: Oh, yeah. Bilis Manger hates
Dawn. Other deaths are just a means to an end for him, but he really hates Dawn.
Seo fell into the blackness. The darkness.
Something was moving. Deep down inside of it. She could feel something… moving. Waking up.
"My insurance," came Bilis' voice.
Seo turned, in the darkness, to find him there. Standing in the darkest depths of her mind. She backed away from him, slowly, her eyes fixed on his.
"It's really quite simple," Bilis explained to her, his hands in his pockets, as he approached. "You are going to do everything I want. Or… I'll release him."
The something moved, again. And Seo thought… she could feel… something familiar about the creature. Something that sent shivers up her spine. Something…
Seo stumbled back, with sudden alarm. As she placed the feeling of this creature in her senses. Stared at Bilis in utter horror.
"Where'd you find it?" she breathed.
"The entire species was cast out before time began," said Bilis. "Disowned from all universes. Occasionally, one flies too close, gets trapped at the bottom of a rift or a Hellmouth. Manages to enter the universe."
"That creature, it's like… the First," said Seo. "The Beast of Krop Tor. It's the same creature. Younger, smaller, less powerful at the moment, but still the same species."
Everything that had happened in the universe before their own. The balance shifting, the forces of evil overpowering the Disciples of Light. The Disciples of Light tearing down the universe in order to become the Powers that Be.
It was all going to happen, again.
It was going to happen, here.
"The son of the Beast," Bilis mused. "I think I'll use that. Very poetic. Evocative."
"What do you want from me?" Seo demanded.
"Why, nothing," said Bilis, with a shrug. He paused. "For the moment." He adjusted his silk cravat. "I just wanted to make sure… while you were out cold, unable to wake up… that you knew. What you'd caused. What you made happen in the rest of the world." He tilted his head. "Don't you want to see?"
But Seo had no chance to answer, before she felt herself falling… falling…
And tumbled into a sea of visions.
"We're helpless!" Owen shouted at Jack, chasing after him as he went to his office. "Everything we've been doing so far — it's just putting sticking plasters on gaping wounds!"
Jack spun around to face Owen. "What do you suggest?"
"I suggest," Owen snapped, "that you lead us and tell us what our instructions are!"
This was all Jack needed. The rift was cracking open, time leaking out at the seams, and although Jack happened to know the world-expert on closing massive unstable rifts… she wasn't answering her phone.
Where was Buffy?
"Owen…" Gwen sighed.
"No, come on," Owen said, looking back at the others. "You're all thinking it too." Pointing at Jack. "He's the big man, here. He keeps all the secrets." Spinning around to face Jack, again. "Well, now's the time to tell us a few and tell us how the hell we're gonna get out of this!"
Jack felt the rage boil inside of him. As he realized… he'd been asked to deal with an impossible situation. A completely impossible situation.
"You want to know a secret?" he told Owen. "There is no solution. I can't fix this. Because this was never meant to happen!"
The way that it had happened, before, in Sunnydale — what Buffy had told him. The insanity spreading through the population. The deaths. The diseases. The madness. That had been a dimensional rift, and Cardiff was primarily temporal, but the result of opening them was the same.
The end of the world.
Jack forced the glumness out of his mind. No. No, this was going to be fine. Jack knew
it would be fine. He would make it fine.
He just had to get in touch with Buffy.
"Ethan," Alison was trying to explain to Buffy, as she tried to scramble over the fence. "We're looking for Ethan Rayne. That man, from earlier. Do you remember?"
Buffy pushed Alison over the fence, trying to be helpful. Alison thunked down to the other side. She bit back the pain, as Buffy flipped over the top, landing on her feet, looking back to Alison, still completely lost as to what the hell was going on.
Alison staggered back to her feet. Hearing Ethan's footsteps in the distance. She surged forwards, racing to catch up with him, and when she got to the next fence, had a brainwave idea.
"Buffy," she said. "Punch here!" She pointed to the fence.
Buffy, obediently, punched through the wood, giving Alison enough space to run through.
Ha! That would help them catch up.
