Epilogue - Looking Forward...
Disclaimer -- I own nothing of Star Wars or the Buffyverse. Those are the separate properties of George Lucas and Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy respectively. I just own this story, please don't sue me....thanks.SITUATION ROOM, WATCHER'S COUNCIL INTERIM HEADQUARTERS, CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (LOCATION CLASSIFIED)
Buffy stood before a mirror that had been brought into the Situation Room and regarded her new appearance. She was so different now. Over half of her body was now machine, yet somehow she had retained her Slayer abilities in their full measure. The consequence of this was that now her strength, her speed, her reaction time had now been increased manifold. She was having trouble getting used to the new prosthetics, to the idea that her arms and legs, along with many of her sensory organs, were now artificial. It was unsettling, and she had to be frequently monitored to ensure that she didn't give into frustration and have another violent episode. The damage done to her by Dawn --NO,
she reminded herself. The Sith. My sister is dead.
--done to her by the Sith that wore the face of her dead sister had been tremendous. Not only physical damage was done, but the damage to her soul was irreparable. Giles and Xander had -- very reluctantly, she marked -- played back the video of the Slayer Command massacre, in every terrible, heartwrenching detail. If Buffy could have vomited now, she was sure she would have. Again and again. She was sure she had heard Xander puking his guts out for the tenth time today from all the way down the hall in the toilet. Her new auditory implants had to take some getting used to, since she could no longer hear sound like she did before her "transformation". Sounds had to be translated directly into neural impulses and piped straight into the brain, meaning they seemed to her like her own thoughts, like they didn't seem real.
A lot didn't seem real anymore.
The Sith weren't supposed to be real, yet her best friends in the entire world and her sister had turned their backs on all that was good and decent, had embraced evil, deceived them all and annihilated her troops and her friends while she was being watched over by the PTB. They had caused a lot of very real destruction and death in the past weeks.
Her appearance was never meant to be real, yet here she stood, looking into a mirror at a VERY real female version of Darth Vader sans cape and lightsaber.
Which, by the way, was never meant to be real, yet she had to sit and watch a twisted facsimile of her sister wade through the Slayer Command HQ slaughtering everyone with a VERY FUCKING REAL
lightsaber, then facing off with Faith in an honest to God LIGHTSABER FIGHT
, which that fucking Sith bitch won.
And then she had to sit and watch WILLOW show up to watch and smile as the Sith that looked like her dead sister murdered Faith in cold blood. But it wasn't Willow. It was another Sith that wore Willow's face.
Two Sith, just like the movies. A Master and an Apprentice.
And the PTB had told her in limbo that these two, her sister and her friend, were more powerful than the First Evil could have ever been! How do you fight something like THAT?!
She was not five minutes into her reflection when she heard an "ahem" from behind her. She turned swiftly around to face this new sound...
To look into the face of her Watcher.
Giles took in the armor, the mask, the black leather gloves and boots with nothing more than a slight shake of the head. "Buffy," he said at length with a lopsided, yet warm grin, "this is definitely going to take some getting used to. How are you dealing with this?"
"Slowly. Huh," she said, still not used to her new, deepened artificial voice. "I sound like that wrestler lady from the WWF."
"I do believe that would be Xander's frame of reference instead of mine. He could help you deal with that part far better than I could, I fear. And so far as I remember, that particular organization changed their name to World Wrestling Entertainment, so it would then be called the WWE now," Giles replied with a slight chuckle to himself for the irony of it. "Didn't want to be confused with the World Wildlife Fund in legal matters, and so there we are."
"And here we
are, Giles, in the middle of the worst mess the world has ever been in since the Spanish Inquisition," Buffy reminded him. "I'm only going to say one thing about that, though. When it comes to these 'ADAM troopers' as you call them, it's duty, like slaying vampires and demons. But," and she raised her finger to point it squarely at Giles' chest, "if I ever run into these Sith, fuck duty. I will drop everything and commence to murdering those uberbitches for what they did to us, and believe me, I intend to take a very
long time doing it. Got that?"
