yelled from the far side of the street. The Kudlak darted down and
lifted the staggering slayer over its head, throwing her clear across the
sidewalk, through the window of a restaurant that occupied the ground floor of
the building beyond. People who had gathered at the window to watch the fight
were now scurrying out as quickly as they could, pushing and shoving each
other in panic.

"Robin, get them to evacuate the block!" Willow insisted, taking over the radio
from Rowena.

"Evacuate?" he replied, surprised.

"Right now! The whole block – buildings, streets, sidewalks, everything!"

"I’ll do my best," he promised.

"I can’t believe it. She’s on her feet again," Rowena reported in awe, zooming
the camera in on the shattered window and staring through the eyepiece.
Willow watched as the Kudlak stalked across the sidewalk, towards the
building, closing in on Kennedy who was shaking glass off her body.
Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Same time

Vi took the radio headset from Robin as he devoted his attention to his phone.
She and Dawn were sorting through various maps and blueprints of the street
and buildings at the scene of the fight, as fast as Andrew and Skye could
retrieve them from the library stacks.

"I need everything between Fifth and Sixth on Granger evacuated," Robin
insisted into the phone. "Yes I know it’s drastic for a code five, but this is a
dangerous one! I don’t care what you tell the media, just get every civilian out
of the area now!"

Giles looked on, worried, as the destructive confrontation between the Kudlak
and Kennedy played out on the TV monitor on the opposite table.

Cut to:
Int.
Fresh Air Restaurant – Same time

The restaurant staff that had originally come out to see what the commotion
was about were now backing away from the debris of the window as Kennedy
faced the vampire closing in on her from the street.

Nevertheless, the headwaiter remained unflappable, politely tapping the slayer
on the shoulder.

"Does ma’am have a reservation?" he inquired in a cultured, slightly forced
accent. Kennedy whirled around to face him.

"Get your people out of here!" she snarled. The headwaiter fell back a step, and
then, as Kennedy turned away and moved towards her approaching opponent,
he straightened his shirt, gave a
disgruntled huff, and began politely
hurrying his crew towards the back
doors.

"I suppose you think throwing a girl
through a window is real funny?"
Kennedy snorted. She grabbed a
chair by its back and hurled it at the
oncoming vampire, who quickly
raised an arm and smashed it out of
the air. It darted forward the last few
steps, kicked Kennedy’s arms out of the way, then delivered a sledgehammer
blow to her chest that sent her flying across the room, crashing into a wrought-
iron spiral staircase in the center of the restaurant with such force that the
stairs buckled.

"Ken!" Rowena’s voice sounded in the slayer’s earpiece, "we’ve lost sight, are
you okay?"

"Just peachy," she grumbled, getting to her feet. The Kudlak continued to
advance, swiping tables out of its way as if they were made from cardboard.

"Do you need more weapons?"

"Not now," Kennedy said, backing up the stairs. She quickly turned and
scrambled up the stairs, hearing the Kudlak break into a run after her.

On the upper level, outfitted as a cocktail lounge, a few of the staff remained,
including a pianist. Kennedy glanced down the stairs, seeing the Kudlak
reaching the bottom, then leapt onto the grand piano and back down on its
other side, shoving the pianist out of the way.

"Sorry," she said over her shoulder, gripping the keyboard from beneath, "I just
need to borrow this for a second-"

With a mighty heave she lifted the piano up on its sole rear leg, and before it
could fall pushed it forward so that it tipped into the stairwell, where it crashed
down with a noisy cacophony, sending splinters flying everywhere, and
thoroughly sealing the access to the ground floor. Stunned for a moment, the
staff looked on before darting to the service elevators.

"That oughta slow the skank down," Kennedy said, "Ro? Can you-"

The remains of the piano exploded upwards around the Kudlak as it smashed
its way through, landing on the edge of the stairwell while pieces of wood
rained down around it. It appeared hulking, muscular, animalistic for a
moment, then it blurred and returned to its normal form.

"Kennedy?"

"Never mind, I’m busy again."

