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  • #16
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #15
    “Wolves at the Gate, Part IV”


    Prologue Summary: The Slayer population of the world has gone from two to nearly two thousand. Buffy and Xander have established a base in the highlands of Scotland where they continue to train Slayers, and command their forces around the world, building their defenses against new threats. Willow comes and goes; Buffy has cut Giles off; and Dawn’s a giant. They’ve battled familiar foes, deranged zombies, and military goons, but only Buffy has faced the elusive new enemy apparently behind it all: Twilight.

    Start of Issue #15

    The opening image is an instant after the end of 8.14 – but here, rather than holding Renee impaled on the scythe, Toru sneers viciously as he yanks the stake free from her. The dying girl’s head hangs low, mouth open in surprise, hand reaching up to cover the gaping wound. It’s her own thoughts we hear to start the issue.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: Oh God.

    What follows is a series of images from Renee’s perspective, the first person. She sees the team turning back to look at her. Satsu, Andrew, and Buffy are drawing their weapons, Willow looks to a corner of the room in alarm. Leah and Xander, his face splattered with Renee’s blood, look directly at her. Leah is surprised. Xander is outright horrified. Throughout the room, Renee sees a fog unfolding from the ground up.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: Oh no. Stupid Stupid. Oh God this is bad this is so bad. What’s rule number one Renee? Oh God.

    The image we see is from a lower angle… an instant later, and Renee is falling to the floor. The fog has formed into Toru’s vampires, ambushing the team. Vampires surround Satsu, Leah, and Andrew immediately. Kumiko dives from the ceiling and tackles Willow towards the window. Xander is open-mouthed in panic, and Renee sees him reaching for her. The outline of her vision is turning white.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: Don’t fall. We gotta fight. There are so many of ‘em. Oh God. Where are they all coming from? Don’t fall.

    Renee’s point of view takes an angle as she slumps to the floor. The background is almost completely white. Behind Xander, Buffy is looking around for something to attack, while Satsu and Andrew defend themselves. In the distance, we see Kumiko and Willow crash through a window into the night sky. Xander is closer still, reaching for Renee desperately.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: Xander. Where’d my voice go? Xander Xander Xander. Oh God they’re everywhere. Please don’t let me fall. I can’t hear what he’s saying. Why can’t I. Oh God.

    From a completely white background, his face already vanishing from her eyes, Renee sees Xander at almost kissing distance, his pupil small with terror. Her words get smaller and smaller as she goes.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: I’m not ready. I hope he knows. I never got to tell him. Xander I’m not ready.

    Renee’s last thought in this life appears on its own, in small print, in the cold white margin of the page.

    (NARRATION) RENEE: I’m so scared.

    And then the perspective jumps free from the fallen Slayer, and the next image shows us the battle from over Dracula’s shoulder. Fog fills the open office space still as more vampires appear. Leah fires a crossbow into one vampire’s chest even as another tries to bite her. Some vampires are shape-shifted, as we see a panther and a wolf in the room. Amidst all the chaos, though, Dracula is watching Xander as he cradles Renee’s body in his arm. Her blood has poured out on the floor.

    XANDER: *Renee*?!

    The view reverses and we see Xander in close-up, Renee’s face close to his. Tears are streaming down his right cheek. Dracula watches stoically.

    XANDER: *RENEE*!

    The view shifts as Dracula leaps into action. He turns to get Buffy’s attention. The Slayer herself is staking one vampire, while another in wolf form bites her shoulder from behind. Behind them all, Satsu leaps through the air, her katana slashing through enemis.

    BUFFY: *Man down*!

    DRACULA: Slayer!

    BUFFY: Close ranks around Xander! *Now*!

    DRACULA: Slayer -- *Listen to me*!

    The view reverses again; Dracula has yanked the wolf off of Buffy by the scruff of its neck. He grips her arm intensely, holding her attention. Behind them, the fighting continues amidst the vampire fog.

    DRACULA: Get your witch!

    BUFFY: *WHAT*?!?

    DRACULA: I can stop them, but I need your witch!

    We see the two of them silhouetted in the office as they face each other – we’re looking in from outside the broken window. Dracula points to the shattered glass for emphasis.

    DRACULA: Go get her!

    BUFFY: I’m not leaving -- *I can’t leave Xander alone*!

    In close-up, Dracula is in full vamp-face for one of the few times we ever see. His eyes gleam a vicious, predatory orange, as he gives Buffy the reassurance she needs.

    DRACULA: He’s not alone.

    And in an instant, Dracula has turned away from her. We see the legendary vampire tearing through a crowd of his imposters, his claws drawing blood as they try to grab him.

    We see Buffy on the move. She plants her foot on one vampire’s back to vault herself free of the fight. She’s drawn a knife, and as she moves she calls out orders to Satsu. The other Slayer spares a look over her shoulder even as she beheads an opponent, surprised at the orders she’s being given.

    BUFFY: Satsu! You have command!

    SATSU: What!?! Why!?! Where are you going!?!

    BUFFY: I’ll be *right back*! I just gotta…

    From above, we see Buffy standing in the empty window frame, looking down from the ledge. Several stories below, the silhouettes of Willow and Kumiko are locked together in mid-air. Hundreds of feet below, the battle rages on the street.

    BUFFY: … Go get Willow.

    The view shifts outside as the silhouettes of the two witches crash into the glass windows of a building across the street with a *WHAM*.

    KUMIKO: Hello. We have not been properly introduced.

    In a closer view, we see the two match magic powers even as they tumble through the air. Willow’s power is represented as green, flame-like energy. Kumiko’s hands glow with a more angular red power.

    KUMIKO: My name is Kumiko Ishihara. Daughter of Kazuo.

    WILLOW: Incursio!

    KUMIKO: Decrete.

    Willow falls backwards and Kumiko follows her down, their hands still glowing as they match spell for spell.

    KUMIKO: I’ve been following your ascension for quite some time.

    WILLOW: *Percussus*!

    KUMIKO: *Consti*. Save your breath.

    We see them hit another building with a *KKSSH* of broken glass, but this time it’s Willow that takes the hit – Kumiko is in control, driving her pillar to post.

    KUMIKO: Or did you think you were Saga Vasuki’s only student?

    As they launch free of this building back into the air, Kumiko reaches out as if she wants to choke Willow.

    KUMIKO: We speak the same language, you and I.

    WILLOW: Good…

    In close-up, we see that the proximity is what Willow needed. Both of their eyes flash white as Willow grabs Kumiko’s cheeks and pulls the vampire’s eyes open.

    WILLOW: Talk to me.

    The next image shows us what Willow sees as her eyes turn a blank yellow in the foreground. Alongside her face, we see a vision of Manhattan. The entire city is ablaze. The snake woman from 8.10, apparently Vasuki who Kumiko mentioned, dances in the foreground. Her tail appears to reach all the way down into the city to coil around the Chrysler Building. In the foreground, the Slayer scythe floats near Vasuki. In the vision, the demon speaks to Willow.

    VASUKI: Darling Willow. Did you think I could not find you? Did you think you could hide from what you are? Or what’s to come?

    The view shifts out of the vision, and we see Willow’s face against a black background. She’s fainting as she mumbles.

    WILLOW: … Goddess…

    In close-up, Kumiko grabs onto Willow’s throat again as the unconscious witch begins to fall.

    Back up in the window, Buffy is holding her knife ready to stab. Her eyes are shut as she repeats a familiar mantra for all those with a problem with heights.

    BUFFY: … It’s just like a diving board it’s just like a diving board it’s just like a diving board…

    We see the two witches again. Willow’s eyes are barely open, and she’s helpless as Kumiko grabs her throat.

    KUMIKO: Don’t pass out on me now, Miss Rosenberg…

    From a wider view, we see Kumiko is strangling Willow as they fall. Behind her, though, Buffy is descending at a free fall, her knife pulled back with both hands to stab as she approaches. The giant lens is visible at the top of the building as we look up.

    KUMIKO: You’re gonna miss the best part.

    Before Kumiko can show Willow the ‘best part’, Buffy is open her. She plants both feet on Kumiko’s backside to drop into a crouch and thrust the knife down into the witch-vampire with a *SHLACK*. Kumiko shouts in pain and surprise and let’s Willow go.

    The next image shows Kumiko’s silhouette as Buffy shoves her free to separate them, and the Slayer grabs onto Willow as they continue to plummet.

    BUFFY: Not like a diving board! Not like a diving board *at all*!

    In close-up, Buffy’s eyes go wide as she realizes Willow’s out cold.

    BUFFY: Will? *Willow*? Um, I need you to *wake up now*…

    We see from ground level as Slayers and vampire engage on the streets. High above them, Buffy and Willow continue to drop to the street.

    BUFFY: … Wakeup wakeup wakeup wakeup…

    The scene shifts to the fight on the street. Slayers and vampire lock up toe to toe. The vampires are driving the Slayers back now, and we see one Slayer run through with a sword, and others bloodied in various ways. Rowena tumbles backwards in the center of the battle, a vampire-panther reaching a claw out towards her.

    ROWENA: We have to fall back! There are too many of them!

    We see she has been disarmed and has fallen to the street. She backs up from the panther as it prepares to pounce.

    ROWENA: That’s an order! *Fall back now*!

    Before Rowena is attacked, and before her order triggers a retreat, we see a giant green sneaker drop into view and crush the panther with a *WHAM*!

    Rowena looks up and sees Dawn glowering down at her, assuming command.

    DAWN: We don’t run.

    From the roof of the Ashikaga building, we see the silhouette of Toru and Raidon as they watch the battle on the street. Toru still holds the scythe over his shoulder. On the street, Dawn stands in front of the Slayers and turns to lead them toward the building.

    RAIDON: We’ve got a problem.

    TORU: Wait ‘til she gets to the intersection, then deploy counter-measures.

    From the street, Dawn is pointing to the Ashikaga building and its giant lens as she looks down at the Slayers to rally them. In front of her, though, the street is opening like a trap door.

    DAWN: Let’s go, ladies! We’re taking that building!

    We see the Slayers behind Dawn as she begins to stride forward. Rowena sounds a warning to what Dawn doesn’t see – the thing casting a giant shadow in her path.

    DAWN: Buffy needs our –

    ROWENA: *Dawn! Look out*!

    In extreme close-up, we see Dawn’s face as she turns around to walk into something’s giant fist. The punch lands with a *KKRAACK*, and blood drips from Dawn’s nose.

    In close-up on the street, Rowena covers her mouth in disbelief. The Slayers behind her are similarly stunned by what’s attacking now.

    ROWENA: Oh my God!

    The next image reveals the new enemy. Even Dawn, knocked down by the punch, is staring up at it in amazement. It’s a giant robot, that looks like Dawn. It’s body is cold grey steel, but its head is covered with long black “hair”. Its eyes are glowing yellow lights.

    ROWENA: … They built a Mecha-Dawn.

    From above on the building, Toru looks over to Raidon as they watch the robotic Dawn, which also has a giant Godzilla-like steel tail, punch Dawn again.

    TORU: Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.

    MECHA-DAWN: *ROAARRR*!

    The two vampires turn away from the edge of the roof. Their silhouettes walk toward the giant lens. Around them, dozens of their vampires have assembled.

    RAIDON: Slayers are within radius.

    TORU: Good.

    RAIDON: Kumiko’s not responding.

    TORU: Less good.

    In a wide view, we see the roof is full of vampires. Raidon and Toru climb to the base of the lens, and we can see that Toru is handing his lieutenant his jacket.

    RAIDON: An understatement. We need her to do the spell.

    TORU: This is why we have secondary protocols, Raidon. I’ll do the incantation myself. Power up the lens.

    We see Toru face the lens. He raises the scythe over his head and begins to do the spell. The red light of the lens begins to waver and glow brighter.

    TORU: Makurayami inter canem et lupem

    In close-up, we see Raidon leaning over the technician operating the lens.

    RAIDON: What’s that noise?

    TECHNICIAN: Standard boot procedure. Lens mechanisms locking into place.

    In the same view, Raidon disagrees, hearing something else.

    RAIDON: No. Beneath that. It almost sounds like… screaming…

    A sound builds throughout those images, underlining the page with a giant *RRRRUMMMBLLEE*.

    The next image reveals the source of the sound as it bursts through the roof. Raidon and the technician turn to watch as Dracula bursts through the roof, his hand around a vampire’s throat and the other balled into a fist. He’s growling as he leads Leah, Satsu, and Andrew up onto the roof.

    Before anyone can react, Dracula has broken from the crowd and we see him tackle Toru away from the lens. The scythe flies free of his grip and into the air.

    We see Dracula land on top of Toru in the distance as he shouts back to the team.

    DRACULA: *Get the scythe*!

    Now it’s Satsu we see break free, leaping into action, planting her foot on a vampire’s face as she runs on top of the crowd.

    SATSU: On it!

    She leaps high into the air, diving forward and claiming the scythe as vampires watch her.

    And then we see her flight take her clean off the roof even as she secures the scythe in both hands.

    SATSU: Oh hell.

    The scene shifts back down to the street. In the distance, Dawn and Mecha-Dawn continue to slam into buildings. We see Buffy and Willow climbing out of a pool of water in the middle of the street.

    BUFFY: *Koff*

    WILLOW: *Koff Koff*

    BUFFY: Sidewalk into water?

    WILLOW: Short notice.

    BUFFY: I’m not complainin’.

    As the two begin wringing water out of their clothes, Willow focusing on her long skirt, they look up into the air with a surprising calm.

    WILLOW: Hey, isn’t that your girlfriend?

    BUFFY: She’s not my girlfriend.

    WILLOW: Whatever. That’s her, isn’t it?

    BUFFY: I think so…

    We see the two side by side, still staring up, still working as much water as possible out of clothes and hair.

    WILLOW: Be careful with her.

    BUFFY: I know.

    WILLOW: I’m serious, Buffy. I gotta look out for my sisters here.

    BUFFY: I hear you, Will.

    WILLOW: Good.

    The two now simply stand side by side facing us, but staring up to where Satsu is dropping out of the night sky.

    WILLOW: And just so you know… I never wanted to sleep with you either.

    BUFFY: What are you talking about?

    WILLOW: I’m sayin’ – it’s a good thing you didn’t try your little experiment on me. ‘Cause it wouldn’t have worked, Summers. You’re not even on my list.

    BUFFY: What list? There’s a list?

    The view doesn’t change, although water still drips from their faces.

    WILLOW: Yep. And you’re not on it. Not my type.

    BUFFY: Oh yeah? Well, then, you’re not on my list either!

    WILLOW: Good. I don’t want to be.

    BUFFY: Sure you do. It’s a very distinguished list. It has people like… um… Judi Dench and Eleanor Roosevelt on it.

    WILLOW: Ew. Just got the visual.

    BUFFY: And *other people too*. Those are just examples. Off the top of my head.

    The two of them **** their heads slightly sideways. They appear to be contemplating the falling Satsu like she’s modern art.

    WILLOW: We should probably go catch Satsu now.

    BUFFY: Yeah, I was just thinking that.

    Back on the roof, the battle rages on. Raidon runs frantically to the edge of the roof where Satsu disappeared, reaching up to an earpiece to call out a warning to the other vampires.

    RAIDON: Raidon to ground team. I need a retrieval – west side of the building. We’ve lost the scythe. Repeat: we’ve lost the

    The next image shows the scythe return – it’s in Buffy’s hand. Willow rises gracefully above the edge of the roof with a hard stare. On either side, she’s helping Buffy and Satsu fly up with her. Buffy has the scythe again, and a bloodthirsty expression. Satsu’s face shows the same mood as she wields her katana. Raidon looks up at them in abject panic.

    RAIDON: … scythe.

    We see Buffy swing the scythe out to Raidon’s waist, but he of course turns to fog from the waist down to avoid the blow.

    BUFFY: Oh, come on! Fog is *totally cheating*!

    The view reverses, and we see Dracula in the foreground as he catches sight of Willow. The witch is blasting a beam of yellow energy into one of the vampires.

    DRACULA: To me, witch!

    WILLOW: What does that even mean?

    DRACULA: It means *come over here*!

    We see Dracula hold out his gold-hilted broadsword to Willow, calling her to come take it from him.

    DRACULA: *Take my sword*. It’s one of the ancient relics. Bound with demon spirit – like your scythe. Angle a reverse incantation of Augustine’s Curse through the portal. It should negate the vampires’ abilities.

    We see Willow holding the sword in both hands – it seems too heavy for her – as she widens her eyes. She asks her question to Dracula’s back; he’s turned away before he answers.

    WILLOW: Why can’t you do the spell?

    DRACULA: Because I’m one of the vampires. *Go*.

    From a wider view, we see Willow fly up to face the still-glowing portal. She holds the sword out in front of her as she begins her incantation.

    WILLOW: *Aufero incuentatus… kritikus pillanatban jelen van*…

    In close-up, Raidon looks up and sees Willow. His eyes go wide in fear as he shouts desperately.

    RAIDON: *Stop her*!

    It’s too late. As Willow hovers, a burst of white light comes from the raised blade of Dracula’s sword and bursts into the portal with a *KRRRAAKKK*. The force drives Willow backwards in mid-air.

    WILLOW: *Lacrimo augustino*!

    From the street below, a burst of white light spreads out from the lens as Slayers and vampires battle below.

    The light fills the entire street and sky for a moment.

    On the roof, Buffy knows the tide has turned immediately. She stakes a vampire with the scythe and it dusts with a decisively finality.

    BUFFY: Scales are balanced again, girls! They’re vampires. We’re vampire Slayers.

    The rest of her command goes out over her commlink as Slayers begin to press the advantage, diving into battle with renewed vigor and staking vampires.

    BUFFY: (through radio) Time to do what we do.

    Down on the street, Mecha-Dawn shoves Dawn backwards into a building. The masonry collapses around her as she grimaces in pain.

    MECHA-DAWN: MY NAME IS DAWN.

    DAWN: That doesn’t sound anything like me!

    MECHA-DAWN: I AM A TEENAGE GIRL.

    DAWN: Then *why do you have a tail*?

    The robot answers with another punch that brings Dawn to the ground, pieces of building coming down with her. Andrew calls out to her through his own commlink.

    DAWN: *HHHNNNHHH*

    ANDREW: (through radio) Dawnie? Can you hear me?

    DAWN: Andrew?

    Up on the roof, we see Andrew looking down at the battle of giants, the full moon glowing behind him. He pumps his fist eagerly as he gives Dawn a strategy.

    ANDREW: Okay, Dawnie. Listen to me very carefully. Most Mecha creatures are susceptible to forced detachment of the control center. As long as it doesn’t have a backup brain in its neck, you should be able to defeat it through simple decapitation.

    Down on the street, Dawn looks up dubiously at the Mecha while she listens. The robot towers over her, still imitating Dawn.

    DAWN: What are you talking about? How do you know all this?


    ANDREW: (through radio) Hi. Have you met me?

    MECHA-DAWN: I LIKE BLUE JEANS. AND IRONY.

    From the roof-top, we see behind Andrew as he looks down. He looks exultant in the moment. It’s unclear if he’s answering Dawn or just taking a moment to appreciate it on his own.

    ANDREW: My giant-sized teammate is fighting a mechanized version of herself on the streets of downtown Tokyo…

    In close-up, Andrew raises his fists at the realization he is in his element at last.

    ANDREW: I’ve been preparing for this day *my entire life*!

    On the street, Dawn is back up on her feet. She dodges a punch by the machine and grabs its wrist.

    ANDREW: (through radio) Grab its head, Dawn! It should twist right off!

    MECHA-DAWN: I CRY A LOT.

    DAWN: That’s not true!

    In close-up, Dawn snarls as she gets the robot around the neck in a headlock.

    MECHA-DAWN: I OFTEN LET BOYS TAKE ADVANTAGE O MY WEAK EMOTIONAL STATES.

    DAWN: *No I do not*!

    With a new road, Dawn rips the robot’s head from its shoulders. The machine powers down with a shower of blue sparks.

    DAWN: *RRRAAAAARRR*!

    The scene shifts back to the roof. As Buffy finishes off one vampire, Raidon charges her from behind.

    RAIDON: Stand your ground, men! We don’t have to be wolves to drink their blood*!

    Buffy turns too slowly and Raidon grabs her around the throat.

    RAIDON: I bet you taste sweet, Slayer.

    Suddenly the vampire’s eyes widen in surprise. A voice speaks from behind him.

    VOICE: You have no idea.

    As Raidon bursts into dust, Satsu is revealed, stake in two hands.

    SATSU: (quietly) I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

    The view shifts to a close-up of Dracula as he reaches his hand out to Willow, who’s still floating above the roof. She throws his sword back to him at his request.

    DRACULA: Witch! I’ll take my sword back now.

    In close-up, we see a hand reach out to grab the sword as if flies.

    A wider view reveals it’s Toru, back on his feet, who now has Dracula’s sword.

    TORU: Just like an old man. He needs his cane to stand

    We see from behind Dracula as Toru approaches, sword raised. Behind him, his vampires are turning to dust as the battle turns against them steadily.

    TORU: He doesn’t know what to do with himself now that he’s an ordinary vampire again. Like the rest of us.

    DRACULA: My boy…

    We see Dracula spin toward Toru and land a back elbow even as he reclaims his sword. The younger vamp is surprised by the speed. Dracula’s reverted to his preferred human face.

    DRACULA: I was *never* an ordinary vampire.

    In a series of images, we see Dracula’s blade cut into Toru’s limbs. The first strike takes off Toru’s left hand.

    TORU: *HHHAAAAHH*

    DRACULA: Or did you forget who I used to be?

    The next cut takes off Toru’s right leg.

    DRACULA: I’ve killed more men than God’s plagues combined. And that was *before* I started eating people for fun.

    The third strike takes Toru’s right hand, and we see Dracula’s victim – that’s all he really ever was, clearly – stare in dumb amazement at his own dismemberment.

    TORU: *HNNNHHHH*

    DRACULA: The fields of Europe used to steam with the blood of my enemies. Trust me…

    Toru looks up at Dracula from his back. The legend is almost all cloak and silhouette, except for his brow. And the gleaming blade, dripping Toru’s blood.

    DRACULA: The vampire’s the least of your concerns. It’s the old man you need to worry about.

    Toru leans on his bloody arm stumps and looks up at Dracula defiantly.

    TORU: … Hnh… Then do it. Finish me.

    In a wider view, Toru begs for Dracula to kill him, but the older vampire turns and looks behind him as he refuses.

    TORU: You can’t leave me like this… hnh… you owe me that honor.

    DRACULA: It’s not my place to kill you…

    The view reverses, and we see it’s Xander that Dracula is watching approach. Even though the battle is still concluding on the roof, Xander walks forward calmly, ignoring the fighting.

    DRACULA: And you know *nothing* about honor.

    Without a word, Dracula extends the hilt of his sword to Xander, offering it to him. He accepts it without comment. His face is clouded with pain and loss.

    In a close-up, Xander looks down wearily. There’s no anger in his face, no bloodlust.

    Without a word, he slashes out with the broadsword and lops Toru’s head clean off. The vampire dusts without saying another word.

    The next image shows us Buffy in close-up. Her face is bloodied, but her eyes are wide with sadness and sympathy as she looks over towards Xander. Satsu and Leah are behind her, also looking on sympathetically. A voice calls to Buffy through the radio.

    VOICE: Leah to command. They’re rabbiting. They vamps… *they’re running away*.

    BUFFY: So chase them.

    On the other side of the roof, Xander lowers the sword as Toru’s dust blows away. Dracula stands a respectful distance behind him, not speaking or trying to comfort him. Buffy makes her orders clear through the radio even as she walks toward her friend, leaving Leah and Satsu together to watch.

    BUFFY: No prisoners. Seal off the streets. Cut them down as they flee.

    Buffy’s covered nearly half the distance to Xander as he lets the sword drop from his hands, clattering to the roof top.

    BUFFY: Kill every single one of them.

    In the foreground, Leah and Satsu turn away and return to the fight. Satsu echoes Buffy’s orders, understanding the purpose and the vengeance in them. In the distance, Buffy has reached Xander. He crumples to his knees in front of her, hugging her desperately around the waist. She holds his head and comforts him as best as such things can ever be comforted.

    SATSU: You heard her, girls! Go go go! Not one leaves. *Not one*…

    The scene shifts from the battle altogether as Satsu finishes the command. We see the Japanese castle at night, the headquarters of Aiko’s team.

    SATSU: (continued) “Nobody gets out of here alive.”

    The next image shows Xander in close-up. He’s wearing a yellow plaid shirt… and at least a full day’s growth on his beard. He looks completely broken inside. Behind him, Dracula approaches him, dressed again in his Victorian suit. They are outside the castle grounds.

    DRACULA: My ship is in port.

    We see them from behind as Dracula reaches Xander. Xander’s sitting down and Dracula looks down at him.

    DRACULA: Would you like assistance with your little ceremony before I take my leave?

    XANDER: No, thank you. I’d like to do this myself.

    The view reverses and in a wider view, Dracula accepts this and turns to leave. Xander is sitting on a garden bench. He’s wearing jeans, sneakers, and the shirt is open over a white t-shirt. At his side, a golden urn sits on the bench as well.

    DRACULA: Very well. Goodbye, Manservant.

    XANDER: Hey, Dracula…

    We see Xander’s good eye in extreme close-up as Dracula starts to walk away behind him.

    XANDER: If you call me “manservant” again… I’ll kill you in your sleep.

    In a close-up, we see Dracula turn his head, contemplating this.

    DRACULA: Hm.

    The view widens, and Dracula walks away, considering alternatives. Xander doesn’t look back, nor spare a smile.

    DRACULA: Perhaps you’re right. Something like “lacky” or “minion”, then.

    XANDER: Absolutely not.

    In an even wider image, we see the castle grounds again. As the scene moves away from Xander, Satsu’s voice pulls us to the next scene.

    DRACULA: “Houseboy”?

    XANDER: Still getting killed.

    SATSU: (from next scene) “I thought we’d act like nothing happened…”

    The next image looks into a bedroom window in the castle. Satsu and Buffy are sitting next to each other on a bed, facing away from us. Satsu is wearing jeans, and Buffy is in green capri pants and a matching shirt.

    SATSU: I thought we’d wake up and everything would be fine. But everything’s not fine.

    We see them from inside the room, still from behind. Buffy has her legs crossed away from Satsu, looking a little uncomfortable.

    SATSU: I don’t think I can be around you right now, Buffy.

    BUFFY: It’s me, isn’t it? I’m making it worse…

    The view shifts around and we see them from the front. Buffy is looking over to Satsu, trying to reassure her, and the younger woman keeps her eyes on the floor.

    BUFFY: I can change. I can be less… enticing. In a lesbian sense. That didn’t come out right. I can make it easier on you, I promise.

    SATSU: It’s not you. Or, I mean…

    We see from Buffy’s side as Satsu turns to look at her.

    SATSU: It’s *totally* you. But it’s not like it’s something you’re doing, it’s just…

    We see them from the front again. Buffy listens, watching Satsu patiently as Satsu tries to get it out.

    SATSU: I’m in love with you. And I need to *not be*. And that’s never gonna happen when you’re right in front of me.

    From Satsu’s side, we see Buffy, uncertain of what Satsu is asking.

    BUFFY: You want me to leave?

    SATSU: More like I should stay. Here. In Japan.

    The view reverses to Satsu in profile.

    SATSU: The Tokyo office needs a field leader. I guess I’m asking for a promotion.

    We see them from above as Buffy stands and thinks about what Satsu is asking her.

    BUFFY: It’s a lot of work, Satsu.

    SATSU: I know.

    BUFFY: These girls are raw. They need training. Most of ‘em aren’t ready for what’s to come.

    SATSU: I won’t let you down.

    We see Buffy in close-up, and she’s smiling as if she understands something more clearly than before.

    BUFFY: I know you won’t.

    In a wider view, Buffy knees beside the bed where Satsu is still sitting.

    BUFFY: I just hope… I just hope I didn’t hurt you.

    SATSU: Nah. I’m tough. And for what it’s worth…

    In close-up, we see Satsu smile warmly at Buffy as she admits her opinion.

    SATSU: It was one of the best nights of my life.

    We see Buffy in close-up as well as she smiles in return.

    BUFFY: Mine too.

    Buffy is still kneeling next to Satsu, looking up at her face.

    BUFFY: So.

    SATSU: So.

    BUFFY: What do we do now? Say goodbye? Go our separate ways and such?

    SATSU: Well.

    In a close-up, we see their faces get closer to each other, eyes locked on each other’s.

    SATSU: I suppose we could always save goodbye for tomorrow…

    The scene shifts away from them for a moment, and we see a ship, a sloop, in harbor. Dracula is silhouetted on the deck, looking out to the sea. A ship’s captain approaches him from behind.

    CAPTAIN: My lord, the crew would like to retire below. Unless, of course, you’ll be requiring further assistance this evening.

    DRACULA: No, Captain, that won’t be necessary…

    As Dracula continues answering the captain in voiceover, we move to see Willow. She’s sitting in a private room in the Japanese castle, meditating before a smoking bowl. A green cloud swirls around the ceiling. The snake woman, Vasuki, appears in the room in front of her, smiling slyly.

    DRACULA: (voiceover) “We have a cold journey ahead of us…

    The scene shifts again back to Buffy and Satsu. They are naked and kissing in the bed by candlelight, making love again in a tangle of sheets.

