War Part III:- Triage. Chapter Three
POWER RANGERS :- Demon Wars
War, Part III:- Triage
This one was a pain to write. I've been up now for 27 hours straight, pounding away at this chapter when there was only a few paragraphs to go. It's gone through about six dozen rewrites, a gallon or two of tea, two DVD box sets and more creative cursing than even I'm comfortable with.
The problem had been tying this "episode" up with enough plot threads for later. It's a bit rushed in places and I'm not happy with the final out come, but Ce la Vie.
I've also included two bits lifted from Buffy season 5. It's mostly to help illustrate a few points here and there, and to show what's roaming about in Dawn's mind. I don't own those parts, nor do I own the characters used. I make no profit from their use and hope no one minds.
A'Zores jumped over the low swing and brought his scabbard down onto The Warlord's head. He wasn't fast enough as the slippery Pure Blood demon lent out of the way and took the blow on his shoulder.
Wincing the demon General felt his weapon pulled from his grip, caught between the oversized, half hidden, spikes. The Warlord chuckled. "You'll have to do better than that!"
Spinning around A'Zores delivered a snap roundhouse kick, this one did connect with the Warlord's face. Sending a handful of needle like splinters off to one side. Casting his sword to one side A'Zores plunged his hand into the darkness and grabbed the first solid thing he touched. Letting the spines dig into his bare right hand he held on tightly.
Charging his gauntlet the demon General repeatedly punched his former master in the face. The Warlord didn't bleed, just shed more tiny needles. Dancing sapphire tendrils skittering across the dark clouds.
The Warlord clawed at A'Zores's right arm, trying to break his vice like grip. Unlike the Warlord he did bleed. Warm blood dribbling between his fingers and down his arm. Pushing the pain to the back of his mind he tightened his grip. Punching again and again.
Either he was gripping too tightly, or The Warlord could break parts off from himself. Whatever it was The Warlord pulled away. Howling in pain A'Zores stumbled back, finally getting a good look at his ravaged hand. Before he could do anything about it though The Warlord, with a gesture, flung a wave of needles at him.
Most of them bounced off his gauntlet, but a few bit deep into A'Zores face. Snarling the General leapt up and dived for his sword again. The Warlord flung another wave, most missing, but a few caught him in the back of his leg. Rolling with the landing, he snatched up his sword and as soon as he got his feet under him A'Zores thrust it in mid air. Throwing it under arm, deep into The Warlord at the last second.
The thin rapier blade caught him by surprise. If he were anything close to human it would have been a killing blow, instead it just drove him back a few steps. For a moment the two of them just looked at each other.
Wounded, bleeding, A'Zores pulled out the spikes still embedded in his hand. "It's not too late." The Warlord ground out from what would be called a broken jaw on a human. "You, you can still ask me for forgiveness."
A'Zores suppressed a growl, that would be a cold day in hell. "I want my sword back."
Faith pounded up the Tower, shaking it with every step. Sari really wished she was lighter on her feet.
The techno-organic girl never liked heights, not without her jet pack, and the way bolts flew off with every step worried her. "I wish I had my jet pack." she muttered, chasing after the Slayer.
"Yeah, that would be cool." Cassie added as they ran. "So would a winged pegasus, come on!"
Nodding Sari picked up the pace, hoping they didn't get trapped in that loop thing again. It wasn't long before they made it to the top and she almost ran into the Black Ranger's back.
Dawn was there, looking a lot younger. She looked hurt and not just a little scared. Sari reached out, but her hand went through her teammate. "We're still in her memories." Cassie said. They were so close, but still so far.
The Green Ranger was standing there in a strange dress that didn't really fit and held her hand to her side, where Sari had seen her cut. In a blink of an eye her sister was there to, dressed in the same white top that they'd seen her in when she was falling from the sky. It was still night, but it felt different. Something was wrong, there was a strange light coming from below that was just too bright to be coming from a street lamp.
Sari looked over the edge and saw what it was. A portal, a rip in the universe. It looked like a shifting blob of light, something inside told her that it was wrong. It was unstable. From what she knew about Transwarp it shouldn't, couldn't last long. Not unless something was holding it open.
Blasts of light lanced out from the unstable portal. One hit a building not to far away and it became a demonic hive. Creatures with long white skulls and hideous grins clawed their way out. "Look at what's happening! You have to let me go." Dawn pleaded, drawing Sari's attention. "Blood starts it and until the blood stops flowing it will never stop! You know you have to let me. It has to have blood." Sari saw Cassie pale as she realised what they were saying.