The vampire leapt for her, sending both sprawling across the floor as they
struggled. The Kudlak was first to its feet, delivering a shattering kick to
Kennedy’s stomach that lifted her into the air and sent her soaring over the
bar. She landed on top of an uncomfortable mass, which yelped in pain, and
turned out to be a cowering barman.
"I’d advise leaving," the slayer grumbled as she got up, just in time to catch the
Kudlak’s arms as it leapt across the bar at her. She turned its momentum
against it, lifting it up and smashing it upside-down into the glass shelves full
of bottles, which smashed in explosions of sharp shards and alcohol. Without
pause Kennedy hauled again on the vampire’s arms, turning its fall into
another throw, slamming it down on the bar.

"Always wanted to do this," she grinned as she shoved with all her strength,
sending the prone Kudlak sliding along the bar, smashing through bottles and
glasses before breaking through the wooden pillar at the far end and rolling
across the floor. She vaulted up onto the bar and ran its length, leaping off the
end towards the Kudlak as it staggered to its feet.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time

Rowena, with the camera, and, Willow, with the weapons bag and Xander’s
container, stood behind the two slayers, watching the building anxiously.

"Something’s moving in there," Willow said.

"I can’t make it out," Rowena complained, "I’ve got to move in closer."

On the heels of her words and a few steps forward, the restaurant’s windows
exploded outwards and instinctively Willow pulled Rowena back shielding her
body from any debris. Kennedy and the vampire, who flew half-way into the
street before landing, sent cracks through the street surface.

The Kudlak came up with the advantage, grabbing Kennedy’s leg before she
could right herself and hurling her across the remainder of the street, into a
bus shelter, which splintered around her, and then through a shop window.
Faith and Mia braced themselves as the creature sprinted towards them.

"Hang onto your hat," Faith muttered as she and Mia took a defensive pose.

But at the last second the Kudlak leapt, sailing through the air to smash
through the first-floor window of the office tower opposite the restaurant.

"Ken!" Willow raced to the fallen slayer’s side, with Mia, Faith and Rowena on
her heels.

"Oh man," she complained, sitting up amid a sea of debris rubbing her head.

"Are you okay?" Mia asked disbelievingly, staring at her girlfriend amid the
ruins of the shop front she had crashed through.
"I’ve had better days," she admitted, getting to her feet and flexing her limbs.
"Got a tear in Marie’s coat, for one thing. Where’d that bitch go?"

"Somewhere up above," Rowena said. "It jumped through a window."

"Great," Kennedy grumbled, glancing up at the ceiling. "The guys at the library
come up with anything?"

"They’ve seen footage of everything until you went into that building," Rowena
said. "Nothing new to report – the tongue’s an odd attribute, but no go so far as
a way of killing it."

"Yeah, if she’s got a girlfriend she must love that," the slayer joked. "Is this
building empty?"

"Robin says yes, there should be no one inside, just empty offices," Willow
replied.

"Gimme that." She took the shockproof case from Willow and slung its strap
over her shoulder. "Playtime’s over. I’ve had it up to here with that fork tongue
fiend," she added and then took off in a run for the building’s foyer.

"What’s in that?" Rowena asked.

"A ‘Xander special’," Willow said. "We should probably get clear of the building."

"How come she gets to use one?" Faith complained as they sprinted for the
safety of the opposite side of the street. "He never let me have one!"

Cut to:
Int.
Office Tower, First Floor – Same time

The door to the fire escape stairwell thudded once, then flew off its hinges and
crashed into a desk. Kennedy strode out onto the floor, glancing about for any
sign of her prey.

"Here, vampy-vampy-vampy," she sang. "Come get some, you shape-changing
freak…" She looked through the gaping hole in the window, spotting the
watchers and slayers down in the street below.

"Come on," she muttered to herself, turning back to the silent office space, "you
know you want me."
A sound from above caught her attention, and she spun back into a defensive
crouch, looking up. The office’s ceiling had numerous air conditioning outlets –
from one of these, a large, black, yellow-eyed rat was staring at her.

"If you’re really just a rat," she murmured, sliding a sword-hilt into her palm,
"this is gonna be the worst day of your life."

A chittering echoed around the office floor. Kennedy glanced from side to side –
from dozens of hiding places, from under desks, beneath cabinets, behind
partitions, a swarm of identical rats had emerged, all staring at her.

"Well aren’t you the clever girl?" she muttered grimly. In unison the vermin
leapt, but instead of trying to defend herself Kennedy leapt straight up,
extending her sword and ramming it through the light ceiling tiles, reaching
through to the thin metal framework they rested on. It wasn’t strong, but it was
enough to hold her weight for a second, while the tide of rats, hissing angrily,
swarmed into the space she had been crouching in.

