Return of New Blood
By Michael Weyer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer owned by Mutant Enemy.
Star Wars owned by George Lucas.
I know, I know, it’s been a while but finally getting around to the grand conclusion, hope it’s as good as everyone expects. As always, all comments welcomed.
One would be hard pressed to find two such polar opposite shapes. There was Endor, a lush world covered by forests and lakes and rivers. From the perspective of space, it resembled a nearly completely green marble, glistening against the darkness of space, a world that promoted peace and tranquility.
Above it hung a shape that resembled a half-crescent moon. When one got closer, one could see it was not a true celestial object but a massive construct. It resembled a grey sphere with a massive dish on the front but was only half-completed, the smooth surface giving way to tendrils of unfinished girders and stairways, the dots of workers in spacesuits furiously trying to make progress.
In a way, this half-finished appearance, like a spider waiting to strike, that made the second Death Star more intimidating than the first. At least that’s how it seemed to the figures approaching it in the Imperial Shuttlecraft. It flew out from the waiting Star Destroyer, a pair of TIE fighters alongside as escort. The two pilots tried to remain calm as they flew toward the waiting station but were unable to mask the fear from the two figures behind them.
“Death Star control, we request an immediate landing,” the pilot stated.
“The shield will be deactivated once we confirm your code,” came the laid-back voice of a controller from the station.
“Hurry, please,” the man said, glancing back at his passengers. “They’re in no mood to wait.”
Inside the main control booth, the officer in charge tried to hide his boredom at the routines of a space station yet to reach full operational capacity. He glanced at the screen showing the shuttle and then the code with it. He did a double-take and his eyes widened, boredom vanishing as he recognized it. “Let them in,” he ordered. He craned his head back to call to another officer. “Inform the commander that Lord Vader’s shuttle has arrived!”
The words set off an uproar of action as everyone straightened at the name and busied themselves with their work. By the time the shuttle had landed in the main bay, a contingent of stormtroopers were lined up, creating a walkway for the tall and confident man striding forward.
Moff Jerjerrod was well known for his collected presence, a mix of arrogance and command that had drove him well in his rise through the ranks. It was true he was the type of man to put the blame on almost anyone but himself for what happened but he still had an authority few could argue with. He also possessed a truly ruthless streak, a man who had once ordered the massacre of an entire colony for refusing to pay taxes, proving he would brook no interference to the Empire. It was a combination that had served him well in his career, leading to this plum assignment, the command of the most powerful weapon of destruction ever created.
But even he had to feel a rush of anxiety as he came to the shuttle. He had expected this visit, of course, but had believed he would be told of it beforehand. To learn of the arrival only moments earlier put him off-balance, a position Jerjerrod was not used to. He did his best to appear calm and not affected. As he was so fond of saying “Great men never hurry. Great men cause others to hurry.”
The rampway of the shuttle lowered to the deck as smoke and vapor was blown out. There was a pause before a figure in the uniform of an Imperial officer rolled down the rampway, landing in a limp heap at the bottom. His eyes were open with terror as a massive gash covered his throat with blood on it.
Jerjerrod tore his eyes away from the grisly sight to see Darth Scourge stepping down the rampway, wiping at his mouth. “Told him not to touch the coat,” he said, brushing at the long black cloak hanging over his black jumpsuit. From the billowing clouds behind him strode the unmistakable figure of Darth Vader, the mechanical breathing echoing as he came down, the lights of the bay reflecting off his polished helmet.
Bowing his head, the commander spoke. “Lord Vader, Lord Scourge, this is an unexpected…”
“You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander,” Vader interrupted as he marched past Jerjerrod. “We are here to put you back on schedule.”
The news wasn’t unexpected but delivered in that cold tone, it still rocked Jerjerrod. “Lord Vader,” he said, maintaining his calm. “I assure you, we are working as best we can. This battle station will be operational as planned.”
“The Emperor does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation.”
“In other words,” Scourge said, his smirk growing. “Get it done on time or we find someone who can.”
That cold smile sent ice down Jerjerrod’s spine but he managed to keep himself calm. “With respect, I fear he asks the impossible.” He lowered his voice, a note of desperation in it. “I need more men.”
“Perhaps you can explain that to him when he arrives,” Vader matter of factly stated.
This time, Jerjerrod was unable to keep his face from going pale or fear showing in his expression. “The…The Emperor is coming here?” he whispered.