    DRACULA: (voiceover) “Find what warmth you can for now…

    Then we see Xander standing alone in the garden outside the castle. He is pouring the urn, and spreading Renee’s ashes on the soft grass.

    DRACULA: (voiceover) “And I’ll stand watch alone.”

    The last image is the cold black field and the “Buffy” logo, silent and unrelenting.

    End of Issue #15
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    • #17
      Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #16
      “Time of Your Life, Part I”


      Prologue Summary: Today thousands of Slayers populate the world – forming squadrons, fighting vampires, demons, and, more recently, the U.S. military. Buffy and Xander continue to train an elite force of Slayers in the highlands of Scotland where they prepare to duel their fiercest foe to date: Twilight.

      Buffy’s fresh from another doomed relationship, and Xander has suffered another great loss. Now a mystical vision has directed Willow toward New York City and clues to the future of magic. And as for Dawn… she’s still experiencing some serious growing pains.

      Start of Issue #16

      The opening image is of Buffy, holding her scythe and staring ahead, ready to fight. She’s standing on what seems like a steamy urban rooftop, but wearing a cocktail dress.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: Bad day. Started out bad, stayed that way.

      The next image is epic in scope, spanning two full pages. The rooftop Buffy was standing on stood over a huge, futuristic city. Futuristic, but dystopian – buildings look grey and cold, neon signs identifying their occupants. The air is vaguely green from lighting and pollutants. For hundreds of feet, traffic moves in layers of flying cars. It’s from this roof top that Buffy begins to fall as she throws an uppercut into the jaw of MELAKA FRAY, Vampire Slayer hundreds of years in the future. She’s dressed in magenta pants and a pink shirt, wears elbow pads and boots. Her dark hair ends in purple-dyed tips. She has a scythe, as well, and swings it at Buffy even as the older Slayer lands the punch.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: Starting with, not chronologically, but in order of immediate importance… who the hell is this person?

      As they fall, they ignore the danger, attacking each other, but they plummet through the traffic, the ground hundreds of feet below them.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: Also: where am I?

      Buffy and Fray continue to fall, narrowly avoiding a flying car, still locked in a fight.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: Where’s everyone else?

      We barely see them in the distance below, obscured by the heavy traffic.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: And seriously, what’s up with Dawn?

      Buffy’s question leads into a change of scene. We see Dawn, some time earlier, standing over the tree line near the castle in Scotland. She is gripping her abdomen, though, and yelling in pain.

      DAWN: AAHHH!!

      The scene immediately shifts again, and we’re inside the castle, in its command center. Rather than the usual bustle of activity, the room is mostly empty, all the monitors are off. Buffy sits on the steps of the center dais. Xander and Willow sit near her on chairs at the workstations. The three of them are talking and working on some Chinese takeout. Buffy has a huge pile of noodles on her chopsticks, ready to bite.

      XANDER: Man, you really haven’t lived till you’ve had Scottish Chinese take-out. Anybody want some more sweet and sour haggis?

      BUFFY: I think it’s chicken, Xander… although I’m not gonna guess which part –

      WILLOW: Ah, quitcher grousin’. Two days’ time we’ll be in the home of the best Chinese takeout in the world. Well, after San Francisco. And, I suppose, probably China…

      We see Buffy in close-up as she takes a full bite of noodles. The full mouth doesn’t prevent her from asking Willow a question. Behind Buffy, we see Xander still staring doubtfully at his food.

      BUFFY: Bht whuy nhh yrk? Is ht rulluh n guhd umdea to guh now?

      In close-up, Xander jumps in, having understood Buffy’s food-speak perfectly.

      XANDER: Chewbacca has a *point*, Will. Do we really want to be abandoning the fort on the basis of some goth vamp speaking in tongues?

      From behind Xander, we see Willow, hands in her lap, head lowered somberly as she answers.

      WILLOW: She wasn’t speaking at all. Someone was using her to send me a message. From… elsewhere.

      The view shifts around, and we see Willow glance over at Buffy as the Slayer perks up in response, sitting up as she pounces with questions.

      BUFFY: And that someone wouldn’t happen to be a really hot-even-though-she’s-got-kind-of-a-snake-body demon lady by any chance?

      WILLOW: Hoo? Bah? No no, you’re making up made-up things…

      The view shifts around to behind Xander as he sits forward, leaning over his lap in interest. Willow continues to stare at the floor.

      XANDER: Okay, explain how you know that. Slowly, with many visuals.

      BUFFY: What, you guys think I’m in charge just ‘cause I can hit things?

      XANDER: Only mostly…

      WILLOW: And, moving on…

      Willow raises her hands as she begins to explain the importance of her contact’s information.

      WILLOW: The fact is, Buffy’s scythe is the power source of our entire Slayer army. My contact – who shall remain name-and-snake-body-less – told me it would be found in New York.

      Buffy comes to her feet with a question as Willow closes her take-out container.

      BUFFY: But we got it back! How can it be found if it’s not lost?

      WILLOW: That message was sent for a reason. We need to find out what it means – before get attacked again. Before we lose another…

      The view widens to show Willow and Buffy both from behind Xander. Willow stares regretfully at him as she catches herself. Buffy immediate stares off at nowhere, facing one of the workstations.

      WILLOW: … Another fight.

      BUFFY: ‘Kay. Prosecution rests. Later on we can figure out who should come with –

      XANDER: *Guys*.

      We see Xander in extreme close-up after he has their attention. He looks down sadly as he opens up to them.

      XANDER: I appreciate the eggshells, but… Renee’s dead. I’m dealing with it. By myself.

      Willow and Buffy both look back at him with caution and sympathy as he goes on. His words suggest a firmness of tone.

      XANDER: I’m not being a *guy*; I’ll ask for help if I need it, but we can’t turn war councils into awkward pausathons because I lost someone close. We have to stay focused, so…

      The view shifts, and we see Xander sitting forward, leaning on his lap again as he demands information. As he does, though, a voice calls out to them from the entrance to the command center.

      XANDER: I need to know everything about the demon lover with the snake body and don’t shield me anything deviant, or… I don’t want to say kinky –

      VOICE: *Guys*!

      The view shifts to reveal the new arrival – it’s Leah, standing in the doorway, out of breath. She points behind her with her thumb.

      LEAH: In the orchard. It’s Dawn.

      The very next image shows Willow flying low along the castle grounds, hurrying to Dawn. Buffy nearly keeps pace with her on foot. Behind them, Xander chases after them.

      WILLOW: *DAWNIE*!

      Willow pauses in mid-air, and we see her view of the forest as Dawn’s voice is heard from inside the tree cover.

      DAWN: Ah… oh God…

      WILLOW: Dawnie! Wha’ts wrong?

      We see Willow drop gracefully from the air, her skirt fluttering around her as she lands. Dawn’s voice calls out to her.

      DAWN: *Don’t come in here*!

      We see Willow staring straight ahead and Buffy comes charging up, calling for her sister. Behind them, Xander is still doggedly running after them.

      BUFFY: Dawn? Are you sick? Can you stand?

      DAWN: (from out of the view) I *am* standing?

      BUFFY: You… you mean you… got shrunk?

      We Buffy and Willow in profile. Willow has her fingers on her chin thoughtfully. Buffy is smiling encouragingly as she fishes for reaction from Dawn. Xander stands on Buffy’s other side, sweating and panting from the long sprint.

      XANDER: Wuzzis? Shrunk? Whuh?

      BUFFY: *Yay*! Dawnie, yay?

      The view reverses to reveal Dawn. She’s of almost human height, but that is all. She is a centaur – her body a sleek brown with a thick tail that flows like her own hair. Her torso is as fit and attractive as ever – but she is forced to cover her breasts with hands. Her scowl reveals the sarcasm of her answer.

      DAWN: Neigh.

      The scene shifts again, and the sight is immediately daunting – it’s Twilight, facing something we can’t see. His jacket collar is turned up, and the background behind him Is blank gray space.

      TWILIGHT: Hmm.

      In a wider view, we see that Twilight is in a lab of some kind, set up in a building with stone walls. He’s not alone. Amy and Warren are with him. Amy stands patiently with her hands behind her back as the white-lab-coat clad skinless man looks indignant at Twilight’s reaction to his work.

      WARREN: ”Hmm”? F$&@ you, “hmm”. This is *primo*.

      AMY: Sweetie…

      In a closer view of Twilight facing Warren, the villain’s arms crossed patiently, Warren ignores his girlfriend and continues his rant.

      WARREN: Look, copperhead, we busted our asses on this baby. And it will do the job.

      TWILIGHT: Yes.

      We see Twilight alone in close-up as he responds to Warren’s outrage.

      TWILIGHT: It will do its part, I’m sure. But it’s only a small part in a great scheme.

      Warren steps closer to Twilight, still pushing. Amy has stepped around behind him, clearly on his side, but watches Twilight a little warily.

      WARREN: Hey, I have no skin. Which means I don’t have your cute little symbol carved in it. I’m in this for myself, and myself is telling you right now that *this baby*

      The view widens and we see what Warren has made. He and Twilight stand facing a giant missile. It looks perfectly dangerous on its own, but to add to the menace, it’s covered in painted magical emblems, has candles all over it, and a magic book of some kind open on a podium in front of it, clearly used to enchant the weapon.

      WARREN: …is gonna bring the noise.

      The scene shifts back to Scotland, and we see Buffy alone under the blue sky talking on her cell phone in private.

      BUFFY: Good. You’ll let me know where?

      Having gotten an answer, Buffy snaps her phone shut as she turns and walks toward Willow and Xander. The others are standing together a respectful distance away. Behind them, a small black helicopter waits to be boarded.

      XANDER: Come on, slowpoke!

      BUFFY: Sorry. I’m here.

      We see the three together, Buffy facing Willow and Xander. Willow looks at Buffy with a curious face, but the Slayer and Xander focus on each other, sharing last minute information.

      XANDER: This’ll drop you at the airstrip. Soon as something interesting happens you call in.

      BUFFY: Sorry to leave you holding the bag of oats…

      XANDER: Flicka and I will be fine. I don’t feel good about leaving my squad right now anyway. Git.

      Later, a private jet pulls up from the runway of an airport. We hear Willow’s voice from inside.

      WILLOW: This is nice, Buff…

      Inside the cabin, Buffy and Willow sit together in the spacious seats. Willow is poring through one of a few texts on her lap, while Buffy stares out the window. They don’t look at each other as they speak.

      WILLOW: More largess from your mysterious benefactor who is actually you stealing things?

      BUFFY: You know, we *do* have some legitimate funding…

      WILLOW: Ah, I’m just ribbin’.

      BUFFY: ‘Kay. Color me ribbed.

      We see them in a closer view, still not looking at each other. After what seems like an awkward pause, Buffy changes subjects.

      BUFFY: You got a time frame on this mystical event thingie?

      WILLOW: I’m guessing midnight.

      BUFFY: How come?

      WILLOW: I’m a witch. We like midnight.

      In close-up, Buffy continues to look out the window as she clarifies her interest in their schedule.

      BUFFY: I’m gonna need a couple hours. Gotta… take a meeting.

      WILLOW: Meeting?

      BUFFY: With a thing. It’s no big.

      From across Buffy’s face, we see Willow finally look at her friend, smiling with bemusement.

      WILLOW: I’ll respect your crypticality for now, Slayer. I still need to get some clue about the event.

      As Willow turns back down to concentrate on her books, Buffy glances over at her with a questioning look.

      BUFFY: I know you trust your source, but we really don’t know what we’re walking into, do we?

      WILLOW: Do we ever? We’ll be in and out in a day, and as for the possibility of encountering hostiles, well…

      Willow’s line continues over the next image, which brings us to a new scene. It’s the urban skyline of New York City, scene from above.

      WILLOW: (voiceover) “… I sent an advance team.”

      The next image shows Kennedy, standing solicitously with her elbow on the doorframe of the jetway Buffy and Willow are emerging from. She’s looking straight ahead; we’re seeing her as if we’re Willow.

      KENNEDY: Hey, red. Didn’t miss you.

      We see Willow and Kennedy embrace, locking their arms around each other’s backs and staring lovingly at each other as they banter their hellos.

      WILLOW: Didn’t even think about you.

      KENNEDY: Kinda forgot you.

      WILLOW: And I would know you from…?

      The moment breaks as Kennedy notices Buffy coming toward them. The senior Slayer has what appears to be all of their luggage under her arms and in her hands as she trudges along.

      KENNEDY: The boss of bosses. Need a hand with that?

      BUFFY: No, I’m good, I’m balanced…

      As they move through the airport’s luggage claim, Kennedy and Willow hold hands, with Kennedy shouldering Willow’s lone carry-on. Behind them, Buffy hurries to keep up.

      WILLOW: Buffy had an outfit crisis. We should have seen the warning signs.

      BUFFY: Well I’ve never been to New York – I want to look… New Yorky… and there could be weather.

      KENNEDY: Please. I don’t go to *Denny’s* without packing three bags.

      WILLOW: Sad but true but also cute.

      A short while later, we see Buffy in close-up. Her lips are pursed in wonder, and her eyes wide open. She’s standing up in a limousine, her head out of the sunroof and her ponytail blowing out behind her.

      BUFFY: Ooh…

      In a wider view, we see Buffy lift her arms exultantly as the limo speeds toward the city. Inside, Willow and Kennedy are talking business.

      KENNEDY: We’re working with the Manhattan squad on security and housing, but my group’s taking point on the op.

      Inside the limo, Kennedy and Willow are sitting on the rear bench. As they talk, they watch Buffy, who’s torso is visible as she continues to stand up through the sunroof.

      WILLOW: Violet’s okay with that?

      KENNEDY: She’s got plenty to do. The city that never sleeps doesn’t exactly… well, sleep. It’s vampire heaven. We’ll mostly stay out of their way – though they probably wouldn’t hate a little face time with the “great and terrible”…

      BUFFY: *Ooh! Ooh!* Empire State building!

      We see a closer image of Willow and Kennedy. Kennedy appears to smirk a little at Buffy’s behavior.

      WILLOW: She’s never been in New York.

      BUFFY: (from out of the view) I’m the King Kong of the *worrrrld*!

      WILLOW: Or, apparently, a limo.

      The scene shifts and we see a closeup of Violet, more commonly “Vi”, holding a small pointer. She’s dressed casually in a tank top, her red bangs held back by a clip.

      VIOLET: What can I tell you?

      The view widens and we see that Violet is addressing her team, the Manhattan Squad, in a highrise loft of some kind. At least eight Slayers, watch her, either sitting on the floor or standing. Willow stands as well. Off to one side, Kennedy and Buffy sit on a table. As Violet gives her briefing to the room, she uses a map as a visual aid.

      VIOLET: We’ve got mystical turf wars raging in almost every section of the city – and that’s just Manhattan. There’s dark mages gathering in Tribeca, Harlem is overflowing with Fyarls, and there’s a blood war in the financial district, which is actually status quo. Oh, and an angry spirit is attacking the cast of *Xanadu*, don’t ask me why.

      In another close-up, Violet gestures at the map with her pointer. The map is of Manhattan, with notable locations like Bellevue Medical Center and Thompkins Square Park visible. As she get to the information Willow was waiting for, the witch interjects.

      VIOLET: All of which means that tracing the mystical signature Willow sent our wiccan squad has been… a little tricky. We think – operative word “think” – it’s coming from this high-rise on 53rd and Lex. But it seems to be coming and going.

      WILLOW: (from out of the view) It *would* be.

      The view reverses. Willow steps forward to explain. Behind her, Buffy and Kennedy listen on. On the ground, Slayers whisper to each other. Whether they mean Buffy or Willow, they clearly think they are in the presence of superstars.

      WILLOW: I was looking for a… there’s not a word for it that we can say, but it’s sort of the opposite of an echo. Can I use your board a sec?

      MANHATTAN SLAYER: (whispering) Can you even believe she’s standing right here?

      We see the board in close-up as Willow begins to diagram her explanation. She draws a straight line, marking it with hashes.

      WILLOW: This is time, as we experience it. There’s the past, there’s now, and the far-off future.

      In extreme close-up, we see Willow draw concentric circles radiating from a point on her line.

      WILLOW: The event happens… sometime around here. But it’s a *temporal* anomaly, which means it affects the timestream almost exactly like a pebble thrown into a pond… and what your girls are picking up –

      We see only Willow’s diagram as she continues.

      WILLOW: – I hear whispering and we are not playing Pictionary so clam the hell up – … is the last subsiding ripple of the event. And event completely fluid *temporally*…

      The view shits to where Kennedy and Buffy are sitting, as they watch Willow get on a roll.

      WILLOW: (from out of the view) … But deadlocked *spatially*.

      KENNEDY: (to Buffy) How hot am I for teacher right now?

      BUFFY: You know she took over the computer-science class at Sunnydale? Wasn’t even a senior. My Will…

      In an instant, Kennedy turns and looks sharply at Buffy. As Kennedy warns her off, Buffy looks confused and exasperated at how much Kennedy apparently knows.

      KENNEDY: Hey, grubby paws *off*, Lez-faux.

      BUFFY: What? What have you – who said I –

      KENNEDY: I love that you’re in your experimental phase – ‘cause I really kinda thought you were a ‘phobe – but you put the moves on red and I’ll kill you like a chicken.

      BUFFY: (quietly) Hamnoo?

      WILLOW: (shouting, from out of the view) *I still hear whispering*!

      Back in Scotland, it’s nearly sunset. Xander and Dawn stand together watching it against the mountainous horizon. Dawn now has a form-fitting black sleeveless top on, so is free to put her hands on her hips, clearly unhappy with the change.

      XANDER: But at least we know they fade. And Will’s pretty sure we know the parameters. Three. Magic number three.

      Dawn crosses her arms, looking away from him. She takes little reassurance from his words. Xander looks up at her in genuine surprise as she sums up her situation.

      DAWN: Great. Three magic enchantments wherein my ass is huge.

      XANDER: Are you kidding? Dawn…

      As Xander finishes his question, we see Dawn look back in close-up. It’s unclear how much of her face is flattered or disbelieving.

      XANDER: (from out of the view) You really don’t know how awesome you look?

      From behind Dawn, looking down of course, we see Xander shrug, spreading his arms for emphasis.

      XANDER: You’re a frikkin’ centaur! Majestic creature of legend! I’m actually jealous.

      Dawn looks unconvinced, but more sad now than angry. She looks down and away, arms still crossed, as Xander relaxes. He still looks up to her face.

      DAWN: I sleep standing up. I pee a crazy amount of pee. I want hay – I actually *want to eat hay*. I don’t feel like a majestic creature of legend. I feel like a freak.

      In close-up, Xander looks down, his face a little resigned.

      XANDER: It’s temporary, Dawnbo. And it’s a lot better than trampling Tokyo. There must be a non-whiny way to deal with this.

      We see Dawn in close-up, her expression making words unnecessary – that was the wrong thing to say.

      XANDER: (from out of the view) Aannd, when I say “whiny”…

      It’s too late; the next image shows Dawn galloping away from him full tilt, toward the tree line. Xander puts his hands on his hips as he stands alone watching the last bit of the sun set between the mountains.

      We see Xander marching slowly back up the hill to the castle. He’s muttering to himself, not noticing the green streak racing across the sky toward the castle.

      XANDER: Mmm, this foot tastes delicious… ah, what are you gonna do? Who can fathom the mystery that is horse-slash-woman…

      In close-up, Xander takes notice, staring up at the sky with alarm.

      XANDER: What is that…

      He instantly sprints forward toward the castle. The green streak is Twilight’s missile, and Xander shouts in vain for Leah, for anyone as he runs forward. Far too late.

      XANDER: *NO!! INCOMING! INCOMING!*

      He’s blown backwards in mid-sprint as the castle erupts in a detonation of green flame and masonry. The shockwave hits him with a *FWH TOOOM!!*. The image of destruction is absolute. Surely none could have survived.

      The next image shows Xander sitting up in the grass – the horror and surprise settling on his face as the green flames light up the night sky. Kennedy’s voice leads us into the next scene.

      KENNEDY: (voiceover) “It’s quiet.”

      When the view shifts back to New York, we see Kennedy with her hands on the rail of a high-rise balcony, the wind whipping her dark hair around. Other Slayers stand on the balcony with her. Willow stands behind her, looking into a magic book. A glowing ball of yellow energy hovers over the witch’s right hand.

      WILLOW: Are you about to say that it’s “too quiet”, dear?

      KENNEDY: No, I’m gonna say I think we’re, okay, not to jinx… I think your source played us straight.

      We see from behind Kennedy as she turns to face her girlfriend. Willow doesn’t look up – there are now two glowing balls of energy around her.

      KENNEDY: ‘Course, I still wouldn’t hate a hint as to who your source is… or any indication *at all* about what’s supposed to happen here…

      In close-up, Willow’s expression tightens a bit, not wanting to indulge Kennedy’s leading question.

      WILLOW: We’re on the furthest edge of a temporal rift.

      KENNEDY: (from out of the view) Yeah, I saw a diagram.

      WILLOW: Oh, right. So, the event is in the future. But every time those ripples swell, anomalies can occur. Something may be coming through to us. Hopefully something helpful.

      The view reverses to Kennedy, who is still watching her girlfriend work.

      KENNEDY: it’s about the scythe.

      WILLOW: (from out of the view) Yes.

      KENNEDY: And Buffy has the scythe.

      WILLOW: Yes.

      KENNEDY: But we don’t have Buffy.

      The next image shows Buffy leaning out a sliding glass door onto the balcony, announcing her return. He is wearing the same gold, fairly skimpy dress we saw at the beginning of the issue, and smiles brightly as she calls out.

      BUFFY: You have me! I’m had, I’m on time I’m not in trouble hi.

      The view reverses and we see from behind Buffy as Kennedy and Willow eye her skeptically.

      KENNEDY: Well, I feel underdressed.

      WILLOW: Must have been *some* “no big”…

      We see Buffy standing alone, pulling the scythe out of the large shoulder bag she was carrying.

      BUFFY: I’m undercover! And I thought we weren’t expecting fighty. But I can change…

      An instant later, where Buffy was standing, a flash of white light fills the image with a *FWWIT*.

      And where Buffy was standing, we now see an eyeless demon, slouching and slobbering. One of its arm’s ends in a giant claw.

      DEMON: hhuurrrrrsssss

      The view shifts around to Willow and Kennedy, who both look very surprised by the switch.

      KENNEDY: The other look was fine…

      The next image shows Buffy, alone in a black space. She’s falling horizontally, with no reference, and her mouth is open in a scream.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: So. Pain.

      Back on the Manhattan rooftop, the demon lunges toward Kennedy, who steps between it and Willow, already giving other Slayers orders.

      KENNEDY: *SLAYERS! Flank and contain!*

      We see Buffy again, still in pain, the scythe held in front of her. Her body is translucent in the red light, and her veins and organs visible through her silhouette as she writhes in the darkness.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: New pain. *Most* pain.

      On the rooftop, Kennedy narrowly steps back from being gutted by the demon’s claw arm – it tears through her shirt and gashes her stomach as well.

      KENNEDY: Damn…

      We see Buffy again, but now she’s rocketing forward, toward a growing orange light in the black space.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: And just when you think it’s never gonna end…

      The next image shows Buffy on the rooftop we saw at the start of the issue – she arrives with a *FWWT* of displaced air. She’s holding her scythe, looking around in bewilderment.

      And then immediately we see a close-up as her head is knocked backwards by a vicious punch to the jaw.

      (NARRATION) BUFFY: … it doesn’t.

      From behind, we see Buffy rocked by another punch – Fray has arrived, and throws an uppercut that knocks Buffy off her feet with a *CRAK!*

      Buffy lands hard on her upper back, dropping her scythe. Fray’s voice calls out sarcastically before Buffy can even try to sit up.

      FRAY: (from out of the view) This is *toy*!

      We see Buffy from above as she looks up at her attacker, utterly confused by both the situation and the words she’s hearing.

      FRAY: (from out of the view) You think you can spin me with a half-coi glam of a Slayer been dust more than two-cen?

      The view reverses and we see Fray from ground level with Buffy. She is dressed for a fight and ready to give one, holding her own scythe at her side. Behind her, the monkey demon she met in “Tales of the Slayers” stands on a heating unit, watching her and Buffy. Fray sneers at the other Slayer.

      FRAY: You’re lower than a *lurk*.

      The last image is of Buffy, trying to sit up, her scythe still on the rooftop beside her. She doesn’t even know where to begin.

      BUFFY: Uh… English?

      To Be Continued

      End of Issue #16
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      • #18
        Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #17
        “Time of Your Life, Part II”


        Prologue Summary: Today thousands of Slayers populate the world – forming squadrons, fighting vampires, demons, and, more recently, the U.S. military. Buffy and Xander continue to train an elite force of Slayers in the highlands of Scotland where they prepare to duel their fiercest foe to date: Twilight.

        Buffy’s fresh from another doomed relationship, and Xander has suffered another great loss. Now a mystical vision has directed Willow toward New York City and clues to the future of magic. And as for Dawn… she’s still experiencing some serious growing pains.

        Start of Issue #17

        The opening image is of Melaka Fray, the Vampire Slayer. She is crouching alertly, one hand touching a large metal surface. Smoke and air wisp past her. She is wearing a green shirt that doesn’t quite meet her matching cargo pants. Her fingersnails and lipstick match the same purple that blends into her otherwise indigo hair. She has tape around her hand and her elbows.

        MEL: This is the place.

        In a wider image, we see that the metal surface Mel is touching is the side of what looks like a flying cargo van. The van, marked “B-42”, is racing along through the flying traffic of Mel’s city, Haddyn. Mel herself is crouching on the sidecar of a blue, flying motorcycle. Driving the bike is a blond-haired woman – Melaka’s sister, ERIN.

        ERIN: You’re sure?

        MEL: I got ‘em nosed. This is the nest.

        In close-up, we see Fray reach down with her right hand into the bike’s side car to retrieve a familiar weapon – her Scythe.

        ERIN: (from out of the view) Without an ock I can’t spill a whole van –

        MEL: I’m not gonna get you booted from the laws, sis.

        The view reverses, and we see Fray turn to instruct her sister while holding the blade of her scythe toward the side of the van.

        MEL: Just brake when I say.

        The signal is given without us hearing, because the next image shows the blurring motion of bike braking, the van speeding ahead, and Mel’s Scythe peeling back the metal side of the cargo vehicle as they decelerate. The vampires – lurks – inside look surprised.

        We see Melaka in close-up, her face cold and ready. Behind her, Erin looks amazed at the number of creatures in the van.

        ERIN: There’s so many…

        MEL: Can you lock in their router?

        ERIN: take me a min.

        MEL: A min?

        And before Erin can protest, Mel launches herself forward of the sidecar across the gap to the van. She is smiling enthusiastically. One of the vampires is leaning through the hole in the van, ready to meet her.

        MEL: I’m buying.

        We see Melaka and the vampire tumble through the air as she tackles him – they are falling through the Haddyn traffic, Melaka taking advantage in the weightless fight, holding her Scythe like a spear.

        In a close-up, we see Erin looking down after her baby sister, looking weary and worried.

        ERIN: (to herself) Does she alwy have to do that?

        In a wider view, Erin cuts her police bike across the backtrail of the van, using a beam of some kind to scan the vampires’ license plate.

        ERIN: Okay. Router lock active…

        Back with Melaka, she and the vamp are still falling, but there’s no sign Mel really notices. She has her legs coiled around the vampire and is screaming at him. For his part, he is surprised and has no idea what she’s talking about.

        MEL: *Where is he*?

        In an extreme close-up, we see Melaka’s eyes, one squinting, the other wide and almost crazy.

        MEL: *Where is Harth*?

        In the next image, we see the cargo van crash into a forcefield and explode with a *BWOOOOOM*. A router lock presumably being a way to direct a vehicle remotely. The forcefield covers a large stone statue of a bearded man holding a book in one hand and making what appears to be the “shocker” gesture with the other.

        Next we see Fray and the vampire land on the roof of another traveling car. Mel has the vampire pinned under her feet as she drives it into the roof, shattering glass. Her Scythe is aimed stake down at his chest.

        VAMP: This can’t hap! He promised us your world!

        MEL: Spled for you. *Where*?

        VAMP: He said the madwoman would save us!

        From the vamp’s point of view, we see Mel casually holding the Scythe in both hands, ready to finish him.

        MEL: What woman?

        VAMP: The dark-haired one. She’s lived for centuries, speaks in riddles and strange voices… he calls her the black hope, says she has power greater even than his. Please don’t give me th’ poke

        In a close-up, we see Mel’s face scowl mercilessly. As she stakes the vampire with a *CHK*, he collapses into green dust with a *PFFT*.

        MEL: Begging. Weak.

        From above, we see Fray smiling as she vaults backwards off the flying car. Her sister waits to catch her on her police bike. Erin’s question in voiceover takes us into the next scene.

        ERIN: (voiceover) “Do you know who she is?”

        The scene shifts, and we see Melaka walking across the floor of a large library. It has a sky-roof, wood paneling, and a stone fireplace. She’s set up a hammock in the corner, but it’s clearly the same room she’s led to in “Tales of the Slayers”. Erin stands in the entrance way, looking dubious.

        MEL: Not off top, but it sounds famil. Gotta scan the diaries again.

        ERIN: This place… you know, I still have that extra room…

        From behind, Melaka is poring over one of the shelves, looking for a book. She doesn’t turn when she answers.

