Two - Progressions, Part Two
A/N -- here's the third chapter, will be working on it bit by bit until I can get it finished. Also have some fanart posted in this series, the title is called Called to Darkness....I will try to have each of those pictures included in the stories, first with Rise, then this one and onward. Enjoy! Oh, I don't own Star Wars or Buffy, George and Joss do.********Simi Valley, Present Day (LOCATION CLASSIFIED)
Hera had smiled at the thought of what she had sensed in Lilah. The interview was just window dressing – the real
encounter took place in that realm that could only be sensed by those who were skilled in the magickal arts, as she was. Or rather, she mused,those who were in tune with the dark side of the… -- she almost called itthe Force. The powers she used, themagicks, were so similar in their behaviour, it was hard sometimes to dissimilate the two. But she had sensed the same ability to wield those powers in Lilah. She needed to sort out that little detail in time, but for now, it had been the final item on her checklist that approved Lilah as her legal head. She would do her job well. The Plan depended upon it.
She walked to one of the terminals in her command centre and punched up the file for the floor plans of each country’s capital building. Never one to skip a detail in planning, Hera studied each of the prints meticulously. She went through building after building, looking for flaws, holes in her strategy. She knew where to place the nuclear devices for maximum effectiveness. Most importantly, the clone infiltrators knew it too, as she had programmed that into them as with the clone troopers. Her infiltrators were magickally enhanced troopers that could cast glamours upon themselves to appear as anyone, no matter how inconspicuous. They could also avoid detection by various means, whether technological, magickal, or simple use of stealth; they were experts in each method. Methods of distraction were not lost on them either, as one of the first reports to start coming in at this point indicated a use of a biological agent that was famous for finding its way into the mail in the year since the attacks of 11 September 2001. The occupants of that ill-fated building were hurriedly evacuated, leaving the infiltrators time and space to smuggle in their weapon. She was increasingly proud of her troopers and the work they did.
The weapons themselves were suitcase nukes, assembled in secret and placed in lead-lined briefcases so as to avoid triggering radiation detectors in various buildings and ports. She was not concerned with the method of inserting her clones into their target areas; a portal would instantly transport them there if she knew they would arrive undetected. But that was the purpose of creating these troopers as infiltrators, for in most cases government buildings would be constantly patrolled, so there would always be a presence there. She had therefore to set her portals some distance away from the target building, and once the troopers arrived it fell to them to determine the best method of insertion and placement of their individual nuclear device. Once the weapon was in place the infiltration team would assume the follow on mission of preventing detection of the weapon. In most cases that meant the troopers would assume the role of a member of that building’s janitorial staff, albeit one that would constantly monitor the location of his individual nuke and maintain a situation that demanded constant maintenance and repair. The nuke itself would be invisible to the unaided eye and to sensors, a glamour being placed upon it to render it so. No one would know of the doom in their midst, and no one would have any idea what was to take place.
Reports from individual teams came in as she looked over her plans. Washington, London, Moscow, P’yongyang, Addis Ababa. Every infiltration mission was a rousing success. Each team was now on standby to protect their individual weapon until the moment when Darth Hera, meaning she herself
, would issue the wireless command to detonate. Soon she would have the world on its knees, begging to do her bidding.
Almost as an afterthought, she turned to the communications suite and punched up a frequency. In moments a screen lit up, displaying the hooded visage of her apprentice, Darth Vastia. She smiled at the increasing development of her ward’s knowledge and skill with the Dark Arts; the young woman had lately been tasked with decreasing the influence of the demon community across the world, and was given carte blanche to prosecute targets wherever they might be found. The only restriction was that her work, and likewise her presence, could not be revealed, either by design or by accident.
“My Master,” acknowledged the Sith Apprentice with a nod of her head.
“Lord Vastia, I trust all goes well with your mission?” The last communique with Vastia had placed her in Bangkok, Thailand, pursuing the leader of the resident Polgara clan there, whose influence in the underworld was threatening to put a crimp in the progress of Hera’s clone infiltrators to place their respective nuke in that country’s Parliament building. A week had passed with little progress, but since subterfuge was the rule for these operations, patience was to be expected, especially since the distrust of Polgara demons for outsiders, coupled with their excessive territoriality, bordered on legendary status.
“Yes, my Master. I am closer to eliminating the head of the Polgara clan here with the assassination of his two most trusted lieutenants. I anticipate another two days will put me in an ideal position to smooth out this latest wrinkle in our plans. The resulting confusion and infighting among the survivors will put them out of our way for some time to come,” said Vastia with a brief flash of a predatory smile.