With a grunt of effort Kennedy tore at the steel in her hands, falling to the floor
and rolling out of the way as a sizeable chunk of ceiling followed her, just
enough to keep the scrambling rodents occupied while she rolled to her feet
and backed against a wall, sword ready. The swarm clambered out of the
debris, tensing, ready to leap.

"Okay," the slayer challenged them,
"you got any more tricks, or do I just
have to skewer you one by one?"

The vermin tide leapt, colliding and
merging, blurring in mid-air. They
were a jackal by the time they
reached Kennedy, who ducked and
thrust her sword upwards, burying it
in the monster’s belly. With her free
hand she grabbed its hind leg and
pushed with all her strength,
smashing the impaled beast through the wall behind her. It wrenched the
sword from her hands as it flew away, and she backed up a pace and executed
a quick dive through the hole it had left, rolling to her feet just in time to see
the jackal scurrying down the building’s central corridor, to the elevators, the
sword still buried in it.

"Bet that hurt!" she yelled after it, earning a hateful glare from its pale eyes. An
elevator opened behind it, and it backed in, blurring as it moved. The Kudlak
stood, once more human, and with a gasp pulled the sword out of itself.
Kennedy meanwhile sprinted to one side, into a doorway, keeping an eye on the
vampire, as she unslung the container from her back and opened it.

The Kudlak gave a primal hiss and threw the blood-stained sword overarm,
spearing it through the doorjamb Kennedy was crouched behind. She glanced
at the blade, protruding from the
wood inches from her head, then gave
the vampire a feral grin.

"Mine’s bigger," she said, raising a
missile launcher to her shoulder and
firing, before throwing herself into the
office beyond the doorway, as far from
the corridor as she could.

The vampire had a split second to
snarl at the projectile rushing
towards it, then the elevator was obliterated by a thunderous explosion that
tore through the entire corridor.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time

Rowena, Willow, Faith and Mia threw themselves down behind a parked car as
the shockwave from the blast blew out all the windows on the tower, followed
by a fireball that erupted from the center of the building, and from the lobby
elevators on the floor below.

"Ken!" Mia screamed into her radio. "Ken, answer me! Are you okay?" She
sagged with relief, almost falling to her knees, when she heard an answering
cough.

"Damn…I’m fine…" Kennedy said through her radio. "What did that look like
from outside?"

"You’ve seen Die Hard, right?" Faith asked.

"That good, huh?" Kennedy quipped.

"Did Xander say you could fire that thing indoors?" Mia asked sharply.

"She did WHAT?" Xander’s voice broke in, from the Council.

"He didn’t say I couldn’t," Kennedy replied mildly.
"Did you get the Kudlak?" Ro asked.

"Hang on, I’m checking… holy crap," she finished, sounding dismayed and
impressed in equal measure.

"What is it?" Faith asked.

"Xander owes me ten bucks."

Cut to:
Int.
Office Tower, First Floor – Same time

The floor was a ruin. Those sprinklers that remained barely functional had
sprung into life, drenching the fires that burned in the wake of the blast. The
walls between the central corridor and the office space had largely collapsed,
the elevator block had been blown open, and the elevator doors were embedded
in the concrete wall of the fire escape stairwell opposite.

The vampire had survived, though – as Kennedy watched from what remained
of the floor near the elevator, its wounds healed, sealing up split and tattered
flesh and stemming the rain of blood. It was clinging to the elevator cables,
which now hung loose two floors higher up, since the remains of the elevator
itself had crashed down to the basement. It fixed Kennedy with a stare for a
second, then began to climb, its shape blurring continuously as long, clawed
limbs gouged at the walls of the elevator shaft, and leathery wings beat at the
air.

"No way," Xander said via radio, "are you sure you hit it?"

"Square in the chest," Kennedy said, staring up at the dangling cables, "just
blew her clothes off. And opened up her stomach real nice, but she’s healed."

"This is getting ridiculous," Faith complained.

"She’s heading for the roof," Kennedy reported.

"What are you doing?" Faith asked.

"Going after her."

"Ken, no," Rowena jumped in. "Pull back until we learn some way to destroy
her."
Ignoring the warning, Kennedy jumped from the crumbling ledge and caught
one of the cables, hauling herself up hand over hand, in pursuit of the rising
vampire.