Vader nodded. “And he will be most displeased if you are still behind schedule then.”
“We shall double our efforts!” Jerjerrod piped up.
“I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as Lord Scourge or myself.” Vader’s cape whirled as he spun around to march away from the room. Angelus gave Jerjerrod a smirk before following, leaving the commander to swallow as he prepared himself to increase the workload. For did not even great men need to hurry when the need was pressing?
“Think it worked?” Angelus asked as he and Vader headed down the hallways.
“The Death Star will be finished,” Vader stated as fact. “We shall soon witness the final destruction of the Rebellion and the fall of the Jedi.”
“And the Slayer?” Angelus licked his lips with anticipation.
“She shall be yours, creature,” Vader said. “When Skywalker is mine.”
Angelus’ grin widened. “Hmm…gonna have some tasty treats in mind for her…” He closed his eyes as his mind whirled with the images of agony and torture…
Angel let out small gasp as his eyes snapped open. He took a few moments to stare at the ceiling, letting himself realize he was in his usual room. He sat up slowly, trying not to disturb the sleeping woman beside him as he slid on a pair of pants. He walked out to open up the glass doorway and step onto the balcony.
Los Angeles wasn’t known for its crisp air but when you go a few hundred years without breathing at all, any atmosphere is good. Angel took in a deep breath as he tried to calm his emotions. For so long he had to put up with Angelus in the back of his mind, screaming to get out, taking pleasure in Angel’s pain. Now, even when he was free of the monster, even when he was now a regular (well, somewhat) human, he couldn’t be free of the demon.
“It was him again, wasn’t it?” Angel turned to the woman who stood in the doorway, a blanket wrapped around her, her blonde hair framing her beautiful face. “I can always tell when you think of him, the way you tense up.” She brushed a blonde lock back. “I know how it feels.”
Even after bouts of special treatment combinations of chemotherapy and mystic oils, Darla still looked amazing to Angel. Discovering she was alive was a shock to him, even more to realize she was human once more. Of course, it wasn’t as if he didn’t have enough shocks on his plate already adjusting to being human once more. It had made him wonder how he could still be a champion, even going so far as to arrange a talk with an embassy of the Powers-That-Be. Talking with a drive-thru hamburger sign come to life had been one of the odder experiences of his life but it had paid off with Angel getting a “boost” in his physical abilities. It wasn’t up to his vampire standards but enough to handle the battles with demons.
It had taken a while for word of his new status to spread. Once it did, he was surprised to discover that Wolfram & Hart suddenly deemed him not worthy of attention. They still reacted when he interfered in one of their schemes but it didn’t seem they needed him like they once did for whatever big plans they had. That meant that when they realized he was human, Darla was cut off and left to fend for herself.
That was how Angel found her, running about and trying to find a vampire who could turn her. She didn’t want to die but saw no real reason to live. But he couldn’t let her go, despite all the pain she’d bestowed on him. He did what he could to find her a cure, let her stay with him…and eventually back to his bed.
It didn’t go over well with Wesley and Cordelia to say the least. In fact, Angel sometimes wondered if he and Darla had played a part in Cordelia’s decision to stay in Pylea. Well, that and being worshiped as a queen which was something the woman was born to do. She had that prince after all so it couldn’t too bad for her and her decision to give humans a fair chance in the land was a sign of how well she’d matured.
Being without her visions was bothersome but he managed to keep fighting on nonetheless. But still, the dreams did bother him, now more than ever. He thought he’d finally been freed of that bastard but even somewhere in space he was hurting Angel.
“He’s thinking of Buffy,” he carefully said. The Slayer was still a touchy subject for both for obvious reasons but Darla simply nodded. “Just wish I knew where he was…where they both were.”
Darla rubbed at his back. “I know you still love her.”
“Yeah,” Angel admitted. “But…I don’t know if I’m in love with her anymore. It’s…” He let out a sigh.
“Complicated,” Darla nodded. “It always is with us. I loved you even when I wanted to rip your heart out and I know you felt the same with me. It’s harder with her.”
“I think…sense…she found someone out there,” Angel mused. “I don’t know, hard to tell details with that link.”
Darla was going to reply when the door rapped and then a bald black head stuck in. “Hey, boss,” Charles Gunn said. “We got visitors.”