        MEL: This is my home. Place welcomes me. Got histry in it, in these diaries, and since Harth got my memories, I’ve need. ‘Sides…

        Mel’s answer is cut off, and emphasized, when we see a six-limbed monkey with green glowing eyes leap onto Erin’s shoulders. The police woman is panicked as the creature babbles on her back.

        MEL: (from out of the view) You really set to share a flat with Gates?

        GATES: Mek mek!

        ERIN: *Dahh*!

        GATES: Mekrin-syppah!

        Next we see a much calmer Erin easing the monkey demon off her shoulders while Melaka, behind her, finds her book.

        ERIN: “Gates”?

        MEL: The last great Watcher. Sacrificed himself at the Battle of Starbucks.

        ERIN: “Starbucks.” Where’s that?

        MEL: Dunno. I’m slow getting through these – even all the ones in old ‘merican.

        In close-up, Melaka’s face is distracted by real curiousity as she turns slowly through one of the diaries.

        MEL: But I read about a madwoman ‘fore.

        The scene shifts, and we’re in a darkened room with a rounded opening that faces the uninvited Haddyn skyline. HARTH is in the room, as well as a woman in a flowing gown, excessively frilled. Her hair is dark, and we don’t see her face. Harth is bringing her a golden cup, with steam of some kind rising off of it.

        HARTH: I remember fighting you.

        In close-up, we see the woman accept the cup in her hands. It appears to be filled with water.

        HARTH: (from out of the view) In the dream, you hurt me. Not just fighting – you’re connected to someone I love.

        In a wide view, we see Harth step out through the rounded doorway and onto a balcony. He is overlooking what appears to be a shipping hard, and it’s full of vehicles like the cargo van Mel and Erin attacked.

        HARTH: And that’s the one, the Slayer of Slayers. That’s who I am in the dream. That’s who’s coming.

        The view shifts and we see the woman, cup still held in front of her, but we can’t see her face above her dark lips.

        WOMAN: Tonight. The princess leaves her kingdom for the forest of the now.

        The view reverses back to Harth, who’s eyes glow slightly as he stares back at her. He is resting one arm on the rail of his balcony, and seems uncertain of the woman’s idea.

        HARTH: I haven’t asked why you want her here. Or why you want my sister to find her.

        WOMAN: But you want to.

        HARTH: Aren’t they more of a threat to us combined?

        As the woman answers in voiceover, the view shifts to ground in the shipping yard. Harth’s vampires are pulling humans out of the vans. One has a young girl with pigtails over his shoulder, indifferent to her sobbing.

        WOMAN: (voiceover) “Your schemes are ingenious. Keeping your force mobile, spreading the beloved infection throughout Noram… you gnaw at the root of your world.”

        Back in the room, we see from over the woman’s shoulder that Harth is watching her hesitantly. She is raising the cup toward her face.

        WOMAN: But there is nothing a Slayer cannot overcome.

        HARTH: Then why call for another?

        In extreme close-up, we see the woman’s lips nearly close enough to the cup to drink from it, a lone drop of water slipping over the rim.

        WOMAN: Vampires gain strength from each other. Slayers, ultimately, don’t.

        From above, we see the woman suddenly turn and walk briskly from the room, the cup almost forgotten in her hand. Her long, purple dress flows behind her, and Harth just leans against the rail, gripping it in bewilderment.

        WOMAN: What happens in your time will cause your time to come, do you see?

        HARTH: I

        In close-up, we see Harth’s confused face as the woman calls back to him.

        WOMAN: (from out of the view) Ripples, child. Everything is ripples.

        The scene shifts, and it goes back in time. We see Willow, looking down, unhappy, alone against a plain blue background.

        WILLOW: This is my fault.

        The view widens, and we see Willow is cradling Kennedy in front of her, while another Slayer reaches into a first-aid kit. They are still on the Manhattan rooftop. Two other Slayers guard, while the Exchange Demon stands still, captured in a green energy field that appears to have been Willow’s work.

        KENNEDY: Nah, I zigged when I shoulda stabbed. I’ll heal up okay. Still, a considerate girlfriend would have *killed* that thing.

        WILLOW: I have to figure some things out first.

        The view reverses, and we see Willow has gotten up to move closer and look at the demon. Kennedy crouches behind her as the other Slayer is still tending her wound.

        WILLOW: This wasn’t a transmogrification, which is a huge relief.

        KENNEDY: Why?

        WILLOW: Are you kidding? Buffy can’t handle a zit. In this body, she’d kill herself.

        In close-up, we see Willow looking serious despite her joke.

        WILLOW: I think our new friend is from the future. And I think Buffy took his place.

        We see Kennedy holding her arms up with the other Slayer dresses her wound, wrapping gauze and tape around her waist.

        KENNEDY: I thought this temporal event thingie was supposed to help us.

        WILLOW: (from out of the view) so did I. Which means…

        And we see Willow again in close-up, her eyes wide with self-doubt.

        WILLOW: … this is my fault.

        The scene shifts again, and into Scotland. We see a wood-frame door shatter under strain, and Xander bursting through it as he knocks it down. He’s inside the castle, which is filled with green flame after the attack in 8.16.

        XANDER: *Gnaahh*!

        From above, we see the scene in front of Xander. He is at the entrance of the command center itself. The tables and workstations are all smashed under collapsed masonry. The master view screen is blank and cracked. Green flames burst on all the wood surfaces as well as on scattered debris. The dais on the side of the room has an opening into the floor, steps that lead down out of the room. On that side of the room, two Slayers carry Leah toward that stairway. It’s unclear if Leah is unconscious or worse. Alone in the center of the room, at Xander’s usual post on the center platform, is Rowena, working intently over the controls.

        XANDER: God…

        We see Xander come up behind Rowena, touching her arm urgently. Rowena, rather than intense, looks almost resigned as she works the controls.

        XANDER: *Rowena! Status*!

        ROWENA: Got most of the squad out through the tunnels.

        The view reverses, and we see Xander looking over her shoulder at the controls. When Rowena answers, she still seems affectless, lost in her own mind.

        XANDER: “Most.”

        ROWENA: West tower collapsed. At least seven.

        XANDER: Do you know what his us?

        From the same view, Rowena begins to break down. Her chin falls to her chest and she is wiping tears from her eyes as Xander tries to snap her out of it.

        XANDER: Soldiers die, Rowena. (quietly) They do it all the time. (normal) This is fried. We’re not calling for help.

        We see Xander take the younger girl by the shoulders, her body slack and her eyes full of tears.

        XANDER: Whatever hit us was mystical, okay? Flames are not bright green.

        In a close-up, we see over Rowena’s shoulder as Xander’s right eye widens at something he’s seen behind her.

        XANDER: Also, interesting sidebar, flames are not medieval cobra-faced foot soldiers.

        Behind Rowena, the very creatures Xander described are marching into the control center. They appear to be made of the green flame – muscular warriors with snake faces. The one closest carries maces made of green flame in either hand, and it crushes one of the few intact computers with a *WHCRASH!* of the mace hitting it. Xander still has Rowena by the arms, and pushes her behind him, toward the stairway escape.

        XANDER: Tunnels! *Now*!

        As Rowena stats down the steps, we see Xander taken in the shoulder be a green-flame arrow from one of the soldiers. He screams in pain as he falls.

        XANDER: *Ahh*!

        We see Rowena turn to head back up the stairs, barely able to see Xander’s face around the debris and fire.

        ROWENA: *SIR*!!!

        In a closer view, we see Xander on his side, propped on an elbow. A small line of fire separate him and Rowena as she tries to stay with him.

        XANDER: Get the Slayers out.

        ROWENA: Sir…

        XANDER: Or, yeah, maybe we should discuss the pros and cons and put it up for a vote. *GO*!

        As one of the green-flame soldiers stand over Xander, the man pulls the arrow from his shoulder, splashing some blood. Behind him, Rowena has escaped into the tunnels.

        XANDER: Nnnaaaaokay… I just gotta… snakes… green… fire…

        In an extreme close-up, Xander looks up to face what he might think is his last moment, since he’s defenseless.

        XANDER: I can’t believe I don’t have a pun.

        Before anything can attack him, the next image shows Dawn arriving – we see her use her powerful equine hind legs to drive the head of the soldier advancing on Xander into the stone walls of the command center. Xander looks up at her, astonished at his rescuer.

        DAWN: *Taaahh*!

        From Xander’s position on the floor, we see Dawn reach her hand down to help him to his feet.

        XANDER: You shouldn’t be here!

        DAWN: You’re welcome. Those things are forming all over the place.

        Dawn looks over her shoulder to where Xander is standing again, but he’s leaning forward against her back.

        DAWN: How bad?

        XANDER: Unless I can fall down and *throw up* my way out of here, I got nothin’.

        DAWN: Okay, okay.

        We see Dawn looking resigned to the situation before she decides.

        DAWN: You’re gonna have to… (quietly) … ride me…

        We see her in close-up, looking down as she quietly answers Xander’s request for clarification. Her speech is shown as almost imperceptibly small.

        XANDER: What?

        DAWN: (very quietly) Ride me.

        As Xander realizes what she’s saying, he reacts in alarm. Dawn, for her part, takes a second to look annoyed, either at his difficulty grasping the idea or at the idea itself.

        XANDER: Ah! Ride you!

        DAWN: Hennh…

        XANDER: *Aagh*!

        The next image shows them galloping across the grounds. Xander looks terrified as Dawn bucks and leaps around attack from more green-flame soldiers. Xander has two handfuls of Dawn’s long, dark hair.

        DAWN: *You’re pulling my hair*!

        XANDER: *I’m holding your mane*!

        DAWN: *My mane is my hair!*

        We see Dawn and Xander from behind as they speed away from the soldiers and escape into the forest. A question in voiceover by Erin Fray leads us into the next scene.

        ERIN: (voiceover) “Are you cert this is a good idea?”

        The scene shifts back to Melaka’s time, and Mel is hopping off Erin’s police bike onto a roof top, Scythe in hand. She’s now dressed as when we first saw her in 8.16.

        MEL: Have I ever had one? The books talk about this place. The last girl came here and was transformed, they says.

        Fray stands on the roof, Erin’s bike still hovering behind her, as she explains. Something appears to be watching from the shados.

        MEL: They say the madwoman’s power reached through the ages and changed her. Sounds hokum, but worth a peek. I find troubles, I’ll pulse you.

        Back in our present, we see Willow in close-up, talking to someone we can’t see.

        WILLOW: This is how it goes down.

        The next image is back on the rooftop with Melaka, but we still have Willow giving the voiceover as she explains what we’re watching. The exchange demon steps out to attack the future Slayer.

        WILLOW: (voiceover) “Years from now, someone enlists our big ugly demon friend to take down the Slayer. I’m guessing this was meant to draw her out.”

        We see Fray deliver a sharp side kick to the demon’s stomach, knocking it backwards. As it stumbles, a blue and white flash of light appears behind it – a portal opening.

        WILLOW: (voiceover) “Then whoever summoned big ugly opened a temporal portal, sucked him right in. From what he said, that wasn’t in the recruitment ad.”

        Back in the present, we see from behind Willow’s shoulder that she’s addressing a roomful of Slayers. Kennedy stands in the crowd of seven Slayers. Vi, their leader, listens at the front of the group with her hands on her hips.

        WILLOW: Whoever did this has way more power than I do. And they made very sure word would get out. To the magic community, to my allies, to me. We were played. We’re all pasties.

        VIOLET: Or possibly “patsies”?

        Willow’s voiceover resumes as the scene takes us back to the rooftop with Melaka. Except now, instead of the demon, a very confused Buffy is standing in Fray’s path, and the future Slayer is charging her.

        WILLOW: (voiceover) “Ooh! I suck at tough guy talk. But the point is, we don’t know anything about this person – or about this future Slayer, for that matter. So the question is, what’s waiting for Buffy in the future?

        We see Buffy and Fray plummeting through the air as they were in 8.16, Fray’s hand around Buffy’s throat.

        WILLOW: (voiceover) “And how do we get her back – before something bad happens?”

        The action shifts fully into Melaka’s time and the voiceover drops away. We see Buffy drop onto the roof of a long flying car, landing high on her shoulders with a *THUND*. Her Scythe’s stake end drives into the roof of the car, sticking in place. Fray gracefully lands on her feet, Scythe still ready.

        BUFFY: *Agck*!

        In a close-up, we see Buffy on her back, helpless, holding her hands up defensively.

        BUFFY: Okay. Okay. Stop. Please…

        The view shifts and we see Mel is unimpressed. She swings her own Scythe down with a mighty chop that hits the roof of the car with a *CRACK!* Buffy narrowly rolls away from the attack, still trying to get the other Slayer’s attention.

        BUFFY: *Stop slaying me*!

        MEL: Ghaah!

        Buffy is back on her feet quickly, and slips behind Melaka and locks the younger woman in a full nelson hold. Mel struggles against what she thinks is a demon attacking her.

        MEL: *Offa me, shifter*!

        BUFFY: *I am not shifty*!

        MEL: *That’s spin! You think I’m a slack*!

        BUFFY: *You are talking crazy-person talk.* Put your words in word places, *please*.

        The two Slayers stand face to face, wary, but no longer fighting.

        BUFFY: We both have Scythes. We both have awesome kung-fu movies. Turn-offs include smokers, insensitive men, and *vampires*. You with me?

        MEL: It’s not poss.

        We see the two Slayers from above, now calmly standing. At their feet, both of their Scythes are stuck in the roof of the car on which they are standing.

        BUFFY: We’re standing on a flying car. “Poss” is a pretty sketchy concept right now. So, what: future? Alternate, much cooler universe?

        From over Buffy’s shoulder, we see Melaka studying her face. She recognizes her, but looks uncertain.

        MEL: Buffy Summers.

        BUFFY: Present.

        MEL: Buffy Summers is dead.

        BUFFY: Occasionally. No, yeah, Willow gave that lecture – this is a future thing.

        We see from behind Fray as she watches Buffy crouch down and grip her Scythe. Buffy looks over the edge of the flying car as she talks.

        BUFFY: I’m all the time going off high buildings lately. (quietly, to herself) Boy, that just keeps going down, doesn’t it?

        MEL: Buffy Summers is *long* dead. Two cen, maybe more.

        Buffy looks back over her shoulder at the younger Slayer.

        BUFFY: What’s your name?

        MEL: Melaka.

        BUFFY: Cute. I time-travelled.

        MEL: Why?

        BUFFY: Kinda hoping you were gonna tell me. Is there somewhere we can talk? Somewhere less motion-sicknessy?

        MEL: Follow.

        Without another word, we see a wide view of Melaka bounding off two other flying cars and landing on a Haddyn rooftop. Buffy watches and calls after her.

        BUFFY: Okay, but I can’t –

        We see the car even further away, Buffy still standing on it.

        BUFFY: *I totally can’t do that jumpy thing*… hello?

        Some time soon after, Buffy and Melaka are walking around Haddyn at street level. They are alone in an alley, and draw no attention despite both carrying their Scythes openly.

        BUFFY: So am I still in Manhattan?

        MEL: Haddyn.

        BUFFY: So yeah, I guess. This is actually more like I imagined it than the one in my time.

        In a closer view, Buffy excitedly leans over Mel’s shoulder, enthusiastic about what she might learn. Melaka for her part looks confused by Buffy’s speech, as confused as Buffy herself was when they first met.

        BUFFY: And Willow said – she’s my best friend, you’ve probably read all about her – that this temporal event was gonna help us somehow, besides being a visual nifty, so maybe you’ve got the skinny on defeating Twilight!

        MEL: Uh… ‘merican?

        Fray stops to look at Buffy as the older Slayer asks her for more details on her time. The brick wall behind them is covered in fliers that say “THIS WARN YOU”.

        BUFFY: In my time, the Slayers have just recently been called, so we’re kind of flying blind. At the least I’d like to know how you guys are organized…

        MEL: “Guys”?

        BUFFY: Okay. Sorry. Slow. How many are you? Worldwide, how many Slayers?

        Melaka’s expression darkens slightly as we see her in close-up. If Buffy is kidding, she’s not amused.

        MEL: One.

        The view reverses and we see Buffy with a completely surprised reaction, disbelieving and confused as Melaka clarifies further.

        MEL: (from out of the view) Half.

        The next image shows them walking again, this time into the door of a run-down building.

        MEL: For cen there was none. I’m the first called since your time.

        BUFFY: And the “half” part?

        MEL: I have a twin.

        Inside the building, we see Buffy and Melaka standing in front of a glass wall looking out over the city, an elevator. Melaka shuts her eyes as she tells Buffy the story.

        MEL: His name is Harth. He was born with my memories, my… connex to the Slayers. I got books, old Watchers’ journals, but he knows… more.

        In a close-up, we see Melaka’s face reflected in the glass wall, looking down.

        MEL: And he was turned. He’s a lurk. He has all my world in his head, and he’s using it to gather them. To kill us. My Harth.

        In a wider view, we see the two of them together, and Buffy puts her hands tenderly on Melaka’s shoulders, moved by her story and her loss.

        BUFFY: I’m sorry.

        In the same view, Buffy tries delicately to ask for clarification.

        BUFFY: What’s a lurk?

        The scene shifts and we see Buffy and Fray standing in a well decorated room all lit in blue from the floor. While Buffy recaps the new language to herself, Melaka is looking down at the floor, yelling at something.

        BUFFY: vampires are lurks. A spin is a lie. Toy is bad, but spled is good. Boy, the English language is just *losing* it. (to herself) I should have treated it better…

        MEL: *Gunther! I can hear you down there! Turn on the rutting lights*!

        From above, we see what Melaka was looking at – the floor is glass, and below it is a water tank. As the lights come on, we see a purple skinned creature inside, like a fish. It’s Gunther, Melaka’s sometime employer and information source. Buffy looks down at the creature swimming below her with understandable surprise.

        GUNTHER: Mel*aaahhh*ka… you brought a friend.

        We see Buffy alone from in the tank, suddenly pressing her legs together and the hem of her dress tightly against her thighs.

        BUFFY: How long has he been down there?

        GUNTHER: (from out of the view) Orange polka dots.

        BUFFY: *Ack*! Mer-sleaze.

        The view shifts and we see up at the Slayers from behind Gunther. Buffy is still aghast, protecting her modesty carefully. Melaka is crouching down to look Gunther in the eye.

        MEL: Boss, this is Buffy. A Slayer, so don’t be an aquahog.

        In close-up, Gunther smiles up at Melaka, seemingly impressed at the idea of two Slayers, or perhaps just at the view he’d gotten.

        GUNTHER: Another Sssslayer?

        MEL: (from out of the view) From the past. Time-faddle, don’t know the why.

        The next image shows Buffy having dropped into a careful crouch, capturing the skirt of her dress behind her calves. Fray drops all the way to her knees while talking to Gunther.

        GUNTHER: (from out of the view) I don’t trade in magicks, dear.

        MEL: Haddyn don’t shake without your nod. Someone you know knows something I need.

        In close-up, we see Melaka staring down intently as she gives the details of what she’s looking for.

        MEL: Been chatter of a madwoman, strapping to Harth. If you haven’t heard it you will ‘fore long. Think maybe she’s the keycard to all this.

        We see Gunther floating, sufficiently surprised at the idea.

        In a closer view, he shrugs helplessly as he tries to protest.

        GUNTHER: I turn a blind eye to your hobbies, love. But you can’t expect me

        MEL: You don’t have to lift a fun, Gunther. Just want the chatter.

        The view moves focus on Buffy as Melaka and Gunther talk. Her eyes take on a very serious look.

        GUNTHER: (from out of the view) I’ve heard a little. A woman, alive since ancient timessss

        MEL: Lurks don’t age. What’s her play.

        BUFFY: (to herself) God.

        We see Buffy in close-up, holding her hand to the side of her face. A realization is sinking in, and it’s not a pleasant one.

        BUFFY: (to herself) This is really happening.

        MEL: (from out of the view) Does she at least have a name?

        The scene shifts before Gunther answers, and we see Harth looking down on the loading docks. Cargo vans are loading up with vampires. The madwoman speaks from behind him.

        WOMAN: It’s starting.

        HARTH: It’s going to be quite a battle.

        WOMAN: No…

        We see Harth turn his head slightly in close-up, and in the background, the woman starts to emerge from the shadows. Her hands are crossed delicately in front of her waist.

        WOMAN: Buffy. She’s starting to feel the weight of it. Of the world’s loss. Of her failure.

        The view shifts to Harth, who stares blankly at the woman. He seems concerned, but careful around around her.

        HARTH: You sound sad.

        WOMAN: (from out of the view) Does that surprise you?

        HARTH: But this is a great day for us.

        WOMAN: Why do you need to destroy your sister?

        As he answers, Harth turns around and leans over the rail again, clearly thinking it through. The woman patiently watches from behind him.

        HARTH: She’s the last thing I ever loved. We’re connected. Her pain is my joy. My… true love.

        We see from behind the woman’s head as Harth smiles back at her. Her hair is just the darkest shade of red.

        HARTH: And what in this world is stronger than love?

        The last image reveals the woman’s face at last. Despite the dark gown, the long black fingernails, there is no mistaking her long, dark red hair, her black eyes, or the thin, visible dark veins on her forehead. It’s Willow, looking more like she did when she tried to destroy the world than she ever has since. Her face, though, is full of sadness as she answers Harth’s question.

        WILLOW: Time. Only time.

        To Be Continued

        End of Issue #17
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        • #19
          Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #18
          “Time of Your Life, Part III”


          Prologue Summary: Today thousands of Slayers populate the world – forming squadrons, fighting vampires, demons, and, more recently, the U.S. military. Buffy and Xander continue to train an elite force of Slayers in the highlands of Scotland where they prepare to duel their fiercest foe to date: Twilight.

          Buffy’s fresh from another doomed relationship, and Xander has suffered another great loss. Now a mystical vision has directed Willow toward New York City and clues to the future of magic. And as for Dawn… she’s still experiencing some serious growing pains.

          Start of Issue #18

          The opening image is of a stack of open books on a table. They are piled loosely as if being searched frantically, like we’ve seen before in the library, or the Magic Box. Here, though, they are in Melaka Fray’s library.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: Nothing.

          The view widens, and we see Buffy from behind as she looks out Fray’s window. The books behind her have clearly been forgotten.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: A few sketchy references that might be me, or my friends… some encouraging, some dire… at least one that’s too ridiculous to comprehend… but the rest…

          The view moves in and we see Buffy standing up straighter, but still looking away, out the window.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: I created a race of Slayers. To tip the scales, to beat back the darkness. To make the world better.

          As the image goes to a close-up of Buffy as she looks down out of the window. She raises her hands to the side of her face, trying to grip the difficult thoughts she’s having.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: But they’re not in the books. Not a mention. Nothing. And the better world…

          The view moved up over Buffy’s shoulder as she begins to lower her hands. We see what she sees – Haddyn at night, all steam and darkness, harsh fluorescents and hovering cars.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: … turns out like this.

          The next image shows Buffy in close-up, letting us see her face for the first time. She is looking down, though, and a tear is running freely from her left eye while she carefully wipes others away with her hand.

          (NARRATION) BUFFY: Wow. Spoiler alert.

          The view shifts, and before Buffy can indulge her tears, Fray and her companion monkey demon, Gates, have dropped through the broken skylight into the room. Buffy turns in surprise.

          Buffy tries to hide her tears as Fray crosses the room toward her. Gates jumps unto the table with the books Buffy was studying.

          MEL: Gunther said there’s been a hum in the uppers. Lurks don’t usually truck that high.

          BUFFY: Yuh-hunh?

          The elder Slayer turns to face Fray as the younger girl pitches their next move.

          MEL: I fig we stake some lush haunt, lurks come out, we skin ‘em for stories. Yeah?

          BUFFY: Does any part of that sentence involve me beating something up?

          MEL: Think so…

          BUFFY: Include me in.

          In a wide view, we see the two Slayers walk side by side out the door.

          MEL: Books any good?

          BUFFY: I don’t know…

          The scene shifts as Buffy talks. We see Willow, present day Willow, in close-up as she studies one of her magic books. She is pointing at the page and staring at it unhappily.

          BUFFY: (continued) “I didn’t see the ending.”

          WILLOW: Frak!

          From above, we see Willow sitting cross-legged on a bed in pajamas and a t-shirt. Kennedy is leaning over her shoulder, letting her work, but being close. Other books are spread out on the bed in front of Willow.

          KENNEDY: Hey, baby, there’s no need to curse like a nerd. You’ll figure it out.

          WILLOW: I can’t leave Buffy stranded in some horrible unknown future –

          KENNEDY: And you won’t. You just gotta relax.

          The view shifts and we see Kennedy leaning closely over Willow’s shoulder, her face concerned. Willow stared at the book, perhaps ashamed.

          KENNEDY: Somebody slipped you a vision mickey. Your source, or whatever. Can you contact him? Her? *It*?

          In close-up, Willow looks up, suddenly inspired.

          WILLOW: Maybe I can…

          Willow whirls around on the bed and takes Kennedy by the shoulders, staring intently at her.

          WILLOW: Ken-doll, do you trust me and know that I love you and I’m not a crazy person and what we do is for the greater good cross your heart no backsies?

          KENNEDY: Duh. What do we gotta do?

          In an extreme close-up, Willow closes her eyes and looks back down.

          WILLOW: (quietly) Frak.

          The scene shifts and we see Dawn racing through the woods at a full gallop, Xander clinging to her and leaning forward. Sweat pours off her as the forest blurs by.

          The view reverses, and Xander is dropping back off of Dawn. It’s unclear if he’s hit something, lost his grip, or passed out from his injury, but Dawn looks back in surprise and calls out to him.

          DAWN: Xander!

          We see him sitting up after Dawn has stopped and gone back to him.

          XANDER: I’m okay, I’m good, I just… I didn’t break anything that wasn’t already shot…

          From over Xander’s shoulder, we see Dawn. She has her arms up, wiping her sweaty forehead.

          XANDER: How’re *you* feeling?

          DAWN: Like I was ridden hard and put away wet.

          XANDER: *Agh*! Dawn, that’s dis – oh. No. It’s just true.

          We see a wide view of them in the forest, silhouetted against the trees. Xander is still sitting. Dawn is looking around with her hands on her hips.

          XANDER: Well, thanks for the save, Black Beauty.

          DAWN: That’s “Chestnutty Beauty” and what the hell do we do now?

          XANDER: Yeah…

          We see Xander in close-up, facing toward our point of view. Dawn is looking too. They’re staring back in the direction they came.

          XANDER: I’m pretty sure those flamey snakey ren-fair monsters are still coming. And the escape tunnel leads in the other direction, so no hope of getting to the Slayers any time soon.

          DAWN: Big-picture me. Wherefrom with these guys? I just heard a bang.

          XANDER: Oh, it’s simple.

          Xander, in close-up, narrows his good eye angrily.

          XANDER: Bomb. Plus magic. Equals…

          The view shifts to a close-up of a still sweating Dawn, also looking angry as she realizes who attacked them.

          DAWN: Warren and Amy.

          XANDER: (from out of the view) The Laurel and Hardy of being a dick.

          DAWN: Man, I’d love to get them under my hooves.

          XANDER: Amen.

          From behind, we see Dawn pull Xander up to his feet. A voice calls out to them as they plan their next move.

          XANDER: But first we gotta find a way out of these woods, before there’s any more –

          VOICE: *Intruders must die*!

          XANDER: Why do I open my mouth?

          We see who called out to them. Three creatures face them. They are man-trees, trees with the upper bodies of men, branches growing out of them, green, leaf-like hair. Each of them have an arm that turns into a flaming sword, and the leader points to the “intruders” as he threatens.

          TREE-MAN: This place is forbidden to humans. To gaze upon the forest souls is inevitable death. Thus swears *Lorelahn*!

          The view reverses, and Dawn stares coolly at the tree-men. Her arms are crossed and her eyes narrow. Xander, still leaning over, puts up a finger to get their attention.

          DAWN: Yeah. Do I look human to you, tree-boy?

          XANDER: And more importantly, did you just say, “thus swears”?

          From between Xander and Dawn, we see that Lorelahn, the leader, is suddenly uncertain how to deal with them.

          DAWN: What’s your deal, anyway? With the fire and the branches and the sword – did you get caught in a *legend blender*?

          XANDER: *Ka*-ha-ha! No! No. Seriously, Lorelai –

          LORELAHN: Lore*lahn*. With an “ah” sound.

          XANDER: We got things following us that are way scarier than you, so how’s about you show us the way *out* of the forbidden thicket and we’ll call it a weird, horrible day.

          LORELAHN: Uh… it is death to…

          In a wider view, all five of them in the woods are now silhouetted, except for the three flaming swords.

          LORELAHN: What was scarier than us?

          The scene shifts again, and we’re back in the future. We see Gunther, Fray’s nominal boss, swimming through his tank past a collection of medieval weapons. He is swimming to investigate a *TAP TAP TAP* from in his home.

          The *TAP TAP TAP* gets more persistent as Gunther swims through a portal into the open area of his tank.

          In close-up, we see Gunther’s face scowling as he swims upward.

          GUNTHER: Lightsss.

          We see from Gunther’s view up into the room above his tank. The *TAP TAP TAP* is coming from a vampire, tapping a sharpened nail on the glass of Gunther’s tank. One of his guards lies dead on the glass floor, his blood smeered around, and soaked into the vampire’s shirt. Behind that vampire, Harth and two more henchman look on. Gunther’s mouth is open in anger at the intrusion.