The mask betrayed no emotion, but Giles could feel the barely suppressed rage, the heartbreak, the lust for vengeance rolling off his Slayer in waves. And it had nothing to do with the body language she was using, either. Rather, Giles had realized at some level that he had retained some measure of sensitivity to the energy flow of the magicks, from when he had been empowered by the Coven to bring Willow to heel the first time, in Sunnydale. He had no idea now Buffy was going to do if she ran into her former friend and her sister now, in her state of mind. Most likely she would charge them and attempt to use close quarters combat, and she would get herself killed quickly and painfully.
And that wasn't even the worst case scenario.
He had to get her to talk. Listening to Buffy just now brought Giles to another realization. For Buffy to regain her confidence in her skill as a Slayer, but mostly for her to begin to cope with the changes she had been made to endure, she had to get the words out. She could not be retrained until she was made whole again.
"Do you want to talk about that? I understand if you don't want to right now," he queried, "but sooner or later you are going to have to deal with this, work through the feelings and sort them out, because if you go after the Sith with all that anger and hurt built up within you, it's going to distract you, and distraction means death when the Sith are involved."
"What's there to talk about, Giles?" she countered. "They murdered everyone
I care about, they almost killed me, they would have killed you too if you, Xander, Angel and Spike hadn't gotten out of there when you did. I. Want. Revenge.
And anyone who doesn't understand that had better not find themselves in my way when I find those two." Buffy stepped closer to Giles then, until they were nearly nose to masked nose. Giles still was not used to Buffy being able now to look him straight in the eyes without tilting her head upwards. And even more unsettling were the black eyelenses in the mask she wore now. They told nothing, revealed nothing. They were empty, blank, but they stared into his eyes, straight into his soul. He shuddered inwardly but stood his ground when she continued speaking. "I promise you, I will find them. And you can either help me or walk away. There will be no third choice."
"What do you know about the Sith, Bufffy?"
"They're evil like nothing in the world ever was. They destroyed my world, and yours too. And I will kill them. That's all I need to know. All I want
to know. That's enough for me."
"Vengeance," Giles said, slowly shaking his head, as though she had confirmed his worst fears. "That's what you want. And you've earned every right to vengeance against them, there's no denying that. Answer me this, though...is vengeance going to help you win this war? Is vengeance going to help the rest of the world? Buffy, these are questions that I think you should take the time to ask, they might help you to stay alive when you finally do encounter them."
For a long moment Buffy said nothing. They continued to stare each other down, neither one looking away or daring the other to do the same. The contest continued for a good minute without a clear victor. The unstoppable force had met the immovable object, but the force was under conscious control here, and the object was immovable by choice, so it was a matter of time before one of them had to give way. Finally Buffy conceded defeat and turned away to walk to the other side of the command center. She leaned against the main display for almost as long as it took for her to end the staredown with her Watcher.
At length she looked up and fixed Giles with a gaze that, though that metal mask she wore hid her expression well, broadcast her curiosity like a bullhorn. "You don't have the answers I need, do you?" she finally asked.
"I know a little from what Xander told me," he said as he walked toward the nearest chair and seated himself. As she regarded him, information appeared in the heads-up display that had become as much a part of her sight as the sickly, angry red hue that had impregnated her whole world. Sensors in her mask took readings of his sweat secretions, the lines of his face, respiration, body heat, heart rate, and formed a picture for her to consider. He was exhausted, so terribly exhausted, physically and emotionally. He sighed, and continued, with difficulty. "They've modeled themselves after the Sith from 'Star Wars.' One Master, one apprentice. Their power is vast beyond description, and they are practically the ultimate terrorists, with designs on global domination. And like the Sith from 'Star Wars,' there are only two of them. As to whether our Sith might adhere to the Rule of Two or not remains a mystery. What their new identities are we can only guess."
When Buffy replied, her voice was level and calm, but the words gave voice to her pain, her rage, the heartbreak and the terrible, deep wound in her heart. "I would very much like to know what they're calling themselves now," said Buffy. "Let's not mince words here, Rupert. I saw as much in the Groom Lake HQ footage. I know the meaning of the word, what it represents. And those fucking monsters
killed my sister, one of my best and most powerful friends, and everyone else that I have known, loved, and led into battle more times than I care to count. I want to know their names so I know who I'm killing. So I can look into their faces and not see my dead family. It'll cause me to choke and get killed. That make sense to you?"