“Good, exactly as I had predicted. Were you seen?”
“I have only ever revealed myself to those who now can no longer tell their tale. All who have ever seen my face have tasted my blade, my Lord.”
“Be mindful, daughter, you soon will no longer be able to afford such excesses. After you have completed your mission, I will set you another assignment. I hope you will find yourself more agreeable to this one. Much time has passed since you tested your mettle against this sort of foe.”
“Vampire Slayers? I fail to comprehend.”
“Not all of them met their end at Groom Lake, and there have not as yet been any reports of any Potentials having been detected by the Watchers’ Council. You will find them before the Council can, and you will eliminate them for me,” growled Hera softly.
“With the removal of the bulk of their forces at Groom Lake and elsewhere across the planet, at least one or two must have been Called, and are now doubtless pursuing targets as full-fledged Slayers. But what is a Vampire Slayer compared to a Lord of the Sith?” purred Darth Vastia.
“It will be your task to remind them of that particular relationship once you encounter them, my young Apprentice. You must move against the Potentials first so none can be Called upon the death of a Slayer.”
“It will be done, Master. All shall be as you wish,” said Darth Vastia with a bow at the waist.
“Excellent, now finish with the Polgara clan, then come home so we can get you started.”
Night had given Darth Vastia the perfect cover for her operation. She only ever operated under cover of darkness, as her black cloak and hood would frighten the local populace terribly. And the demon community knew better than to reveal themselves to the human population. Divided and directionless though they may be, humanity would very quickly band together in the face of an enemy that threatened them all without distinction. The thought amused the Sith Lord as she visualized thousands of farmers with pitchforks and flaming brands hunting down a Polgara in order to bring him to a rather painful end.
She quashed the thought as soon as it had arisen in her mind; it would not do now, so far along into the mission as she was, to be distracted. Distraction meant failure, and failure was death for a Sith. No, siree, she was not about to die because her mind suddenly wandered a bit. She needed her mind absolutely clear and sharp to finish the job she had set for herself. Take out the Polgara clan leader and the resulting chaos, the scrabbling for power, would distract them long enough for her Master’s clone infiltrators to place themselves in a suitable position to accomplish their own mission.
How to do it, though, was the question. Fortunately, Vastia had time during the course of her mission to consider that very thing, and she eventually came up a means that not only would bring about the civil war within the clan that she sought, but most importantly could not be traced to her. So far it had worked beautifully, the resultant deaths of the Polgara clan’s top lieutenants being attributed by the clan leader to accidental ingestion of topsoil. She had requested information from her Master as to which poisons would work best against a Polgara, and in that request she had transmitted a DNA sample from one of the creatures.
Vastia had then learned from Hera’s reply that, though a Polgara could wallow around in blood and dirt all day and all night, they could not have so much as a gram of dirt in their food. Apparently something about the mineral content in the topsoil caused an extreme anaphylactic reaction that would prove fatal to a Polgara. Since then she had tracked the Bangkok clan for the past two weeks, always making sure that the deaths of the targets were not too close together timewise. The fatalities HAD to look like accidents.
And of course, it was a dog eat dog world in the life of a Polgara demon. The deaths of the Polgara leader’s top two lieutenants had caused the remainder of the clan to pay him more attention – the sort of attention that a lion usually reserves for a zebra. In an ideal situation, she would not have to kill the clan leader when so many power hungry minions were sure to take him out at some point. But it was best to be sure. If one of them were to kill him that one would immediately be acknowledged as the new leader by right of contest.
It came back to making sure a little topsoil got into his food somehow. She could pose as one of the demon-friendly human merchants with a glamour. Her height would be a slight disadvantage to her as Asians tended to be on the short side, but she remembered that Dawn Summers was an expert linguist in the Sunnydale years and on, so she summoned up the memories of Dawn’s language instruction and found that, indeed, the whelp could speak passable Thai and enough Polgara to get by. As long as she could lure the clan leader to a market where he could purchase a meal, he was doomed, and the clan would be none the wiser.
Indeed, the confusion that resulted from exactly how a little dirt got into his food would rile the Polgara clan. With each demon looking to secure a position of influence by their own postulations, they would be too occupied to pose a significant risk to the infiltration team’s mission here in Bangkok.
Darth Vastia was already looking forward to going home and preparing to face a real opponent….********Five hours later….
She ran through the narrow streets, aware without knowing why that some….thing
….was after her. She realized she should have run out of breath an hour ago, yet something kept her body operating at peak efficiency. She even felt fresher now than when she realized she was being hunted. She hadn’t even stumbled; her footing was surer now than she had ever remembered it to be, which was quite odd as she was the quintessential klutz as a child, on into her early teens. There was absolutely no way, other than sheer dumb luck, that she could have been this agile, this quick on her feet.
