To my readers: Hey, everybody. I know it's been awhile since I last posted, but things have been pretty busy as of late. However, I wanted you guys to know that progress is being made on this storyline. Already I have the draft of the first chapter of the third story in the trilogy called 'Urbs ad Bellum' (or Belli; I haven't decided yet), a draft of a short one-chapter story called 'Emergence', another draft of a story taking place before 'Urbs Spei', and the plot outline of two more one-chapter interludes taking place after 'Urbs Spei'.

Timeline of stories is located on my profile page.

1:20 pm, Thursday - Slayer Base HQ

The white of freshly fallen snow reflected off of the light seeping through the heavy overcast of gray clouds. It shone through the room, bathing the bed in its drab and aloof radiance. It had rained a good portion in February, the kind of freezing rain Sara Pezzini had been used to and her California cohorts came to resent. One could only take comfort in the fact that the new snow would cover the grit-and-grime laden snow polluted by the rigors of daily city life, the parts the cold rain hadn't melted away.

A morning like this was enough to make even the lightest sleeper to wish for more bedtime and Sara was no exception. She had gone through a most horrible and terrifying ordeal the day before, something that had not only threatened her life, but the lives of the people around her. She roused from sleep a sickly mess, her face and hair still slick with sweat and skin prickly to the touch. The bedsheets seemed soiled from her perspiration and she felt as though she was drowning in filth. Trying to slough off the grogginess and crust from her eyes, she began to sit up.

"Uh…" she murmured as she stretched out under the blankets. "What… what happened? Where am I?"

The door opened and Willow came into view, saying, "You're awake. I was just coming to check up on you."

"What happened?" she asked in a haggard voice.

"You don't remember?"

"All I remember was getting hit by that dart," Sara replied. "After that things get kind of spacey."

"You, uh, experienced a few side effects from the dosage," Willow said reluctantly.

"Side effects? What kind of side effects?"

"Oh… you know, nausea, vomiting, headaches…" Willow mumbled most of the effects to a point that was barely audible as she tried to stay away from any of the seriously disturbing stuff that happened. Unfortunately, she was never a very good liar.

"Okay, nausea, vomiting, et cetera. But something tells me you're not giving me the entire story," Sara said. "I'm a cop, Willow; I can tell when people are lying to me. So tell me… what happened?"

Seeing the futility of shading the truth from her, Willow took in a deep breath and said, "You, uh... well... you threatened to kill some of the girls. You also tried to strangle me." Willow pulled down on the collar of her turtleneck sweater and showed her bruises.

Sara's face bore a look of horror and shame.

"Plus you kicked Giles and Buffy in the face," Willow continued.

"Oh, Willow, I'm so sorry," she started to say. "I can't believe I..." Sara paused and wore a curious look. "I kicked Buffy in the face?" It was something that wasn't entirely unpleasant to her ears.

"Yeah," Willow replied.

Remembering herself, Sara replied, "Which is, you know, uh, not good."

"Very convincing," Willow retorted as she smirked.

"I'm so sorry," Sara said softly. "I can't believe that I did that to you, to them."

"It wasn't your fault, Pez," Willow replied. "Amy had you doped up on that stuff and you couldn't control yourself."

"How am I going to face them all, especially Giles?"

"I'm more worried about how you're going to recover. Onyx is a pretty tough drug to get off of."

"Well, I only got one dose, and it was super-sized at that. Maybe it won't be so bad."

Willow brought out the dart that had injected the drug into her and held it up to her saying, "Don't underestimate this stuff, Pez." She set it down on the dresser next to the bed and walked around, talking to Sara. "I want to make sure you get the toxins completely out of your system, then try and make sure…"

As Willow kept on going, Sara eyed the dart, knowing there was a little of the drug still left inside. She started to perspire as her body began to crave it. She hadn't even paid attention to Willow as soon as the dart was brought out. She ached from withdrawal and knew the only way to make the pain subside was with Onyx, the bane that had now felt like her panacea. Her desire for it began to well up within her and finally burst forth like a dam. She lunged for the dart to plunge it into her arm. As soon as she moved, Willow extended her arm and drew the dart into her hand.

"I was hoping that wouldn't happen," she said. "I wanted to know whether or not you could fight the craving after an overdose. Now I know you can't. It means we'll have some work ahead of us, maybe about a month to a month and a half of rehab time."