"Ken?" Rowena called again. "Ken?…Damn it," she sighed as Kennedy continued
on.

Cut to:
Ext.
Office Tower, Roof – Moments later

Kennedy emerged warily from the elevator house, her eyes darting across the
dozens of hiding places among the air conditioning blocks surrounding the
roof’s helipad, its bright landing lights creating deep, thick shadows.

"Now the question is," she murmured to herself, "is she running ‘cause she’s
scared, or is she just trying to lead me into a trap?"

Her eyes settled on a space where an outline of torn metal brackets showed an
air conditioning unit had, until recently, been installed.

"The latter," she grumbled. The Kudlak rose up from its hiding place, on the
roof of the elevator house, and heaved the massive air conditioner down at
Kennedy. She spun around, too late to dodge, and instinctively flung out her
hands to shield herself, taking the huge weight as it fell on her. From
somewhere she found the strength to hold it, just long enough to fling herself
backwards before the unit crashed against the concrete.

The enraged vampire leapt at her, striking lightning-fast with hands and feet,
driving Kennedy back. She found herself backed up against another air
conditioner, and barely ducked a fist that punched straight through the metal.
For a moment the Kudlak had to wrench on its hand to free itself, tearing its
skin in a momentary, quickly-healed shower of blood, and Kennedy lunged
forward, butting it in the stomach.

It landed on its back, but contorted beneath the slayer, bringing its legs up
underneath her and kicking her off. She in turn grabbed hold of its arms,
slipping on the bloody one but holding her grip on the other, so that as the
Kudlak kicked her away she turned the momentum back against it, landing
and hurling it over her head, half-way across the roof where it crashed into the
parked helicopter.
"How do ya like that, huh?" she yelled, advancing on it. It whipped its legs
around, flipping itself upright, and darted to one side, reaching the helicopter’s
tail and wrenching the tail rotor from
its housing. Kennedy’s eyes grew wide
as it drew back, then threw the blade
straight at her midsection, aiming to
slice her in two.

With no time to evade the spinning
blade she instead caught it,
snatching it out of the air, letting
herself be spun around by its
momentum before releasing it back at
the Kudlak, which dove out of the
way, blurring as it moved. The rotor smashed in one side of the helicopter and
out the other, showering sparks and debris across the roof, spinning shrapnel
slicing into several of the landing lights, smashing them in sudden bursts of
light.

Momentarily half-blinded by the sudden glares, Kennedy barely had time to
react as the Kudlak lunged for her, now a huge black panther, larger and more
powerful than the jackal. Its claws sliced into her shoulders, tearing her coat,
and she fell back with an angry yell, instinctively curling as she hit the ground,
kicking at the animal’s underside. It howled in pain and lost its grip for a
moment, and as she slid to a halt Kennedy’s hand touched a heavy, jagged
piece of glass, a remnant of the helicopter’s windows, and plunged it into the
huge predator’s eye.

It reared up with a deafening roar, staggering backwards, clawing at its face.
With a blur it was human-shaped again, bleeding from an empty eye socket, its
face scratched and twisted in rage, then it turned and sprinted for the edge of
the roof, Kennedy following by pure instinct. With a tremendous leap it took off
through the air.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time

"God!" Faith exclaimed, pointing up. The group watched, stunned, as the
vampire flew across the gap between the high-rise buildings, stretching
towards the opposite roof, and impossibly, reaching it.

"Ken- no!" Mia yelled as a second shape flew off the roof of the office tower, the
white clad slayer soaring through the air just as her prey had done.

"She’s gonna-" Faith began.
"Look out!" Mia and Willow yelled at once, futilely.

Cut to:
Ext.
High-rise Roof – Same time

The Kudlak turned and wrenched a safety rail from its brackets, swinging it at
Kennedy as she flew towards it. With a sickening thud it made contact, tossing
her back into open space, away from the safety of the roof.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time

Mia howled in shock and disbelief as her girlfriend’s limp form smashed into
the windows of the building she had leapt from and fell. It took a second for her
to fall the twenty stories, then with a crash she landed on a parked car,
smashing the roof down, sending glass flying in all directions.

"Oh Jesus," Mia muttered in shock as she looked at her unmoving girlfriend.

Mia ran across the street, falling half-way and scrambling back up. Willow
turned to look at Rowena, searching her face for some reassurance, but
Rowena could only stare from her to the wrecked car, the video camera still on
her shoulder.