          From behind Harth, we see Gunther swimming in his tank, somewhat blocked by the blood.

          HARTH: I’m beginning to think we have a problem.

          In close-up, Harth stares neutrally at Gunther with his blank, glowing yellow eyes.

          HARTH: I know you’ve been feeding my sister information about me. And that’s not really useful right now. What would you suggest?

          In close-up, Gunther stares up at him, not intimated.

          GUNTHER: I’d suggessst you leave before I kill you all.

          We see Harth crouching to talk to Gunther.

          HARTH: Threats aren’t really useful either. You know who I

          GUNTHER: Of course I know. Your thugs so much as crak that glass, the generators will kick enough sunlight into this chamber to roast a pig.

          From behind Gunther, we see up to Harth, who looks amused.

          GUNTHER: You don’t bring muscle to talk business. You want me scared, or dead, and neither’s on the menu.

          HARTH: Maybe not right *now*

          In extreme close-up, Gunther narrows his eyes, and hisses contemptuously at Harth.

          GUNTHER: I was born in the gutter, boy. Not near, *in*. I have worked, and killed, and dodged or bought the laws till I control half of Haddyn and I have done it without ever breathing air. Don’t think to outbeast me.

          From above, Harth turns and leads his men out the door. Gunther watches cautiously.

          HARTH: You have it spun, Gunther. We’re of a kind. After all

          From below, we see Gunther’s doom sneaking up on him – three vampires, swimming up at him inside his tank.

          HARTH: (from out of the view) Lurks don’t breathe either.

          The scene changes, and we see Buffy and Fray in what looks like a purple luxury sports car – a flying car – roaring through the Haddyn traffic. Buffy is driving, and Fray clings to the dashboard in alarm. A flying motorcycle rider going the other way flips Buffy the bird.

          MEL: *Jesu*!

          BUFFY: *Oh God*!

          MEL: *Jesu*!

          BUFFY: *Where’s the brake*?

          MEL: *What’s a brake*?

          We see the car curve upward, higher into the air.

          BUFFY: Okay. Okay. This is good. Up is good.

          MEL: I told you you’d cope it. (to herself) Wish I hadn’t…

          In the car, we see Buffy concentrating on the wheel while Melaka looks around.

          BUFFY: Hey, it’s my first time with grand theft flying auto – I think I’m doing well.

          MEL: Summers, you drive like a spaz!

          BUFFY: And *that* phrase stood the test of time?

          MEL: We had to grab this rig. Get low.

          From a wide view, we see the Slayers are crouching as the vehicle glides oer a wall with a glowing electric gate.

          MEL: Rig’s got access plates. It’s clear for the uppers. We’re not.

          In a close-up, we see Buffy’s profile as she tries to sort through the rules in Haddyn.

          BUFFY: So the top half of Manhattan is a gated community? Guess that’s not a shock. What are we looking for?

          We see Fray point off to the right of their car. A flying hospital van, labeled “ORGANFRESH”, is pulling into a hanger in the side of a highrise.

          MEL: That. There’s no medstore in that plex.

          In the hanger, vampires wrapped in tape and wearing raggy clothes jump out of the hospital van and attack medics and workers. Above, we see Buffy and Fray’s car flying by.

          MEDIC: Jesu! *Help*!

          In close-up, the Slayers look down at the attacks in progress.

          MEL: Let’s go.

          BUFFY: No.

          Melaka whirls incredulously on Buffy as victims call for help from below. The older slower holds onto the steering wheel and continues to fly past the hanger.

          MEDIC: (from out of the view) Somebody help me!

          BUFFY: Gunther said they send out hunting parties.

          MEL: And we need to stop them –

          BUFFY: No, we need to find out where they’re sending them *from*.

          The purple car cruises low near the hanger. Six vampires are attacking at least five people, one of them being thrown into the van and four others down and being fed on.

          BUFFY: You really wanna stop this from spreading? Stop your brother? Then you gotta look at the big picture.

          We see Melaka as she launches herself out of the purple car through the air, scythe in hand. She doesn’t look back at Buffy as she joins the fight.

          MEL: *You* look. I’m gonna do our *job*.

          Fray lands feet first on a vampire’s back, driving the scythe’s stake into it’s back. It’s already crumbling into dust as the other vampires notice her.

          One of the vampires, all wrapped up to protect from the sun, smacks the side of the van. The vampire driving the van looks back. Behind them, Fray begins carving through the other vampires.

          VAMP: It’s her! Go! Get out!

          From the car, Buffy looks down disapprovingly as Fray fights in a cloud of vampire dust.

          BUFFY: Dammit, Fray… I *know* I’m gonna crash this thing.

          As Buffy flies off in the car behind her, we see Fray in close-up as she beheads another vampire. The monster turns to dust.

          The vampires defeated, Fray walks over to the medic who was calling for help. She is holding her neck and kneeling on the ground.

          MEL: Let me see it.

          MEDIC: Am I infected? Am I gonna change?

          MEL: It doesn’t work like that.

          In close-up, we see Fray tenderly dabbing the medic’s bite wound with a napkin. Her face is unhappy and she talks to herself.

          MEL: “Big picture…” That spin’s for govvers. Not Slayers. Something’s skew with that girl.

          A voice calls out to Melaka, and we see the Slayer in close-up as she turns to look.

          VOICE: Anger won’t help. You have to understand Buffy.

          We see the source of the voice. It’s Willow, long hair, long dress, skin covered in dark veins and her eyes blackened.

          WILLOW: If you hate her she’ll be harder to kill.

          The scene changes, and we see Willow in close-up. Present Willow, naked, biting her lower-lip as she moans out amidst a green fog.

          WILLOW: So close… so close…

          The view widens, and Willow jolts up right to see Saga Vasuki hovering between her legs.

          WILLOW: Aa*aaahh*!

          VASUKI: I was wondering when you’d be back.

          In close-up, Willow looks at the demon seriously.

          WILLOW: You know I can’t… stay long. Little tricky getting here.

          VASUKI: But fun, no?

          WILLOW: You lied to me.

          Vasuki picks her fingernails indifferently as Willow watchers her.

          VASUKI: How simple you make it sound.

          WILLOW: Just tell me how to get Buffy back.

          Willow covers her breasts in her hands as Vasuki hovers closer to her in the swirling green mist.

          VASUKI: You cannot do it yourself?

          WILLOW: I don’t have that kind of power.

          VASUKI: Is that so?

          In close-up, Willow looks ashamed of her inability.

          WILLOW: Time-bending isn’t some cross-dimensional jaunt. And it’s dangerous. Only someone on the deep dark would mess with that.

          From behind Willow, we see Vasuki looking away with her arms crossed.

          WILLOW: So who told you –

          VASUKI: Someone I trusted.

          In an extreme close-up of her profile, Willow looks down, acting humble around Vasuki.

          WILLOW: I’m sorry. You know how grateful I am for what we… what you taught me. But this is Buffy. I need her back. We all do.

          Vasuki is looking away from Willow when she answers.

          VASUKI: The rift will reopen tonight.

          WILLOW: (from out of the view) Really? How do I –

          VASUKI: You will figure it out. Or you won’t. But I demand a promise.

          For the first time we see Willow and Vasuki face to face.

          VASUKI: If you open the rift… reach across. Bring her back.

          In close-up, we see Vasuki looking almost concerned about Willow.

          VASUKI: But do not look.

          The view shifts to Willow, whose face is confused by that request.

          WILLOW: Why shouldn’t –

          VASUKI: Because I ask.

          The next image shows Willow kneeling before Vasuki, head bowed. She doesn’t bother to cover her breasts, although they are obscured by the mist.

          WILLOW: Of course. Thank you.

          Vasuki leans in to touch Willow’s face. The witch is fading out of Vasuki’s realm.

          WILLOW: I seem to be going.

          VASUKI: So brief a stay…

          WILLOW: I’ll see you. Soon.

          VASUKI: Yes…

          In close-up, Vasuki looks at the space Willow vanished from.

          VASUKI: Do come again.

          The scene shifts briefly and we see Willow, sitting on the side of the bed, buttoning her pajama top. She looks down, ashamed. Beside her, Kenney lies on her stomach, naked and covered only by a sheet. She rests her cheek on her hand and smiles warmly at Willow – apparently having no idea what her girlfriend was just doing. We hear Melaka’s voice in the future leading us into the next scene.

          MEL: (voiceover) “You’re her, aren’t you? You’re the madwoman.”

          In the next scene, future Willow stares off, her arms crossed. Fray watches her from several feet away, her scythe still ready to attack if needed.

          WILLOW: I suppose I am. Don’t hold it against me, though. Don’t hold it against me, though. I’m fairly certain I’ve earned it.

          From behind, Fray raises her scythe slightly. Willow continues to look out into the Haddyn uppers, not paying attention to the Slayer.

          MEL: Worked it you’d be a lurk.

          WILLOW: You know I’m not.

          MEL: Not quite a human, either…

          In a close view, Willow looks down sadly.

          WILLOW: Not for some time now.

          From above, Fray holds her scythe ready to attack. Willow seems to be deliberately looking away from her, turning to keep Melaka behind her.

          MEL: I’m not killing any Slayer.

          WILLOW: She won’t show the same mercy.

          MEL: Why would we turn on each other?

          WILLOW: Because you want different things.

          From behind Melaka, we see Willow turn to glare at her, pointing out a contradiction in the two Slayers.

          MEL: We both want riddance on the lurks.

          WILLOW: The most important men in both your lives are “lurks”. You think it’s really that simple?

          The view shifts, and Fray has inched closer to Willow, still ready to attack. Willow looks completely indifferent to any danger.

          MEL: Yeah, you been bound to Harth awhile now, word is. You two have some big plan. Spinning me’s just a part of it.

          WILLOW: Your brother is interesting. Ambitious.

          In close-up, Willow looks down at her hand. A glowing green ball appears about her palm.

          WILLOW: My concerns are more personal.

          Fray immediately gets on the defensive as she watches the ball above Willow’s hand stretch down, extending like a candle.

          MEL: You wanna keep that hand?

          WILLOW: This is about as much magic as I can muster, so don’t fret.

          In close-up, the green light reflects Willow’s misery.

          WILLOW: I just need to show you something.

          The scene shifts into another part of Haddyn. Buffy is climbing out of the purple sports car, which she has managed to crash into the side of a rundown brick building.

          BUFFY: Well, that went better than I expected.

          Buffy drops down the side of the building, landing on a stone gargoyle.

          BUFFY: Now, I know that van’s parked close by…

          As she looks off to the right, she sees the hospital van parked in front of a distant building – Harth’s lair, apparently.

          BUFFY: Oh, futuristic *snap*!

          In a new scene, we see Erin Fray point a gun ahead, ready to fire.

          ERIN: *Stand down and offer submission*!

          The view reverses, and we see Buffy, hands up meekly, standing in the door of Melaka’s home. Erin was waiting inside and still has her gun drawn on Buffy.

          BUFFY: *Whoah! Hey*! I submit! Submissively! I thought this was Melaka Fray’s place. Could you not ray gun me?

          From behind Buffy, we see Erin put her gun on the table, relaxing. Her overcoat covers her dark magenta skintight police uniform. She reaches up and brushes her hair back.

          ERIN: I’m sorry. I was supposed to hear from Melaka, and…

          BUFFY: Are you her sister? The cop?

          Erin straightens up and looks over at Buffy.

          ERIN: I’m a law.

          BUFFY: Right. I’m a Slayer from a long time ago. Buffy. You may have read about me?

          Erin shows no indication she has as she slips off her overcoat and walks away toward Melaka’s table. Buffy follows her.

          ERIN: Where’s Mel?


          BUFFY: We split up. I found lurk central, but it’s massive – no way we’re storming that castle without some serious strategy. But if we wanna take out her brother… who, I’m suddenly getting, is your brother, too…

          Erin sits down at the table slowly. Buffy pulls a chair out to do the same, across the table.

          ERIN: And Melaka?

          BUFFY: She was taking out some vamps. I was telling her to chill, to look for the source instead of just running off all crazy –

          ERIN: Let me guess. Little sister didn’t listen.

          BUFFY: God, do they ever?

          The two women face each other from across the table, both visibly relaxed, leaning back in their chairs.

          ERIN: You have a sister?

          BUFFY: Five years younger. Total pain. Plus giant. Or, centaur, lately. I try to tell her anything, she does the opposite.

          ERIN: Sounds familiar.

          In a closer view, we see Buffy from behind Erin as they talk.

          BUFFY: You know, I thought about being a cop. A law.

          ERIN: Really?

          BUFFY: In high school. I took a test, said I fit a profile, if we had *your* outfits, I woulda signed up in a heartbeat. Is that pleather?

          From the side, we see Erin leaning forward, her hands thoughtfully under her chin with one finger up. Buffy raises her hand slightly when she interrupts to correct her.

          ERIN: Puffy, can I –

          BUFFY: Buffy. Sorry. With a B. Don’t want future history calling me “Puffy.” It’s just… you had a question?

          ERIN: You’re a Slayer?

          In close-up, we see Buffy’s face looking thoughtful as she answers.

          BUFFY: Yeah.

          ERIN: Why?

          BUFFY: Why? Why are you a law?

          Buffy doesn’t get a chance to hear Erin’s answer, because she is knocked out of her chair as bolts of electricity rip through her with a *ZZZZZZZOT*. She cries out in pain.

          BUFFY: *AAAGCHK*!

          The view shifts and we see Buffy face down on Melaka’s rug, unconscious. Erin is crouching over her, concerned. In the foreground, we see Erin’s gun in Melaka’s hand and the trail of smoke made from Fray shooting Buffy.

          ERIN: Mel… are you sure about this?

          MEL: I’m sure.

          ERIN: She just seems… Mel, what are we doing here?

          MEL: What we do.

          The last image is Melaka, shown looking up from the floor, holding the gun at her side and staring intensely.

          MEL: Saving the world.

          To Be Continued

          End of Issue #18
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          • #20
            Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #19
            “Time of Your Life, Part IV”


            Prologue Summary: Today thousands of Slayers populate the world – forming squadrons, fighting vampires, demons, and, more recently, the U.S. military. Buffy and Xander continue to train an elite force of Slayers in the highlands of Scotland where they prepare to duel their fiercest foe to date: Twilight.

            Buffy’s fresh from another doomed relationship, and Xander has suffered another great loss. Now a mystical vision has directed Willow toward New York City and clues to the future of magic. And as for Dawn… she’s still experiencing some serious growing pains.

            Start of Issue #19

            The opening image shows us Willow in the future. Her hair still shows hints of red though it’s mostly dark. Her lips are dark blue, her skin veined, her eyes black. She’s standing against a mostly empty bookshelf, looking very sad.

            (NARRATION) WILLOW: I hate history.

            The view widens, and Willow looks at the floor. In the foreground, we see the top of a woman’s head.

            (NARRATION) WILLOW: Not the subject – I always loved it in school: the French-Indian War, the Medicis, 1066 and all that… history is all romantic adventure stories.

            Against a white background, we see Willow looking down at Buffy. The Slayer is unconscious, chained around the waist in a wooden chair.

            (NARRATION) WILLOW: Until you live it.

            In a close-up, we see Willow leaning close to Buffy’s face. She runs her dark fingernails gently along Buffy’s cheek.

            (NARRATION) WILLOW: Until you live long enough to be a part of it.

            The view shifts out again, and we see from the ceiling of Fray’s apartment. We watch from alongside the monkey demon, Gates. Willow kneels in front of Buffy. Behind the witch, Melaka Fray and Erin look on.

            WILLOW: I’d forgotten her excellent nose.

            The next image shows the Fray sisters less than impressed with Buffy’s nose. Erin crosses her arms, Melaka stands with her hands on her hips.

            MEL: What’s the plan? Cuz I’m still not killing a Slayer no matter *what* you showed me.

            The view reverses and Willow looks back over her shoulder to answer.

            WILLOW: You just have to keep her here. The temporal rift will open again tonight and I expect… I remember… there will be an extraction attempt.

            In a close-up, Erin looks doubtful.

            ERIN: So we send her back. How’s that a neg if she’s such trouble?

            In a closer-view, Mel looks down as she answers her sister’s question.

            MEL: She’ll end the world.

            From above, we see Willow stand up as Melaka walks toward her. Buffy is still unconscious.

            MEL: She’ll change the future, now she’s ocked it. No more now. No more us.

            We see a close-up of half of Melaka’s face, and her sister standing behind her.

            MEL: She goes back and a tick past highnight, we’re all what coulda been.

            We see Willow standing alone, looking down again, when Buffy’s voice calls out.

            BUFFY: (from out of the view) Oh my *God*!

            In close-up, Buffy is awake, looking in confusion at her friend.

            BUFFY: You went dark again? You are so in huge trouble for going dark. How could you even –

            Suddenly, Buffy catches her rising anger and lifts her head, worried.

            BUFFY: Is Kennedy okay?

            The view reverses and we see from behind Buffy as she looks up at Willow. The witch looks down at her disdainfully.

            WILLOW: It’s been two hundred years, Buffy. How you *think* she is?

            BUFFY: Okay. Fair enough. Let’s move on. Why am I shackled, why are you evil, and why isn’t anyone on my side?

            We see the Fray sisters looking on when a voice calls down from above – the other Fray, Harth.

            HARTH: (from out of the view) Actually, I have a few Q’s as well.

            The next image shows the rooftop of Fray’s place through the broken skylight. Harth and dozens of vampires are standing, looking down.

            HARTH: First, how come all my friends are having a party without me?

            We see from over Harth’s shoulder, looking down at the four women in the apartment.

            HARTH: Second, what has that witch been telling you?

            Inside, Willow looks up, as if scolding Harth. Behind her, Buffy turns to Erin, asking her for help.

            WILLOW: You should have been patient, Harth.

            HARTH: Why is that?

            BUFFY: (to Erin) You *really* want to untie me right now.

            In close-up, Harth glares down at Willow.

            HARTH: You told me Buffy’s coming here would cause our world to be. You told my sister the opposite.

            Willow, in close-up, looks up at him impassively.

            HARTH: (from out of the view) You’ve been spinning us all.

            WILLOW: Yes, well, I’m dark that way.

            HARTH: To what end?

            As Willow answers, she looks at Melaka, trying to explain to both of them.

            WILLOW: Death, of course.

            MEL: Whose?

            We see Buffy in close-up, still chained, her eyes wide, as Willow keeps talking.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) You see what I’ve seen, you come and go as I have…

            From behind Buffy’s chair, Gates starts picking her locks. Buffy looks down at the monkey demon, looking alarmed but at least happy for some help.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) You realize the most important thing about death isn’t who dies…

            We see from behind Willow as she watches Melaka closely.

            WILLOW: It’s who kills him.

            The next image is of Fray suddenly drawing her Scythe. Erin steps back cautiously. Buffy watches Willow as the witch continues to look indifferent to what’s going on around her.

            MEL: I told you I won’t kill a Slayer.

            WILLOW: If she gets back to that rooftop by midnight, you’ll never have been.

            MEL: You’re lying!

            In extreme close-up, Willow’s lips actually curve into a smile as she answers.

            WILLOW: I’m lying to *someone*. Would you bet your whole world it’s you?

            From the rooftop, Harth interrupts. His henchmen are snarling, ready to fight.

            HARTH: I have a solver: I kill everyone and… well, I don’t really care about the rest.

            We see Willow from behind as she responds, back to cool and ambivalent.

            WILLOW: This night isn’t yours, Harth.

            Harth looks angry at Willow’s attitude.

            HARTH: Your fortune-telling’s *tapped*, witch.

            WILLOW: Harth, you should be careful when you choose your enemies.

            HARTH: Your power’s but gone. You can’t stop an army by yourself.

            We see Willow in profile as she clarifies.

            WILLOW: Don’t plan to.

            The next image explains Harth’s mistake. From above the building, three aircraft, all heavily armed, open fire on Mel’s roof. The weapons open with with a *SHAAAKK*. It looks like they are firing bullets, but also an energy beam of some kind. Whatever the ammunition, it’s effective. Some of the vampires are cut to shreds, and others explode into green dust.

            Gunther is flying one of the ships, in a special water-filled ****pit.

            As vampires explode into dust, Harth dives for cover. Gunther’s voice fills the air, probably from a speaker.

            GUNTHER: *Three*? You think three lurks can best me on *my* surf?

            In close-up, the crime boss’ face is a vicious smile.

            GUNTHER: You insult me.

            In the apartment, Fray and Erin are staggering around in the falling vampire dust. Buffy shouts out to Erin.

            BUFFY: (from out of the view) *Erin! Listen to me*!

            As Erin turns, she’s might by a sharp uppercut from Buffy that knocks her to the floor with a *WOK*. Buffy is free, holding the chain in her other hand.

            BUFFY: That’s for “Puffy.”

            We see from behind Melaka as she reacts, but Buffy draws the unconscious’ cops sidearm too quickly, pointing it at Mel.

            BUFFY: I’m leaving. I don’t care about your world.

            From behind, we see Buffy calmly shoot Mel with the same stun gun the younger girl had stunned her with. The energy hits Fray with a *SHRAK* and she crashes into her bookshelves.

            BUFFY: I have to save mine.

            Buffy is running out of Fray’s apartment, leaving the flames and debris. She has her Scythe again. From behind her, Willow watches from a shadow outside Fray’s door.

            WILLOW: Not just yet, Buffy…

            As Willow whispers, we see Buffy break through a wooden door like a juggernaut, splintering the door with a *CRASH*.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) You’re not done here.

            The scene shifts, and we’re in the woods near the castle headquarters in Scotland The green, glowing lizard soldiers are advancing through the tree-line. A voice calls out in the forest. It’s Lorelahn, the tree-man with the flaming arm.

            LORELAHN: (from out of the view) *Wood creatures! The time of battle is upon us*!

            The view reverses, and we see Lorelahn standing at the head of his own army. It’s made up of a dwarf, a couple of trolls with clubs, a giant baby chick, lizards, snakes, mushrooms, as well as others of his kind.

            LORELAHN: *Let us show these abominations the forest’s rage*!

            We see Dawn and Xander standing with the forest creatures. Dawn is wielding an enormous broadsword. Xander has a large dagger and is wearing, inexplicably, a helmet made out of a giant acorn.

            XANDER: Followed quickly by the forest’s denial, bargaining, and then short, painful acceptance.

            DAWN: Lorelahn’s right. We have to make a stand sometime.

            From behind Xander and Dawn, we watch the lizard soldiers advance patiently.

            XANDER: You’re just into guys with no lower half now, is what.

            DAWN: Don’t be gross.

            XANDER: You wanna nuzzle his root system.

            DAWN: I hope you die first. With the most wounds.

            XANDER: Pretty much counting on it.

            In the next image, the battle is joined. Lorelahn stabs into the helmet of one of the lizard soldiers with a branch-sword, and the other creatures attack.

            The view shifts, and we see Xander shout as he cuts one of the lizard soldier’s heads off with his dagger.

            XANDER: *GAAH*!

            The view reverses, and we see the dangling head begin to straighten itself.

            In a close-up, the lizard soldier’s head reattaches itself to it’s body.

            The view shifts and Dawn and Xander fight back to back. She kicked out with her hind legs at one of the lizard soldiers, while Xander fights sword to sword.

            XANDER: If we can’t do some permanent damage, this is gonna be a real speedy brawl. Remember my running-away proposal?

            Suddenly, a burst of energy and mist washes over the lizard soldiers, fired from off the battlefield. As the mist clears, the lizard soldiers are no longer glowing green. They are now just green skinned and wearing armor. They look truly confused, and worried.

            In close-up, Xander stares at the scene.

            XANDER: Huh?

            The answer comes from the tree line – Rowena stands at the head of a vast array of Slayers, survivors of the attack. Leah and Slayers of every ethnicity, armed with every sort of sword and axe and spear, stand ready to fight. Behind Rowena, two other young women stand with glowing blue energy around their hands – the ones who cast the spell.

            ROWENA: *Wiccans to the rear! Slayers*…

            In close-up, the young Slayer narrows her eyes.

            ROWENA: *F*%# ‘em up*.

            Lorelahn wastes no time, realizing the enemy is now trapped between them. As he issues orders, he beheads one of the lizard soldiers with his fire-sword arm, and this time, they bleed.

            LORELAHN: *Don’t let any slip through the line! They’re flesh and blood now*!

            As the battle rages, Dawn looks at the Slayers. In the foreground, Xander is smiling with obvious pride.

            DAWN: That’s your squad, Xan.

            XANDER: (quietly) All the ladies in the house go “yeah…”

            And snapping out of it, Xander’s in the fight. He cleaves one of the lizard soldiers through the head with his dagger.

            From above, the battle is all but over – with the Slayers in the fight, there is no contest.

            The scene shifts back to Fray’s time, and we see Buffy leap up on a rooftop and grab a passing vehicle flying through the night sky.

            BUFFY: *Kaah*!

            As the vehicle flies along, Buffy hangs on to it with one-hand, her Scythe in the other.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: Don’t know how long I was out. Don’t know if I’ll make it before the temporal slip ‘n’ slide closes.

            We see her in silhouette as she lets go of the vehicle and lands gracefully on the ledge of a building.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: Not entirely sure the building’s this way.

            Buffy climbs the side of a building, using the Scythe to chip out hand and foot holds.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: All else is awesome.

            We see her reach the top, reaching over to pull herself to the roof.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: And as for that Fray girl…

            The view shifts behinds Buffy’s shoulder as she climbs up. Melaka Fray awaits her, her own Scythe in hand, staring down.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: Hold that thought.

            In close-up of her profile, we see Mel look down at Buffy, looking resigned.

            MEL: I can’t let you go.

            Buffy has climbed onto the roof, and is carefully picking up her own Scythe.

            BUFFY: Didn’t you listen to Willow? “It’s who kills you.” Pitting us against each other is her idea of game night. We are the Scattergories of evil.

            We see Melaka’s face, the wind blowing her hair around her face.

            MEL: Can you swear my world won’t mist out if you leave? My best bonds? My sister?

            Buffy is standing now, and she steps in front of Melaka, a short way from her. They know what this is coming to.

            BUFFY: You know I can’t.

            MEL: The big picture.

            BUFFY: It’s called the fate of the world, short view.

            In close-up, we see the understanding in Fray’s face.

            MEL: “Fate of the world.” Made sense… when there was only one.

            And the fight is on. Melaka flies across the roof and drives her fist into Buffy’s face. Buffy shoves back with her free hand at Fray’s face, and plants her left boot on Fray’s thigh.

            The next image shows Buffy using her foot on Fray’s thigh to somersault herself, kicking Melaka in the face as she flips.

            She has barely landed, though, as the younger Slayer sidekicks her in the stomach, sending her toward the roof’s edge. Willow’s voice sounds from a distance – she’s watching them.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) Yes…

            We see Willow in profile, from wherever she’s watching. She’s anxiously biting her lower lip.

            WILLOW: So close…

            Buffy falls to the roof top, hitting hard enough to crack it.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: She’s stronger than me.

            Buffy flips backwards to get back on her feet, narrowly avoiding being slashed by Fray’s Scythe.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: On her home turf.

            Buffy runs across the rooftop as Fray chases her. As she runs, though, she swings her Scythe and cuts through the supports of a wooden water tank on the building roof.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: And she knows what she’s fighting for.

            Fray realizes the danger and turns to escape as Buffy jumps to a higher level of the roof. Water beings to break out of the tank as it comes down.

            (NARRATION) BUFFY: But I’ve dreamed every battle a Slayer’s ever fought, and she hasn’t. I’m outgunned… but she’s outnumbered.

            The next image shows the water pouring out over the rooftop. It washes Fray right off the side of the roof.

            (NARRATION) MEL: Jesu! I’m such a needs!

            We see Fray falling past the flying cars amidst the water.

            (NARRATION) MEL: She’s got me scrambling! Like I’m fighting a history lesson! Stop awe-ing and finish it!

            Fray catches one of the flying cars with her Scythe and swings herself up, throwing herself back toward the roof, and Buffy.

            (NARRATION) MEL: She’s not some big head carved on Mount Walmore…

            Fray’s foot plants on one of the statues on the side of the building as she jumps back into the fight.

            But she’s not fast enough – Buffy catches her in the face with a piece of the wooden debris.

            (NARRATION) MEL: She’s just a tiny, whiney, long-dead Slayer…

            Fray reacts quickly, and back kicks Buffy in the side of the head viciously.

            (NARRATION) MEL: … in a damn unpractical frock.

            The scene changes, and we’re in the present. Amy and Warren are staring into a cauldron, watching their army get wiped out in Scotland.

            WARREN: So… we all get how this is Amy’s fault?

            In a wider view, the witch and the scientist turn around and walk toward Twilight. Twilight floats a couple feet off the ground. If he’s disappointed, he isn’t commenting.

            AMY: Sweetie, that’s not technically –

            WARREN: Technical is my domain name, baby, and the bomb delivered. Your spell casting was trumped by first-year Wiccans.

            AMY: You said they would die in the blast.

            Amy and Warren continue to argue over the attack. Twilight, though, turns and floats away from them, talking to someone else.

            WARREN: I scored *fine* fatalities!

            AMY: You’re the one who started blame-assigning…

            WARREN: You start with that self-actualizing womyn-jargon, I’m gonna build a robot you with no mouth.

            AMY: Well maybe I’ll conjure a love slave who has *skin*!