Dawn was going to kill herself, she was still a kid in this memory and she was already going to sacrifice herself. Sari knew the Green Ranger had a traumatic past, but this?
Buffy blinked slowly before turning to look at the sky. A blood red sun boiled into the horizon and the two sisters realised something beyond Sari's understanding.
"Buffy… No." Dawn whispered again
Buffy smiled softly "Dawnie I have to."
Dawn, looking more terrified than Sari had ever seen before, shook her head "No!"
'Listen to me, please there's not a lot of time. Listen.' Buffy took Dawn by the arms as far below the portal grew bigger and bigger, more lightning bolts blasted out in all directions. "I love you, I will always love you. This is the work I have to do. Tell Giles I figured it out and I'm okay. Give my love to my friends, you have to take care of them now. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong, Dawn the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave, live, for me."
When she finished Dawn was crying, so was Sari and the others, but with that same sad smile Buffy pulled her close and kissed her on the cheek. In a heartbeat she was gone, swan-diving off the Tower and into the portal. Closing it as she kept falling. Landing far below.
Cassie held her breath, she knew Dawn had a rough past but seeing it was something else. She didn't understand what her best friend was doing, showing them all this but it did help her understand a bit better. She knew better than most how much something like this could hurt.
Dawn fell to her knees, crying and Cassie really couldn't blame her. "It should have been me. I should have jumped."
For a moment Cassie didn't realise she was talking to them "Dawn?"
"If I'd have jumped it never would have happened. None of it." she sobbed. "So much, too much. I should have jumped."
The three of them were at her side they could touch her and Cassie, for the first time since starting this whole thing actually thought they might have a chance. "What do you mean jump? Dee, that would have been the stupidest thing you could to."
"If I was just a bit faster, if I wasn't so scared." She might have been there, but she wasn't listening. "I could have saved them. I could have saved everyone."
"Alright, any time you want to make sense." Sari said
Cassie nodded. "Dawn, can you hear us."
"I let you down. All of you." The crying girl looked up. Her eyes were red raw, but she still hadn't stopped crying. "For so long I thought I could make it up. Pay back what I owed, all I ever did was make things worse. For you, for everyone."
Cassie glanced at Faith, but they were just as confused as she was. "Okay, we're only getting half the story here. What would have happened, if you had jumped?" She asked, almost hoping there wasn't an answer.
"It would never have happened. None of it would." Dawn reached out and grabbed her arm. "Buffy would never died, Willow would have gone evil, Tara wouldn't have been shot, the balance wouldn't have been broken, we wouldn't be Rangers and you'd be okay. You'd all be okay." Wild hope sprung in her eyes and Cassie held her breath. "If I had just jumped."
"Awe hell no." Faith swore, pulling back. "You're kidding me. You're freaking kidding me!"
"What?" Sari and Cassie said at the same time.
Faith looked shaken. "As I got it The First, the big bad evil that tried to kill all the Slayers, the one that destroyed Sunnydale. The way they figured it out it could only do that because of the spell that brought Bee back. If Dee had jumped they wouldn't have had to."
Cassie blinked as it came to her. "Holly hanna." If Dawn had jumped then this First thing couldn't have gotten free. Amanda and who knew how many others would still be alive. "It wasn't your fault." she said automatically.
"Cassie's right, you couldn't have known. No one did."
"Doesn't matter. I keep doing it. I keep causing problems, hurting people and then I can't… Others have to clean up after me. It's all my fault and I can't do anything about it. Then it happens all over again." Dawn broke down again.
Cassie patted her on the back. This was a nightmare, in more ways than one. It was stupid to think that it was all Dawn's fault, but she had somehow twisted everything to this one thing. It was like all the bad things that had happened in her life were a track of dominoes and she'd focused on this one thing. As if removing it would have stopped all the others from falling.
"You heard your sister, I guess we all did. It's living thats hard, you can't just give up." Sari told her.
"I've fought and fought until I can't fight anymore." Dawn admitted. Off in the distance the far buildings were beginning to disappear. "Every time I do I lose more. I'm nothing and all I do is bring so much pain."
Somebody else appeared, they were either a memory or something else but they looked like hell. Someone had used their face for a punching bag. Bloody, bruised and wrecked, who ever it was had suffered one hell of a beating. "Hey chin up platelet." They said in a thick British accent. "Maybe Glory doesn't want to kill you. Maybe..."
"It's something worse." Dawn cut him off.