Ethan glanced over his shoulder, caught sight of them out of the corner of his eye, and swore beneath his breath. He raced forwards, turning a corner, but Alison ran after him. Her breath misting in the morning air, her heart beating so fast it was practically falling out of her chest.
Then she turned the corner, and…
There was nothing. No sound. No Ethan. No indication as to where he might have gone.
"He must be hiding," Alison said. She began to search, frantically, using the light on her mobile as a torch. But… no. He just… wasn't there. At all. No trace of him.
Except… the faint smell of candy floss, in one particular empty space of road.
"Psionics," Alison recognized. Well, that was just brilliant. Now she'd never find him. Never find the monster. And with Seo out of commission, she'd never even know how to…
Truth crashing across her, all at once.
Seo was in a healing coma. Buffy was completely unable to grasp the world around her. Ethan had run away. Everyone else in the world was dealing with the temporally unstable madness.
And that left… Alison.
Alison. By herself. A normal human being. Now somehow expected to find and trap a soulless monster whose shape she didn't know, which didn't have a conscience and had all the intelligence and experience of the world's most famous Slayer ever. Not kill it. Swap its mind with Buffy's. And hope that Seo somehow came out of this all right.
Alison turned back to the still entirely clueless Buffy.
The one person with the knowledge and skills to fix everything in the world. And her fate was in Alison's hands.
"No pressure, then," Alison muttered to herself, as she led Buffy back to the car.
"Buffy?" Dawn shouted into her cell phone, through the chaos. "Look, Buffy, I know you're busy, but the world's ending and I need to get in touch with Seo. So… just… call me back, k? Bye." She ended the call, and cursed beneath her breath.
"How many tries does that make, now?" said Willow. "Fifty?"
"Fifty three," said Dawn. She considered speed dialing Buffy, again, but decided to wait at least thirty seconds before the next attempt. She turned the cell phone over in her hands. "That… friend of Seo's. Buffy keeps mentioning her. Alison… something." She looked up at Willow. "Do you have her number?"
Willow shook her head.
"What I want to know," said Kennedy, "is why Willow used to have enough magic energy to do serious damage to a Hell Goddess, and now, can't even manage to take down one velociraptor?"
Willow looked down at her hands. "I don't know," she confessed. "It's like… my energy's been draining away, ever since last summer. I thought it was something to do with Seo and the dimensional separation thing, but…"
"If there's a rift or Hellmouth open, somewhere," said Kennedy, "you'd be getting all of that back, now. And you're not."
Dawn marched past Kennedy and Willow, cell phone still in hand. "I have to check in with Ria," she said, racing out the door. "Make sure she knows this rift-opening thing isn't part of the war. Otherwise, the Tech Demons going to start some massively stupid retaliation that will kill off—"
Dawn swung around, as she heard the voice. Just there, down the hall from her, was an older-looking man, with white hair, beady black eyes, and a silk cravat. Something about the way he stared at her made her… hesitate.
It was almost like… he recognized her.
"Who…?" Dawn asked.
But before she knew what was happening, the man was right in front of her, thrusting a knife deep into her gut. She struggled to breathe, struggled to get away, struggled to hold in the blood pouring out, but he held her fast.
"You have no idea," he whispered to her, as he stabbed again, and again, and again, "how long I've wanted to do this to you."
The screams and shouts of Willow and Kennedy, around her, as they rushed at the man with the knife. But he dropped a small, ticking bomb-looking device, and then grabbed Dawn by the wrists, and…
The world went white.
Then slammed into color, again, somewhere else. Somewhere near… the sea. Somewhere… no, wait, it looked kind of like… wait, was this Cardiff?!
Another jab of the knife, twisting inside of her, and she barely had enough time to scream.
Before she fell away.
"No!" Seo screamed.
The vision faded, around her, leaving only the darkness. The shadows. And Bilis, standing not far away.
Bilis. Who'd murdered… purposely and brutally murdered… her aunt. Dawn Summers.
"You are the Key," said Bilis, unaffected. "And so is she. But, unlike you, she can only release her energies fully by dying."
Seo glared at him. "I
could have released her energies for you," she gritted out. "You didn't have to kill her!"
Bilis just gave a sly smile. "But I wanted