            TWILIGHT: Ah, young love

            We see Twilight from behind as he floats towards another man. His face is hidden in shadow, but he’s wearing cargo pants and a tank top.

            TWILIGHT: …isn’t it depressing?

            In close-up, we see the man’s chest. Under his shirt, the raised scar of the Twilight symbol is clearly visible.

            MAN: In my experience, yeah.

            TWILIGHT: (from out of the view) But you don’t tell her that.

            From behind the new man, we see Twilight floating in front of him, arms crossed. Amy and Warren look on from across the room.

            MAN: I tell her I’m her inside man. Her ever faithful. She’s so stuck in the past, man… when we had our secret meeting in New York…

            The view reverses, and we see this new man’s face. It’s RILEY FINN.

            RILEY: … she even got dressed up.

            The scene changes, and we’re on a Manhattan rooftop in present day, near sunset. Kennedy is putting a blindfold on Willow.

            KENNEDY: Just to be sure, you’re not gonna be throwing *knives* at Buffy, right?

            Willow, blindfolded, turns and kisses Kennedy on the cheek.

            WILLOW: It’s a precaution, hon. Don’t wanna accidentally see what you’re getting me for Hannukah.

            VOICE: (from out of the view) *It’s opening*!

            The view widens, and we see who called out – an apprentice mystic of some kind, getting Willow’s attention. A portal is opening, a two dimensional swirl of yellow energy. Melaka’s voice guides us into the future…

            MEL: (voiceover) “Jesu…

            The scene shifts, and in the future, Buffy is stepping toward the same portal. Fray lunges after her desperately, ready to cleave her with the Scythe.

            MEL: (voiceover) “no…”

            MEL: *NO*!

            The attack fails. Without even turning around, Buffy throws her bare left arm back. With strength we’ve never seen from Buffy, the block shatters Fray’s scythe. The wood splinters, the metal bents, and the axe blade flies apart.

            BUFFY: No.

            The older Slayer turns and firmly punches out Fray. She’s down and out, blood flying from her nose. But Fray wasn’t the last obstacle before Buffy can return home.

            BUFFY: I’m sorry.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) About what?

            Buffy turns and sees that the dark, sad Willow of this future is standing in the portal, blocking her path. She tiredly plays small bolts of energy over her fingers.

            WILLOW: Failing?

            From behind Willow, we see Buffy staring at her. The breeze blows her ponytail back off her shoulders. The Slayer just stares at this strange version of her friend.

            BUFFY: You know I’ll go through you.

            WILLOW: And you know you’ll have to.

            BUFFY: Why?

            In close-up, Buffy’s face looks angry and offended.

            WILLOW: (from out of the view) Maybe I think the 20th century can soldier on just fine without you.

            BUFFY: I’m cute and blonde and popular but I’m not stupid, Will. You dragged me here and then told me exactly how to get out. Everything, every lie, to get us here. Why? What happened? Why does it have to be me?

            In extreme close-up, Willow can’t meet Buffy’s look.

            WILLOW: It’s a long story.

            No more words are needed. The next image shows Buffy drive the stake end viciously into Willow’s chest, lifting her up off the roof top. Willow screams, and bolts of electricity rip through her, and out of her.

            In a wider view, a bolt of lightning shoots upward out of Willow into the sky with a *BOOM*.

            In close-up, Buffy’s face is cold and alone, frowning.

            We see a close-up of Buffy’s grip on the Scythe as the stake sticks between Willow’s breasts.

            And in another close-up, Willow’s eyes are half closed as she looks at Buffy with… disappointment? Gratitude? There’s no way to tell.

            In a wide view, we see Willow begin to fall as Buffy pulls the stake free. From the portal, we see a pair of hands coming through – “Present” Willow, trying to grab Buffy.

            We see the live Willow, blindfold on, lean through the portal as the dead Willow drops to the ground. Melaka is back on her feet, and dives for her ancestor.

            We see Melaka through the shimmering portal in close-up – she’s too late.

            The image begins to turn white as we see the face of the dead future Willow.

            The scene changes, and we’re on the roof in Manhattan – in the present. Buffy is on her knees, looking at the roof. Willow pulls off her blindfold.

            WILLOW: Oh goddess… I was afraid I’d get the wrong –

            In the next image, we see from over Willow’s shoulder as Buffy looks up. She is sobbing helplessly as tears run down her cheeks.

            WILLOW: Buffy…?

            The Slayer is quickly on her feet, clinging to her friend. She grabs Willow around the waist, still crying. Smiling, though. Willow is clearly very surprised.

            BUFFY: I love you, Will.

            In a wider view, Willow accepts her, and they stand there, arms around each other, Willow comforting her friend. Kennedy looks on, confused.

            The view widens again, and we see the skyline as the sun is setting.

            KENNEDY: I’m watching those hands, you two…

            The scene changes again. Everything is white and blank. Except a voice.

            VOICE: Mel?

            The rooftop in the future reappears, the white fading away like a paint brush that ran out of paint. Melaka is kneeling on the wet roof next to Willow’s body. Erin has arrived on her police motorcycle.

            ERIN: Gunther ran Harth off, got here as soon – Mel? Did she go?

            From below, we see Mel looking helpless. Erin touches her shoulder.

            MEL: I failed. Again.

            ERIN: Mel, she’s gone.

            The older Fray crouches down and puts both arms around the Slayer’s shoulders.

            ERIN: And we’re not.

            Melaka turns to look at her sister.

            MEL: What does that mean?

            The last image is of the Fray sisters together on the roof, covered with blood and water. The debris of the water tower and Willow’s body surround them as they realize their world is still going on.

            ERIN: Means it’s a good day.

            The End

            End of Issue #19
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            • #21
              Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #20
              “After These Messages… We’ll Be Right Back!”


              Prologue Summary: Buffy’s had a lot to deal with lately: her sister’s a centaur; she broke the heart of a Slayer; traveled through time to battle the future Slayer, Fray, and kill her best friend; and the Slayer command center in the Highlands of Scotland has been destroyed. And yet, Buffy manages to keep her cool by focusing on her duty – protect humanity from the hidden evils of the world, even as that world turns against her. Is Twilight to blame for humanity’s distrust of the Slayers? The aggression of the U.S. government? The defection of the rogue Slayer, Simone, and her band of thieves?

              Only time will tell. Until then, it’s about time Buffy got some well-earned sleep.

              Start of Issue #20

              The opening image is of Buffy in close-up. She has her scythe drawn back behind her, ready to take a powerful swing with the axe blade on it. She nearly snarls as she threatens her enemy. She’s wearing the quasi-battle armor we’ve seen her in before.

              BUFFY: You come one more inch and… things are going to get all blechy.

              The view widens, and we see Buffy standing on a rock outrcropping in a rain-soaked, mountainous area somewhere. She leaps forward and swings the scythe threw the neck of a large, red demon that looks like it could be made of stone or clay. It’s tusked head flies off its shoulders.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: You want to know what the problem with saving the world is…?

              BUFFY: Can’t say I didn’t warn you.

              We see Buffy again, still in her battle armor, but now standing in a swamp, ankle deep in water. She’s firing a crossbow bolt into a large green demon with tentacles on its face.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: You never get *any* sleep. Not even a nappy time.

              BUFFY: Can’t say I didn’t warn *you*!

              The next image is Buffy again, but now she’s in a city, perhaps New York. The rain is pouring down and soaking her as she runs a broadsword through the stomach of a demon that looks like a large lizard.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: At this point I’d settle for twenty-eight of those forty winks everybody talks about.

              BUFFY: Can’t say I *didn’t* warn you!

              And again, we see Buffy. Now she’s diving down at a vampire, plunging a stake into its chest. It starts to dust even before she finishes her joke.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Was it always this hard? And if it was, *why* is it always this hard?

              BUFFY: *Can’t say I* – (to herself, as the vampire dusts) oh, grrr, I guess I *can*…

              The scene shifts and the sun is coming up. We see a large estate, a tudor style home in a non-specific countryside. Buffy’s voice shouts from inside.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Finally.

              BUFFY: (from out of the view) *XANDER*!

              The view shifts into the room, and from above we see Buffy lying on her stomach in a double bed. She has her legs out, claming the bed for herself. She’s still fully clothed, and the mud on her clothing is already dirtying up the whole bed. Xander stands beside the bed, hands spread helplessly as he protests.

              BUFFY: What about “don’t wake me even if there’s *another* apocalypse!” don’t you get?

              XANDER: No, got that. It’s just –

              From slightly closer, we see Xander lean over the bed slightly, placing his right hand on the sole of Buffy’s boot. He’s either shaking her gently to keep her awake or considering taking her shoe off for her. Buffy, for her part, keeps her eyes closed, determined to get some sleep.

              BUFFY: What?... is it about *Dawn*? Has she turned into something *else*? Is she a giant *monkey* now? Or a giant *robot*? Or a *giant robot monkey*?! (quietly) Although… Dawny changed into a giant robot monkey I’d like to see…

              XANDER: No, she’s not a giant robot monkey. (quietly) But I’d like to see that too…

              In close-up, we see Buffy’s dirt-caked face as she holds the pillow and pleads her case.

              BUFFY: Xander, puh-lease. I’m all stinky. I’m still in my stinky clothes. In my stinky bed. So *go away* from my stinky bed and I can get some stinky sleep!

              XANDER: (from out of the view) But… that’s just it, Buf. This isn’t *your* bed you’re making all stinky…

              In extreme close-up, Buffy is clearly already asleep even as Xander keeps talking. She doesn’t hear him. But she might hear what appears to be an alarm clock ringing out to her with a *ZZZZZZ ZZZZZ ZZZ*

              XANDER: (from out of the view) … it’s *mine*!

              The scene shifts as the alarm clock goes off. But now, everything is different. The colors are brighter, Buffy’s hair is longer and blonder. The alarm clock insists, *ZZZZZZ* as a voice shouts out to Buffy from outside the room.

              VOICE: *Buffy! Get a move on! You’re going to be late for school*!

              We see Buffy waking up, but her clothes have changed. She’s now wearing a light blue t-shirt that says “Relax”. She rubs her face groggily as she wakes up.

              BUFFY: Hmm…?

              In close-up, we see Buffy’s face, her eyes half closed and her mouth a frown. But the art is different, surreal. It’s the style of an animated television show.

              BUFFY: *mmmphlug*

              We see Buffy sit up in bed, holding her head. The curved, white bed frame stands behind her against the wall as she gathers herself a bit.

              BUFFY: Um… weird much? I swear I heard…

              As the same voice calls out to Buffy, her eyes widen in recognition and disbelief. She sits up in bed immediately.

              VOICE: Don’t make me come up there?

              BUFFY: Mom… ?

              The view widens, and we see what Buffy is seeing – she’s in her room, on 1630 Revello Drive, sitting in her own double bed. Her mother’s voice calls out again, now warning her.

              JOYCE: *Buffy! Are you listening to me*?

              BUFFY: (to herself) Okay, now we’re just being cruel…

              Buffy flips over in the bed, face down, and holds the pillow over her head.

              BUFFY: Dream, dream, go away, come again another… never.

              The view reverses, and as Buffy stares out from beneath her pillow at the wall, the silhouette of her mother fills her doorway. Another, smaller figure stands by her mother.

              JOYCE: I am not kidding, young lady.

              We see Joyce as she looked years before, dressed for work at the gallery in a calf-length skirt and a jacket. Behind her, a much younger Dawn, wearing pig tails, peaks around her mother to mock Buffy.

              JOYCE: Buffy…

              DAWN: See, mom, I toldja she hadn’t gotten outta bed yet!

              Buffy’s reaction is immediate – she all but screams in amazement as she sits up and looks at her mother.

              BUFFY: *Mom*! You’re alive!

              Joyce barely has time to start speaking before her eldest has her arms around her, hugging her tightly and smiling.

              JOYCE: Buffy, I don’t have time for joking. Can you just *please* get dressed?

              We see Buffy from behind as she faces herself in a mirror, hands on hips. Dawn looks up at Buffy, still grinning and picking at her.

              DAWN: *Yeah*, get dressed, lazy stupid head.

              BUFFY: What *is* this that I have on?

              DAWN: If you don’t want it, *I’ll* take it.

              Buffy seems to notice her sister for the first time, and hugs her as quickly and as tightly as she did her mother. Dawn, however, fights furiously against Buffy’s grasp.

              BUFFY: And Dawny! You’re not a giant or a centaur or a monkey robot! You’re just little, really really… when were you ever this little?

              DAWN: Mom! Buffy’s on drugs!

              In close-up, Dawn eyes her sister suspiciously.

              DAWN: I learned about them at school.

              We see a close-up of Joyce’s hand as she points a finger and orders her younger daughter from the room. Dawn frowns.

              JOYCE: Dawn, go finish your pop tart.

              In close-up, Joyce is smiling a little as she turns her attention back to Buffy.

              JOYCE: And Buffy –

              Buffy is already a step ahead of her. The view reverses and Buffy is already counting off the instructions before her mother can give them.

              BUFFY: – Dress. Eat. Books. School. Got it.

              Joyce turns away and looks at Buffy curiously.

              JOYCE: I hope you do.

              We see over Buffy’s shoulder as she calls out to her mother, catching Joyce before she leaves the room.

              BUFFY: Mom…?

              Joyce turns to look back, still wearing a curious expression.

              JOYCE: Hmmm?

              When the view reverses, Buffy is just smiling warmly at her mother.

              BUFFY: I really *am* happy to see you.

              Joyce reacts by worrying Buffy is sick. Buffy watches as her mother puts the back of her hand on Buffy’s forehead, checking her temperature.

              JOYCE: Are you feeling all right? You don’t seem to have a fever. But you have been out almost every night this week.

              BUFFY: Tell me about it. A Slayer’s work is never done.

              The view reverses and Joyce arches her eyebrow, raising her hand to her chin thoughtfully – she’s never heard this word.

              JOYCE: A “Slayer”…?

              Buffy looks suddenly alarmed as she realizes what she’s said.

              BUFFY: Oh. Right. You don’t know.

              Buffy mirrors Joyce’s own thoughtful gesture.

              BUFFY: Yet.

              Joyce looks truly confused now.

              JOYCE: I don’t know what? *Yet*.

              Buffy smiles as she thinks of a good cover, holding her finger up.

              BUFFY: Yet? Oh. Because I haven’t told you… I’m thinking about going out for girls’ volleyball and a *player’s* work is never done.

              We see from behind Joyce as she leaves Buffy’s room.

              JOYCE: Honestly, there are days, when I do not know what is going on in that head of yours. But, if you’re late again for school, you can kiss that *party* tonight goodbye.

              BUFFY: I won’t be late, okay?

              After Joyce leaves, Buffy’s face against looks surprised.

              BUFFY: (to herself) There’s a party?

              In a new scene, we see the front of the cartoon-like Sunnydale High. The school bell is ringing with a *RRIINNNNGGGGG*.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Okay, I admit that if you googled “weird” there’d be a picture of this day. I mean, this could all be the handiwork of some sleep demon – or maybe the ghost of *Ethan Rayne* has dragged me back into the dream space. *Again*. Whatever. I can *do* this.

              In the school, Buffy is moving through the hall, her hair in a high ponytail, wearing a jacket and Angel’s cross necklace.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: So what if I have to take algebra again? At least this time I know it’ll have zero value when I grow up.

              From behind, we see Buffy as she spots Willow down the hall.

              BUFFY: Eep!

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Willow. Alive! And all not evily. And me not having… (quieter) (… killed her thing.)

              We see Willow holding her books, smiling warmly as Cordelia and one of her Cordettes speak to her in the hallway.

              CORDY: Y’know, Willow, I was just thinking about you.

              WILLOW: Really? Why…?

              The view moves close, and we see the two of them, Cordy’s eyes narrowed a little as she “befriends” Willow.

              CORDY: Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about my big party tonight.

              WILLOW: Sh-sure, Cordelia. A bunch of us. I mean, Buffy, and Xander and I were planning –

              Cordy leans in so close that Willow actually hides part of her face behind her textbooks and eyes Cordy like a scared kitten.

              CORDY: – Yes, and I was talking.

              In close-up, we see Cordelia handling Willow’s long hair.

              CORDY: Don’t you think it’s time you tried something with your hair? Those bangs do so mucuh to hide your face.

              We see them in profile facing each other, the taller Cordelia looking down at Willow.

              CORDY: Just cutting it shorter or even giving it a perm. This way, we could see more of you.

              WILLOW: And… that would be a good thing?

              Cordy drives her joke home as she and her Cordettes walk away from Buffy and Willow with a chorus of “TEE HEE” and “HA HA HE”.

              CORDY: No, but you’d get a clearer picture of exactly how *hopeless* you truly are.

              The view shifts, and Buffy is already putting her hand around Willow’s shoulder as she approaches, and Willow smiles gratefully.

              BUFFY: No biggie, Will. Maybe someday *she’ll* be dead and you’ll be a *sorceress supreme*.

              WILLOW: Really…?

              In close-up, Willow looks sidelong at Buffy.

              WILLOW: Do I get to wear a pointy hat?

              Before Buffy can say anything, she shoves Willow against the row of lockers to protect her as Xander comes racing down the hallway on his skateboard.

              XANDER: One side, ladies!

              BUFFY AND WILLOW: *Xander*?!

              We see the two girls looking around a corner and at the floor following a *KRASH* that sends the skateboard flying. They both wince.

              BUFFY AND WILLOW: Yep. Xander.

              Xander is lying on the hallway floor looking dazed. Behind him, Principal Snyder has arrived picking up Xander’s skateboard. Xander raises his index finger in defiance, albeit groggy defiance.

              SNYDER: *Xander Harris*. That wouldn’t be a *skateboard* you’d be riding in *my* hallway, would it?

              XANDER: Technically speaking, *Principal Snyder*, “no.” I wasn’t riding the skateboard as much as it was riding me.

              SNYDER: You’ll get this back at the end of the school year.

              XANDER: But… it’s a *brand-new board*!

              SNYDER: Either *that board* or *you yourself* will be locked up in my office –

              His point made, Snyder turns to leave, as Xander looks watches morosely.

              SNYDER: – which is it going to be?

              XANDER: … Waugh.

              From above, we see Xander laying on his back, in no hurry to get up. We see over Buffy and Willow’s shoulders as they stand over him, although Willow eyes Buffy nervously.

              BUFFY: Look at it this way, Xander. Maybe someday Snyder will get eaten by a *huge ginormous snake* – and you’ll wear an *eye patch* and be in charge of *lots of womens*.

              XANDER: Really…? Like a pirate? Can I be like a *space* pirate? With an alien dog?

              WILLOW: *koff*Buffy*koff*!

              Buffy turns to Willow, remembering her friend’s old crush on Xander. Xander gets to his feet in the background.

              BUFFY: Oh. That’s right. You like… and you’re not… well, you probably *are*… but not…

              WILLOW: I’m not what?

              BUFFY: Yikes, open mouth. Insert whole body.

              In a close-up, Buffy thinks of a way to get out of the conversation. The animated world she occupies obligingly demonstrates by producing a lightbulb over her head.

              BUFFY: Hey! I bet there’s something *Giles* has for us to do…

              The scene shifts to night, and one of Sunnydale’s cemeteries. There’s a full moon in the purple sky.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Okaaayyy. So this is turning into my own private *Pleasantville*. Without the black and white and the Witherspoon. *Except*…

              The next image if of Buffy leading Xander and Willow through the cemetery. Buffy is casually twirling a stake on her finger. Xander watches her adoringly and carries his own stake. Willow has a laptop in her hands and looks at it as she walks.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: … Not exactly minding since I almost forgot what it was like to just be *Scoobies*…

              XANDER: I’ve heard they’re actually going to have a live band.

              BUFFY: What kind of band plays at a party in Sunnydale?

              XANDER: A sucky band?

              BUFFY: You’re going, aren’t you Will?

              WILLOW: Sure, I mean, it’s an “open party” so we could go even if we wanted to.

              BUFFY: Well, then, there’s nothing that could stop us from going then!

              The view reverses, and we see from behind the Scoobies as they find Giles standing in the cemetery. He is wearing his customary suit and holding open a book.

              GILES: Buffy. Good. You’re here.

              In close-up, Giles looks over his glasses at them, his expression very serious.

              GILES: The very fate of the world is at risk over what happens tonight!

              We see Buffy look sideways in anger, her mood highlighted by a storm cloud that appears over her head. Behind her, Willow and Xander look at each other anxiously.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Oh. Yeah. I remember *this* part. This is where *my life* gets in the way of *my living it*.

              In a close-up, Giles looks down at his book studiously.

              GILES: Now then. *The Disciples of Morgala* are fairly unique, even for vampires. Unlike most of the bloodsucking variety –

              We look down at Giles’ book, and the page has “Morgala” on it.

              GILES: – These actually worship someone or some*thing* called “Morgala”.

              The view shifts back to Giles, who frowns at the kids.

              GILES: Morgala’s exact nature eludes us and are *any* of you listening to me?

              The view shifts to the Scoobies, who clearly aren’t. Willow looks fawningly at Xander, who in turn looks fawningly at Buffy, who for her part is spinning a stake on her finger like a top and, as usual, defusing romantic awkwardness.

              WILLOW: Xander, we could walk over the party together…

              XANDER: And pick up Buffy along the way.

              BUFFY: We should all just meet there.

              WILLOW AND XANDER: (unhappily) Greatttt…

              We see Giles, grinning and holding his hand near his mouth to cover his enthusiasm.

              GILES: Oh, oh, I can’t wait. It will be such fun. What do you suppose *Harmony* is going to wear?

              Before anyone can react, we see Giles in extreme close-up, scowling now.

              The view shifts back to the kids, all properly quiet.

              BUFFY: Ulp.

              The next image shows Giles, hand raised now to lecture. For dramatic effect, lightning flashes in the sky.

              GILES: We have reason to believe that the disciples are going to complete a ritual this evening that will, how shall I put this -- *shift the balance of good and evil beyond all hope and reckoning*! Buffy, this is the exact sort of situation for which you were chosen.

              BUFFY: (from out of the view) Giles, don’t go all coronary on us –

              We see Buffy, again spinning her stake in her hand. She’s smiling with clear delight.

              BUFFY: – We’ll find these disciples of Morgan Freeman –

              GILES: (from out of the view) – *“Morgala.”*

              BUFFY: Them, too. We’ll locate their nest, and I’ll dust them like I always do.

              GILES: (from out of the view) Like you always do?

              BUFFY: Yep.

              We see Buffy’s stake fly into the air as she tosses it.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Kay, this is working for me. *Freshman year bod* with a super *Slayer brain*.

              Contradicting her, Buffy misses the stake as it comes back down and hits her in the head with a *DOINK!*

              BUFFY: *Ow*!

              We see her in close-up narrowing her eyes as she rubs her forehead. The others are silhouetted behind her.

              BUFFY: (to herself) That’s gonna leave a mark…

              The scene changes, and we see a series of images as a montage. Buffy kicking in the door to a vampire nest. In the foreground, Buffy jumpkicking and driving a stake through a robed vampire that explodes into dust. Buffy wrestling with another vampire near a large altar ringed with candles. Buffy stalking a second vampire, and spearing another with her stake. Throughout, we see inset images of Willow, Giles, and Xander as they watch Buffy work. Giles alternately smiles at Buffy’s work and frowns at Xander. Willow covers her eyes or cringes from the violence. Xander enthusiastically pretends to be providing sports commentary with a stake as a microphone.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: We found *the followers of Morgan Freeman*!

              XANDER: This is Xander Harris at the Bufflympics, and it’s a beautiful night for Slaying. Buffy cartwheeled that last coffin, and really did nicely on the dismount. Uh-oh, vamp #2 is going for the choke hold, and that’s going to cost him some points. Actually, that’s going to cost him some flesh. Two down and – the Armenian judges might take a point away for that last move, but I’d give that gal a “10”!

              Outside the crypt, we see the silhouettes of all four as Buffy strides off.

              BUFFY: So, guys, I’d say we have time to “s., s., and s.” And still get to the party.

              GILES: “S., s., and s.”?

              In a closer view, we see Xander grinning as he walks past the annoyed Watcher.

              XANDER: *Soap, shower*, and *style*, Giles. Don’t they teach you *anything* at Watcher school?

              GILES: Apparently not.

              We see Giles facing the students, who look back while he lectures.

              GILES: Now, not to put a damper on this evening’s good tidings…

              BUFFY, WILLOW, AND XANDER: Who… you?

              GILES: Ahem. While I was *most* impressed with Buffy’s Slaying capabilities – the Disciples of Morgala appear to have been worshiping *the image of a dragon*.

              The view shifts to the gang, and Buffy and Xander face each other while Willow looks in from the side as the three banter. Giles looks on from behind them in silhouette.

              BUFFY: I didn’t see a dragon. Either of you see a dragon?

              XANDER: Nope.

              WILLOW: Not me.

              We see Buffy smiling as she turns to leave, despite Giles’ frowning at them.

              BUFFY: That settles that. Let’s go, gang.

              GILES: Buffy. You have to take your role in all this more seriously.

              This gets Buffy’s attention, distracting her from the fun. She turns and looks at Giles looking legitimately offended.

              BUFFY: I’m only trying to have a little fun, Giles.

              Buffy lowers her head and rubs her forehead with her hand.

              BUFFY: Remember *”fun”*?

              Buffy reaches up in frustration and shouts.

              BUFFY: It was something I used to have lots of –!

              We see her and Giles silhouetted as they face each other. Buffy is leaning over and pointing her finger at Giles’ face to make sure he listens to her.

              BUFFY: – Before I became *”The Chosen One,”* which, believe it or not, isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

              In close-up, Buffy makes “air quotes” as she hints at her future to Giles.

              BUFFY: And someday there’s gonna be *eighteen hundred Slayers* working in ten separate squads – and *everybody* calls me “ma’am!”

              Buffy spreads her arms in frustration.

              BUFFY: So tonight I’m going to get a little taste of that fun at this party!

              Buffy storms off, Giles adjusting his glasses as he watches.

              From behind, we see Giles watching Buffy leave with Willow and Xander.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Wow. That felt good. Maybe not so much for Giles. But. Wow.

              GILES: (to himself) “Ma’am”…?

              In a new scene, Buffy is back in her room, idly fingering the cross necklace Angel gave her.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Later that same night. Hey, how often do you get to say *that*?

              BUFFY: Oh… Angel…

              JOYCE: (from out of the view) Buffy…?

              We see Joyce leaning in Buffy’s door as her daughter picks through clothes for the party.

              JOYCE: Where’s the rest of that skirt?

              BUFFY: Trust me, I’ve worn much worse.

              Buffy turns to her mother, clearly still happy to see her. Joyce looks motherly and, as usual, worried about her.

              JOYCE: Buffy, I really am trying to be understanding.

              BUFFY: Great. Can you be understanding in the morning when I’m not running late?

              JOYCE: It’s just this whole… *”party.”* Do we know anything about the people who are going to be there?

              BUFFY: Yes. They’re the people who are going to be there.

              JOYCE: You see… we haven’t lived in Sunnydale that long. I don’t want you going someplace that could be dangerous.

              This is clearly hilarious to Buffy, who knows more about Sunnydale than she might want to.

              BUFFY: Dangerous…?!

              In close-up, Joyce doesn’t see the joke. She wouldn’t, of course.

              JOYCE: I’m not sure why that’s funny.

              Buffy decides to hug her mother, to Joyce’s surprise.

              BUFFY: Oh, mom, it’s not. Actually, it’s kinda sad… there are times when I wish I could just stay and live here forever and ever… and ever… and ev –

              JOYCE: Buffy.

              Joyce pulls from the hug and smiles at her daughter, trying to reassure Buffy.

              JOYCE: You’re going to graduate high school. Eventually. Go to college. Maybe meet some nice boy. You have your whole life ahead of you. But, yes. *You can always come home again*.

              In close-up, Buffy is smiling, but her eyes look a little wistful.

              BUFFY: Right.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Sigh.

              The scene shifts, and we see Buffy walking through an alley in Sunnydale. A shadow of a man from one of the rooftops covers her, and she is looking up.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: On the way to the party, my *spider-sense* starts tingling…

              BUFFY: Whoever or *whatever* you are out there, pick another night.

              We see Buffy vaulting up the side of buildings and rooftops to investigate.

              BUFFY: I’m just going someplace, and *one* time it would be nice to get there without *vamp* dust all over my clothes.

              The next image is of the rooftop. Buffy is perched in a crouch on the head of a gargoyle and looking across at Angel. The vampire is standing on the roof, the breeze blowing his overcoat around. They watch each other as they share their customary greeting.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Dammit. I don’t need *spider-sense*. I need *Angel-sense*. Look at him. All hamdsomey. Before I knew he was Angelus. And all handsomey. Buffy, get a hold of yourself!

              BUFFY: Angel.

              ANGEL: Buffy.

              BUFFY: Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I have plans this evening and they don’t include you.

              ANGEL: That’s fine. More than fine.

              BUFFY: Good.

              ANGEL: Good.

              We see them in silhouette as Buffy gracefully leaps down to stand by him on the roof.

              ANGEL: I just wanted to say that word under the street that you went up against the five disciples of Morgala and took them out. Pretty impressive.

              BUFFY: No biggie.

              In close-up, Angel smiles at Buffy. A small smile, of course.

              ANGEL: No. really. Good work. Because if you hadn’t stopped them, they would’ve raised – well, that’s nothing to worry about since you did, and… that’s all I have to say about it.