The bleached blond man turned away, chewing a bruised lip. After a moment he turned back and reached out, as if to push a lock of her hair back. "You want to know what I'm scared of Spike? Me. Right now Glory thinks that Tara's the Key, but I'm the Key." Cassie bit back a gasp. "I am and anything that happens to Tara is because of me. You're bruises, you're lim. That's all me too. I'm like a lighting rod, for pain and hurt and everyone around me suffers and dies."
Dawn looked up, not seeing them. Only her friend. "I must be something so horrible to cause so much pain and evil." Spike wavered and vanished as Dawn collapsed into tears again.
Cassie's brain was running at a thousand lightyears a second. Dawn was the Key. The magical… thing Dr Oliver was looking for. She didn't know what that meant, for Dawn or the Key. "Okay, I think we can safely say Spike got the crap beaten out of him." Faith said.
"Because of me. Always because of me."
Cassie had to stop her, before she pulled up another memory that tore her apart emotionally. "No more, Dawn. Stop and listen to me. Right. That's enough. What's happened has happened. We can't change it, even with all the power in the world."
"We can stop it though." Dawn said, that same terrible hope in her face. "I can stop it. I mean we're all in my head right? I'm dying, at long long last its over. It's over."
"Don't think that way, don't say that." Cassie burst out.
"You're not going to chicken out on us now, are you Dee?"
"Yeah, we need you." Sari added. "These two can't agree on anything without you."
Dawn shook her head. By now all the buildings were gone and the three of them were kneeling on the Tower as if it was the whole world. "Don't you see, I tried. I tried and it killed me. I can't morph, can't fight. I don't think I can stand, I'm no good to you but I can get out of the way. I can save you all one last time."
"For crying out loud." Cassie exploded, slapping Dawn across the face. "How about us? We just crawled our way through the same hell in you're memories because we care about you. You're one of my best friends and I'm not going to let you just give up."
"Me nether." Sari agreed
"That's right." Faith nodded. "You want to go down you're going to have to take us with you and I don't really like that idea."
"There's nothing left." Dawn closed her eyes for a second and began to sway from side to side. "I pushed and I pushed. There's nothing left."
"There's got to be something." Cassie said desperately. "Marcus, what about Marcus. What to we tell him, that it was easier for you to die than fight."
A phantom of a smile tugged at the corner of Dawn's mouth. "I did try."
"I can't, don't you see? Whatever I do it just gets worse. The fights, the pain. Everything just gets worse." She pleaded. As she spoke it was getting harder and harder to see, as if whatever was lighting up the Tower was slowly going itself. "This is the only way. If you're going to go, go now."
Cassie felt a chill settle into her bones, or the closest thing she had to bones here. Without knowing how she knew, she simply knew this was a close as she wanted to get to dying. No heavenly light, no angles just a dark chill and that feeling you got standing on the edge of a cliff. The one that made you want to jump, even though every sense screamed at you not to.
Then, out of the darkness and the cold a soft blue glow, like a tiny spark of light, came out of nowhere; "That's enough Dawn. Go back."
It was a woman's voice that sounded like it came from far away, even though it wasn't that loud. "Who?" Dawn asked before anyone else could.
Slowly, almost gently, something else appeared. It took Cassie a moment to understand what she was seeing. It didn't quite seem complete, like little parts missing. Either because they couldn't be remembered or they just weren't important. The four of them were in a small living room in a house somewhere.
"Where are we?" Sari asked.
"Her old home." Faith said, nodding to Dawn. "And that couldn't have been who I thought it was. I mean really couldn't."
"Why not." The same voice asked. The Rangers spun to see a middle aged woman with blonde hair and a soft smile standing there.
"Mrs S?" Faith said in shock as the woman wavered slightly. "How, I mean, how?"
Dawn's mother laughed lightly. "Let's say you're all close enough and there are some people on my side that can help." She looked out of the window and what looked like a blue glow crept in. "It's good to see you again Faith and it's good to see you've made the right choices."
Cassie had to remember to close her mouth, it wasn't possible, it just couldn't be. She was dead, her side of what? Death, Life or both "Mom." Dawn said again. "I'm, I'm…"
"Oh Dawn, I never wanted you to find out, I knew how it would make you feel." Mrs Summers told her. "It was never your fault, and I never blamed you. You've kept all this pain bottled up and carried it for too long and now it's killing you. You're so much like you're sister, but now you have to let it go."
"But it was my fault, wasn't it." Cassie didn't know what she was getting at, but if Dawn had somehow twisted her own mothers death into her fault it was no wonder she was suicidal. "Please, I'm so sorry."
