War Part II:- Casualties. Chapter Three
POWER RANGERS :- Demon Wars
War, Part II:- Casualties
Sari wasn't sure if she was awake or not. All she really knew was that she didn't want to be and didn't have much choice in the matter. She was lying on Faith's legs, not entirely sure how she got there.
The last thing she was sure about remembering was tooth guy coming at her, his teeth cutting up his own face as he laughed. Getting a better sense of what as around her the Yellow Ranger saw that Cassie was sprayed against the top of a now totally wrecked car. Sari had a vague memory of seeing the Black Ranger thrown, head first, out of a near by building and deep into the pavement. Leaving a long trench of chewed up stone and tar behind that she could quite clearly see.
Truth was the three Rangers weren't in any shape to fight back. and that was really bad news. They were surrounded by the Dark Rangers. Any one of them, on their own, were a problem. Together, and without Dawn, Sari didn't think they were a match even at full strength. Trying to pick herself up the Yellow Ranger felt a shadow fell over her, and whatever slim chance they might have had vanished.
It was the Warlord, giant sized again and towering over them. He wasn't covered in that strange darkness anymore, but that wasn't much of a comfort. He still looked like a giant walking pile of rusty black nails. Sari felt like she was going to get tetanus just looking at him.
If she could get tetanus that was.
"Oh boy, did this day just get worse?" Faith asked, Sari looked around to see her trying to shake some sense back into her own head.
With some effort Sari eventually stood up, which was more than Cassie could do. Even if her eyes were open they probably weren't seeing anything. Not with the way her head was rolling around, dazed was a good word for it. Faith stood too, with some help from the destroyed car, not taking her eyes off the giant Warlord.
"These three are mine!" he said in that fluttering, snapping voice of his. The four Dark Rangers and A'Zores looked at their leader. They seemed just as surprised as Sari that he was there and more than a little unhappy about it, but they still backed off.
"It certainly hasn't gotten any better." the Yellow Ranger tried to quip, she wasn't feeling up to it though. There were just too many ways in which this was bad. Out numbered, injured, one Ranger down for who knew how long, another that couldn't remember her own name right now and, if she was being honest, the Zords were still out of commission. There was no chance of taking one of the demons on, not all six.
If that wasn't enough The Warlord had already fatally wounded the DragonZord, none of their's had the punch alone. "Oliver." Faith said into her wristwatch, "If you've been holding out on us, with anything, now's the time."
"Faith!" Dr Oliver snapped, "It doesn't matter, get out of there!"
"Love to, can't." Sari said into her own radio. "We can't leave the city open to attack, not with the Warlord here!" That's what Dawn would have said, she was right. Running now would be losing.
"The Warlord?" Oliver sounded shocked as the spiky giant extended a hand. Flicking his fingers hundreds of black splinters exploded out.
They only had a fraction of a second to react. The pair of them leapt backwards, catching the car's side panel Sari pulled with all her strength. Faith did most of the work though, flipping the smashed car over and onto it's side. A barricade against the hail of black shards, it was only pure luck that saved them. "What's happening?" Oliver asked over the radio.
"Arn't you watching?" Faith hissed.
"Dawn… never mind I'll tell you later." He said, worrying Sari no end. "Holy… I see what you mean. I just hope…" he trailed off for a moment. "Yes, he's close enough. Faith, Sari; I'd like you to meet an old friend!"
There was a distant rumble, like the sound Bulkhead's armoured vehicle made over gravel, but a lot further away. Crushing something a lot bigger.
The Warlord lashed out again, another wave of splinters smashed into the car. One spike penetrated, exploding out not two inches from the still dazed Cassie's head. "Another one of those and we're goners." Faith hissed. Sari poked her head over their cover. The street was covered in six foot long spikes, like some demented forest of sticks. On the other side of the forest the five demons looked angry, ticked that their boss was trying to steal the victory from them.
The rumbling got louder, now Sari could tell where that was coming from. Off in the hills something was coming, she could only hope it was Dr Oliver's friend and not some other problem.
"What is it?" Faith asked standing up next to her.
"Big." Sari suggested.
It was big, and then some. The machine rumbled over the hill, it's long white neck high and proud. It was a cross between a Zord and a tank, two great forelegs pulled it over the rise as it rolled up. Reeling it's head back the Zord roared, getting everyones attention, even from a mile or more off.