              We see Buffy turning away from Angel to leave when Angel gets her attention.

              BUFFY: Thank you, Angel. And good night.

              ANGEL: I couldn’t help but notice that you’re wearing the necklace I gave you.

              Buffy quickly turns back to protest that wearing the necklace means anything – as if she really were Buffy at that age.

              BUFFY: For your information, I wore *this* necklace because it goes with *this* outfit and not for *any other reason* you might have in that undead head of yours!

              We see the two of them together on the roof, awkwardly keeping their hands at their sides or behind them.

              BUFFY: We were never really good at this. Lots of the other stuff, but not so much the talking stuff…

              ANGEL: Like… what? Exactly.

              The view moves around and we see Buffy lovingly reach her hand up to brush Angel’s cheek. Her eyes look older than his for a moment.

              BUFFY: Angel, you’ve lived for like a million years…

              ANGEL: It hasn’t been *that* long. Only a few decades… years… centuries… okay, so what’s your point?

              Buffy’s eyes looks more sad as she runs her fingers along Angel’s face.

              BUFFY: If you knew something about someone’s past… and… *future*… would you tell them?

              Angel reaches up and takes Buffy’s hand in his. He looks at her with concern as he answers.

              ANGEL: Probably not. You can’t change a person’s past. And just by telling them, you’ll change their future into who knows what.

              The two are silhouetted as they face each other, and Buffy is lowering her head as she considers his point.

              BUFFY: Yeah. Well. I gotta run. I have that party thing. Thingy.

              We see Buffy looking sad as she leaps from the rooftop. Angel’s silhouette looks on from the roof.

              ANGEL: Have fun with that.

              Buffy doesn’t land on her feet, and instead drops into a dumpster with a loud *CRASH*!

              In close-up, she rubs her head as she climbs out. Stars circle her wincing head.

              BUFFY: I’m good. Really. I’m fine.

              The next image is of Buffy walking through a neighborhood talking to herself.

              BUFFY: “So, heard you went up against the five disciples of Morgala. Pretty impressive.” Like I care what you think, “Mister-I’m-so-dark-and-mysterious-and-a-vampire-who-turns-into-the-baddiest-bad-and-makes-me-the-saddiest-sad…”

              The view widens, and Buffy slows her walk, even though the music notes coming from a nearby house tell us she’s almost found the party.

              BUFFY: Wait a second. What did he say…?

              We see a close-up of Buffy rubbing her chin thoughtfully as a thought bubble shows an image of Angel’s face. She remembers his words.

              MEMORY ANGEL No. Really. Good work. Because if you hadn’t stopped them, they would’ve raised –

              BUFFY: No. That wasn’t it.

              We see Buffy cringe as her memory of Angel tries another part of their conversation.

              MEMORY ANGEL: I couldn’t help but notice that you’re wearing the necklace –

              BUFFY: *No*!

              The next attempt to remember goes so wrong, Buffy actually waves her hand through the thought bubble to break It up.

              MEMORY ANGEL: You look very beautiful –

              BUFFY: – *He didn’t even SAY that*!

              The next try works, though, and Buffy points at the thought bubble as she realizes what it means.

              MEMORY ANGEL: Word under the street is that you went up against the five disciples of –

              BUFFY: – Stop. *Stop.* That was it. He said five disciples when there were only *three*.

              For a moment, Buffy ignores it, and we see her dancing as the music notes from the party helpfully hover around her on a yellow ribbon.

              BUFFY: Oh, I love that song. I could even dance to that song. Three. Five. What’s the diff? Maybe Angel can’t count. Maybe…

              Instead, we see Buffy scowling and mutters to herself as she leaves the party.

              BUFFY: Gah. Maybe I can get to the graveyard and back before the party’s over…

              The scene moves back to the vampire lair, and Buffy again pushes her way in. This time, though, there are two vampires inside, wearing the same robes as we saw the other disciples of Morgala wearing.

              BUFFY: I hate it when I’m right. I hate it worse when *he’s* right.

              VAMPIRE: You are too late!

              The view reverses, and we see Buffy charge forward. One of the vampires turns to fight her, but the other takes a big red jewel and runs toward the altar.

              BUFFY: No. No, that’s where you’re wrong.

              In close-up, we see Buffy stake the first vampire.

              BUFFY: I *will* get back in time for the party.

              As Buffy dives at the second vampire, it reaches the wall and shoves the large red jewel into a symbol.

              VAMPIRE: Awaken, Morgala! Awaken!

              Immediately, the crypt begins to shake and crumble. The vampire is crushed under some debris.

              BUFFY: This can’t be good.

              Before she can react, the head of a giant green dragon crashes through the stone wall with a *ROOOOARRGH*, it’s jaws open and reaching for her. The red jewel is in its forehead. Buffy falls backward as she tries to dodge it.

              BUFFY: Hey. You guys don’t worship the *image* of a dragon –

              The next image is of Buffy sprinting through the cemetery to escape. Behind her, the dragon explodes out of the vampire lair and spreads its wings, chasing after her.

              BUFFY: – *You worship the dragon of the dragon*!

              As the dragon tries to bite her, Buffy somersaults away, leaping up toward the dragon’s snout.

              BUFFY: Oh, come on. Is this the best you can do? I’ve been on better rides at Disneyland – and I’m talking *teacups*!

              We see Buffy dragged up into the night sky by the dragon, its red eyes fixed on her. She is barely hanging on to its snout. On the street below, the ribbon of music notes keeps floating from the house where the party is going on.

              BUFFY: Hey! I can see my house! (quieter) And… the house with the party that I’m *missing*!

              The view shifts, and we’re at the party. Cordy is surrounded by her Cordettes, and she’s talking about Buffy. High above, the dragon and Buffy are visible against the moon.

              BUFFY: My *shoe*! You made me lose it! I’m pretty sure dragons don’t even know what shoes cost!

              CORDY: Can you believe that Buffy didn’t even bother to show up tonight? That girl is *such* a loser with a capital “L”. She is a total zero. Less than zero. I can’t think of *one* thing that she does that is even remotely interesting.

              The next image shows Buffy’s misplaced boot falling and hitting Cordy in the head. Behind her, Xander and Willow watch, with Willow making a small fist pump.

              CORDY: *Youch*!

              In the sky, Buffy has regained her balance on the dragon’s head, and has her one boot pressing on the jewel.

              BUFFY: Y’know, Morgala, you come into *my* dream when all I wanted was to forget you fuglies – but, no, you had to rise up out of the earth and make that close to impossible. Well, the time has come to make *you* close to impossible.

              In close-up, we see Buffy pushing both of her feet against the jewel, forcing it out of Morgala’s forehead.

              BUFFY: They brought you to life by putting this big ol’ jewel into the wall –

              In a wider view, Buffy kicks the jewel free.

              BUFFY: – Let’s see what happens when we take it out!

              And the dragon immediately vanishes with a *POOF*! Buffy’s face looks out at our point of view in panic.

              BUFFY: – Or… !

              We see Buffy hit a tree and bounce through the branches as she comes to the ground.

              BUFFY: Youch! Ow! Youch! Ow! That was fun.

              Suddenly, we see a yellow light pierce in, and can hear a voice. It’s Xander’s voice, repeating what he was saying to Buffy as she fell asleep.

              XANDER: But that’s just it, Buf. This isn’t *your* bed you’re making all stinky…

              And the scene shifts back as Buffy sits up in her bed. The animation is gone, the art is what we usually see. Xander is wearing his eye patch and his grey pullover. As Buffy adjusts, a voice calls out.

              XANDER: … it’s *mine*!

              BUFFY: Xander? Look at you! You’re all patchy-eyed.

              XANDER: Yes, I know. Girls find it dashing.

              BUFFY: What girls?

              XANDER: Can you get out of my bed now?

              VOICE: What smells in here?

              The view shifts, and we see from behind Buffy as she looks toward the door. The voice belongs t Dawn. The centaur woman rests her hand on the top of the door frame and the other on her hip.

              DAWN: Oh, it’s just *you*.

              BUFFY: Says the girl who’s a horse.

              DAWN: *Centaur*.

              From over Xander’s shoulder, we see Buffy sitting up in his bed. She’s smiling at him and pointing at her sister. Another voice joins as well.

              BUFFY: Hey, look at Dawny, Xander. She’s all centaury. Not even a robot centaur!

              XANDER: Buf, are you okay? Maybe you should get some more sleep. Or, *any*> You closed your eyes for like four seconds.

              BUFFY: Huh…? What’re you talking about? I’ve been out for –

              VOICE: Buffy…?

              The view shifts, and we see Willow from over Buffy’s shoulder.

              WILLOW: I know you wanted to spend some quality time down in Sleepytown… but Andrew called in and he’s in Madrid again, and… that vamp nest looks bigger than they thought. Again.

              BUFFY: Why do you keep saying “again”?

              Buffy doesn’t wait for an answer – from a wide view, we see her leap from the bed and hug her friend tightly. Xander and Dawn both jump back at the sudden movement.

              BUFFY: *Omigod*! Look at you, Will! You’re all magicky. And gay now!

              Buffy holds on to Willow as the witch gently pats Buffy’s back.

              BUFFY: I just had the strangest dream. We were back in *high school*. And you were there. And you were there. And you were there.

              WILLOW: And Toto too?

              The view shifts, and Buffy has let go of Willow. She turns her eyes away. Dawn, Xander, and Willow listen closely, though, as Buffy describes what she remembers.

              BUFFY: All I kept thinking was how nice things were back then… when it wasn’t so complicated…. And yet… it was just the same as now. Only different. I guess it doesn’t really matter… whatever it was, it’s over now and…

              The last image if of Buffy in close-up. Her eyes are wide and resigned as she looks at her friends. But perhaps no longer as hopeless as before. Behind her, we see her memory of the animated style life she remembered – herself, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel, Cordelia, and Dawn. They are all smiling, and all together in that memory.

              BUFFY: We’ve got a world to save.

              (NARRATION) BUFFY: Maybe Angel was right. You can’t change a person’s past. And just by telling them, you’ll change their future into who knows what. But for one brief shiny-shiny… it was great to go home again…

              That’s All, Folks

              End of Issue #20
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              • #22
                Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #21
                “Harmonic Divergence”


                Prologue Summary: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy’s Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accommodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.

                Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is undermined by a sudden need to hide from it.

                Welcome to the new world order.

                Start of Issue #21

                The opening image is a close-up of a woman’s face. Blonde hair, blue eyes, wide energetic smile – it’s HARMONY KENDALL, former Sunnydale high student and current vampire.

                HARMONY: *But I want in*!

                The view widens, and we see Harmony in a small pink top and black miniskirt standing at the ropes in front of a club called “Elite”, talking to the bouncer. Lines of people fill the sidewalk on either side of the doorway.

                BOUNCER: Sorry, ma’am, can’t help you.

                In close-up, Harmony frowns as she looks down as if to indicate her chest.

                HARMONY: Oh, can you really say no to this perky pair?

                The view shifts, and rather than her own chest, Harmony is referring to a pair of Pomeranians she holds in her arms. One is brown, the other white.

                BOUNCER: (from out of the view) No animals in the club.

                Harmony turns with a sad expression to walk away. Behind the bouncer, a man in a suit with floppy blond hair and glasses steps out of the club.

                HARMONY: C’mon, girls.

                As photographers snap pictures of the man and he shields his eyes, Harmony speaks in voiceover.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Ooh. Someone famous! I’ve got urine running down my leg!”

                In close-up, we see the blond man smile for a picture, waving. It appears to be comedian Andy Dick. Behind him, Harmony is holding her dogs and staring at him.

                HARMONY: Who is he?

                We see Harmony in close-up, smiling again. An idea has occurred to her.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Here’s the thing about fame. It’s good to touch.”

                From behind Harmony, we see Andy Dick notice her, smiling with interest.

                The view moves in and he is staring openly at Harmony.

                The view shifts and Andy Dick has walked over to Harmony. In the foreground, another blonde woman has arrived, drawing the attention of the photographers.

                PHOTOGRAPHER: It’s Lindsay Lohan’s mother!

                We see Harmony smile invitingly at Andy Dick.

                In extreme close-up, we see his hand take her arm.

                They’re moving so quickly, we only see one of the Pomeranian’s look surprised as Harmony and Andy Dick slip away.

                In an alley, we see a close-up of Harmony smiling up at Andy Dick, who reaches his hands up to her face.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “I’m gonna touch some fame!”

                In the background, we see flashing lights and the *KLICK* of camera’s.

                We see Harmony lift her leg up halfway around Andy Dick’s waste as she presses her lips to his neck.

                A camera goes off with a *FLASH* and we see Harmony clearly leaning into his neck as Andy Dick stares up.

                In a closer view, Harmony pulls away. We can see the bumps of the ridges of her vampire face. Andy Dick stares at her with a drugged expression. Another camera goes off with a *KLICK*.

                The next image shows Harmony turning to look. The cameras have gotten her attention. She stares back in disbelief in her vampire face. She has blood on her lips and her right cheek. Andy Dick’s neck is bleeding, and he is nearly unconscious against the wall.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Check out how hot I look!”

                We see a close-up of Harmony’s orange eye.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Sleepy Eyes. Very Paris.”

                The next close-up is of Harmony’s hair.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Tousled hair, over the S.V.F.* Exotic.”

                EDITOR’S NOTE: We think S.V.F. means “Sexy Vampire Forehead” – Editors

                The next image is a close-up of Harmony’s fangs, and the blood dripping from her lips.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Bloodstained and also plump lips.”

                The voiceovers have led us to a new scene – Harmony, wearing a tank top and sweatpants, sitting at a desk in a bedroom. It looks like a small apartment. The room is decorated with stuffed animals, unicorns, and a poster of My Little Pony. Harmony has a computer monitor with a webcam and post-it notes on it. She is using her hands to frame her own face in the photo of her just having fed on Andy Dick. She is looking into our view, where a camera is filming her.

                HARMONY: Cut *that* guy out of the thing and it’s the best darn headshot I ever had!

                The view shifts back to the image of Harmony looking at the cameras when she’s caught with Andy Dick. We see a headline with the picture now – Hot Vamp Gets Taste of A. Dick. Harmony continues her narration.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “T.M.Z. picks it up, and E.T. has it, too. Everyone’s curious about us vamps these days. I think I fingered a zeitgeist.”

                The scene shifts, and we see the outside of a large office building.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “This is C.A.A. No one knows what that stands for, but it’s a big scary building with a hole in it and it’s full of agents. They work late.”

                Inside the building, Harmony jogs down the hall to catch a stressed looking agent leaving his office. She is wearing a pink pantsuit.

                HARMONY: Excuse me, agent?

                We see a close-up of elevator doors closing.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “A lot of guys don’t know you can get bitten but not die. When they find that out, they’re all curious.”

                In another close-up, the elevator light comes on with a *DING* as the doors are about to open.

                The next image is of Harmony daintily wiping her lip with her finger as she walks away from the elevator. The agent is smiling, reaching up to the open collar of his suit and the blood on his neck.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “He agreed to set up a couple meetings.”

                Harmony’s narration goes on as the scene shifts and we see the outside of a building with palm trees around it, the MTV Network offices. It’s night again.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “This the the M.T.V. building in Santa Monica. No one knows what that stands for either, but they do reality shows. They agreed to meet after sunset.”

                Inside the building, we see Harmony and her agent sitting together on a sofa. They’re in an office, facing four young network executives, who listen with interest as Harmony excitedly pitches her show.

                HARMONY: … And you can just follow me around, and watch my life, see me with my friends who you can cast people for and I’ll mostly be biting people at wild parties and you can call it *Harmony Bites*!

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Pitching is fun!”

                In close-up, one of the MTV people rubs his chin thoughtfully.

                MTV GUY: Hmm… I dunno. Seems like it needs a villain.

                HARMONY: (from out of the view) No, see, that’s the hook!

                We see Harmony in close-up, smiling sincerely.

                HARMONY: With me, you get a hero…

                She changes into her vampire face.

                HARMONY: With a villain built in!

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “I have a television show!”

                The scene shifts, and we see Harmony playing with her dogs while a production crew works behind her.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “I have a camera crew!”

                In her apartment, the wallpaper and curtains all bright pink, Harmony sits on a coach with her feet underneath her dressing the bite wounds of a man sitting with her.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “I have a story line!”

                We see Harmony in close-up. She stares with interest at the pages of a magazine. On the magazine’s cover, we see the headline “MTV Vamping for Time; Bad Timing for Vamps?”

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “The numbers are soft, but I think we can turn it around. We’re going to put more money into promotions. I’m going to be in *People*!”

                The scene shifts, and we see Buffy reading a magazine with Harmony on the cover. The headline is “Sexiest Girl (Not) Alive”. Willow looks over her shoulder. Both wear expressions of unabashed amazement.

                BUFFY: What the hell?

                WILLOW: Pffft. She’s no Tina Fey.

                Back in Los Angeles, we see a pink billboard with Harmony’s face on it, compete with bedroom eyes. “Harmony Bites – MTV 7pm Weeknights”.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “They even give me billboards. Old media sucks but so do I, L.O.L.”

                The view shifts and we look down from in front of the billboard to the empty lot below. The shape of several people are standing together near one of the large stanchions that olds up the sign.

                The view moves in and we see a young latina woman with a pleading expression. Her name is SOLEDAD*.

                SOLEDAD: But I want out.

                The view wides, and we see Soledad hold out her hands in front of her as the silhouettes of other young women advance on her.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I finally say it on my sixteenth birthday.

                We see a fist slam forward into Soledad’s chin. The fist is covered with rings, that only make it easier to cut her face as blood sprays from her mouth.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: The other girls aren’t taking it too good.

                The view reverses, and we see six other girls staring at Soledad in our view, all with fists raised – they’re a gang.

                From above, we see them charge her as Soledad stumbles back.

                SOLEDAD: *Ooonf*!

                One of the others in her gang shoves Soledad’s face into the concrete stanchion with a *BONG*.

                In a closer view, a white glow suddenly goes across Soledad’s entire body. She is a Vampire Slayer.

                In extreme close-up, we see Soledad turn towards her attackers. She grins her bloodied lips with anticipation.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: Well. This changes stuff.

                The view moves back out to the high overhead we saw, and Soledad is standing over the unconscious bodies of her former gang sisters.

                As Soledad leaves, she rips a hole through chainlink fence and briefly looks back at the gang.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I feel totally free.

                We see her walking alone through the graffiti covered neighborhood, her hands in her pockets.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: But I figure it won’t last.

                Some time later, we see Soledad on a different day. Her hair is up in a ponytail, and she has spotted the Slayer commercial starring Andrew and Vi in a display television in a store window.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: If I know anything about good luck, it’s that someone always shows up to take it away.

                VI: (in commercial) I can’t control my strength! And I’m having dreams that are strange and disturb me.

                We see the television in close-up as Andrew looks out into the camera.

                ANDREW: (in commercial) Dreams of being another girl, in another time?

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I’m not gonna go find them. If they want me, they have to find me.

                TIME CARD: A WEEK LATER…

                We see Soledad sitting alone on a bench in what appears to be MacArthur Park. She rests her face in her palms glumly despite the very pretty day.

                From the same view, we see Soledad look up as Andrew walks up to her at the bench, resting his hand on the back of the bench.

                ANDREW: Hi. Can we talk about your destiny?

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: Oh, crap.

                From behind Soledad, we look up into Andrew’s face as he smiles at her and raises his sunglasses. The sun is behind his head.

                ANDREW: Let us talk of the vampyrs.

                From behind the bench, we see Andrew lean in to talk to Soledad, holding up his finger in caution at her misunderstanding of vampires.

                SOLEDAD: I heard they can bite you without killing you. So what’s the harm?

                ANDREW: Oh, Señorita, you have a lot to learn.

                The view moves out, and we see them in the distance across the lake.

                ANDREW: They are without conscience! No sense of empathy, no connection to the sorrows of others! Undead soulless creatures of the dark!

                SOLEDAD: Uh-huh.

                ANDREW: They take advantage of the weak ones…

                In close-up, Soledad looks up at Andrew with her brown eyes suddenly attentive. He’s said something that resonates with her.

                ANDREW: (from out of the view) … people without protectors, people who turn toward power because they have non, and then find themselves victimized by it.

                As Soledad sits forward with her face suddenly looking resolved and eager, Andrew starts dialing on his cellphone.

                SOLEDAD: I’m in. Where are they and how bad can I kill ‘em?

                ANDREW: I’ll call Buffy. She’ll want to welcome you.

                We see Soledad holding the phone up, waiting to speak to Buffy.

                SOLEDAD: Hello?

                As Soledad listens to Buffy, it’s apparent from Soledad’s frown that she’s having trouble understanding.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: The girl talks a lot, but it’s kind of a crappy connection.

                BUFFY: (through phone) Honor… *BRFFFFF*… duty. Together… over *BZZT* death… evil candy… sometimes there are snakes… honor.

                In Scotland, we see Buffy standing in a pasture, her face looking serious as she gives Soledad her pitch. Behind her, we see Xander and Willow standing in front of Dawn. Willow is wearing overalls and looking through a book, while Xander looks on.

                BUFFY: We’ll protect you. We’ll train you. You’ll be part of a family…

                As Buffy continues the power close, we see behind her that Dawn, Willow, and Xander all suddenly look over to their left.

                BUFFY: *Togetherness! Unity! Sisterhood*!

                Back in Los Angeles, Soledad is put off, walking off and toss Andrew’s phone over her shoulder. He catches it looking completely confused by her sudden change of heart.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I understand *those* words. I’ve heard ‘em before.

                In Scotland, Buffy looks at the phone in confusion. Behind her, and completely unnoticed by her, a horse has trotted up to Dawn, who holds her arms up in front of her face as Willow and Xander try to wrangle the stallion, who clearly intends to mate with Dawn.

                BUFFY: I think she hung up.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I’ll slay the hell out of vampires. But I ain’t joining no bunch of other girls. I’m doing this alone.

                Later in Los Angeles, we see Soledad looking at the gang tattoo on her arm unhappily in the window of a clothing store.

                We see the tattoo in close-up. It’s a long dagger surrounded by two banners that say “Las Cuchillas” (Spanish for “the knives” – transcriber).

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: I don’t even like the membership card I still got.

                In a new scene, we see the outside of a tattoo parlor at night. The place is called “Do You Ink I’m Sexy”, and we hear Soledad’s voice from inside.

                SOLEDAD: (from out of the view) Can I see?

                We see her tattoo again in close-up, but now the gang name is gone, and the blade is surrounded by a large rose bush.

                We see Soledad smiling warmly as she looks at her tattoo.

                SOLEDAD: Better.

                The view shifts, and we see Soledad sitting up and looking at herself in a small mirror as the door to the tattoo parlor opens. Harmony, wearing pink slacks and a pink jacket with white fur trim, leads her reality TV crew into the shop. She leads someone else, too.

                HARMONY: Ooh! Clem! Look at this place! It’s so authentic and grubby!

                We see the demon himself, his floppy skin and ears, and a bright smile. He’s holding three of Harmony’s Pomeranians.

                CLEM: Very downward-spiral chic.

                In close-up, Soledad frowns as she looks at the new comer. One of Harmony’s crew stands next to her, leaning in to converse.

                SOLEDAD: What the pink hell is *this*?

                CREWMEMBER: It’s Harmony. You know her show, *Harmony Bites*, right?

                SOLEDAD: Um… no.

                CREWMEMBER: That’s okay. It’s probably not gonna make it. Reality show about a vampire, only nothing much ever happens.

                The view reverses and we see Harmony studying tattoo designs on the wall. These amusingly include the “Buffy” logo, Angel’s tattoo, Faith’s tattoo, and the Twilight symbol. Clem stand behind her, encouraging her. Behind them both, Soledad crosses her arms and stares.

                CLEM: Are you getting a tattoo? You should get a tattoo.

                SOLEDAD: (to the crewmember) A vampire?

                In close-up, Harmony looks indecisive as she stares at the patterns. One of her assistants points at the tattoo he likes.

                HARMONY: I dunno…

                ASSISTANT: Everyone likes a flaming flying skull.

                As Soledad continues to scowl beside the crewmember, Clem frowns as he pulls a huge section of his loose skin away, looking for a tattoo.

                CLEM: I have a little cartoon duck… somewhere…

                SOLEDAD: (to crewmember) So, um, what if I wanted to talk to Harmony alone?

                We see the crewmember in close-up as he studies his notes. Soledad is still staring at Harmony, who is obliviously looking at the patterns. Clem pulls his skin out in a different direction, apparently still looking for his duck tattoo.

                CREWMEMBER: I dunno about alone, but we shoot at a rented house, up in the hills. You can come on by if you want. We need hot extras for a party scene tonight.

                In extreme close-up, we see a small smile on Soledad’s face as she forms a plan.

                SOLEDAD: I like a party.

                The scene shifts, and we see the outside of a large mansion with dozens of party-goers walking toward it.

                The next image is of Soledad having her purse searched at the door. She’s wearing a low-cut ****tail dress, looking slightly out of place.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: Seems funny to me. Security working a party where everyone’s hoping to get bit by a monster.

                The bouncer holds up a wooden stake he found in Soledad’s purse, eyeing it and her dubiously.

                (NARRATION) SOLEDAD: But still, they’re not happy with a footlong piece of splintered lumber.

                We see Soledad walk into the party. Other young women approach her, noticing the bandage over her new tattoo.

                PARTY-GOER: Nice… that a bite?

                SOLEDAD: What? Oh, no. It’s not a bite.

                The view shifts, and we see the party-goer leaning in very close, too close to be polite, in Soledad’s face. The Slayer scrunches her face uncomfortably.

                PARTY-GOER: Oh. Maybe you’ll get lucky tonight, though. It’s fun when it happens. It’s like, you feel weaker, but you feel like that’s okay.

                As the view shifts, we see the show’s director holding a megaphone at the top of a decorative set of stairs in the mansion’s lobby.

                DIRECTOR: We’re gonna bring in Harmony and some of the major players in a little bit, but first we’re gonna shoot you guys just having a good time, okay? Now, the music’s gonna be loud until Harmony comes in, then it’ll be real soft so we can hear whatever she might do…

                In close-up of the director, we see music notes on the page to show that they’ve started filming party shots.

                DIRECTOR: … now *Party! Whoo*!

                Partygoers accommodate him, as music notes dance across an image of young men and women dance sensuously.

                The notes get smaller as the music tapers off, and in close-up, Soledad holds a drink, but looks up and around for a new weapon.

                SOLEDAD: Girl’s around here somewhere, and I need a stake…

                The next image is a close-up of Harmony and a male date with a small goatee arriving. Harmony is wearing a yellow dress and holds one of her Pomeranians.

                HARMONY: It’s my party and I can have more than one date if I want to!

                DATE: But I want to be something special to you! Come on, turn me into a vampire like you and we can be together forever!

                HARMONY: I don’t know if you deserve that.

                From the lobby floor, we see Harmony and her date at the top of the steps. The director calls out instructions from the balcony. Soledad ignores him, looking around urgently.

                DIRECTOR: Don’t look at her. Don’t look into the camera. Come on, keep dancing!

                SOLEDAD: A stake… a stake… something has to be wood.

                We see one of the production assistants taking a drink, holding one of the wooden slats used to indicate the start of a take.

                In extreme close-up, we see Soledad’s hand reach in and grab the wooden slat from the assistant.

                ASSISTANT: *Hey*!

                Soledad rips a jagged piece of wood off the filming sign with a *SKPLINTA* and looks up the steps.

                From above we see her hit the bottom of the steps running. At the top, Harmony steps back, realizing she’s under attack.

                The view shifts, and Harmony drops her Pomeranian. The dog lets out a confused bark as it falls.

                DOG: *Yiip*?

                Without breaking stride, Soledad swats the dog aside. Harmony covers her mouth.

                With a loud *GLOMM*, the dog lands on Clem’s head with a look of relief, digging its paws into his skin.

                CLEM: *Ow*!

                At the top of the steps, Soledad tackles Harmony with a loud *THOMP*. She loses her grip on her makeshift stake as she shoves Harmony’s face into the floor.

                HARMONY: *Oomff*.

                We look down as Soledad slams Harmony’s face into the floor again with a *KRAK*, drawing her fist back.

                The view reverses, and as Soledad pulls Harmony’s head back by the hair, we see she’s in game face, her face angry. Soledad is about to punch her in the back of the head.

                SOLEDAD: Dirty stinking bloodsucker. These are *kids*!

                From above, we see the TV crew has circled around the fight, snapping pictures and even holding a boom mike over them. Soledad is distracted, looking around.

                It’s what Harmony needs. She shoves her left elbow up into Soledad’s gut, doubling her over.

                From above, we see Harmony throw a back punch that knocks Soledad away from her with a *CHONK*! Soledad’s stake is on the floor in front of the vampire.

                In extreme close-up, we see Harmony’s fingers close around the weapon.

                As Harmony tries to get up, holding the stake, Soledad kicks her in the face with a *KRAK*. Blood flies from Harmony’s lips.

                Harmony breaks through the balcony rail and falls to the main floor.

                We see her fans staring up in concern.

                Harmony’s voiceover starts again as she adjusts in mid-air and lands on her feet in a crouch.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Oh, my achin’ ankles. I’m terrified. This girl is clearly a Slayer.”

                As Harmony cowers, holding the stake up in front of her, we see Soledad diving down at her from the balcony.

