The vampire was running as if the devil himself was on his tail and to be fair that wasn't fair off with his current situation. Death was on his tail and he knew he wouldn't survive her. He'd been happily walking along with the rest of his brood looking for a nice meal or two when suddenly all hell had broken loose. His master had been the first down, dissolving into dust when a stake had just smashed through his chest and heart before embedding itself into the wall behind him. They'd been quick to assume a fighting stance then, sure that even the Slayer wouldn't be able to take this many of them, but they hadn't been fighting the Slayer.
It had been her. It was the masked one in those creepy robes who'd terrorised the demons of Sunnydale last Halloween with her glowing sword and sorcery. He'd not been there himself but he'd heard the rumours, the legends, of what had happened. He'd thought they were exaggerated, stories to scare the fledglings into line. He'd been wrong.
She was like a force of nature, unstoppable and destructive. Her sword didn't glow and she didn't use all that much magic, but she still cut through the gang like a hot knife through butter. Eddie had been the first to fall. He'd been a brutal bar-room brawler in life and being turned had just made him even more vicious but she'd cut his head off and dusted him before he could react. John had tried to attack from behind but she'd stabbed him through the gut without even looking and he'd went down screaming, clutching at the wound, before she'd whirled around and took his head off too.
At that point he'd decided that discretion was the better part of valour and ran for the hills. The repeated screaming and sounds of vampires dusting he'd heard as he ran had just made him run faster. He had no idea what this thing was but he sure as hell didn't want to fight it. So he ran and ran and ran till he was sure that nothing could possibly have followed him.
Eventually he stopped, leaning on a nearby headstone, and reflexively took a deep breath that he didn't actually need. He had to be safe now surely. A quick look around later showed nothing, not even with his vampiric senses, and he almost collapsed in relief. Safety! He had no bloody idea what that thing was but he damn well wasn't staying in a town that had two slayers and that! He was jacking a car and getting out of town now.
So engrossed was he with the thoughts of his safety and escaping the town that he didn't notice the black robed figure drop down from the tree he'd just passed, though he noticed well enough when the blade sawed through his neck and reduced him to dust in one agonising moment.
Rachel yanked the mask off as she crept back into her bedroom and quickly stripped the robes off and stuffed them back in the box under her bed. She couldn't really express it to herself why it felt so appropriate to wear them when the urge to hunt grew too strong so how would she explain to Giles why she wore the attire of a Dark Lord when she went out hunting? He wouldn't understand, none of them would, not when she couldn't understand it fully herself.
Just the fact that the urge to hunt was so strong before she'd even had her first transformation was disturbing enough anyway. These instincts weren't supposed to really kick in till after the first transformation and even then not this strongly. Giles had told her so and all the books had agreed. That damned Hyena was getting the last laugh on her, she supposed. Damn thing.
It wasn't just the instinct to hunt either, though that was by far the strongest she'd felt so far. The urge to protect the pack was there and the wolf seemed to have adopted the entire gang as its pack, though Oz had a special place as a fellow wolf it seemed. At least the wolf wasn't dismissing her friends like the Hyena had. The worst though had to be the altogether unwelcome mating urge. She didn't want to produce offspring, period, and she bloody well didn't appreciate the fact that the wolf had decided that Oz was the most suitable mate. Not only did she herself find Oz about as attractive as the prospect of having sex with Angelus but Willow would most definitely not appreciate such desires. So she kept that one to herself. It was rather easier to ignore such an alien instinct than the others anyway.
She sighed and quickly changed into her pyjamas. She really didn't want to think about the other major side-effect of being turned into a werewolf but there it was. Virtual immortality. The healing factor of the wolf would prevent her from ageing just as surely as Wolverine's did in the comics. Oh it was nowhere near as extravagant in the wounds it could heal and the speed it could heal them but she'd already seen it heal small wounds and bruises far faster than they should have healed and it was, from what she'd read, more than sufficient to retard her ageing process enough to make her look eighteen for a very long time to come. Or at least it would if she wasn't proficient in creating illusions, which was something she was going to learn post-haste because spending the rest of her life looking like a teenager would be mighty inconvenient.