Her Watcher fixed the eyelenses in her mask with a stern expression. His fear for her was growing worse with every word that came from the speaker in her mask. He had clearly not been getting through to her, and it was time to lay it out in front of her, the whole terrible price for her vengeance. She needed to know NOW.
"In more ways than I like to hear, young lady. Another thing I learned about the Sith from listening to Xander." He paused to let the suspense build before he continued. Its effect was not lost on Buffy. He leaned forward and continued speaking. "The Sith from 'Star Wars' used what was called the Dark Side of the Force. Essentially the same energy field that the Jedi used and felt in order to access their power, through their feelings, their emotions. But where the Jedi and the Sith differed was the use of that same Force. The Jedi used the Force only when absolutely necessary, any major expenditure of the energy in that field created a disturbance, and they strove to keep the Force in balance and harmony. Whereas the Sith sought to tip the balance of the Force in their favor and use its power to put themselves in positions of authority and influence. And to access that power, they gave into their base emotions. Greed, lust, envy, fear. Anger, hatred," and here he looked his charge squarely in the eyelenses, "....vengeance. Follow me so far?"
This brought Buffy up short. Giles had brought up a very important point. She suddenly realized she could not kill the Sith.
She was the Slayer, born with superpowers of her own that would not be denied unless she were to be killed outright. Last of a long line of demon fighters the essence of whose powers was derived from a demon itself. The first Slayer had been imbued with the demon's essence and bound to its power through a magickal ritual.
Magicks. A more slippery slope now than Buffy had ever known it to be. And the Sith had given themselves over to evil and malice to fully embrace their power. And it suddenly made sense why she couldn't strike against them. Killing humans went against the laws of nature and of man. It required a degree of aggression to be efffective, and Giles had just mentioned that aggression was one of the baser emotions that granted access to the Dark Side. If she allowed herself to strike out against the Sith, against either one of them, then she'd become no better than they were, willing to spill blood, human blood, to advance their goals.
"I can't kill them," she said at length, more to herself than to answer Giles' question. "Or I'll become them. Won't I?"
He had to answer this. Though the answer would be everything he had hoped to never hear, let alone utter himself. Though the words would tear his heart to pieces and burn them. Though he would want to kill himself for saying them. It had to be said. Was there really a choice?
After all, when he weighed his wish to have Willow and Dawn back in the fold, returned from their sojourn in the dark against the needs of seven billion human beings, when all he wanted was to wake up from this nightmare, the choice was clear. His wants versus saving the world from the Sith.
"Actually, Buffy," he responded, "they must
be killed, what we cannot do is to strike in anger or any desire for vengeance. They would feel our presence when we got close, and our thirst for their blood would feed their powers, so no. Instead, we would have to look at the sorrowful deed as a sorrowful duty. Terrible, but necessary. And absolutely so if we intend to redress our own grievances. Which brings me to the reason for interrupting you while you were regarding your new self in the mirror."
"I wanted to inform you that we intend to start your training with the new weapons we acquired while we were waiting for you to come back to us. I think you'll like them. You might even decide to give up Mr. Pointy," he offered.
A slight tilt of Buffy's helmeted head suggested that she didn't quite understand what he meant to say.
"...or not...but just have a look at these when you come down to the arms room."
********VICINITY OF COVEN MANSION OF THE MASTERS OF THE WICCAN ORDER, NEAR DEVON, ENGLAND (LOCATION CLASSIFIED)
The task was done. The way was cleared, and now Darth Vastia stood just within the treeline and watched the mansion of the now fallen Wicca Masters burn to the ground. The burning house, the flames were suddenly symbolic to her in a way that nothing before had ever been, for the scene represented the final ties to what remained of her former existence. Now the memory of Dawn Summers, of who she was or had ever been felt like nothing but a long forgotten dream. She had cast aside the last vestiges of the weak Watcher Apprentice and become what she knew in her heart she had always been. She was Darth Vastia, a Dark Lord of the Sith apprenticed to Darth Hera, Master of the Sith and her mentor in the ways of power. It could never have been otherwise.
She had always
been Darth Vastia. It was Dawn Summers who had had a mother, a sister. Vastia had only ever had no mother, no other family but her Master. There was no equal to her Master's skill, her power, save herself. Hera had nurtured her power, taught her lessons meant to increase her power and her understanding of that power. Hera had cultivated it as she would have a beautiful, dark, and deadly flower, a flower that now was on the verge of blooming. And now that they had crushed their greatest and most powerful enemies beneath their booted feet, the true education of Darth Vastia could begin. The real work would commence with the next phase in their master plan.
