Is a Black Rose Still a Rose?
I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, V, Stargate SG-1, X-men, NCIS or Coming to America. They belong to Joss Whedon, Kenneth Johnson, MGM, Marvel Comics, Donald Bellisario and John Landis respectively.
Two updates in two weeks. I'm on a roll...
~~Royal Palace, Zamunda
September 10th, 2004
As he watched the orange-garbed Visitors surrounding the home he had lived his entire life in, King Jaffe Joffer contemplated the warning he had received from the Watcher Xander Harris over a week ago. Xander had sent a slayer to warn each of the smaller African kingdoms and dominions that the Visitors would soon likely be looking to them. “Your country is small and it is not particularly militant. That means you’re likely a low priority, but make no mistake… you are still a priority.”
Many of the smaller kingdoms had scoffed at Xander’s warning. Jaffe knew better then they. Xander Harris was not prone to hyperbole. Because of this, Jaffe had prepared for this moment well. “Oha!” Jaffe’s loyal servant appeared by his side. “Sound the signal. Zamunda is about to fall. Once you have finished, join those who are evacuating.”
For the first time in over two decades of flawless service, Oha hesitated. “My place is by your side, Your Majesty.”
Jaffe stared at Oha for a long moment before nodding. “Do as you will then, my friend. But first, attend to your duty.”
Oha bowed and walked away. Jaffe watched with pained eyes as the Visitors began firing upon his loyal guards. He could escape with the others. It would be so easy. Still, he would never do so. He had been King of Zamunda for most of his life and he fully intended to die upon the throne. His son, Akeem, and his daughter-in-law, Lisa, would be sufficient to keep the Zamundan Royal House alive. It was time for him to see Aoleon again.
A Visitor, in an orange jumpsuit that offended Jaffe’s eyes, strolled into his throne room. The loud, echoing ring of the bell that signaled the evacuation broke the eerie silence. The Visitor either did not know what the bell meant or did not care. Jaffe was praying it was the former. “Your guards attacked us when we came to your palace, King Jaffe. I do not understand this. We, Visitors, come in peace.”
Jaffe Joffer leveled a baleful stare at the invader in his palace. “Peace, you say? You, who come uninvited and unwanted into my home, come in peace? I think not. I think you come to destroy my people. I have heard soft whispers of what happened in Alexandria. You come to control. Perhaps you come to destroy. Certainly there is no peace in your heart.”
The Visitor offered a seemingly benign smile. “I am called Saul, King Jaffe. I am sure we will be good friends. I have a friend named Diana who can make it so.”
Jaffe bit down upon the capsule that he had prepared for this eventuality. A death’s head grin crossed the old man’s face. “I highly doubt that. I’ll be dead long before you can make me yours. Zamunda is not for you.”
Saul’s serpentine smile did not waver. “We shall see, King Jaffe.”
The death of King Jaffe Joffer was considered a tragedy. An international warrant was issued for Prince Akeem Joffer for his father’s murder.
**Bunker 1138, Near Tripoli
September 12th, 2004
The arms dealer known to others as Black Rose attempted to keep her expression blank as she stood in the descending elevator. No one in the arms community knew precisely how the slayers would react to the recent death of Xander Harris. The man was a very popular and very dangerous individual. She stole a glance at the slayer beside her. Rona was considered, according to her best intelligence, one of Xander’s most loyal warriors. There were even rumours that the two were sleeping together, though Rose believed the rumours to be false. Still, she was somewhat surprised to note that Rona had apparently survived Harris’ death. She had been sure that Rona would have died at his side.
The opening of the elevator doors startled Black Rose from her deep thoughts. She proceeded forward, following the tunnels that Rona indicated, finally arriving in a meeting room. Things quickly became clear. Rose smiled faintly. “I’d heard you were dead. Apparently I need to fire my intelligence operatives.”
A very much alive Xander Harris smirked at her. “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated*. It suits me, at this time, to let the Visitors think that I’m dead.”
The arms dealer nodded agreeably. “Understandable. I hear they destroyed your school. That must have hurt you.”
Xander calmly poured each of them a drink of water before answering. “I’d probably be angry if they had. I’m the one who destroyed the school… with a few of our Visitor… friends inside it. How’s business, Rosaleen?”
The abrupt segue, combined with her real name, nearly caused the woman to flinch, but she was far too experienced for that. “Wherever did you hear that name, Mr. Harris?”
The head of the African branch of the Watchers’ Council smiled faintly, showing no reaction to the use of his much disliked last name. “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet**, eh Rosaleen? How’s business…?”
Rose dropped it. She was currently in one of Xander’s own bases. “Business is good, actually. A lot of the more militant types are suspicious of the Visitors and are stockpiling.”
Xander nodded. “That’s unsurprising. I would like to procure some weapons from you as well, Rosaleen. My slayers and I intend to do some hunting…”
Black Rose raised her eyebrows faintly. “This is a departure from your previous party line, Alexander. I seem to recall you promising death and dishonour to every arms dealer foolish enough to get involved in the war between you and the demons. You also promised more of the same for any demons that procured advanced weapons.”
“And I kept my promises, as you’ll recall.”
The woman winced faintly. She remembered all too well what had resulted when La Grenouille had sold weapons to the Chupacabra Clan, despite Harris’ dire threats. The Chupacabras had been fire-bombed out of existence in a ‘training accident gone bad’. As for La Grenouille, he had been mysteriously killed on his own boat. Harris’ threat had been taken very seriously ever since. “Yes, so I’m sure you can understand my confusion now.”
The man agreed. “I can understand. The reason I require firearms and such is that my slayers and I are setting our sights on much bigger game.”
Understanding hit her. “The Visitors… Yes, I suppose you would need something more… potent, then your usual fare.”
The one-eyed man smiled. “Exactly. I also require the utmost discretion.”
The woman smiled. “I’m sure. But how do you know I won’t sell you out if they give me a better price?”
Xander’s smile became brittle. “Three reasons, Rosaleen. The first is that you have nothing to offer the visitors except your client lists. You sell those and you are out of business. The second is that you want the Visitors gone as much as I do. They are already making travel more difficult in the west. The more they tighten their grip, the less able you are to do business.”
Rose nodded her agreement. “And the third reason…?”
“It comes down to who has the most fear, Rosaleen. It’s my fear of you selling me out, against your fear of what I will do to you if even one of my girls dies due to your treachery...”
Rosaleen O’Malley***, better known to the arms community as Black Rose, fought to keep her face impassive as she once more considered the fate of her old competitor, La Grenouille. “I’m sure we can come to a fair arrangement…”
* Mark Twain
** William Shakespeare (Juliet Capulet in Romeo and Juliet)
*** Black Rose (according to NCIS continuity) was supposed to be involved with the IRA. Hence, I went with an Irish name. This character is meant only to represent the fictional arms dealer 'Black Rose' and no one else.
And that's the update for this week.