                The next image is an extreme close-up as Soledad’s eyes go wide in pain. She impales herself on her own stake in Harmony’s hand with a blood-dripped *SHHURK*.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “People are gonna like Slayers, right? This could really hurt my show.”

                Harmony holds the dead or dying Slayer up in front of her, and bites down on her throat as Soledad’s head hangs to one side.

                HARMONY: *Snnnrrrrl*…

                We see the same image of Harmony killing Soledad, but it’s on a monitor in a production truck, as the scene is filmed by MTV.

                HARMONY: (through monitor) *Snnnrrrrl*…

                Somewhere else, we see Andrew and a group of Slayers watching a TV, their faces all horrified.

                HARMONY: (through television) *Snnnrrrrl*…

                ANDREW: That’s not entertainment!

                In Scotland, we see the Scoobies gathered around a TV. Even Dawn is there, crouching in the center of the room. On the couch, Xander and Willow have been braiding her tail. Buffy is on the phone. All of them are watching Harmony kill Soledad on television.

                BUFFY: Oh my God.

                HARMONY: (through television) *Snnnrrrrl*…

                WILLOW: Variety.com says it’s making ratings history and setting download problems.

                The scene shifts back to the same MTV office where Harmony pitched her show. Her agent stands behind her as she sits on the couch. All the MTV people have bandages covering bites on their neck.

                MTV EXEC: *And* it made M.T.V. the highest-rated cable network last night, and second overall, trailing only *American Idol*. It’s a phenomenon! All the show needed was a villain!

                The view reverses, and Harmony turns her head into our view as the exec tells her how he sees the show. On a whiteboard behind him, four new vampire themed shows ideas are written up there – “Who Wants to Be Sired?”, “Flavor of Blood”, “Undead Chef”, and “Project Vampire”.

                MTV EXEC: And now we have thousands of them. We’re doing some investigating, but it seems like there’s a whole Slayer army. Very organized, very violent. Best villains since the Nazis! Better!

                HARMONY: *Yay*!

                In close-up, we see Harmony’s face smiling brightly.

                HARMONY: (voiceover) “Better than Nazis! Can you feel the zeitgeist? It’s all tingly!”

                The next image is of Buffy, looking tense as she watches something, talking on her cellphone.

                BUFFY: What the hell is wrong with people?

                On the other end, Andrew watches a television, holding his own phone.

                ANDREW: People suck. Ooh. Anderson Cooper.

                The next image is of the CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper, in close-up.

                COOPER: *Slayers*. What is this shadowy organization? We’ve done some *digging*. They say they’re our protectors, as fighter in some grand battle against “evil”. But who decides what is evil? And, some are asking who protects us from *them*? Keeping us honest tonight, our guest, television personality Harmony Kendall.

                The view shifts, and we see Cooper leaning across his desk to talk to Harmony, who is sitting in a chair holding a white Pomeranian.

                HARMONY: You promised to introduce…

                COOPER: And her dog, Queen Puffles of Pomerania.

                In Scotland, Buffy is still talking to Andrew on the phone. Willow holds her hand up to her mouth in disbelief. Xander and Dawn just watch the television behind them. All of their faces reflect real worry over what they’re hearing.

                ANDREW: (through phone) Did you hear Anderson Cooper on the T.V.?

                WILLOW: Buffy, it seems like the world doesn’t know we’re the good guys.

                BUFFY: No. They do. They have to. Right? They can tell who’s wearing the white hats.

                The last image contradicts Buffy in truly worrying fashion. We see a close-up of Queen Puffles. She stares inscrutably, wearing a white cowboy hat.

                End of Issue #21
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                • #23
                  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #22
                  “Swell”


                  Prologue Summary: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy’s Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accommodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.

                  Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is undermined by a sudden need to hide from it.

                  Welcome to the new world order.

                  Start of Issue #22

                  The opening image is a close-up of a man’s face. He is hanging upside-down and screaming, with blood all over his face. Behind him, we see sparks and fumes and broken glass. He’s yelling in Japanese.

                  MAN: Uwa! Kaijuu da! Dare ka tasukete!

                  VOICE: “What’s he yelling?”

                  The view widens and we see the man is still strapped into the seat of a wrecked armored car, hanging upside down. On top of the wreck, two Slayers look down – Satsu, recognizable in her trendy clothes and with her katana across her back, and another Slayer, who crouches down to look down at the man. A crowd of people looks on.

                  SATSU: “Monster. Big #%&@ing monster.”

                  SLAYER: Uh… how big?

                  Before Satsu can answer, we see her lifting her wrist toward her mouth to speak into a communicator of sorts – someone is calling her.

                  VOICE: (through radio) *Satsu! Target acquired! Bearing north-northeast*!

                  SATSU: Steer him away from the *crowds*! Force him towards *the bridge*!

                  VOICE: (through radio) *Copy – UFFF*!

                  We see the two Slayers leap down from the truck wreckage as they prepare to give chace.

                  SATSU: Check on Ayumi. Tell her try ducking next time.

                  SLAYER: What’s your plan?

                  In extreme close-up, we see Satsu has drawn her blade as her answer, grinning almost viciously. The face of the other Slayer is reflected in the polished steel of Satsu’s katana, looking almost disturbed.

                  SATSU: Blood. Screaming. The usual.

                  The scene shifts, and we see a long suspension bridge, apparently in Tokyo. From the distance, we can see it’s full of traffic.

                  (NARRATION) UNKNOWN: Oh crap…

                  The unknown narrator is revealed as we see a close-up of a demon’s legs as it runs up the suspension cables on the bridge. It holds a bag by its side with the name Santorio Corp. on it.

                  (NARRATION) DEMON: Oh crap oh crap oh –

                  The demon’s panic is interrupted as we see a close-up of its arm being cut off with a *SSLLUPK* and a spray of green blood.

                  (NARRATION) DEMON: Crap!

                  In a wider view, we see the demon’s arm, which was holding the bag, flying off with a *SLIIICE* as it bellows in pain.

                  DEMON: *ARRRHHHHHWWWW*!

                  The view widens again, and we see it is Satsu who has attacked it, but even as the demon grabs at its stump to stop the bleeding, it swats Satsu back with its tail with a *KLUDD*.

                  SATSU: *UFFF*!

                  Before the demon can try to attack her again, though, we see a close-up of its face widen as its sudden electrocuted with a *ZZRA* and blue energy coming down and running over it.

                  The next image shows a new arrival – another Slayer, parachuting in, with a high tech rifle/blaster similar to the one Buffy used in 8.01 in her hand. It’s Kennedy.

                  SATSU: (from out of the view) Kennedy?!

                  We see from above as Kennedy lands next to the unconscious demon while Satsu gets to her feet.

                  KENNEDY: You see the *tail* on that thing? Momma! You should try *ducking* next time.

                  SATSU: What are you doing here?

                  From beside the unconscious demon we look up to see Kennedy and Satsu as the former removes her chute and the latter stands with her hands on her hips as if annoyed.

                  KENNEDY: Just in the neighborhood. I thought I’d drop in and electrocute a whatever-the-hell-that-was.

                  SATSU: Buffy sent you, didn’t she?

                  The view moves to show them facing each other, and as Satsu crosses her arms unhappily, Kennedy opens hers sympathetically.

                  KENNEDY: Satsu, you were promoted to cell leader like two minutes ago. Standard op to run a performance review. Especially since your report on the Korean incident was beyond vague.

                  SATSU: If Buffy wants to review my ass, she can do it herself. Won’t be the first time.

                  Kennedy drops sympathy and points a finger directly in Satsu’s face. The less-experienced Slayer slouches, as if sulking. Behind them, the demon has regained consciousness and is getting back to its feet.

                  KENNEDY: Don’t be a brat, slinky. That’s my profession, and I don’t like amateurs crowding me.

                  DEMON: …GRRR

                  The view shifts quickly as Kennedy and Satsu simultaneously side-kick the demon away from them with a *KLUDD*. The demon is flying too suddenly to do anything but seem confused.

                  DEMON: *GRRR*?

                  We see the demon drop into the water from atop the suspension tower as Kennedy and Satsu resume arguing. The demon’s severed arm lays at their feet, with the bag.

                  SATSU: Buffy sends the *other lesbian Slayer* to check up on me, and I’m the one you’re yelling at?

                  In a closer view, Kennedy puts a hand up, in protest this time. Satsu just looks down, losing her anger.

                  KENNEDY: Look, Buffy didn’t send me, okay? I volunteered.

                  SATSU: Because you’re the other lesbian.

                  KENNEDY: Because I wanted you to know you’re not the only fool to ever wrinkle the sheets with a straight girl.

                  From above, we see Satsu immediately crouch down to retrieve the bag. Kennedy crosses her arm and watches.

                  SATSU: It wasn’t just wrinkles. It was true love.

                  Satsu strides down the suspension cable with the bag over her shoulder, trying to ignore Kennedy. Kennedy follows her gamely, still talking.

                  KENNEDY: Yeah, yeah, everybody knows the story. Your kiss brought Buffy out of a mystical coma. But Sleeping Beauty wasn’t gay. And neither is Buffy. Despite recently taking a skinny dip in that pool.

                  In a close-up, we see Satsu saucily **** an eyebrow as she refreshes the gloss on her lips – presumably cinnamon.

                  SATSU: It was more than a dip. It was a plunge. A big, wet –

                  The view widens again and we see the small silhouettes of the two Slayers, still halfway up the suspension cable.

                  KENNEDY: You had a thing, I get it! Time to towel off and face the hetero. You, gay. Buffy, *not*. My advice? Lose the cinnamon lippy gloss you laid on her and try kissing someone who can give you their heart. Not just their body.

                  In close-up, we see Satsu turn away from Kennedy, looking resolved.

                  SATSU: But I really love cinnamon.

                  KENNEDY: Yeah, it’s great. But there are a lot of other flavors out there. Maybe it’s time to try a new one.

                  From above, we see them continue to walk down the cable as traffic goes by below them.

                  KENNEDY: And that concludes the mollycoddle. I was sent here for an eval, so let’s start the uation with the obvious. What’s in the sack?

                  The next image shows us a close-up of the unabashed surprise on both Slayers’ faces as they look inside the bag.

                  The scene changes, and we see the Japanese villa Satsu’s cell is based in.

                  VOICE: (inside the building) “It’s a what?!”

                  The object they found is shown in extreme close-up – a stuffed kitten, white fur with black eyes, and little fangs sticking out of its slightly frowning mouth. It wears a black vest and cape, like a movie Dracula.

                  SLAYER: (from out of the view) *A Vampy Cat*!

                  In the living room, we see Satsu standing amidst several of her Slayers, now dressed casually and holding the stuffed animal. The Slayer who was with her at the beginning works at a computer. Kennedy stands between them, looking amused.

                  SATSU: A who what now?

                  SLAYER: Vampy Cat, the new Happy Cat variant. Pre-orders are through the roof, but it’s not supposed to hit the market until next week.

                  We see a close-up of the computer screen as an ad for the stuffed toy plays. The ad says “Vampy Cat! Grrr! Argh! He’ll love you to…” etc.

                  SLAYER: This one must be a prototype or something. Which explains the armored car.

                  Satsu doesn’t find it funny, shaking a finger in the toy’s face as she complains. Kennedy shrugs helplessly.

                  SATSU: Vampires aren’t *cute* and *fluffy*! And a *kitty cat? Come on*!

                  KENNEDY: Since that idiot Harmony’s reality show took off, everybody’s obsessed with fangs and lumpy foreheads. Public’s swalling their undead bull by the handful…

                  As Kennedy speaks, the scene shifts and we see a human man standing in a dark room with the demon who stole the Vampy Cat. The human’s skin is wrinkled, not by age.

                  KENNEDY: (voiceover) “But why would a four-armed whatchamacallit want to steal a Vampy Cat?”

                  DEMON: The Slayer bitch took the bait -- *and my hand*! (quietly) my beautiful fourth hand!

                  MAN: You have done well, Gunyarr-san. And you shall be rewarded…

                  The view shifts and we see the human in close-up. not only is he wrinkled, but his eyes are red. Behind him, in a door way, another demon stands in shadow, much taller. It’s eyes are also red.

                  MAN: … with a quick death.

                  In extreme close-up, the unfortunate Gunyarr looks up at the giant demon and whispers.

                  GUNYARR: Crap.

                  The scene shifts back to the Slayer base, at night. We see the Vampy Cat sitting abandoned on a bench.

                  The next image shows the Vampy Cat apparently moving, looking around.

                  We see the Vampy Cat jump down from the bench.

                  In another room, the Vampy Cat peers in to see two Slayers talking.

                  SLAYER: Ducking is just as important as hitting, Ayumi. More. Duck, don’t get hit.

                  AYUMI: That thing had four arms! I ducked the first three!

                  In close-up, we see the Vampy Cat power-walk through the house.

                  It slides a bedroom door open, looking up at its occupant.

                  We see it scramble up onto the bed.

                  In close-up, we see it standing on Satsu’s shoulder as she sleeps. It’s eyes suddenly turn red and its mouth opens revealing its sharp teeth and fangs.

                  The next morning, we see the sun rising over the mountains from the Slayer base. Kennedy’s voice is heard inside.

                  KENNEDY: *Yawn*. Please tell me your coffee sucks less than your beds, which, b.t.w., suck – *Oh my God*!

                  Inside the house, we see what Kennedy has caught sight of. She stares cod-mouthed at Satsu, who is wearing her hair up and wearing a traditional Japanese robe. Other Slayers look on, just as confused.

                  KENNEDY: What the hell are you *wearing*?!

                  SATSU: It’s a furisode! Girls wear them when they come of age to show they’re single and available for marriage. My parents bought it for me. Before I destroyed them with my gayness.

                  In close-up, Satsu smiles too-widely.

                  SATSU: Ah, they were so right! The whole kissing girls thing? *Blechh*! Girls should kiss boys and have their babies!

                  In a wider view, Kennedy leans in, staring intensely. Satsu, rather amusingly, has her palms pressed together in a formal posture.

                  SATSU: Mmm, *Babies*! We should *make* some like normal girls, instead of running around hitting people all the time. I mean, why are Slayers so *aggro*! With the hacking and the chopping and the staking! We should be ashamed of ourselves, bringing so much misery into the world!

                  Kennedy gently takes Satsu by the shoulders and tries to lead her away. The younger Slayer frowns.

                  KENNEDY: I don’t know what the geisha’s gotten into you, but maybe we oughta mosey down to your resident witch and –

                  Satsu rejects that plan by backhanding Kennedy so hard it knocks her off her feet and out of one of her shoes.

                  SATSU: *Take your sinking paws off me, you damn dirty Slayer*!

                  We see Kennedy has broken a coffee table and is trying to stand as Satsu quickly grabs her around the throat. Other Slayers come closer, looking very worried.

                  SLAYER: *Hey*! Let’s just, uh… *hey*!

                  SATSU: We’re nothing but a bunch of self-righteous little ovaries! We march around playing soldier, deciding who’s evil and who’s not. *We’re* the evil ones! And we’re going to get what we deser –

                  In extreme close-up, Satsu is interrupted by Kennedy’s other, still-shod foot kicking her in the face with a *KLUDD*.

                  She quickly follows it with a fist thrust up through Satsu’s chin with a *WHUKK*.

                  The counter-attack doesn’t slow Satsu – her now bloody face is shown in close-up, with her eyes suddenly red.

                  SATSU: That the best you got, girl-licker?

                  It clearly isn’t; Kennedy, back on her feet now, drives another kick into Satsu’s stomach with a *CHUD*!

                  SATSU: *UFFF*!

                  From behind, Satsu is bent over, and that kick has made the difference – she vomits on the floor with a *HUUARRKK*.

                  In extreme close-up, Kennedy and two other Slayers look in disgust at what’s just come out of Satsu.

                  We see the Vampy Cat, covered in vomit, still snarling.

                  VAMPY CAT: *I am discovered, my brothers*!

                  The Vampy Cat jumps up and grabs Kennedy by the hair as she recoils from it.

                  VAMPY CAT: *Use what I have given! Strike at the heart of the beast*!

                  KENNEDY: *Ahhhh! Get it off me! Get it* –

                  We see the head of the vampy cat fly off with a *SLIIICE*.

                  As Kennedy flings the body of the thing away in disgust, we see Satsu – her katana drawn – looking around in panic.

                  SATSU: *What just happened? And what the hell am I wearing*?

                  The scene shifts, and we see a helicopter flying over the city. Satsu’s voice is heard from inside.

                  SATSU: Oh God, my stomach…

                  In the helicopter, we see five Slayers, all in tactical gear. Two are piloting the helicopter. Satsu and Kennedy talk in the back as the pilot apologizes.

                  PILOT: *Sorry*!

                  KENNEDY: Maybe you should have stayed behind.

                  We see Satsu putting her lip gloss on again, her eyes staring ahead of her. She has a bandage over he nose from where Kennedy hit her. Kennedy watches with sisterly concern.

                  SATSU: Screw that. Whole bottle of mouthwash, and I can still taste that furry little bastard. I want to hit something.

                  In extreme close-up, we see Satsu’s eyes looking even more intense than at the beginning.

                  SATSU: A lot.

                  The helicopter arrives at the Santorio Corp. building. We see three Slayers rappel out of the helicopter to the roof.

                  SATSU: Stay frosty. Anything small and fluffy movies…

                  As they enter the office, Satsu’s tone changes. They are surrounded by dead humans, all wrinkled like the man from earlier.

                  SATSU: … kill it?

                  KENNEDY: Good thing I kicked the kitty out of you before it sucked you dry.

                  SATSU: Thanks. And *ow*. Malita, get on a terminal. Fuzzy was yelling about his brothers. Find them.

                  Malita, the Vampire Slayer, works at a computer terminal as the rest of the team looks around.

                  MALITA: The entire Vampy Cat inventory shipped an hour ago. They’re going global.

                  SATSU: Download a target manifest. I’ll notify all Slayer cells within range –

                  MALITA: Oh God. Half a million of them are on a ship headed for Scotland.

                  Kennedy and Satsu both instantly whirl around to look at Malita at this – both probably thinking of women they love.

                  KENNEDY: *Scotland*. That’s why the little bastard climbed down your throat. To get the location of our home base.

                  SATSU: Buffy. They’re going after Buffy.

                  The scene shifts, and we see a container ship on calm seas, the Santorio Daikaiju.

                  On the deck, we see the entire crew is wrinkled, with red eyes – all controlled by Vampy Cats.

                  Elsewhere on deck, we see Kennedy and Satsu crouching together. Satsu has a hippopotamus backback.

                  KENNEDY: (whispering) Sure that’s enough?

                  SATSU: (whispering) If not, we’ll try Plan B.

                  In close-up, we see the backback is full of explosives.

                  KENNEDY: (from out of the view) What’s plan B?

                  The view shifts, and we see the silhouette of one of the crewmembers standing over them.

                  CREWMEMBER: Same as “A”. You die.

                  Kennedy reacts by sweeping her leg out to kick the crewmember, who surprises both her and Satsu by turning to dust – he’s completely dried out – as Kennedy connects.

                  We see the Vampy Cat inside the dead man turn and run back to warn the others.

                  VAMPY CAT: *Slayers*!

                  In a moment, Kennedy and Satsu are standing back to back, surrounded by possessed crewmembers. Their guts all begin to explode into dust as Vampy Cats burst out of them.

                  VAMPY CAT: *Attack, my brothers*!

                  In close-up, a small army of Vampy Cats charges the Slayers.

                  VAMPY CAT: *EAT THEIR #%&@ING OVARIES*!

                  The next image shows Satsu and Kennedy fighting through a swarm of Vampy Cats in the moonlight. Stuffed animal guts fly.

                  In close-up, we see a couple Vampy Cats have gotten on Kennedy’s head, and her eyes widen in fear as one starts to climb into her mouth.

                  KENNEDY: *Gakk*!

                  VAMPY CAT: Get in her mouth! Get in her

                  The Vampy Cat’s head flies off under Satsu’s blade as she saves Kennedy.

                  Kennedy wipes her lip in disgust as she drives her fist through another Vampy Cat.

                  We see another Vampy Cat’s guts pour out when Satsu cuts it open.

                  VAMPY CAT: Get in her – *Arghhh*!

                  In close-up, the wounded Vampy Cat holds its own intestines as it mocks the Slayers.

                  VAMPY CAT: My death is meaningless, Slayer scum! Nothing can stop the Swell!

                  We see Kennedy and Satsu both look down at the deck as it begins to shake.

                  SATSU: *The what now*?

                  Both Slayers are thrown off their feet as the deck plates burst up. A giant monster, apparently made entirely of Vampy Cats in the shape of one really big Vampy Cat climbs up with its fists raised, slobbering.

                  MONSTER: *GARRRGHHH! We are the SWELL! We are legion*!

                  The Swell looms over Kennedy and Satsu.

                  SWELL: The Slayer blight will be cleansed in a sea of blood! Twilight commands it! Hail, Twilight!

                  From above, we see the two Slayers staring up. Satsu fishes in her bag for a flare.

                  KENNEDY: Twilight?

                  SATSU: Figures a bunch of stuffed @$$holes would be working for that tool.

                  In close-up, we see the Swell raise its arms to try to clobber the two Slayers.

                  SWELL: *ARHHHH*! We will crush you into an annoying jelly for such insolence!

                  Satsu breaks open and ignites the flare with a *FOOSH*.

                  We see her stand and hold the flare in front of her. The Swell leans down, looking amused.

                  SWELL: *HAHAHAHAHAHAHA*! Your think your little sparkler can abate the fury of the Swell?!

                  Kennedy stands behind Satsu, looking dubious, but Satsu just hurls the flare up into the air.

                  KENNEDY: Umm… giant stuffed animal monster’s got a point.

                  SATSU: It’s not the sparks he should be afraid of…

                  The view shifts as Satsu continues. We see the entire deck of the container ship, including the Slayers, the Swell, and the flare, through a periscope with a night vision lens.

                  SATSU: It’s the fire.

                  On the other end of the periscope, we see Malita looking through it on the command deck of a submarine, crewed by Slayers.

                  MALITA: *Fire*!

                  In the water, two torpedoes tear free of the submarine toward the container ship.

                  We see them racing through the water.

                  On deck, Satsu grabs Kennedy around the waist and leaps off the deck with her.

                  An instant later, the two Slayers are thrown even farther by an explosion of orange flame that rips across the deck with a *BA-HOOM*! The Swell is immediately set on fire.

                  SWELL: *AHHHARGHHH*…

                  We see Kennedy and Sastu floating in the water as debris rains down on them.

                  KENNEDY: What the hell was that?

                  SATSU: Plan B.

                  The conning tower of the submarine breaks through the water in front of them.

                  KENNEDY: You have a freakin’ *sub*?!

                  SATSU: Bunch of vamps took it from the Koreans. I took it back.

                  KENNEDY: You could have mentioned that in your report.

                  SATSU: Was gonna. After I got done playing with it.

                  In close-up, Kennedy is grinning in delight.

                  KENNEDY: Your eval’s *so* getting a smiley face.

                  In a new scene, we see Buffy and Xander, both dressed casually.

                  BUFFY: … all the Vampy Cat shipments have been destroyed, along with the factory they spawned from. But –

                  In a wider view, we see Kennedy and Satsu standing in front of a monitor, where they are talking to Buffy and Xander by video-conference.

                  SATSU: There’s a but?

                  XANDER: Big buts come with the Slayer territory these days and I probably should have reviewed that sentence before unleashing it on the sensitive womenfolk. Hey, don’t we have some TiVo for these kids?

                  The monitor changes to show Larry King interviewing Harmony.

                  HARMONY: These “Slayers” hacked, burned, and blew up millions of fluffy stuffied kitties! And why? Because they had tiny little fangs! They hate us so much they’re killing toys now!

                  LARRY KING: Well that’s just mean.

                  In Japan, Satsu stares at the monitor indignantly. Kennedy stares passively, clearly more used to the propaganda already.

                  SATSU: Fluffy stuffed kitties that climb down your throat! And why hasn’t someone introduced blondie to a point-head stick?

                  BUFFY: (through screen) Because the last thing we need right now is to make Harmony a martyr.

                  In the monitor, Buffy and Xander both look more serious.

                  BUFFY: Everyone thinks we’re the bad guys. We’ll prove ‘em wrong. But until then, we keep a low profile. Like subterranean.

                  We see both Satsu and Kennedy looking at Buffy in the monitor.

                  SATSU: Has it really gotten that bad?

                  BUFFY: We’re hated and feared more than the bloodsucking undead. And Twilight just tried to murder us all with an army of stuffed animals. It’s way that bad.

                  In close-up, we see Buffy, with a little digital distortion in the image.

                  BUFFY: We need to stop being whatever we’ve been and focus. Be more than human. Or the less-than is gonna win. Keep the sub handy. I think we’re going to need it.

                  Without any personal interaction, the monitor switches off. We see Kennedy place her hand on Satsu’s shoulder.

                  KENNEDY: Not the hey-guess-what?-you-turned-me-gay speech you were probably hoping for, huh?

                  In profile, Satsu doesn’t answer, just keeps staring at the screen.

                  The view shifts, and Satsu is walking out of the room, calling out to Kennedy as she does. Satsu throws something into the wastebasket as she leaves.

                  SATSU: Let’s go shopping.

                  KENNEDY: Shopping?

                  SATSU: Buffy’s right. The world’s coming apart. It’s time to stop being who we were…

                  The last image is of Satsu’s cinnamon lip gloss laying on top of the trash in the wastebasket.

                  SATSU: … and get a new flavor.

                  End of Issue #22
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                  • #24
                    Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Issue #23
                    “Predators and Prey”


                    Prologue Summary: Twilight and his goon squad bombed Buffy’s Scottish castle, and forced the Slayers to flee their high-tech palace for more modest accommodations. Now they must reorganize and continue their fight against the forces of evil.

                    Unfortunately for Buffy, and Slayer legions spanning the world, the desire to protect humanity is undermined by a sudden need to hide from it.

                    Welcome to the new world order.

                    Start of Issue #23

                    The opening image shows sneakered feet running. Green Converse All-Stars. They’re Andrew’s feet, and he narrates the opening scene.

                    (NARRATION) ANDREW: The thing about the Slayer organization is that we’re not just coworkers. We’re family.

                    We see Andrew running full-tilt down a corridor, arms pumping, calling out for Buffy. He’s asking the two Slayers standing in the corridor, one of whom is listening to an MP3 player.

                    (NARRATION) ANDREW: The bonds between us are tight and unbreakable.

                    ANDREW: *Buffy! Where’s Buffy*?!

                    SLAYER: She’s in the command center with Mr. Harris and Ms. Rosenberg. What’s goin –

                    Instead of answering, we see Andrew in close-up looking back as he runs between the two Slayers. The one who’d spoken looks after him sharply for his rudeness, while the other drops her MP3 player in surprise.

                    ANDREW: *No time!! Thank you!! I like your top*!!

                    (NARRATION) ANDREW: You hurt one of us, you’re taking on all of us.

                    The next image is inside the “command center” to which the Slayer referred – it’s actually a very cramped room full of much lower tech equipment than they had in the castle. Andrew bursts into the room with a *WHAMMM*! of the door and a triumphant expression. Xander, Buffy, and Willow are all engrossed in other tasks; Xander looking at a monitor and holding a printout, and Buffy and Willow looking at Willow’s laptop. Buffy doesn’t turn to look at Andrew when she rebukes him, but Willow does turn to look at Buffy, reacting to her tone.

                    (NARRATION) ANDREW: It’s like our guiding principle. Nothing comes between us.

                    BUFFY: Andrew, if you slam that door one more time, I will make you eat it.

                    WILLOW: *Buffy*!

                    The view reverses and Buffy appears to think better of it and turns in her chair to face Andrew. Xander turns to look at him as well.

                    BUFFY: Sorry. That may have come out sounding harsh.

                    XANDER: Forgive her. We’re up to our eyeballs, or, for some, eyeball in Harmony fallout.

                    ANDREW: It’s okay. But prepare mon frère and frère-ettes, to have your day get a lot better. I just got us a lead on one Simone Doffler. *What uuuuuuup*!

                    From above, we see Buffy turning in her chair as this gets her full attention. Willow sits forward in her seat as well.

                    BUFFY: *Simone*? Seriously? Ever since she went rogue, she’s been off the grid. How did you find her?

                    ANDREW: Not her, her lieutenant, Nisha. I usually monitor demon activity in our hot spots, and this morning I got a ping outside Milan. Seems our little Nisha’s been messing where she shouldn’t have been messing, got snared in the trap of a Ragna spider demon.

                    In a closer view, we see from behind Buffy as she faces Andrew. Andrew is smiling, apparently pleased to have useful information.

                    BUFFY: I’ve been wanting to find Simone. All these reports of shadowy attacks on banks, military bases, the occasional Hot Topic…

                    ANDREW: Last few days, reports started coming in more frequently. Bandit gang of women, roaming the countryside, kicking people out of their homes. Vicious and cruel. But with very festive hair. Methinks ‘tis Simone.

                    In close-up, Andrew’s expression turns more sober.

                    ANDREW: Ragna demons keep their prey alive for thirty-six hours before feeding. Something about adrenaline being yummy. So there’s time. But there’s travel, so if we’re gonna go, I’d call it an ay-sap.

                    Buffy stands, smiling, and addresses Xander and Willow while cocking her thumb toward Andrew. Xander’s expression turns doubtful.