It brought to Vastia's mind one of the stories that she had read in an obscure session online, away from the prying eyes of her Master. A story from the Star Wars mythos.
The Rule of Two.
According to the story, many centuries in the past, the Sith once numbered in the thousands. But their individual lust for power had led continually to infighting and treachery among the lesser Sith, who constantly sought to undermine their Masters and each other in their quest for ultimate power and rulership. That infighting had whittled their numbers and kept them weakened, unable to realize the true potential of the dark side and forever at the mercy of their ancient enemies, the Jedi Order. And then one day a great battle took place among the vast armies of both the Sith and the Jedi, a battle that had ended with the detonation of a terrible weapon that ended the lives of every Sith and Jedi combatant there, save two.
The sole surviving Sith Lord had called himself Darth Bane, and it was he who had suggested the idea for the great weapon that took the lives of all who had fought that campaign. After all, it was ultimately his idea to begin with, the result of a revelation he had had in his studies of the dark side and the Sith among whose company he had counted himself.
The Sith would forever be weak, unworthy of the dark side's awesome power, unless they reduced their number to exactly two. Any more than that, and they would dethrone the current Master and then turn on each other, destroying themselves and rendering the Sith extinct.
And if only one Sith existed at all, and did not pass on his or her knowledge and power to another, then old age would take its toll, and the knowledge of the Sith would die and be lost forever.
Thus the Rule of Two. Two Sith, never any more nor any less, a Master to embody the power, and an Apprentice to crave it. The Rule that would save the Sith Order and perpetuate them until the day when they could take their revenge on the Jedi and secure their place as the rightful rulers of the galaxy.
And so Darth Bane, upon encountering the only other survivor of that fateful conflict and seeing the spark of the dark side within her, retreated with her into obscurity, teaching her the dark ways and cultivating her lust for power until the day when she would challenge him for the right to Mastery and lordship. Eventually, she, Darth Zannah, emerged from that fatal struggle and passed on her knowledge and skills to her own apprentice. The cycle began anew and perpetuated itself for a thousand years and more. The Rule of Two had brought the Sith back from the brink of oblivion.
Blinking herself back to reality, Darth Vastia decided that she would return to her own Master. She would sit at the feet of Darth Hera and learn the lessons, take the knowledge and wisdom her Master had to offer, and advance the great plan that would lead them both to become sole rulers of the world. And while Hera was putting her plans into action, she, Vastia, would make her own plans.
Looking into the future, she saw clearly the scene playing out before her eyes. Hera speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee in her guise of Willow Rosenberg. American soldiers returning home from the fatiguing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The clone army establishing its reputation as the superior breed of soldier in the world. Opponents of the clones' deployment turning up missing or dead in strange, yet plausible accidents, easily deniable in the face of questioning by law enforcement. A special breed of clone infiltrators deploying suitcase nukes in the various capitals of the world. Darth Hera, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, declaring the start of her reign as Empress with the arbitrary nuclear destruction of a preselected capital city. Vastia hunting down the last survivors of Groom Lake one by one until the last fell before her blade.
She saw herself standing before her Master, watching Hera fall to the floor from a lightsaber thrust through her heart, her own hand holding the deadly implement. Declaring herself the heir to Hera and selecting her own apprentice. Ruling the Empire and shaping the destiny of the world as she saw fit, with the power of the dark side to guide her and her apprentice to enforce her will among the people. The Rule of Two would perpetuate the rule of the Sith for eternity. She was going to enjoy this immensely.
Just as quickly as it had come, the vision left her, and Vastia was left with a feeling of dark joy and terrible purpose. She enjoyed watching the pitiful efforts of the British emergency personnel as they fought the flames. Their efforts, while valiant at first, had quickly grown stale as they realized how powerless they were against the conflagration that had already consumed more than half the structure. The remnant of the Wicca Masters' mansion was losing its integrity in the face of the advancing flames. It soon fell in upon itself, and there was naught left for the firefighters to do but keep the blaze from spreading into the surrounding forest.Fools,
she thought. It was another part of her vision. The vast multitudes of humanity realizing that their shortsightedness had blinded them to what had been transpiring as Darth Hera announced the formation of her Empire. Realizing that it was already too late. It had always been too late. She watched the flames and saw the last vestiges of the old world burning away, her old self fading more and more until the memory of Dawn Summers had become as ephemeral and evanescent as a morning mist under a noontime summer sun.