“This hour?” Angel frowned as he turned back to the young man.
“Trust me, boss, gonna want to hear them out,” Gunn said, nodding before he left.
Darla pulled the sheet closer around her as she let out a sigh. “That was one of the benefits of being evil, rarely got interrupted so much.”
Angel made a small smile at her while he got dressed.
A few minutes later, he was walking down the main staircase of the Hyperion, glancing about to take in the members of Angel Investigations sitting about. Wesley was at a nearby table surrounded by books, glasses off, serious as usual. The transformation of the man still impressed Angel, the arrogant bookworm replaced by a tough fighter in dark slacks and jacket.
Sitting next to him was a woman who, even at this early hour, was the epitome of cold professionalism. Despite the lateness, Lilah Morgan was wearing a nice business suit that showed off her shapely legs, her brown hair thrown back. When Wolfram & Hart had decided to terminate their operations on Angel, Lilah had been deemed an “unnecessary addition” and was due to be “downsized.” Ever the cunning thinker, Lilah had been prepared for this, bolting ship to Angel with a nice portion of W&H files, files that would cause quite a bit of fuss should they be introduced to the right (or wrong) parties. With that as insurance, she was able to keep the AI team going in their fight and stay alive.
The tension between her and Wesley was still there although Angel had suspicions they had given in to their mutual attraction to each other more than once. Anything seemed oblivious to Winifred Burkle who sat nearby. While she had come more out of her shell (not to mention her room), the young woman was still a bit shy after her time on Pylea. She had let go of some of the hero worship of Angel but remained a bit in awe of him still. She gave a soft smile he barely noticed as he was too busy looking at the people in the center of the lobby. Or rather one in particular.
As usual, Daniel Holtz carried himself with the air of a man who took the world with utter seriousness. He was dressed in his usual outfit of a long brown coat over old-fashioned pants and dark vest over his white shirt, his wide-brimmed hat in his hands. His handsome face was marked by a sharp beard and even sharper eyes that still brimmed with hostility as they took in the former vampire.
For Daniel Holtz, discovering that the monster he had spent two hundred years sleeping to kill was gone when he awoke was disconcerting to say the least. The demon he’d made the deal with, Sahjahan, had seemed more amused than anything to learn the man had given up his life for nothing. Holtz had still wanted to kill Angel despite it all and Darla as well. It took seeing them both bleeding and nearly defeated for him to fully understand they were human and that killing them would not be justice at all.
It was Wesley who had deciphered the proper prophecies that detailed Sahjahan’s real intent, to stop Angel from ending his existence. Angered at being used this way, Holtz had helped trap the demon in an urn which he then weighted down and dumped into the bay. After that, he and Angel had come to a grudging truce and Holtz had left town to continue his private war on the undead.
Beside him was another familiar face, one framed by lush red hair, her athletic body clad in jeans and a dark leather jacket. Justine Cooper was apparently still working with Holz, looking a bit better than she had the last time Angel had seen her. His attention was drawn more to the blonde-haired woman standing on the other side of Holtz. “Kate?”
Kate Lockley managed a small smile. “”Hi, Angel. Been a while.”
“You’re working with Holtz now?”
“I see your detective skills have improved,” Kate dryly said. “I ran into them doing a job in Vegas, shared some notes and figured it’d be a good gig.”
Angel nodded as he glanced to Holtz. “So…what brings you by?”
“I’ve come across information I believe might be most beneficial to you,” Holtz stated in his dry tone. “I believe we…”
He was cut off as the door to the Hyperion burst open and a blonde-haired figure clad in a red shirt, leather pants and jacket burst in with an angry look on his face. “If you lot think you can just lock me up in the car while you go running about you…”
He stopped in place as he stared at Angel, then rolled his eyes. “Oh, bloody hell, not the magnificent poof and his sidekicks!”
“Spike,” Angel groaned under his breath. “I thought you’d be dead by now.”
“I wish,” the blonde vampire muttered as he stuck a cigarette into his mouth. He glared at Holtz as he lit up. “You never said we were coming to see him…”
“Because I knew you would refuse to come,” Holtz calmly said.
“What the hell are you doing with Spike?” Wesley asked in confusion.
“I’ve been asking the same question,” Justine muttered.
“It seems your old compatriot decided to pay a visit to Las Vegas when we were there,” Holtz stated.