"What?" The Warlord hissed in shock as the roaring Zord's eyes flashed red and it spat out an energy bolt. The blast struck the Warlord, knocking the giant back and sending parts of him falling to the ground. The Zord spat out another one as it rolled closer. Pulverising rocks and boulders as it made it's way down the hill
The Warlord got his arms in the way, cowering from the surprise attack. It was all the gap she needed. Sari still had her Blade Blaster, pulling it out and flipping it to laser mode she opened fire. Long ago, before she even heard of demons and the Warlord Prowl had shown her a trick; when fighting a larger opponent, find a weak spot. A hinge, a joint, somewhere where it's armour was the weakest.
The back of the knee, it was the perfect shot and she took it. A beam of yellow energy caught him completely by surprise. It wasn't much more than a bee-sting but in the right place. The Warlord fell to one knee, shocked as another, third, energy bolt from the Zord caught him full in the face.
It wasn't surprising that he shrunk back down to a more human size after that. His face burning, the scourge of multiple realities screamed out his orders. "Retreat!" With that he vanished into a portal.
Over the radio Dr Oliver cried out triumphantly. "Guy's I'd like you to meet Titanus, the Ultrazord."
She knew where she was. It had haunted her nightmares for so long it was like a second home to her. Glory's Tower. She just didn't know how she got there, or how Sunnydale had suddenly reappeared. It was a great view of the small town as it was, back before it collapsed into the sink hole.
Dawn struggled against the ropes holding her. They were a lot stronger than she remembered them, or was she weaker. "She'll be coming for you soon." Looking up she saw one of Glory's minions vanish and fought harder against the ropes. She couldn't escape though. Tied fast Dawn couldn't reach her morpher, if she still had it, dressed once again, barefoot, in the robes Glory had forced her into all those years ago.
She had to break free, escape and get back, some how, to the Command Centre. Her friends needed her, they were losing and it was all her fault. As if thinking about them was enough the three of them appeared far below her.
"We need you!" They all screamed up at her, but she couldn't do anything.
There was still one chance. "DragonZord!" Dawn called out desperately. Somewhere he roared, but it wasn't the triumphant cry it was supposed to be. There was something almost pathetic about it, tearing at Dawn's heart. She looked around and saw him. Helpless. The Zord was lying on it's side, broken and badly injured. "No" she cried out as a black cloud came from nowhere and swallowed the Zord up. Dragging it deep into the depths of the earth.
Below her came a horrible noise, she looked down and the other Rangers were swarmed under by countless numbers of demons. "No." she whispered again. She'd failed, they counted on her and she'd let them down.
"Shallow cuts." Dawn snapped her head up. It was Doc, in all his creepiness, standing right in front of her. Like he just materialised out of thin air, that same curved knife in his hand she remembered all too well. She felt the cold metal against her skin. Biting back a scream as it cut into her stomach.
Then as soon as he came Doc disappeared, leaving a bloody mark behind. "Dream, it's got to be…" Dawn muttered to herself desperately. The cut was gone, any moment now she'd wake up. Like any one of a hundred times before.
"A dream?" Came another voice, softly but so full of scorn. "I've always wondered; do monsters dream?"
Dawn's mouth was suddenly dry. The woman in front of her just tilted her head as if waiting for an answer. "Mom?"
Dawn's long dead mother glared back in disgust. "Mom? I'm not you're Mom. You're a thing, a changeling. Put in my house, my home. Stealing my love."
Dawn shook her head. "No, it wasn't my fault. I didn't…"
"Didn't mean it? Little Pumpkin Belly, that's your excuse? It doesn't change anything. How many have died because you didn't mean it? Hundreds, thousands? How many wars on how many worlds? You're a monster Dawn, a monster I raised."
"No, I'm not." Dawn tried to cover her ears, but she was still tied in place.
"Not a monster." she laughed cruelly, pulling at her hair the wig came off showing a chunk missing from her skull. Still bleeding. "This is what you're memory did to me! It was you, it was you that killed me!"
Dawn broke down, sobbing as she fell to her knees Dawn howled in agony. It was true, it had to be. The spell that put the memories of her in Joyce Summers's head had been rushed, it had a side effect. The tumour. It was her, always had been her.
Again Doc was there, his knife catching the starlight. "Shallow cuts." The cold metal bit into her skin, leaving the same long, scarlet, line. Deep red blood seeped between Dawn's toes, almost tickling her feet with it's warmth
"Don't feel bad mom." It was Buffy, her sister was there the same cruel smirk, standing next to the accusing Joyce. "She killed me too, back when I still thought of her as my sister."
"Help me, please." Dawn begged, Doc was gone for now, but he'd be back. She couldn't fight this. Not this. Not all on her own.
'Help you?' Buffy mocked. "Why should I ever help you. You killed our mother!" She screamed into Dawn's face. "Then you went and got yourself kidnapped by Glory and I had to die to save you. We all know how that ended."