********SECURE SECTION, WATCHERS COUNCIL INTERIM HQ, NEAR CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (LOCATION CLASSIFIED)
Buffy passed through the last of three security checkpoints, with only her appearance clearing her for entry since she could no longer provide a handprint or a retinal scan. And even if they hadn't been previously instructed to grant her clearance on sight, her appearance alone, the black metal with gold trim, the black leather gloves and boots, the black metal mask and helmet, would have been enough to give the security officers pause. But the sounds of her voice and of her mechanical breathing were more than unsettling. They were quite ready to step quickly out of her way.
People were afraid of her.
It was a testament to her changed reality, a brutal reminder of what had transpired in the past weeks. The incessant sound of her breath, outside of her control. The agony that accompanied it. The unabating anger, the grief at the loss of thousands under her command and the dearest friends she had known. And before she knew it, she was on the verge of another violent breakdown. It took Giles and Xander together to keep her from giving in and destroying everything around her. She already had to chalk up two human deaths due to her first outburst upon discovering she had been changed against her will into a cyborg.Cyborg
. Not robot.
She was still a living being, although more than half of her now was machine. And she still had to come to terms with what amounted to a terrible betrayal. She had received the worst wound upon the first revelation. She was not whole, not by any stretch of the imagination, and she knew it. What made it worse was the fact that the friends she had remaining to her, the closest of what remained of her inner circle, had to deal with their own grief while making an attempt to put back together the pieces of her shattered heart.
She passed through the heavy steel door to the vault that kept secret the most advanced research of the Watchers Council and the now-defunct Slayer Command. Giles had told her along the way that it was nothing short of a miracle that kept the technology within that chamber from falling into the hands of the Sith and their clone soldiers. Xander had had a hand in the development of this technology, and Willow...
A fresh surge of rage welled up within the Slayer like a volcano. She had to stop herself short of finishing that thought before she erupted - to risk a mental breakdown here would set them all back who knew how many years and possibly millions of dollars worth of New Zealand currency while those fucking Sith kept plugging away at what could only be designs on a hostile takeover. She had to remind herself that Willow and Dawn were both dead.
Their faces were now the faces of her enemy.
She was still struggling with containing her anger when Giles came up beside her.
"The stuff in here is amazing, but... all I can see is the work of a dead friend," Buffy replied in an equally dead voice.
"Not entirely true, my lor--I mean, Buff." Xander had shown up with him, and she had not been aware of it, so consumed with anguish as she was. "Sorry," Xander said. "Seeing you in that suit makes me wanna roleplay."
"Hmph," Buffy snorted. "Maybe I should pinch the air with my fingers, and say I find your lack of faith disturbing. Would you roleplay a choking officer?" Her eyes locked onto Xander's, and though he could not see them through the visage of Darth Vader, he swore to himself she was staring daggers at him.
"Uh...why don't I just show you what we've been able to replicate from Groom Lake?" he corrected himself.
"Better." They made their way through the racks of firearms and crates of ordnance, everything customized to carry a variety of combat loads. These weapons and their supported ammunition could kill everything from vampires to Turok-han to werewolves and humans. But the trio of Scoobies passed them all to approach yet another door.
Buffy looked at Giles and Xander in expectation of something. Giles, in reply, simply said, "Just tell it to open. It responds to voice commands." She then turned to the door and leaned into the microphone embedded in its center at face level.
"Open the door," she said. Instantly the lock disengaged with a series of clicks, and the door slid open silently. Within was blackness.
"It won't light up until you enter, Buffy," said Xander. "I designed that especially for you."
"For me?" she replied skeptically.
"Mm-hmm." Xander extended his arm, palm up in an offer to her. "Ladies first."
A growl escaped the voicebox in her mask as she turned to face him. The sound sent a chill up his spine, and Buffy had to stop herself short. "Hmph," she snorted derisively, then turned and walked toward the open door and the void within, the impact of her boot heels echoing ominously.