"Come on," Faith said distantly, tugging at Rowena’s arm. Still in a state of
shock, they followed her, moving towards Mia who had come to a halt in front
of the wreck.

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Same time

Andrew bit his finger as everyone in the room watched the video. "Is she…? I
mean will she…?"

"Oh god," Vi sighed, her voice trembling. Nearby Robin, Skye and Dawn stood
with equally shocked expressions.

Giles took off his glasses, hung his head down and rubbed the bridge of his
nose before righting himself again.

"I want answers on how to stop this thing," he said in a soft, determined voice.
"This ends right now."
Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time

Kennedy still lay unmoving amid the twisted metal. Mia stood staring at her,
her breath coming in tiny gasps.

"S-she’s okay," Faith said, "isn’t she? That’s, that’s the point, right? She has to
win, no matter what."

"The Kudlak," Rowena murmured to herself, dragging her eyes away to look up.
The vampire was gone from the roof, but when she looked around she saw it, a
warped, winged shape, soaring away.

"Ken?" Willow said quietly. "Ken, c’mon… get up… please?" Mia took a step
forward, tears starting to well up in her eyes.

A harsh cough wracked Kennedy’s body, and she jerked awake, sitting up
abruptly. Mia jumped back, biting off a scream, while Willow, Ro and Faith
stared at her in disbelief.

Cut to:
Int.
Watchers Council Library – Same time

As everyone went back to their books Andrew glanced at the video and looked
back again to see Kennedy stirring.

"Uh, guys?" he said.

"Not now," Giles said shortly.

"Kennedy’s moving," he told them.

"What?" they all said collectively. Everyone raced over to the screen, crowding
around.

"Unbelievable," Robin muttered.

Slowly a smile worked its way to Giles’s face and he blew out a sigh of relief.

Cut to:
Ext.
Street – Same time
"What?" Kennedy asked. Then she looked around herself, at the crumpled
wreck of the car she had landed on. "Oh, that left a mark, huh?"

"Ken?" Mia whispered. Kennedy clambered upright out of the wreckage and
reached for her, hugging her fiercely.

"I’m here," she said quietly, "Right? Feel that? Heart still beating and all, okay?"

Mia clung to her for a moment, then took a gulp of air and stood back.

"You’re okay?" Willow asked, stunned.

"No. I’m mad as hell is what I am," the slayer replied. "Where is she?"

"She flew off," Rowena said apologetically.

"I can follow her," Kennedy said, "Where’s the bike?"

"You used it as a club," Faith said, still somewhat stunned.

"Right," Kennedy nodded, "Sorry."

"The Council will reimburse for that, right?" Faith asked Willow, who only
shrugged.

Kennedy looked along the street, to where the distant strobe red and blue
lights marked the police blockade. "Get in the Jeep."

"Where to?" Mia called, as Kennedy sprinted towards the barricade.

"The docks!" she called back.

Cut to:
Ext.
Dockland – Moments later

At the heart of the deserted area within the emergency barricades, the
grounded freighter loomed above the devastation it had caused like a great,
dead animal.

Kennedy, riding a police motorcycle, skidded to a halt outside the gate to the
wrecked TransWorld pier, with the others in the Jeep a moment behind her.

"She’s in there," she called over her shoulder, as Rowena brought the Jeep to a
halt, and Faith, Willow and Mia jumped out.
"Why?" Willow asked.

"Licking her wounds." Kennedy shrugged. "That’s where she feels safe. I can
feel her…in here." She tapped her forehead with a finger, and frowned. "Stay
here," she added, taking off her earpiece and handing it to Faith.

"Like hell!" Mia protested.

"Stay. Here," Kennedy said firmly, turning to face her. "Faith?"

"Okay." Faith nodded after a pause. With a last, long look at Mia, Kennedy
turned and sprinted forward, vaulting easily over the two-yard tall fence.

Fade to:
Int.
Ceres Hold – Moments later

One of the hatches in the ceiling opened, and Kennedy dropped silently into the
hold, ignoring the remains of the ladder, which had buckled and broken during
the ship’s grounding. The hold was a vast, dark cavern, lit only by slants of
moonlight appearing through tears in the hull, few and far between.