The look on Sara's face was one of pure anger. But realizing what she had attempted, her face soon bore revulsion and shame. "No…" she said in a hushed voice. "No, I can't be a junkie, I can't. I can't." She looked at Willow with somber eyes and said, "Please, Willow, you have to help me. If anyone finds out, I could lose my job. It's my life; it's all I'm good at. I can't lose it."

"Don't worry, Pez," she replied. "I'll help you anyway I can. Giles is out right now getting supplies. In the meantime, you'll have to manage with the special brew I made you. It'll at least get out the toxins in your system, just in case someone at work decides request a sample. I don't want to take the chance that Amy or her crew called your precinct and told them you were high yesterday. I also called your precinct and told them you'd be in late."

Sara closed her eyes and a lonely tear dropped onto the sheets. "Thank you, Willow. I…" She tried to say the words but they would not form. Willow figured Sara didn't have much experience in being on the receiving end of saving lives, and knew she had trouble expressing her sentiments. Seeing the difficulty, Willow interrupted and merely replied, "Don't mention it," and smiled. Sara nodded in understanding and smiled too. Her smile soon turned into confusion as she realized that only Willow was present and Giles was out getting supplies. That only left one more person…

"Where's Buffy?" she asked.

1:37 pm, Thursday - Calogero's Ristorante

A chocolate mousse after a particularly difficult meeting was one of the many luxuries Amy had been privy to since acquiring her newfound wealth and power. The restaurant had catered to her late husband and now served her as if she were royalty. Day in and day out the grind of running a criminal organization and operating with ulterior motives underneath wore even the most driven of souls. Yesterday itself had been stressful enough after her meeting with one of the lesser bosses in the New York area. She had been looking to get a higher cut of the drug racket in the area, more so than Genovese Vitelli ever got. That didn't go over too well with Forccione and he made it known that wasn't going to work with a 'set of legs' who barged her way into the business without credentials. Amy had planned for this, and as such his number one enforcer was soon spread across his own front lawn. She made sure to tell him that his only son at Florida State would meet the same fate if he didn't comply. That got his attention…

Now was the pleasure portion of her new occupation: a rich, creamy, and expensive chocolate mousse. Though small, and empty, it was just one of guilty pleasures that made it all worthwhile... aside from exterminating the people in her way. She made a mental note to try the crème brûlée next time. She was in the middle of putting a fresh scoop in her mouth when her eye caught a petite blonde walking towards her. Her bodyguards intercepted the young woman, then looked over to their employer to decide what to do next. Amy nodded her head and her guards let the blonde through. Time for the speechifying, she thought.

Buffy approached a professionally-dressed Amy enjoying what looked to be a tasty dessert. She had to admit it angered her that Amy seemed so close and yet so untouchable, away from the reach of justice, human or otherwise. But she pushed that subject to the back of her mind; she was here for a particular purpose and nothing would deter her.

"Buffy…" Amy said as the Slayer approached.

"In the flesh," the Slayer replied.

"Not for long."

"You're going to kill me in front of all these witnesses here?" Buffy asked.

"And ruin my dessert? Of course not," Amy replied. "So… let me guess why you're here, huh? This is about what happened to Willow."

"What almost happened to Willow... and what you did to Sara. You knew what Willow went through and you tried to make her go through it all over again. You killed that man who was trying to turn his life around and, by extension, his ex-girlfriend. And you had that poison put into Sara."

"Sticking up for the cop, huh? " Amy replied, slightly surprised at the notion. "I was under the impression that you didn't even like her that much."

"Well, it's true that she's rude, temperamental..." Buffy started out. She then got lost in her rambling. "...unpredictable, bossy, an overall grouch…"

"Just like someone I know," Amy interrupted, narrowing her eyes at Buffy.

Buffy paused at the interruption and came back on track.

"But she's also brave. She's tenacious, caring, and one of the most dedicated people I've ever known. I'd go so far as to say before the Witchblade came along being a cop was her life." Buffy stepped a little closer to Amy, her bodyguards growing more cautious. "You see, I may not like her all that much, maybe not at all, but I respect her. Plus she's one of my crew. And if you mess with my crew you mess with me."

"Mighty strong words."

"You're messing with something you can't stand against, Amy," Buffy said. "You think you can get away with it all. You won't."

"Honey," Amy replied in an arrogant tone, "I was getting away with it ten minutes before you walked through that door."


"Ten minutes ago Onyx, made with a new and improved formula, hit the streets. The batch found in the stiff..."

"His name was Aidan Marshall," Buffy interjected in a strong tone.