As he stated, she had to step into the blackness of the special room. She had not taken more than five paces when the first of the overhead lights activated. In sequence, they turned themselves on, each one further into the void than the last, until the last light turned on over a pedestal. Atop the pedestal rested a charging base resembling that of an industrial power tool. The black cylindrical device plugged into it was about seventy centimeters long, wide at both ends and studded with small buttons and dials. A gold button was placed near each end, which featured a thumb-sized aperture. The seams that suggested where the device had been assembled were covered in gold trim.
Buffy turned to her friends and stared at Xander. "You're kidding me, right?"
"Go ahead and pick it up. It's yours." Giles nodded his head at Xander's reply.
She reached out to take the device in her hand. She turned it over, carefully noting the position of each button, each dial. She noticed one dial had settings of "Safe", "1", and "2". She looked at Xander quizzically, showing no hint of emotion in the mask. The device had begun to feel warm and strong in her hand. This is a weapon,
"Set the dial to '1,' then press either one of the gold buttons and watch the magic happen."
She did as Xander instructed, and nearly dropped the weapon when a three-foot tongue of blue plasma emerged from the aperture at the closest end and froze.
Buffy turned her head to face her friends, and the deep artificial voice betrayed her surprise more than anything else had ever done.
"It's a lightsaber," she said to Xander.
"Yours," he responded, nodding his head slowly.
," she repeated, more strongly. The hum of the energy blade pervaded every corner of the room, and Buffy responded by turning off the weapon.
"Come with us, Buffy. We'll show you where you can start retraining," said Giles. They turned to leave and stepped outside into the corridor, then waited. After a moment, Buffy followed.
Twists and turns abounded here. This was not the Groom Lake complex, where everything was clean, simple and orderly. Here everything was made to look organic, grown, as though the place were a life form in and of itself. For a time Buffy thought she would become lost in the maze of this place, but at length they came to a set of double doors. Within was a blank room, barely lit. Giles entered a sequence on the keypad beside the doors, and they slid open with a hiss.
The Slayer did not comprehend. There should be equipment here, training dummies, weapons, and other equipment to help her hone her skills and increase her chances of fulfilling the mission.
Suddenly an image appeared in front of her, a series of options in a drop down menu in her mask's head-up display. She focused on one part of her menu, and a highlight bar appeared over it. Whatever she focused on with her eyes became highlighted. And now her head-up display was asking her to access the central database and floorplan.
She looked at the word [yes]
and the image changed. An overlay now appeared with a blinking white dot indicating her position. She focused on the dot, and the overlay zoomed in to show only the room in which she was standing. The label in the middle read [training room]
"Where's all the equipment, guys?" Buffy asked. "My schematic says this is the training room but I don't see anything here."
In response, Giles strode over to the keypad on the wall inside the room. He input a lengthy sequence of commands, then leaned against the wall.
Suddenly out of the darkness someone appeared. Black against black at first, then the form began to take more specific shape. A black cloak with hood, voluminous sleeves and a hem that nearly swept the floor when the image stepped toward Buffy. It lifted its hand and reached inside its robe, then suddenly charged at her igniting a scarlet blade and--
Buffy had scarcely moved when the image simply...stopped...the instant before its weapon, another lightsaber by the look of it, would have cleaved her down the middle. She looked at the frozen opponent, trapped in mid-charge as if in ice, then regarded Giles and Xander with a moment of confusion. "What's going on here?" she asked them both.
"Holographic," Giles answered. "Designed to emulate a variety of opponent types, from demon to vampire to human. Programmed to respond to your every strategy and develop their own counters to your moves. Forces you to think on your feet, to continually adapt your own strategy in response to theirs, so you don't let yourself get stale."
"Why does this one have a lightsaber? You trying to piss me the fuck off?!" spoke Buffy.
Xander raised his own voice in turn to her withering critique of her friends' choice of her first training opponent. "Yeah, maybe we are! Maybe we're pushing you to your limit first time at bat, ya know?" At the sound of Buffy's quickened mechanical breathing, Xander sobered a bit, softened his tone. It would not do for one of the few friends he had left in the world to turn on him in anger. "You know, I get how you feel. Those were my
friends too in there. But despite your feelings we have to throw you in feet first. This isn't the same war we fought in Sunnydale and elsewhere around the world. Maybe you haven't noticed, but even though they're human, and only two, they're more dangerous than a whole army
of ubervamps. You're going to have to get that through your head if you want to learn how to fight the Sith."