Dawn shook her head, trying to block out the words. It didn't help. Just like before Buffy jumped. Falling all that way to the bottom, landing with a soft thud.
The hot tears were coming so fast now it felt like they were burning in Dawn's eyes. "Then they went and resurrected me." Her sister was back, hair wild and covered in dirt. As if she'd had to dig her way out of her grave all over again. "Tore me from heaven and put me back here. If you had just jumped they wouldn't have had to do that, would they?"
"No, no, no. Please, don't say it."
Buffy didn't listen, just leaned in closer, as if confiding in Dawn. "It was my resurrection that gave the First a chance to move. All those dead girls. Just think, if you'd jumped instead of me they'd still be alive." Buffy said in a wondrous tone, as if Dawn had planned it from the beginning. "All that death. Everything you touch, wherever you go you take it with you." She reached out and pushed Dawn's bangs away from her face, gently almost as if she was really there. "How do you sleep at night? Mom's right, you are a monster." There was no anger, no hated in her voice. Just that same breathless wonder.
As if she was in awe of it all, the shear scale of it. The death Dawn had caused simply by living. By being the Key. Dawn screamed helplessly, the truth hurting her more than any knife could.
A'Zores waited outside, the Warlord had completely taken over his camp now and barricaded himself inside, alone. The Converted General was left, having to face his hand picked Dark Rangers.
"It was his fault we lost today." His blue skinned Dark Ranger insisted, angrily. A'Zores was just as incensed, if not more, but he couldn't let it show.
His plan had worked, and worked well. The only disappointment was the end of a challenge. A'Zores had comforted himself in knowing that there would always be another. Then the Warlord strode in, looking for vengeance or just arrogance he didn't know.
If he hadn't they would have killed the Rangers already. This world would be his and A'Zores could move on to the next one. With it's own challenges and gains. it wouldn't do, it couldn't. "Perhaps the time is right after all."
"The Warlord has proven to be an obstacle. I have no doubt I'll soon be surplus to his requirements. I could either accept that, or remove that obstacle." He said aloud for the first time. A'Zores been debating that in the back of his mind for months.
It should have been unthinkable, it was the Warlord. Forgetting that he was their leader his shear power was terrifying. Or it should have been. He had forged the Dark Crystals at the heart of the Castles, his will was felt on countless worlds and he controlled countless more. It was said that even the Wolf, Ram and Heart feared him and that somewhere out there armies beyond description battled in his name.
Even more than that, the Crystal imprinted a worship of him into those it converted. A'Zores knew that he should sooner cut off his own head than even think this way. Another sign the Warlord was failing.
"Kill the Warlord." the talkative Dark Ranger said, stunned. "Or let him die?"
A'Zores frowned he could let the Rangers deal with him, but quickly realised that wouldn't work. Twice now he'd been injured and twice he fled before any serious harm could come to him. "I will not betray my Warlord." A'Zores admitted. "Not until he betrays us."
Faith was about ready to scream. It was one thing getting your butt kicked by five demons with tongues and claws, heck as a Slayer that was a normal working day but this? The crap just kept coming so thick and fast they were going to need a shovel. They were back in the Command Centre and as soon as they arrived they knew things with Dawn had gone from bad to worse.
"How did it happen?" Cassie asked, her voice very small. Faith winced as she looked down. Their team mate was all skin and bones, the Slayer had seen more meat on a supermodel.
Oliver tried not to look shaken and failed miserably. "She woke up while you were fighting and wanted to help…"
Faith grabbed the former Ranger by his jacket and picked him up "Help? Does a coma look like help to you?"
He looked her in the eye and Faith knew it was tearing him up just as much. After she put him down he finished talking. "She tried to morph, there was some sort of overload, I've never seen anything like it."
Sari looked between them. "What can we do?"
"Nothing." Cassie said in that same empty voice. "It's a coma, Dawn's as good as brain dead."
"No." Faith growled. "There has to be a way."
"We could talk to her." Sari suggested. "Can't people hear you when they're in a coma?"
"Won't do any good." Cassie told her. "Dawn might be able to hear us, but what then?" They didn't have an answer.
"Then talking won't be enough." Faith said grimly. "Damn it, we've got to do something. I'm not just going to stand here as Dee spends the next nine months like this."
"Hey," Sari suddenly snapped her fingers. "Coma. You were in a coma once. You said so. How did you get out?"
Faith blinked, hard, for a few moments. A very dangerous idea coming to her. "We're going to need help, the mystical kind of help. Guys, we're going on a trip.'