"It was a test..." Amy continued, disregarding Buffy's statement, "to see how much was necessary for a good high. We were able to get down the dosage to just enough so the customers will keep coming."

"Was Willow supposed to be a 'test'?" the Slayer asked in anger.

"Partially, to see what a huge dose would do," Amy replied. "Other than that it was just a bonus." She continued as Buffy listened. "You're too late, Buffy. Pushers will be selling it on every sleazy street corner, and all your speechifying and high-moral-ground talk won't change a thing. So, like I said, I was getting away with it well before you stepped through those doors. And here's the kicker:" Amy leaned into the Slayer and whispered, "There's nothing you can do to stop me."

"You really think that?" Buffy replied in menacing tone.

"I know that. And you want to know why? Because in this fight, the winner isn't the one with the strongest powers or the greatest number of weapons; it's the one with the smallest conscience, something you and your buddies aren't capable of. Being stuck as a rat for a couple years tends to give you perspective and I learned one thing: you're either predator, or you're the prey. I'm never going to be anyone's prey ever again; not for you and not for any of these two-bit, slimebag mob bosses."

"I can't believe you brought yourself to this point. We helped you. We saved your life; I almost died trying to help you and this is how you repay us. How sad."

"Regretting that decision?" Amy asked.

"Not really," Buffy replied. "That's because we're champions, something you'll never get. We don't do it for the accolades or the rewards or even for the notion that someone's life will be better for it. No, we do it because it's right. That's what heroes do. With your abilities you could have been a part of that, but you chose to exploit and hurt people. Like I said... how sad."

"You really like hearing yourself talk, don't you?", Amy replied. "I could have been a part of your little 'Scooby' gang? Like hell. You see, I actually like having power and using it rather than waiting for every crook, criminal, and monster to take advantage of me. Like your ex, Angel."

Buffy tensed at the mention of her former lover.

"Yeah, I heard about him and what happened out in LA, running Wolfram & Hart," Amy continued. "Like me, he gets it. It's all about who has the power. And in case you haven't figured it out... I do."

"Not for long," Buffy shot back.

"Like you could do anything. I told you: I'm not being anybody's victim anymore. It's like those nature shows, the ones they show where the female lion waits in the savanna as the zebra grazes on the food, oblivious to what's going to happen. I've been both the helpless zebra and the lioness and I can tell you..." Amy sat back and smiled. "I like being the lioness."

Buffy glared at the woman as tried to as best she could not to reach over the table and break her nose. Smiling, Amy looked over to her bodyguards and said, "Get her out of here." As they grabbed Buffy's arms the Slayer slapped them away, prompting both guards to open their jackets and show their holstered guns.

"You don't want to make a scene, do you, Buffy?" Amy said. Buffy looked at the men and at Amy and relented, knowing that it would do no good to be shot while assaulting someone who could justifiably plead self-defense. She acquiesced, and as the men escorted her out of the restaurant, Buffy turned and said, "Oh, I nearly forgot something." Amy smirked as she listened. "Funny that you said your stuff hit the streets. You see, not all of it got there."

Her face fell at the comment.

"We fished around for info, called in a few favors, and found out where the two labs used to make the stuff were," Buffy continued. "We only got to one of the trucks as it was leaving, but the girls had a great time dumping your garbage into New York Harbor. I guess a lot of your clientèle are gonna be the fish. You could try and shake them down for the cash, but I'm guessing they'll come up a little short." Buffy's face was absolutely beaming.

"You just cost me a million and a half," Amy growled.

"You're welcome to press charges," Buffy replied in a playful tone. "I'm sure the courts will understand you wanting to recoup the losses on your illegal drugs."

Amy sat still, her anger boiling. She wanted to rip the girl's throat out, right then and there, to see Buffy take her last breath having her hands wrapped around her neck. But she knew she couldn't.. at least, not now. Patience was the key. She had been paying off an recently acquired informant of theirs to feed them info and let them have some victories against her. This, however, wasn't one of them. Nevertheless, if letting Buffy have her moment meant seeing her plans through the end and exacting bloody revenge on all of them later, she was going to swallow her pride and let it pass.

"I'll see myself out," Buffy said before turning and walking away.

As the Slayer walked out of the establishment, Amy smirked. She would eat the cost of the wasted drugs; it was fair, but painful, price to pay for her ambitions. And it was more than a fair price to pay in destroying every single one of the Scoobies. But through it all she learned something new: she saw the look in Buffy's eyes and knew she was on the brink. That weakness could be twisted and exploited. And to Amy, few things were more gratifying than that.