"You'll spend a few hours in here each day, you'll get to know the layout of this floor quite intimately. Several more hours will be spent with a trauma recovery specialist to help you come to terms with all that's happened to us, to you especially," said Giles. "Your personal healing is important in the scheme of things, given the stakes. Your emotional state while training in here will be evaluated by someone I will have previously hand picked. You'll discuss your training sessions with the therapist afterwards."
"Another thing you'll need to learn when you face the Sith in battle," said Xander. "Magicks. You're going to have to know the magick arts to deal with their powers. Hold on," he said after an alert sounded on his smartphone. He opened the email application, and almost immediately his face slackened in shock. "Giles, there's some breaking news out of Devon. A mass murder has apparently been committed in a mansion on the outskirts of the town. They found five bodies, all female, burnt to a crisp and showing signs of having been killed before the mansion was torched. I think the Masters have been annihilated," he said. The horror in his voice was unmistakeable.
"The Sith," was all Giles had to say. "This is their doing, it's clear from the description." He opened the email app on his own smartphone and read the alert. He tapped the screen to get the full article, then read carefully. "Multiple signs of struggle...asphyxiation, crushed larynx, no fingerprints save the victims' own...decapitation, torsos pierced completely through...cuts cauterized instantly."
"Lightsabered," said Xander almost immediately.
"There's more," interrupted Giles. He read on. "One victim seems to have been exposed to a massive electrical discharge, no apparent source...police officials are dumbfounded, investigators cannot determine who is behind these killings, but it is clear killer has access to weapons and equipment unknown to science, law enforcement, or the military. Will pursue matter to uttermost conclusion, updates to follow as received." He closed down his smartphone and sighed in despair. "I think we can determine how this came about. Our friendly neighborhood Sith Master sent her apprentice to remove what could have been a massive obstacle in their path to an eventual global takeover. And it seems the apprentice did a very thorough job of it, except for the bodies. These signs can easily be wiped away later, once the Master realizes her servant botched the job. She'll send Dawn back to clean up her mess and to see to it that the bodies are disposed of properly and that no evidence remains. And with her abilities, the Master will assume a guise to confound the police and the British media as to the veracity of the reports. It'll be all they need to eventually turn public opinion against the police."
"And eventually against the British government in general," concluded Xander. "Do you see now, Buffy?" he said to her. "This is their primary weapon -- lies, deceit, sowing discord and enmity everywhere in the world. The more they can turn people against country, government against people, army against civilians and vice versa, the less the world will take notice of their own activities behind the scenes. It's an age-old strategem, Buffy, divide and conquer. The Sith of Star Wars were very good at it, and it seems our Sith are just as proficient at these designs. This also makes them all the more dangerous for it because the more hate and fear they can spread in the world, the stronger their powers will become."
"Then we need to start planning our campaign against them NOW,
" replied Buffy, looking at them both. "This war is going to play out on multiple levels, and eventually it's going to go public." We need to find more Slayersbefore this happens, Buffy thought to herself. She then looked each of them in the eyes and found her strength again. It projected itself through her artificial voice and in her altered posture. "Fuck my healing then. First, the Sith die. Then I heal. Not before then." She ignited her lightsaber then and, screaming, slashed laterally at the image of the Sith fighter beside her, which derezzed into pixellated chaos with a hiss of static. "Call them. Find the remaining Potentials in the world and Call them. And have more of these lightsbers produced. No expense is to be spared, no effort wasted. Get them here. Get them trained, get them armed." She turned to Xander. "Alert our contacts in the demon underground, or what will soon be one. When the Sith reveal themselves our friends are gonna start running for cover. But tell them to keep it quiet, 'cause when we build up our army we're gonna unleash a storm like nothing the world has ever seen before..."
The cheers were quiet, but the looks on everyone's faces evinced pure vengeful joy. There would indeed be a reckoning one day. And it would take time, but confidence abounded in everyone's eyes that the job would eventually get done, and peace and freedom would once again reign throughout the world.
The souls of the slain Wiccans and Slayers deserved no less.End Book 1