"We could work on it tonight," said Willow as Rachel caught up with the gang the next morning.
"Work on what tonight? Something need killing?" asked Rachel.
"Only my carefree spirit," said a woeful sounding Buffy.
"Buffy SAT prep," said Oz.
"Ah, that thing for those of us who actually plan on going to college," said Rachel.
The frown on Willow's face was of truly epic proportions after Rachel said that. "And why aren't you planning on going to college, miss?"
"The world is my oyster, Willow, and I have no intention of wasting my youth away in a place I cannot stand," said Rachel. "Anyway, I already have a pretty complete education from my Revan memories."
"Cool," said Oz.
"So what are you going to do instead of college?" asked Buffy.
"Don't yet. I'm still young, there's no need to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my life yet," said Rachel. "That's assuming the Watcher's Council doesn't stick its nose in though."
"Why would the council have anything to do with what you end up doing?" asked Willow with a frown. She obviously didn't like the idea of her best friend being bullied into anything by some council of stuffy old Brits.
"I'm a Giles now, legally, and that's a Watcher family," said Rachel. "They also created my identity so they have that to club me into line with if they feel like it. Don't know if they'd want a werewolf as a watcher though."
"That sucks," said Buffy with feeling. Rachel supposed that if anyone could sympathise with the whole destiny thing the watchers had going on it would be her.
Rachel shrugged. "I'll deal if it comes to that. There are worse jobs I suppose."
The conversation continued along similar lines - mainly Buffy bitching about the council really - till they'd reached the hall doors near the cafeteria. "So, Buff, study tonight?" asked Willow.
"Uh, yes on the studying, no on tonight. I'm putting in Mom time. She's been drastic ever since I got back. And Giles is even worse. I'm supervised 24-7," complained Buffy as they turned into the cafeteria. "It's like being in the Real World house, only real."
"How terrible," said Rachel dryly drawing an irritated look from Buffy. Willow just hmmed and looked thoughtful.
As they entered the cafeteria, Rachel noticed Snyder by a table laden down with boxes of chocolate holding a clipboard and suddenly had the sort foreboding feeling that only comes when you know you're going to be volunteered for something you really don't want to do.
"Ooh, candy bars! Lots of 'em!" said Willow.
Snyder held out a box and where she would have taken it quickly before she hung back now and waited to see what happened. Eventually Snyder shoved it into Buffy's arms. "It's band candy," he said. Because, you know, that explained everything.
?gLet's hear it for the band, huh? Very generous," said a slightly confused looking Buffy.
"You will sell it to raise money for the marching band. They need new uniforms."
"Yeah. Those tall, fuzzy hats ain't cheap, huh?" quipped Rachel.
"But they go with everything," added Oz drawing a smile from Willow.
Snyder, the humourless git, just started to shove boxes into all of their arms.
"I'm sure we love the idea of going all Willy Loman, but we're not in the band," said Buffy.
"And if I'd handed you a trombone, that would've been a problem, Summers. It's candy. Sell it."
And with the sparkling piece of charm, Snyder turned to his next victim.
"I think this is where school spirit comes in," said Rachel. "Now if only I could find some."
"Come on, Giles," said Rachel as they finished their tea . "You know you want to buy some of this wonderful, delicious chocolate."
"Really?" asked an amused looking Giles. "And why would I want to do that?"
"Because it would be a nice thing to do? School spirit?"
"School spirit? For Sunnydale High School? Please!" said Giles as he began to clear away the plates.
"I'll do the hoovering for the rest of the month?"
"The easiest of the household tasks? I don't think so," said Giles with a dismissive wave of his hands. "You'll have to do better than that to make me buy the dreck they sell for these events."
"Hmm. Better but still not sufficient," said Giles, enjoying this far too much for Rachel's tastes.
Rachel broke out the big guns at that. She unleashed the one thing that all males dread, the puppy-dog eyes and the pleading expression. Force only knows she'd given into it enough times herself back in the day. "Please?"