"I know you’re here," Kennedy called out, her voice echoing in the huge space.
"I’ll make this simple for you. No more games, no more running around, testing
each other. You, me, now. One of us doesn’t leave here tonight."

She turned around, staring into the darkness.

"Come on, what’re you afraid of?!" she yelled. "This is what you do, right? This
is your damned story, isn’t it? You gave me this damned magic so I’d fight you!
Well here I am! No weapons, no help, just me!"

A low, dangerous growl echoed out of the darkness behind the slayer. A smile
slowly crossed her face.

"That’s my girl," she said to herself.

With slow, pounding footsteps a huge black bear emerged from the shadows,
towering over Kennedy. Twice her
height easily, massively muscled,
with claws like machetes and massive
fangs protruding from its open
mouth.
"My, my," Kennedy grinned, turning to face the enormous creature, "what big
teeth you have."

The beast lashed out at Kennedy, catching her across the jaw with a closed fist
and sending her flying across the darkened hold. She crashed painfully into a
bent structural support, buckling it further, and fell to the deck, spitting out
blood from a cut lip that healed over in the space of a second.

"Not bad," she growled, "my turn."

The bear came charging, roaring, and Kennedy met it with a thunderous
punch, leaping up and smashing her fist into the huge creature’s snout. It
roared and reeled back, but stayed on its feet. Kennedy dodged as it swiped at
her, then ducked between its legs as it stamped down at her.

"Not so fast, huh?" she taunted the creature as it rounded on her, then she
yelped as it lunged, catching her off-guard and tripping her. She rolled left,
avoiding a smash that tore the deck, then right, barely dodging a second strike.
A whirling kick to the beast’s knees gave Kennedy a split second to scramble to
her feet.

"Okay, you’re fast," she conceded grimly as her opponent roared and charged
again, even faster. With no time to dodge she leapt into the bear’s charge,
surprising it for a second and hammering blows into its neck, smashing at its
windpipe. It gave a choked-off bellow, then plucked the furious slayer from its
chest and lifted her above its head.

"Now-" she growled, as it reared up and threw her. She flew across the hold,
but managed to grip the dangling end of the broken ladder from the deck hatch
above, using her momentum to swing herself around, launching herself back at
the monster while the ladder groaned and fell from its brackets.

"I’m MAD!" she roared, and her roar became a thundering bellow as her body
warped, growing, changing, becoming just as massive, strong and powerful as
the Kudlak itself, a gigantic bear, pure white.

The two creatures collided with bone-jarring force and crashed to the deck,
wrestling with each other, clawing and slashing and biting and roaring. The
entire hold rang with the din of their
battle as they struggled upright, still
fighting, smashing at each other with
animal fury.

The white bear lunged in at its
opponent, grabbed it around its
middle, lifted it up and brought it
crashing down on the already-weakened deck. With a terrific groan the deck
tore apart, sending both creatures hurtling down into the bowels of the ship
where the grounding had literally torn it apart, a mutilated wasteland of rubble
and tortured metal.

Cushioned by her opponent, the white bear recovered from the fall first,
smashing its claws into its opponent’s head, tearing great gashes in its snout
and neck. In a last, desperate attempt the black beast struck up into the
changed slayer’s stomach, slicing through her thick hide, digging its claws in
deep. As her white fur was stained with a huge gush of deep red blood, she
roared in pain and rage, reared back, and drove both her claws into the
Kudlak’s chest, impaling it twice over, lifting it up and bringing it crashing
down against a jagged, twisted mass of torn metal and debris. The fractured
end of a girder punched through the Kudlak’s back and out of its chest,
spearing it through the heart.

The Kudlak gasped and shuddered, scrabbling at the debris around it, but
weakening, unable to move itself. The white bear lifted itself up and stood back,
clutching at its deep wound, blood trickling between its claws, matting its fur.
It lifted up its head and howled, and the howl became a cry of pain as the
creature blurred back into the shape of Kennedy, her stomach torn and
bleeding.

"Come on," she grimaced to herself. "Come on…I’m not dying here…" Slowly
she took her hand away from the tear in her clothes, revealing the angry red
gash in her skin – but beneath the slick of blood, the wound was slowly
closing, healing. The slayer laughed painfully, then looked up at the dying
Kudlak.

It had shifted back to its human form, and was lying limp, its face cut and
bloody, the girder impaling it even more devastating to its small body. It raised
one of its talon-like claws, which shrunk back into a hand as it reached out to
Kennedy, mouthing wordlessly.