"No, you don't have to be. Dawn it doesn't matter how you came into my life, you were still my child, my youngest. I'm your mother and it's up to me to do everything I can to protect you and guide. I did the best that I could. All the things you've done since then I couldn't be prouder. Those memories are yours as much as mine, they helped make you into the young woman you are today." Mrs Summers wavered again, so did the house. "I wish I had longer. I love you, and I always will."
The soft blue light outside the window seemed to glow brighter for a moment and another, different voice, whispered into the room. "Time is of the essence, I cannot hold on much longer." The voice was deep, and somehow almost English, but not quite. More like it was precise. Spoken carefully so each lette sounded exactly right.
"Don't go." Dawn almost begged.
"I'm sorry, but you can't follow. Maybe one day, but not now." Mrs Summers began to fade completely. "Oh and Cassandra; I have a message for you. From your mothers. They are proud of you, both of them, Just as I am of Dawn. Thank you for looking out for her."
Unable to speak Cassie just nodded.
As Dawn's mother vanished the blue light outside pulsed again. "That is all I can do." The deep voice said, "Go now Rangers, return to the waking world and always remember; may the power protect you."
A'Zores hopped up and delivered a side kick, as high as his coat would let him, straight into the hilt of his sword. Driving the blade all the way through his former master and out the other side. Taking chunks of needles with it, more fell out, like pieces of metal falling from a broken crane. A'Zores guessed it was the closest thing they had to bleeding.
A good uppercut caught the Warlord while he was still reeling from the kick. Spinning A'Zores delivered an elbow to the side of his head and then threw himself shoulder first into the pure blood demon.
This wasn't fighting, it was brawling. Down and dirty where size and weight mattered. A'Zores wasn't as tall but he was better built. Stronger and was still supremely angry. All the effort, all the destruction he'd fought for to elevate this coward that couldn't even fight back. Ignoring common sense he plunged his fist into the gaping hole left by the sword and pulled out spikes by the handful.
Throwing them away he was literally tearing him apart. "No! Stop!" Pleaded the Warlord. A'Zores reeled back and head-butted him, in the burnt scar on his already ruined face. Something gave deep inside what passed for his skull and the Warlord fell, life less to the floor.
He was faking it. A'Zores knew it and wasn't going to fall for it. He broke off and retrieved his sword, shaking the spikes free from it he clutched it in his left, gauntleted, hand. His right was ruined, it would take weeks to heal and a lot of pain to set it right.
Charging with lightning he walked back to the Warlord slowly. "You can still kneel. Face me, at least salvage that much honour."
He didn't move.
"I know you're faking it. You're not that good of an actor. Face me."
The Warlord's single remaining eye opened. "I will not give you the satisfaction."
"All the satisfaction I need will come from killing you." A'Zores admitted.
"And then you take my empire?" He laughed, a short and brutal sound that ended in a wracking cough. "The other Generals won't let you."
He shook his head. "I don't want your empire. Your insane ambition ends now Warlord, the empire is no more."
"Then, then why?" he asked.
A'Zores gave him a tight grin "Because you missed the point. Your ambition is blind, you can't see that there is no end to it. The goal isn't how much we can take or how wide cut a swathe through existence. It's the challenge. These Rangers are the challenge now."
"I should have known, Converted. You don't understand." The Warlord did rise slowly. The few strands of darkness left becoming deeper, as if he was drawing on his very last reserves.
"I do understand. Power for the sake of power is all you Pure Blood's know. It's a circular argument, I chose a different way. I chose for me and those like me." A'Zores raised his sword, increasing the charge. "It's called Evolution, Warlord. Welcome to revolution." He brought the sword down in a straight line. Carving the Warlord the neck to armpit, there was some resistance, but not enough to stop it going all the way through.
Worse than the bisection though was the titanic charge he released halfway through. The thunderous detonation blew even A'Zores off his feet and echoed off the canyon walls. High above even the clouds flinched as the once great Warlord shuddered and completely collapsed.
Plucking his sheath from out of the sky with his broken hand. A'Zores grimaced before sheathing his weapon. The four Dark Rangers took a step forward. "We've won." A'Zores said knowing what it sounded like, but he'd wasted enough time. "Now for the real Challenge. You," he pointed at one of them at random. "We have another problem, the Rangers enjoy bringing surprises at the last minute and I am concerned that the Green one might still be a threat."
Taking a deep breath he produced one of his Crystal Balls. "I do not know her identity, but I do know her face. Find this woman." He projected the memory he had of her face. "If she lives, change that. You'll find her, one way or another, through this human." He changed the image to that of himself, younger and fully human. "Kill him if you must, but not until you know her fate."