                    BUFFY: We bring Nisha back, she gives us intel on Simone’s plans before she strikes again. A win would be nice. Can you two hold down the fort while I go with Andrew?

                    Xander quickly takes Buffy by the arm for a sidebar, drawing a half-alarmed look from Buffy. In the background, Andrew pumps his fist at being given the call. Willow looks on with an expression that seems almost angry.

                    ANDREW: *Road trip! Sweet*!

                    XANDER: (to Buffy) Buff. You sure about this? *Hours* and *hours* of travel time with Andrew? Really?

                    BUFFY: Come on He’s matured. I can absolutely handle him.

                    In a new scene, we see an image of a commercial airliner flying across an evening sky’s pink clouds. From inside, a voice is speaking – we’re hearing Andrew, in uninterrupted glory. We skip across his train of thought like a rock across water.

                    ANDREW: … Unless the crystal in the lightsaber is made of kryptonite, because then, sure, a Jedi could totally kick Superman’s ass…

                    … which is why I always thought Vanity Smurf was kind of misunderstood…

                    … but the worst part was that Lee got really fat, and Dualla was probably all, *come back, Billy*, but he couldn’t come back, because he was dead, so now she was stuck with *fat* Lee, and that was *not* what she signed on for, believe me…

                    … in her prison cell, reading about how fascists took over England, and the whole story is on toilet paper, but it’s not gross like you would think, it’s beautiful…

                    Andrew continues, but the scene shifts, and we now look down through the night sky at a passenger train.

                    ANDREW: Giles was the only one who ever had a cleric with higher strength and intelligence than my cleric, and hey, have you talked to him lately? What’s going on there?

                    … so I say if you have to do another movie, fine, I get it, but who cares about *Ahnold*, you gotta bring back Linda Hamilton, that’s who people want to see…

                    See, the idea is Helen Keller becomes like a secret agent for the government, right? Which makes her Helen *Killer*, get it? *Genius*!

                    … and sometimes I’m just so mad at Heath Ledger, but just for a minute, then I get sad again.

                    Do you think I should start dressing like Don Draper, because I think I could totally pull it off…

                    Once again, although Andrew continues, the scene changes – it’s the following morning, presumably, and we see a red sports car blowing dust across the countryside.

                    ANDREW: My team and I saved this Italian count once, and he was really grateful, said I could borrow his car whenever I needed it, and he’s always offering to give me private driving lessons, which I don’t need, ‘cause look how fast we’re going!

                    … and Diddy looks at all the guys and says, if you wanna be making the band, then no *bitchassness*! Actually, I don’t really know what that means…

                    … but why would a Jedi be fighting Superman in the first place? They’re on the same side! *Duh*!

                    (sings) Jem is truly outrageous, truly, truly, truly outrageous…

                    And suddenly Daniel Craig is my new favorite Bond, and I never thought that could ever –

                    The view changes instantly, and we see Buffy’s eyes in extreme close-up, breaking out of what appears to have been a thousand-yard stare.

                    BUFFY: *Stop*.

                    The view widens and we see them in the car through the windshield. But rather than finally exploding at him, Buffy turns in her seat, finally having something to engage Andrew with, and smiling at the subject. Andrew smiles back indulgently.

                    BUFFY: You said Daniel Craig. I like Daniel Craig. I get Daniel Craig. He’s so…

                    ANDREW: … Gritty and real?

                    Buffy points fingers at herself as she refers to similarities between herself and Craig’s bond.

                    BUFFY: Um, sure. *Oh*! And that thing where’s running on rooftops and craines? I’ve done that, and I was *still* scared for him!

                    ANDREW: *Right! I know*! Gritty, real, and vulnerable.

                    Buffy works her hands in the air suggestively as she compliments other qualities of the new Bond. However, to this, Andrew suddenly sobers and looks out his own window.

                    BUFFY: And those swim trunks. Hello, daddy.

                    ANDREW: Yeah, I have no opinion about those.

                    The view moves away from the car, and we see it trail away at high speed.

                    BUFFY: Andrew, are we geek-bonding? You and me? Who’d have thunk?

                    ANDREW: I know. *Oooh*, what about Pierce Brosnan? Did you like him?

                    BUFFY: In what? *Mrs. Doubtfire*?

                    ANDREW: *AUUUGGGH*! How dare you!!

                    Some time later, we see the car parked at the edge of a forest, and Andrew’s and Buffy’s silhouettes as they walk into the woods.

                    ANDREW: The readings say she’s this way.

                    BUFFY: Timing’s odd. Simone kicking it up a notch just as the world starts getting Slayerphobic.

                    We see a closer view of their silhouettes in the woods as the continue searching.

                    ANDREW: Not really. Once people found out about us, it was an opportunity for *her*. People are more likely to be afraid of her now. She takes advantage of their fears, she gets what she wants. She’s a *bully*. I’ve had some experience with bullies. Growing up.

                    BUFFY: Yes. I suppose you did.

                    The view shifts, and we see Buffy’s face in close-up, seeing something and being clearly impressed by it.

                    ANDREW: (from out of the view) The lair should be here. We ought to be seeing it any second –

                    BUFFY: Um… is *that* it?

                    The view reverses, and we see what Buffy’s found. Andrew and Buffy look up into a huge, random array of steaming metal pipes – like a combination of scaffolding and water plant. At the top, a woman is suspending in a pink orb, spread-eagled and apparently unsupported.

                    ANDREW: Yeah. That would be a Ragna’s version of a web. Iron, steel. And the snare at the top to trap and suspend her prey.

                    BUFFY: Delightful. So let’s go get Nisha down.

                    We look down from where Nisha is trapped as we see Andrew and Buffy climbing the Ragna demon’s web of pipes.

                    BUFFY: She alive?

                    NISHA: Yes. She is.

                    Andrew and Buffy reach Nisha’s perch. Andrew strokes his chin as he takes the opportunity to mildly mock Nisha’s situation.

                    NISHA: And she’s kind of not happy.

                    ANDREW: Well, well, well. Nisha, I see we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a jam.

                    NISHA: I’m gonna get foot into quite your ass as soon as I’m free, you tiny –

                    BUFFY: Is that slang for “thanks, I appreciate the rescue”? You’re welcome.

                    NISHA: Whatever. Just get me down. That thing is coming back.

                    BUFFY: What thing?

                    Apparently hearing something, we see Buffy and Andrew in close-up as they look down, surprised by what they see.

                    BUFFY: Oh, *that* thing.

                    The view reverses, and we see the Ragna demon has arrived back at its web, standing down on the grass. It is a giant spider-like monster, the size of a small car.

                    BUFFY: (from out of the view) Looks like Charlotte’s heading back to the web. Andrew, help me get Nisha down before that thing gets up here.

                    NISHA: (from out of the view) You losers wouldn’t have to get down if you hadn’t created this mess in the first place.

                    The view shifts up as we see Buffy whirl and point at Nisha angrily.

                    BUFFY: *Hey*! A little gratitude would not be out of order. If not for Andrew being on top of things and monitoring the demon situation, you get eaten. It’s not our fault you fell into a – what – a Manga trap or whatever.

                    NISHA: Please. You seriously believe that? Ragna demons died out in the eleventh century. But someone spent all his free time in Italy performing recombinant D.N.A. experiments to breed them back into existence. Guess who?

                    We see Buffy turn and look unhappily at Andrew. Andrew looks down, reaching guiltily into the pocket of his jacket.

                    In close-up, we see Andrew’s hand retrieve a remote control, which he activates with a *CLICK WHIRRRRRRR*…

                    In the next image, the pink shield around Nisha fades, and she falls out of it, still spread-eagled.

                    We see Nisha land face-first with a *THUNK*. Andrew (whose wearing a blue leather jacket with the Union Jack, similar to Angel’s jacket in “The Girl in Question) stares down at her, but Buffy’s already moved on from Nisha and leans toward Andrew as she berates him angrily.

                    ANDREW: So… I’m thinking, does it really matter *how* we got Nisha in custody? We got her, let’s just get her back to headquarters. Here we go…

                    BUFFY: You bred a dangerous demon, and lied to me about it. I think it’s salient, yes.

                    In close-up, Andrew still doesn’t meet Buffy’s eyes as he continues to rationalize.

                    ANDREW: I didn’t lie! I said Nisha was in a Ragna trap. I didn’t say where it came from.

                    NISHA: (from out of the view, groggy) I’m fine, by the way.

                    We see Andrew turn to face Buffy, but before he can continue any conversation, a sucker punch comes from out of the view and takes Buffy on the check, snapping her head around to the side with a *CRAACCK*!

                    BUFFY: *NNNNH*!

                    ANDREW: *Buffy*!

                    The view reverses and we see it’s Simone that’s struck Buffy. She’s wearing a frankly preposterous jacket with fringe, like a classic bandleader. Her cheek is bandaged. She smacks Andrew hard on the back of the head before he can even turn to see her.

                    SIMONE: You all right, Nish? We got here as soon as we tracked you.

                    NISHA: Fine. Bit of a head rush. Been upside down for eighteen hours.

                    From above, we see Simone standing over the prone but conscious Andrew. Nisha and Buffy are both down but getting back to their feet.

                    SIMONE: And you. Not nice, capturing one of my girls, Buff. Luckily, I got a real skilled Wiccan who was strong enough to beam one person right here to the signal. “Beaming,” right, Andrew? That’s what you *Stargate* nerds call it?

                    ANDREW: It’s *Star Trek*, hag. Were you not listening to any of my lectures?

                    From behind Simone, we see Buffy back on her feet, holding the side of her head and regarding the younger Slayer with disdain. Simone reaches over her shoulder and begins to pull a large gun from her backpack.

                    BUFFY: Nice entrance. Look, slappy-fight’s over, Simone. Come back with us before that spider thing gets up here. We can sort out whatever’s –

                    SIMONE: Come *back*?! Haven’t you heard? We’re the *bad guys* now. People think vamps are cool and Slayers are the threat. Difference between you and me?

                    The view reverses as Simone holds the large gun up beside her. It doesn’t look like a firearm. Behind her, the Ragna demon is reaching the top of the metal web.

                    SIMONE: I *am* a threat.

                    BUFFY: Come on, Simone, you really think a gun is the way to deal with me?

                    SIMONE: What? This? Please. I’m not here to shoo tyou. And if I was, I’d use a real gun, not one of these toys. Gunes I like. But this? This isn’t for you.

                    Simone whirls around and we see from behind the Ragna demon as the rogue Slayer fires a burst of yellow energy at it with a *PFFFFFFZZT* that stuns the demon. Andrew and Buffy look on in surprise.

                    SIMONE: It’s for her.

                    From above, we see Simone pulls the still groggy Nisha up to her feet and by her side. They stand over the Ragna demon’s unconscious body.

                    SIMONE: Need her calm. So I can take her with us. See ya, bitches.

                    We see an orange *POP*! Of teleportation.

                    The view is the same, except the two rogue Slayers and the demon have vanished.

                    The next image shows Buffy and Andrew beginning to work their way back down the pipes that made the Ragna’s web.

                    BUFFY: You created a killer demon just to get to Simone?

                    ANDREW: I wasn’t trying to kill anyone, just catch them. I used what I had available. A giant Ragna demon wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I had to think fast.

                    We look up at them as the continue to work their way down.

                    BUFFY: You should have come to me.

                    ANDREW: No. I had to do it myself. It was my fault she got away in the first place.

                    Buffy descends more quickly than Andrew as they continue to discuss what’s happened.

                    BUFFY: Simone wasn’t your fault. Rona was the one who –

                    ANDREW: I was Simone’s Watcher. Maybe you don’t blame me for her going bad, but I blame myself. And I had to prove myself. We both know how far I’ve come since I met you. I feel like I’ve earned your trust. Yours and Xander’s and Willow’s. This whole organization.

                    Andrew jumps the rest of the way to the ground, where Buffy is already waiting, hands on her hips.

                    BUFFY: You *have*.

                    ANDREW: And that’s why I’m scared.

                    In extreme close-up, Andrew looks down with an expression of shame.

                    ANDREW: I’ve never had this before. With anyone. Now that I know what it feels like… I didn’t want it to get taken away. What if you ended up blaming me for this someday?

                    BUFFY: (from out of the view) I wouldn’t.

                    ANDREW: But I had to make sure. I didn’t want you to lose faith in me. So I tried to fix it.

                    Buffy begins to make her way back to the car. We see her from behind as Andrew stands still.

                    BUFFY: Losing an insane, gun-loving punk Slayer isn’t the way to make me lose faith in you. Lying to me is.

                    The view reverses, and we see Andrew get moving.

                    ANDREW: Simone has the Ragna now. If I know her, she’ll use it against people. Civilians.

                    BUFFY: Can you track it?

                    We look down as they arrive back at the car. Buffy waits at the passenger door as Andrew continues to the driver’s side.

                    ANDREW: I equipped the demon with some genetic modifications. Radioactive isotopes. We can track them. Ironic, right? All the work I put into breeding this demon is what made you mad, but it’s also the thing that will help us find it, so, if you think about it, yay, and, also, hmm, you don’t seem to be a fan of irony, so, yeah… it’s on an island off the coast.

                    BUFFY: Good. Let’s go.

                    The next image shows a small jetboat racing across the water.

                    On the boat, we see Andrew in close-up looking stoic. Behind him, Buffy stares wearily out at the water.

                    In a new scene, we see Buffy and Andrew standing on a pier, tying up their boat. Behind them is a beautiful Italian village. The sky is orange of evening behind the hills beyond the town. As they get their bearings, a voice calls out to them from out of the view.

                    BUFFY: It’s beautiful.

                    ANDREW: We should totally bring the girls here for a vacation some day. I mean, after we get rid of the evil Slayers and the killer spider demon. Obvies. Are you still made at me?

                    VOICE: (from out of the view) Excuse me. You’re not supposed to go in there.

                    The view shifts, and from behind Buffy we see a young girl in a simple dress walking down the pier toward them.

                    GIRL: No one is supposed to go in there.

                    BUFFY: You speak English.

                    In a closer view, the girl looks up at Buffy with a tired, scared face.

                    GIRL: Yes. They taught us in school. I used to live in this village. Before the *angry woman* came. She just arrived one day. She said she was hungry, and my grandmother fed her and gave her tea. My grandmother is very kind, she does these things. But then the *angry woman* stood in the village square and told everyone they had to find new homes, because this island was hers now.

                    In a close-up, the girl’s eyes are full of tears as Buffy presses her for details.

                    GIRL: My grandmother yelled at her. And the angry woman hurt my grandmother.

                    BUFFY: (from out of the view) Where did everyone go?

                    GIRL: Most fled to the mainland. But my grandmother and I, we have nothing there. So we stayed here. On the docks. We don’t go into the village.

                    From the girl’s point of view, we look up into Buffy’s and Andrew’s faces. They look sober at realizing how Simone has taken over this whole island.

                    BUFFY: We’re going to go talk to the angry woman. She can’t just take your home. Someone needs to explain that to her.

                    The scene changes, and we see Andrew and Buffy as small silhouettes in a plaza in the village. The beauty from the pier was a lie; the village is in shambles, with trash filling the streets, a car wrecked on a curb, lightposts and awnings torn and fallen.

                    BUFFY: Looks like Simone’s made herself comfortable her.

                    From behind Buffy and Andrew, we look up at the outside balcony of what is apparently an opera house in the village.

                    ANDREW: Signal’s coming from this place. The opera house.

                    We see a close-up of the two as Andrew carefully pushes open the outside door.

                    Inside, we look down as Buffy and Andrew cross the lobby toward the house doors. “Slayers rule” is spray-painted across the entrance to the seating.

                    ANDREW: Can I just point out that I was just trying to do the right thing?

                    BUFFY: Seriously? This seems like the time? When we’re about to walk in there?

                    The view moves down as Andrew leans against the door for a second, compelled to unload the things on his mind. Buffy stares off the side, a little impatient or anxious.

                    ANDREW: We might not come out of this alive, and I want to make sure I’ve said everything I need to say to you. And now I have. Wait, no, also, now that I’ve met Angel, I have to say, Spike was so much edgier. You definitely traded up, I’m totally Team Spike. Also, I know I’m in the minority, but I liked it when you cut your hair. There. Now I’ve said everything.

                    We see an image of Buffy simply staring speechlessly at Andrew.

                    In the same view, Andrew breaks up the awkwardness and gestures to the door again.

                    ANDREW: Well, she should be inside, in we go.

                    We see Andrew and Buffy go in side by side, Buffy giving quick instructions.

                    BUFFY: If we’re gonna find this thing, we’ll need some –

                    The view reverses, and all hope of going unnoticed is gone. The house lights are up, and a dozen or more Slayers are scattered through the rows of seats. Up on the stage, Simone sits with a leg over a prop throne. Nisha and a few others stand nearby, her personal “court”. At least one of the Slayers holds a shotgun. Buffy and Andrew drop their arms to their sides, deflated.

                    BUFFY: – lights.

                    SIMONE: Nice of you to make it. Some of the girls were getting concerned about you. But I told them nothing would stop the *great* and *powerful* Buffy from riding up on her great steed. Or, as the case may be, her pathetic lap dog. I knew you couldn’t resist following me. Counting on it, really. Because here…

                    In close-up, Simone sneers victoriously.

                    SIMONE: … I’ve got my muscle with me.

                    The next image shows Buffy and Andrew having been led up to the orchestra pit in front of the stage. Simone comes out of her throne, holding a fencing foil, probably another of the theatre’s props. Buffy doesn’t give an inch, despite being outnumbered.

                    BUFFY: Give us back the Ragna demon, Simone.

                    SIMONE: I don’t want to fight you, Buffster. Don’t have anything against you. Truth is, I admire you. You’re just outdated is all. That vampire stunt on T.V. proved it. Way I see it, now there are two kinds of people in the world.

                    From above, we see Buffy stand arms-crossed as she listend to Simone continue to lecture from the stage.

                    SIMONE: The ones who fear us so much, they hope someone kills us all… and the ones so stupid, they want to be the ones to try. I don’t have much use for either.

                    BUFFY: So you think the answer is to take over an island.

                    From a side view, we see Simone flex the blade of her foil by pressing the point into the stage. Buffy continues to stand, arms crossed, unimpressed. Andrew stands behind her, looking less confident.

                    SIMONE: I’m powerful. Isn’t that what powerful leaders do? They annex things? I’ve claimed this place as Slayer territory. Our base of operations. From here, we can launch our attacks. They wanted us to live under their rules, now we make them live under ours. We can bring our oppressors to their knees.

                    The view shifts, and from behind Simone we look down at Buffy and Andrew, and the two Slayers guarding them. Buffy’s face turns from indifference to anger as Simone continues to rant.

                    SIMONE: We can be the agents of change and fear we were meant to be. *It’s who we are*.

                    BUFFY: It’s not who *I* am.

                    SIMONE: You know I’m right. And guess what? Andrew’s little spider friend can help. Breed a few more, we got ourselves a weapon, everyone falls in line.

                    In a new image, we see a close-up of the Ragna’s expression-less face through the bars of the cage its being kept in.

                    The view shifts back and we see Simone walk down the steps off the stage towards Buffy. She still has her foil in hand, but takes no hostile action. Buffy’s hands are on her hips.

                    BUFFY: You’d kill innocent people.

                    SIMONE: It’s a war. No such thing as innocent.

                    BUFFY: I’ll stop you.

                    From behind Buffy, we see Simone gesture behind her with her thumb, toward the caged Ragna demon.

                    SIMONE: I’m sure you’ll try. Look, arachnophobia here is just a plan B anyway. We’re taking over, we don’t need her to do it. You want her back, you can have her.

                    In extreme close-up, Simone’s eyes gleam and her expression turns cruel.

                    SIMON: Just give me Andrew.

                    In close-up, we see Buffy’s face looking surprised, apparently on several levels. Andrew looks no happier.

                    BUFFY: *What*??!?! You’d give back the demon… for just… *Andrew*? (to Andrew) No offense.

                    ANDREW: None taken.

                    From the side, we see Simone lean down, showing frustration and anger now. Buffy holds her posture, hands on hips. One of Simone’s Slayers covers their prisoners with a shotgun.

                    SIMONE: Yes. Come on! Someone like *him*? Was in charge of someone like *me*? In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a fan of authority to begin with. And he’s kind of a drill sergeant, which, you know… piss off. I want my payback. Also, he’s incredibly annoying.

                    BUFFY: Yeah, well, that part you get used to. But you’re not taking him.

                    In a burst of movement, Buffy kicks out to one side and takes one of Simone’s Slayer in the gut, knocking her off her feet. At the same time, she reaches to take another of the fencing foils next to the stage. Andrew jumps back in surprise.

                    We see a close-up of Buffy’s hand grabbing the hilt of one of the foils.

                    From the side, we see Buffy leap up to engage Simone, who’s had enough time to be ready. She looks eager for this fight, despite claiming not to have a problem with Buffy. Nisha grabs Andrew from behind and pulls him away.

                    ANDREW: Hey*MMMMMPHH*!

                    In extreme close-up, we see Buffy’s and Simone’s faces as their blades cross with a *CLANG!* Buffy’s face is serious, Simone’s looks eager to fight.

                    SIMONE: Things just got exciting. Everyone keep your distance. Buffy’s mine.

                    In consecutive panels, we see Buffy and Simone parry each other’s attacks low. In the next, Simone drops to her back as Buffy slashes across where her chest would have been. Then we see Simone block forward as Buffy leaps into the air.

                    We see Buffy grab a low-hanging chandelier after her jump. Simone mocks her from the ground.

                    SIMONE: (from out of the view) Does that feel precarious? It *looks* precarious. And it looks like you’re trapped.

                    In silhouette, we see Buffy make her next move; she uses her weight to swing the chandelier.

                    The next image shows Buffy flipping clear of the light. She slashes the cable holding the chandelier as she jumps free, and we see it starting to fall as Buffy spears her foil into a stage curtain. She uses it to slow her fall to the stage with a *RRRIIIIPP* as one of Simone’s Slayers calls out to her to warn her about the chandelier.

                    SLAYER: *Simone! Watch out*!

                    On the floor, we see Simone jump free as the chandelier crushes several seats with a *SMASHHHH*!

                    In the next image, Simone was too slow recovering; Buffy is already on her, smiling as she holds her blade point at Simone’s throat.

                    BUFFY: I’ve done this longer than you. Which means I’m more experienced, so you’re done.

                    SIMONE: And I’m younger than you. Which means I’m faster, so you’re f*@%ed.

                    The next image continues with them in the same position, dividing their upper and lower bodies, and shows that it was Simone who was faster. Buffy has her at blade-point, but Simone has a semi-automatic pistol drawn by her hip, trained on Buffy’s heart.

                    SIMONE: This one is a real gun.

                    From above, we see Buffy throw aside her foil as Simone relaxes, holding Buffy at gun point with her arm straight. Nisha still has an arm around Andrew’s throat.

                    BUFFY: I’m really not a fan of guns.

                    SIMONE: And here I thought we had so much in common, philosophy-wise. This is still so easy. Just give me the loser. You get the demon. No one has to get hurt. Well...

                    From behind Buffy, we see Simone reach across her body to yank on Andrew’s hair with a mean expression, gun still on Buffy.

                    SIMONE: Almost no one.

                    BUFFY: No.

                    ANDREW: Buffy…

                    In a closer view, Andrew’s face relaxes as he tries to convince Buffy to leave. We only see the back of Buffy’s head.

                    ANDREW: The demon is what matters. I’ll stay, and everyone will be safe. I need to do this.

                    BUFFY: She’s got you all twisted around, thinking you’re to blame for what she did. I told you: it wasn’t your fault.

                    The view reverses, and Buffy’s expression turns a little impatient as Andrew continues to insist on trading him for the Ragna.

                    ANDREW: I’m not twisted around. It’s simple logic. She’ll hurt countless people with the demon. I’m just one. The needs of the many outweigh the needs –

                    BUFFY: Andrew. I’ve been hanging out with Xander for eight years. I’ve geek-bonded with him, too, and I’m familiar with the book of nerd quotes. I’m not moved.

                    In close-up, we see Buffy’s face from beside the barrel of Simone’s gun. Buffy gestures at herself with a thumb for emphasis.

                    BUFFY: Simone? Keep the demon, don’t keep the demon. I don’t care. I’ll find a way to stop you. But Andrew comes with me. I don’t walk away from my people. Because that’s who *I* am.

                    We see Simone in close-up with her gun raised, and her Slayers standing behind her. But as she gloats, a voice calls out from out of the view.

                    SIMONE: That’s a shame. See… it’s my sixteen Slayers to your *one*.

                    VOICE: (from out of the view) I think you miscalculated, Simone.

                    The next image shows a group of Slayers entering the theatre – they are armed with the more conventional weapons of a Slayer, but they clearly have Simone outnumbered. We see Andrew’s face as he turns and recognizes them. He is smiling proudly.

                    ANDREW: *Italy squad! It’s Italy squad*!

                    SLAYER: Mr. Harris said Mr. Wells was going to engage Simone, and we weren’t about to let him do that alone. He’s our Watcher. Where he goes, we go.

                    From behind, we see the lead Slayer of the group holding one of Simone’s pistol-armed Slayer with a sword at her throat. Simone keeps her gun on Buffy.

                    SLAYER: Mr. Wells comes with us.

                    BUFFY: (quietly, abashed) Um, I’m actually here, too.

                    SLAYER: … and Buffy also comes with us.

                    As Andrew’s team moves through the theatre to cover more of Simone’s, we see Buffy from behind as she starts giving orders. One of the rescuing Slayers interrupts her from on stage, though.

                    BUFFY: Good work. If we need to fight ‘em to get back control of the island, we can –

                    SLAYER: Ma’am. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Even with the numbers on our side, there are still weapons at play. If just one of Simone’s people breaks free, we get a firefight.

                    We see Buffy’s face in close-up as she addresses one of the new Slayers. She looks angry, although it’s unclear if she’s angry at being countermanded, or at the inarguable facts she’s been given.

                    BUFFY: I promised I’d get the villagers back their home.

                    SLAYER: All due respect, Ma’am. I suggest we get the remaining villagers to the mainland and live to fight Simone another day.

                    From above, we see Buffy snatch the gun from Simone’s hand effortlessly, looking disgusted.

                    BUFFY: Fine. You can keep the island.

                    From behind, we see Buffy turn and point the gun straight into Nisha’s face. Her style or not, she’s forceful enough that Nisha looks certain she’ll shoot if she has to. Andrew, also no fan of guns, still smiles as though it’s the coolest thing he’s seen her do.

                    BUFFY: Now give me back my nerd.

                    In the next image, Buffy turns the gun back on Simone. Her expression is cold, and she still looks willing to shoot. Simone is clearly trepid about the situation for the first time. Andrew watches with concern even as he moves up the aisle.

                    BUFFY: Andrew, get the Italy squad out of here. Nice and slow.

                    SIMONE: I thought you don’t like guns.

                    In a wide view, we see Buffy fire once past Simone’s head with a *BLAM*! In the foreground, we see the padlock on the Ragna’s cage shatter.

                    BUFFY: It’s not for you. It’s for her.

                    In a close-up, we see the Ragna’s face again as it forces the cage door open.

                    We see Buffy in close-up; she’s retreated up the aisle with her people and is closing the theatre door.

                    BUFFY: Maybe I can’t stop you myself. But I can make sure you get stopped. Or at least slowed down. You want the Ragna? You got her.

                    As the door shuts, we see Simone and all her Slayers panic as the Ragna rears up in front of them.

                    SIMONE: Well, *s#*%*.

                    In a new scene, we see Buffy and Andrew from behind where they stand on the docks with the girl and her grandmother. The village, at a distance, looks beautiful again in the setting sun.

                    GIRL: But that was our home! Where are we to go now?

                    BUFFY: I don’t know. I just you’ll be safer somewhere else.

                    GIRL: Everyone in our lives has changed. It isn’t fair.

                    BUFFY: I know.

                    In another new scene, we see a close-up of Andrew’s face, looking morose. Buffy calls out to him from out of the view.

                    BUFFY: (from out of the view) You’re allowed to take a night off, Andrew.

                    The view shifts, and we see past Andrew’s face as he glances toward Buffy. She’s standing in his door, leaning casually against the frame and smiling gently.

                    ANDREW: I’m just collected all my information about the Ragna. If we’re ever forced to fight her, I want us to know her weaknesses.

                    BUFFY: I’m sure Simone and her crew took care of her, which is… truly non-comforting.

                    Buffy steps into Andrew’s room with her hands open as he looks back down at his papers.

                    BUFFY: Look, Andrew. You were willing to sacrifice yourself to save innocent people. For a greater good. That’s huge for you. You should be proud.

                    ANDREW: But you were right. I lied to you.

                    We see Buffy turn to leave while Andrew is still looking down, but she’s smiling as she gives him one more bit of advice about the life he’s chosen.

                    BUFFY: Yeah, you’re part of the family. Get used to screwing up for good reasons. It’s what we do. Swing by when you’ve got the specs written. We’ll take a look.

                    We see Andrew in close-up, looking stunned as he looks up after Buffy’s left.

                    The image stays the same.

                    With the same expression, Andrew asks a question aloud, even though Buffy has already left.

                    ANDREW: I’m part of the family?

                    The last image is of Andrew’s expression soften into a smile of relief and gratitude.

                    End of Issue #23
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                    • #25
                      Does anybody have plans to write out the remaining issues of season eight? I really want to read more.

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