“You were in Vegas?” Gunn asked. “How’d you like the place?”
“May the warmed masochist who conceived that modern-day Gomorrah be consigned to the tortures of Tartrus for the rest of time, near-time and the end of the universe.”
Gunn nodded before looking over to Kate. “He lost money at the casino?”
“Actually made off like a bandit,” Kate said. “Guess the old card skills can work in today’s world. But the shows threw him off a bit.”
“Needless to say, I was not happy to see he had survived as well,” Holtz said, glaring at the blonde vampire. “But when I learned that he could not hurt humans, I realized the benefits of having him working with us.”
“Oh, yeah, dried blood, locked up in shackles, lovely times!” Spike snarled.
“It’s better than you deserve,” Holtz hissed. He turned back to Angel. “If we may talk in private?”
“My office,” Angel said, nodding to it. He paused to fix Spike with a hard look. “Wes, keep an eye on him.”
“Right, like tweed-man junior here can…” Spike stopped, staring at the woman coming down the stairs. “Bloody hell, Darla? Thought you were dead!”
“I was,” she said with a smirk. “I got better.”
Spike sniffed and frowned. “Since when is human better?”
“Don’t knock it, Spike,” Angel intoned. “Some of us don’t like being vampires.”
Spike snorted. “When they changed you to human, they couldn’t get the stick out of your ass? What’s the hostility, we used to be mates, remember?”
“Spike, even when we were friends, we couldn’t stand each other,” Angel noted as he and Holtz headed to the back office. He shook his head as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Can’t believe you’re putting up with that guy.”
“War makes for strange bedfellows,” Holtz said as he examined the pieces of art around the office. “Besides, if I allowed myself to always wallow in the past, you wouldn’t be alive right now.”
Angel paused with the mug halfway to his lips. “I thought we settled this.”
“We talked,” Holtz said in a crisp tone. “We never settled this.” His manner was calm but Angel could sense the tension under the surface. He couldn’t blame the man. He remembered full well what Angelus had done and knew Holtz deserved whatever vengeance he desired. He was pretty sure the man wouldn’t try anything here but was still on his guard.
“You said you had something important,” Angel said.
Holtz nodded slowly as he reached into his coat pocket and removed a roll of paper. “We have been doing some…business up and down the coast,” he began as he unrolled the parchment. “It was in Seattle we discovered something in the shop of a demon who was posing as a realtor.”
“Sure it was just posing?” Angel asked with a smile. “Has to be a reason the market is so shaky.”
Holtz did not respond to the joke. “We have been having trouble deciphering the exact wording of the parchment. I hope that Watcher with you can be of aid there.”
“Former Watcher,” Angel said. “And no offense, Holtz but given our history, why should I aid you?”
“Because your history,” Holtz said as he finished unfolding the scroll. “Is quite relevant here.” He turned it around to show Angel the wording on the parchment, a bizarre mix of symbols he couldn’t make out. He barely noticed them, however, his eyes fixed to the image at the scroll’s center as he felt his newborn heart skip a beat.
He reached out and let his fingers slide over the image, the beautiful face framed by long blonde hair and wearing some sort of dark robe. He swallowed before turning, stalking to the door and pulling it open. “Wes. In here. Now.”
The former Watcher frowned as he headed into the office. “Angel, what is…” He stopped as he saw the parchment. “Good Lord…That looks like…”
“I need this translated now,” Angel said. “Call Giles in Cleveland, he’s going to want to know about this.” He paused as he looked toward Holtz. “Thank you.”
“I do want to know what this is about as much as you do,” Holtz stated.
“Fine, plenty of rooms, Spike can sleep in the basement.” Angel turned as he gazed at the parchment once more. “Any idea what it says?” He asked Wesley who was leaning over the sheet.
The man frowned as he adjusted his glasses. “I’ll need to get my books, it’s been a while since I saw this type of text. But it does look like some sort of prophecy…a warrior caught between light and dark…a final conflict with her fated foe…” He let his finger trail at the lower part of the text and looked up at Angel, alarm in his eyes. “And in her victory, the darkness shall claim her.”
Angel tensed as he gazed at the image of the woman he knew had to be Buffy Summers, those last words echoing in her mind. “Like hell.”
Wanted a bit different to kick off the final entry in the saga. Do hope to be able to continue soon, feel free to comment as you like.