None of that mattered now. All she knew at that moment, with the unknown threat hot on her heels, that she was damn grateful for this newfound agility and speed. She surely needed it, because whatever it was that was chasing her was keeping up with her. No, more than that; it was gaining
on her. And despite the long time that she had run, not knowing how much more she had in her to keep going, she knew that she could not keep this up forever. Sooner or later she would have to stop and rest.
As if her pursuer would be inclined to give her an instant to rest – she knew without knowing that it had every intention to harm her or worse. She didn’t know how, but she could sense the pure evil emanating from it.
She would sooner or later have to turn and face this thing. And she would rather confront her faceless enemy on her
terms as not. It gave her an idea, and fortunately for her she knew the streets of her beloved Bangkok like the back of her hand. All she had to do was to draw her tormentor away from populated areas and into the woods, and hopefully the local wildlife would make short work of whoever it was. She turned suddenly into a back alley behind a brothel and sprinted for the other end, where she saw a ladder leading to the roof. In less than five seconds she had traversed the one hundred and fifty metres and began ascending to the rooftops and, hopefully, a more direct path to her chosen ambush site. As she reached the top she spared a moment to look back, only to see a figure in a voluminous hooded black cloak already standing at the bottom of the ladder. The young woman gasped at the sheer suddenness with which the sinister figure appeared in the alley, and it was so close to her already. Simultaneously she scrambled away from the roof’s edge and began a full sprint in the direction of her chosen battleground, hoping the open space would allow her to increase the distance between her pursuer and herself.
She continued on for about five minutes like this, running at full tilt along the rooftops of buildings, leaping farther when she took flight than she had ever believed she could. It seemed that not only was she not winded, she actually had more energy than when she started her flight from her unknown assailant. It was exhilarating, the flow of adrenaline in her veins. Every cell felt charged with this new energy, this power
. At length she began to feel as if she could
go on forever, the challenge of endurance an aphrodisiac she had never encountered before. After only ten minutes of running and jumping over rooftops she was nearing the outer limits of the city and the safety of the wild woods beyond. One mighty leap later carried her past the boundary of Bangkok and into the jungle. ********
Darth Vastia reached the edge of the last rooftop just as she witnessed her prey execute a very long jump into the jungle just outside the city limits. She had enjoyed the chase thus far, and she wished to see what more this Potential was capable of before she finally did away with her; after all, no one had told her she couldn’t have fun on the job, and she intended this time to do just that. This was only one Potential, after all, and she remembered slaughtering hundreds of this one’s kind in a single day. What harm could there be in taking her time with this one?
The target disappeared among the foliage almost as soon as she had entered the woods, and Vastia hung back a moment to see what would happen, knowing that a native Thai would know the jungle intimately. She was not to be disappointed as the sudden sounds of crashing branches and rustling leaves began to reach her ears. It was louder than was expected of a normal human being, as the force needed to clear a path like that could only be made by someone possessing close to Slayer strength...
This one had just been Called barely more than an hour ago. She would not yet be used to her new speed, let alone the prodigious strength she was now exhibiting. A native Thai would be at home in the jungle, moving silently among the branches, but not this one. She was now crashing through the undergrowth as though she were a small child just learning her way. And though the prey had hoped to ambush the Sith Lord, ridiculous a notion though it was, she would find things somewhat different than what she hoped. Vastia concentrated and, summoning all her energies, she traversed the same distance the Slayer had covered in about half the time, alighting upon a branch of the first tree she came across as silently as a shadow. It was she who would ambush the Slayer.
Vastia scurried along branches, leapt from vine to vine, disturbing no leaf, making no sound greater than a whisper. In the gathering darkness, she would be invisible to her quarry. But a Slayer needed neither sight nor sound to find their natural prey; they had other, more esoteric senses that were attuned to supernatural targets with an affinity for evil. It was that sense of evil that now told the Slayer where her pursuer was and how best to deal with it or even if she should confront it at all. From the sense of the Slayer that Vastia was getting, she was leaning strongly toward the former.