"Just die," the slayer said, shaking her head. "Just…die, would you?"

The Kudlak stared at her for a moment longer, then its head dropped back, and
it gave one last shudder. As it died its flesh began to blacken, and smoke rose
from it. Kennedy stumbled back as the body burst into fire, the blaze spreading
along the river of blood that had poured from its torn chest, the flames
surrounding her, reaching for her. In the space of a few seconds the whole
chamber was burning, the unnatural, unstoppable flames reaching up through
the torn deck, catching in the hold above.

"Bitch," Kennedy swore, her shoulders slumping. She looked up, through the
hole in the deck, through the open hatch in the deck above, to the night sky.
Her shoulders squared again, and she
took a shallow breath, trying not to
cough on the smoke.

"I’m coming baby," she muttered,
wrapping her arms around herself. As
the flames grew brighter, hotter,
closer, her form became indistinct in
the heat, a dark shape against the
white-hot flame – a shape that
blurred, and changed – and erupted
upwards.

Cut to:
Ext.
Dockland – Same time

"No!" Mia screamed, seeing the flames reach up from the deck of the stricken
freighter.

"Down!" Faith yelled, grabbing her and
hauling her to the ground, as Willow
and Rowena ducked behind the Jeep.

The freighter exploded in a single,
titanic blast, rupturing with a great
fireball that blossomed out of its mid-
section and tore fore and aft,
consuming the prow and the stern,
toppling the bridge into the water
behind it as it flew apart. The
shockwave of the blast lifted the
debris of the ruined warehouse into the air, showering it around for miles. The
fireball rose over the docklands like a genie, up into the air, billowing,
dissipating, finally dying among the clouds.

In the eerie silence that followed, the only sounds were the faint, distant cracks
of falling glass from shattered windows.

Faith let go of Mia and got to her knees, looking around.

"You guys okay?" she called in the direction of the Jeep.

"What?" Rowena called back, as she and Willow unsteadily got to their feet,
leaning on the vehicle for support. Faith shook her head, trying to get rid of the
ringing in her ears.
"She’s not dead," Mia was saying to herself. "She’s not, she’s not dead… she’s
alright…she’s…"

She stopped, and looked up into the sky. From the smoke-filled air dark forms
were emerging, wings beating in unison, a flock of ravens, pitch-black. They
swirled through the air, around the stunned slayers and watchers, circling
tighter and tighter, until in a single motion they all darted inwards, merging
into a single form. The flock transformed leaving Kennedy standing in its wake.

"Hi guys," she said distantly, then her eyes closed and she collapsed, falling
into Faith and Mia’s arms as they lunged forward to catch her.

Fade to:
Int.
Watchers Council Lobby – Next morning

Andrew deposited a stack of newspapers on the front desk, just in time for
Giles to pick one up in passing. The main title read "Bombing in Cleveland,"
followed by "Special Forces Thwart Neo-Nazi Group" and "CIA Denies Al Qaeda
Connection." A large color photo of the devastated dockland, but little
information, accompanied the story on the "accidental" ignition of the
freighter’s damaged fuel tanks.

"Mr. Wood’s been busy," Andrew noted.

"Yes," Giles agreed, "I imagine we may have to make some effort to placate our
friends in high places after last night’s work, but when one considers what
might have been, I think they’ll agree that the damage to property was
unavoidable. Far preferable to further loss of life, at any rate."

"Is Ken Possible still resting?" Giles frowned in confusion for a moment, then
gave a slightly baffled smile.

"No, she’s up and about." He folded the paper under his arm. "She’s with Mia,
so I’d, well, give them some time."

"Yeah," Andrew agreed. "Hey, what’s this about watermelon racing? Xander
said you’d know."

"Mr. Giles!" Both men turned to see Bonnie approaching.

"What can I do for you?" Giles asked guardedly.

"A successful conclusion to the Kudlak crisis?" she asked, nodding to the stack
of newspapers. "The stories on the morning news had a note of optimistic
finality to them that’d be pretty embarrassing if the whole thing got repeated
tonight, so I guessed you’d gotten rid of the creature."

"You’re very observant," Giles observed dryly.