For nearly an hour they trekked through the dense vegetation, the Slayer crashing her way through and the Sith following close behind, silent and invisible as a ghost. Finally they approached a clearing where the Sith halted at the edge, stretching out with her mystical senses. There was the Slayer on the other side, confident and sure that she had led her hunter into a trap. Darth Vastia, however, was neither stupid nor impatient; she would not take the bait. But neither did the Slayer move. It had become a waiting game….********
She was so sure, so certain that the shadow had followed her in. She hadn’t seen nor heard it, but she knew, again without knowing, that it was there, just on the other edge of the clearing, waiting for her to make the next move. She cast her gaze around, wondering how it was that she could see so well now in the near pitch blackness. What was she becoming? And what was the reason for this to be happening so soon, so suddenly? Nothing had prepared her for this, this superhuman package that she had somehow acquired without wanting or asking. What would she do with this greatest of gifts? For a gift it was, and she thanked her ancestors and Buddha for bestowing it upon her. She had a feeling she would need everything she had to fend off this mysterious and thoroughly malevolent, repellent figure waiting for her on the other side.
Strategies began to form in her mind. Could she circle around the clearing and try to approach by stealth? She had been ill prepared for the sudden burst of strength that she had used when forging her way through the jungle to this point, but now she knew she could go quietly if she wanted. If she could somehow go out to about a half kilometre and circle around, she might be able to emerge behind the murderous foe and take it by surprise. It seemed like a good idea. And there were others.
She could emerge into the clearing, announce her presence and issue a challenge to the thing out there. Bold and direct, it had a chance of succeeding if only it did not depend on the shadow having some sense of chivalry and a warrior’s honour, which the girl knew were anathema to a being in the grip of pure evil. Not such a good idea. Or she could still emerge into the clearing and tempt the shadow to follow her through, where she would duck down and wait for it to pass before turning the tables on it and getting in a surprise hit, hopefully hard enough to drop the shadow to its knees so she could deliver the coup de grace. There were still others, each as poorly thought as the other ones, each as potentially disastrous through one flaw or another.
It was Plan A, then…********
They had each waited for an hour for the other to make the first move, and time was drawing short. Patience was not exactly Vastia’s strongest suit, but she was still good at it. She, like the Slayer facing her on the other side of the clearing, was an expert tactician, she through her long years of experience as a Sith Lord, the other by virtue of the Slayer Essence within her. They knew they could keep up the wait for another hour or more, but unfortunately here, in the darkness of the jungle, others might not be so patient. It would only take one stray tiger that found them on its hunting trail, and the chase would be on again. In this dense jungle full of life, it would not be hard to miss one. A decision had to be made.
Vastia took a moment to look into the mind of her target. She had just been Called, and was only discovering her powers. Apart from that, she had an unmistakeable confidence and assuredness of herself and her ability to get out of a sticky situation in the back streets and alleys of Bangkok. But this was the Thai jungle, and she was not in her element anymore. The confidence the prey exuded was not there. And she feared the unknown; she knew not what she was or whence came her powers. It would be no terrible feat to erode her self-assuredness a little more.
Vastia silently cast a spell to summon the spirits of the jungle creatures long past; their spirits would make the same calls and shrieks they emitted long ago in life. The noise level and the dark would foster doubts and anxieties in the Slayer’s mind, creating a sense of panic. Panic had worked so well against a Slayer she had once known and subsequently slain; it should work again here against this newer, less skilled opponent. She was rewarded almost immediately by a growing dread in the young Slayer’s mind, the fear and doubt that wormed their way into her mighty heart giving the Sith a delicious shiver.
Just then the mental state of the Slayer suddenly shifted in her direction – she had been seen! The slight shudder of pleasure she gave out was a shining beacon in the blackness. The rustle of her cloak had betrayed her, and now the time had come.
She stepped out into the clearing, allowing her prey a full view of herself. The Slayer soon followed suit, stepping out from the cover of the foliage and presenting herself to her enemy. Were it a cattle town in the Old American West, with the sun at high noon, the town residents would have been compelled to seek the safety and shelter indoors, well away from the windows in anticipation of a stray bullet. As it was, here in the jungle of Thailand, the two combatants had to make do with the local fauna, who had come to witness a struggle of Titans. Slayer versus Sith.********
She hurled herself at the black-cloaked menace before her, casting aside all doubt and fear as she raced toward what she perceived was her doom. It did not matter to her how she managed it, nor whether she survived; all she knew was that this thing was going down. She felt the rush of battle sing in her blood as she summoned up every ounce of courage, every erg of anger in her heart and locked gazes with the foul thing before her.
The shadow rushed toward her simultaneously, pure hatred lending speed to its footsteps. In less than five seconds, each had reached the centre of the clearing. She barely had time to respond to some urgent impulse to duck as a flash of crimson light and heat cleaved the air above her. She used her momentum, turning her dive into a tuck and roll that placed her back on her hands and feet. She turned on her heels to face her adversary.