"It’s what I do," Bonnie noted. "Now, I think you’ll agree that, while I could have
simply left it all to you, I volunteered my time and services and provided useful
information-"

"What do you want?" Giles interrupted. "Bearing in mind that your freedom
isn’t an option."

"Bearing in mind that there’s several thousand demons out there who still want
me emphatically dead, I wasn’t going to ask."

"Then?"

"My house," Bonnie said, "seeing as you ‘appropriated’ its contents after the
fiasco with the Engineer, I assume you’ve still got them in storage somewhere?
I’d like them for my apartment here."

"That’s a considerable ‘request’," Giles pointed out, "given that you are still a
prisoner here."

"A useful prisoner," Bonnie pointed out. "Inclined to be helpful if I’m well kept,
and with unique skills. And I have to tell you, there’s only so many times I can
read that copy of The Da Vinci Code someone left in the lounge before I go
insane. About once, actually. Will it really constitute a threat to the Council if I
have my library and DVDs back? Or my wardrobe, for that matter."

"You understand you won’ t be given anything that hasn’t been thoroughly
examined first?" Giles warned.

"Naturally," Bonnie shrugged. "Just don’t do anything interesting with the
lingerie."

"I’ll look into the matter," Giles said. "Now if you’ll excuse me." Bonnie
shrugged again as he turned and left, then she glanced at Andrew, who was
looking at her with guarded curiosity.

"What?" she asked.

"You help us, we give you stuff?" he asked. "Is that always how it is with you?"
"That’s always how it is with most people," she replied calmly. "Why shouldn’t
I? I worked for the Engineer. At least you people are human. Sorry if I
disappointed you, but I’m not going to turn into some kind of paladin."

"How can someone like you be a Farscape fan?" Andrew asked, genuinely
confused.

"I like Scorpius," Bonnie grinned faintly.

"Figures." With a shake of his head, he took a newspaper and headed off after
Giles. Bonnie watched him go, then took one for herself, scanning the
headlines.

"And unique," she said to herself, "is always valuable." She grinned at her joke,
then a puzzled frown appeared on her face.

"Wait," she said, "watermelon what?"

Cut to:
Int.
Willow’s Living Room – Later

Willow looked up at a knock, and smiled as she saw Kennedy in the open
doorway.

"Hi," she said, getting up, "I came by earlier but you were still asleep, then later
but the doctor said Mia was in with you, so I figured, not the best time to burst
in-"

"Thanks." Kennedy grinned.

"So, how are you? All good and…good?"

"All good," the slayer nodded with a fond smile. "Back to normal. No more
magic wackiness which, all things considered, I’m comfortable with an absence
of."

"Yeah," Willow nodded, "that’s fair enough, each to her own. And it’s not like
you got the enjoyable side of it anyway, just the doom and gloom."
"Not really after more doom and gloom," Kennedy said. "And the crazy fairytale
logic I can do without – I prefer normal vamps that don’t care what shape you
are when you stake them. Um, yeah, I just wanted to say thanks…you know,
for stepping in, helping out – being my ‘old’ watcher again." Willow’s eyes
widened, and she quickly got to her
feet and lifted Kennedy’s chin, like a
schoolmistress with an errant child.

"Not old!" she insisted playfully.
"‘Learned’ or ‘experienced’ are
acceptable."

"Gotcha, old watcher." Kennedy
grinned. "Anyway, I’ve got a report to
write up, you know, just in case
another one of those things ever
shows up, and someone has to go through this all again. I’ll try to be out of
town if that happens."

"Yeah," Willow began with a nod. "Oh, just, one thing? I was wondering, just
out of curiosity…what was it like? I mean, being a whole flock of birds? That’s
like, ‘wow’ magic…"

"I don’t really remember details." The slayer shrugged. "But…pretty scary. All in
all I’m happy being me again – two arms, two legs, no wings. Seems to work."

"Yeah, it does," Willow agreed, with only a tiny touch of sadness. Kennedy
stepped forward and gave her a brief, friendly hug, then moved back to the
door.

"See you later," Willow said.

"Yeah." Kennedy nodded. "Later." On the threshold she hesitated, and looked
back. "Actually…" Willow looked back at her. "…in hindsight…it was pretty
special. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like that again. Ninety percent pure terror,
but…the rest was incredible."

"It can be." Willow smiled.

"Yeah," the slayer agreed. "Later, huh?"

"See ya."

Fade to Black

                                     End of Avatar

								
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