The shadow had also turned, and now it was casting aside its cloak to free its limbs for combat. The thing was not a thing at all, but a woman. A young woman, not quite thirty years of age, with long hair the darkest shade of black. But it was the bottomless black of the abyss. Her hair was the colour of death. She was clad head to toe in nothing but deathly black. Her visage, for now she could see the face of her enemy, was a rictus of animal hatred. Black tattoos of forked lightning crossed her face, a face that would have seemed innocent and beautiful for a non-Asian female. Her features, instead, placed her as American, yet no more American than the demon of fury crouched before her in an attack posture. The eyes burned like acid into the young woman’s soul. They blazed a radioactive shade of yellow, rimmed with red the colour of blood. She wore the flesh of a human, but she was Evil Incarnate.
All this processed in a split second, and if she had never before known terror, she knew it now. It wore the face of the monstrous woman before her.
The monster charged once again, spouting once more the crimson fountain that a moment ago would have taken her head from her neck. She charged in kind, and as the demon raised its blade to cleave her down the middle, she chose this moment to strike, ramming her shoulder into the vile creature and knocking her to the ground. She spared no time as she followed her shoulder tackle with a dive that put her atop the demon woman.The shoulder tackle had knocked the weapon out of the monster’s hand, so she balled up her fist and slammed it into her ribs, twice, then thrice, sending fire through the nerves and searing the brain with the sensation of severe injury. She was strong, much stronger than was previously imagined. Limbs that slender simply did not have the muscle mass to generate that much power in a punch. There was no time to process this thought, as another sledgehammer found its way into the side of her head, and her whole world turned white with the force of her brain being slammed into the side of her cranium. Her ears had even been affected, and her balance was gone, enabling the hated young woman to push her off and stand once more. Yet despite the agony and the dizziness, she found the strength of will to push herself to her feet as well. And surprisingly, the pain was already subsiding.
She wondered if this was another part of the supernatural package she had inherited. One thing was sure; she was beginning to understand the purpose of her gift, her power. She then decided that it mattered not how much she hurt, this enemy standing before her, stronger and definitely more powerful though she might be, had to die. The pain in her ribs and in her skull had dulled in the split second it took to process all these thoughts, and she decided to go on the offensive. At the same time, though, she saw her attacker simply raise her arm and reach for her fallen weapon, which amazingly flew, and rather swiftly, into her hand. Upon impact it ignited once again, and the dark woman charged as she swung the lethal beam in an arc meant to eviscerate her, only to miss as she tucked and rolled beneath the weapon, coming up and spinning to face her attacker once more, then running and executing a flying kick at the dark one’s head. At the last moment before her foot would have decapitated the woman, she spun around and seized her leg, with one hand on her ankle and the other, now holding an extinguished blade, pressed against her thigh to spin and throw her completely across the clearing and into the jungle beyond.
Her impact with the first tree to stand in her path jarred every bone in her body, but the tree fared worse as it had been cleanly snapped in two. The crash of the falling trunk and branches sent every creature within earshot to scurry for cover with a raucous din. She sat stunned for only a split second before her head cleared, just in time to see the enemy leaping in a straight line toward her at a speed that clearly had to be seen to be believed. The black clad woman seemed intent upon pressing the advantage and giving her not one moment to think. Survival for her seemed now to require the impossible from her. Her doubt and panic at that moment gave way, as she resolved herself now to trust that she could do the impossible and kill this terrible being. Without thinking, she leapt up and back toward a branch that looked as though it would support her weight, and amazingly, she soared high up into the air, clearing at least forty feet to land catlike upon the bough. As she looked down she spied her opponent reaching back with the sword, its scarlet blade lit once again, to throw it up in her direction. It hummed as it spun toward her, the sound very much like that of a buzzsaw, and it ripped through the branch in an instant, leaving a blackened, flaming stump before it arced back toward the evil hand that had cast it.
As she fell, she saw another tree about ten feet further away from the clearing. She considered herself lucky that she had been standing so close to where her perch had sprouted from its trunk, else she would not have been able to push off with a kick in mid fall and alter her path to intercept the closest branch. As she landed, however, the limb began to creak and groan as it began to give way under her weight.Oh, no, this isn’t good
, she thought as it finally snapped, and she collided with the earth below. I had to split this last scene into parts, as it's taking so long to write. As always, I look forward to beta readers' comments and constructive criticism as well as insights from general readership. (Those are always welcome) First time readers please check out Rise Dark Sisters, it's the first part in this series. Comment and rate, everyone...