Giles for a moment looked like he was going to withstand the ultimate weapon of females everywhere but Rachel intensified the attack and after a moment of continued resistance he gave. "Fine," he said before reaching into his wallet and pulling a twenty dollar note out. "Here. Just stop with those damn eyes."
"You won't regret this, Giles," said Rachel gleefully as she made the transaction. "This chocolate's actually quite good, surprisingly enough."
"Well it's nice to know that I haven't been completely ripped off," said Giles wryly. "What are your plans for tonight?"
"I think I'll go patrolling. That should help work off some of the urges the wolf's firing my way," said Rachel.
Giles frowned at that. "You really shouldn't be having these problems with the wolf, not yet anyway," he said. "I'll have to do some research and look into it."
"I'd be very happy if you could find out what's going on but I don't think you're going to, Giles," said Rachel. "I think it's the Hyena causing this and I don't think you'll be able to find much about it. I just have to deal with it as best I can."
"Still, I'd like to try. I don't like the idea of you having to deal with this alone," said Giles in response.
"But I'm not, Giles," said Rachel. "You've been there for me every step of the way and you have no idea how grateful I am for that. I really don't want to think about what this would have been like if I'd had to deal with my parents at the same time."
Patrol had been mostly uneventful that night. A couple of idiot minion level vampires tried to take her on but she'd soon disposed of that trash. In lieu of having a good fight to work off the nervous energy she'd built up, she tried out her new werewolf senses to see if she could pick up anything. Surprisingly enough she did actually pick up a scent that seemed to be a bit off and when she followed it, she found herself at Willies, so it probably was a demon of some description. All in all, it was most unsatisfying, no matter how well her new sense of smell seemed to work.
Giles hadn't been home when she got back for some reason - probably off training Buffy or something - so she'd gone straight to bed after a cold shower and gotten as much sleep as she could.
The next day dawned bright and altogether too early for her tastes but she was up and about and off to school as usual with no fuss. The only strange thing was that Giles wasn't out of bed yet. Very odd but if he'd decided to have a late start to the day and catch up on some sleep she wasn't going to to disturb him. She noticed some people acting slightly strangely and with a slightly off feel to them in the Force as she walked to school and made a note to talk to Giles about it when she next saw him, which would probably be in study hall.
"Where's Giles?" asked Willow when Giles wasn't at study hall.
"I have no idea," replied Rachel, sitting down next to Willow. "Definitely not-Giles-like behaviour going on here."
"Didn't you see him this morning?" asked Willow as she pulled a textbook out of her bag and plopped it down onto the table in front of her.
"No but I figured he was just catching up on some sleep," said Rachel. "Him actually blowing off work is way high on weird-o-meter."
"Way high. Almost as high as when we found out he used to summon demons for fun."
"Higher than when I discovered that he actually watches TV though."
"Giles watches TV? Giles?"
"Oh yeah. He's shallow like us really. He just pretends to be all high and mighty and non-shallow."
"Wow. I think I'm disappointed."
"I settled for amused myself."
The conversation petered out there and Willow began to study the quite frankly intimidatingly over-sized textbook she'd pulled out of her bag. Rachel just couldn't bring herself to care about such things at the moment and took another bite of the bar of chocolate she had left over from her sales. It wasn't long before Ms. Barton came into the room and clapper her hands a few times to get the students' attention.
"Hey! We're all stuck here, okay? So now let's just sit quietly and," she smiled and waved her hand at a book on the teacher's table, "and pretend we're reading something until we're really sure that old Commandant Snyder's gone. Then we're all outta here!" she finished with a wide smile.
"I think I'm in love," said Rachel.
Rachel was confused. Very confused. If it wasn't for the fact that Buffy was dragging her along with all the Slayer strength she could muster, then she'd be looking to do some serious questioning with Giles and Mrs. Summers. Something had been off there. At first glance it had honestly looked like a couple that had been busted when they were trying to keep their relationship secret. There'd been a definite element of panic and getting her and Buffy out of there quick as possible that would suggest that. That was more amusing than anything else really but it didn't stand up. Giles would have no real reason to hide it from her to start with and, secondly, she just a gut feeling that something weird was going on.
Not that her gut feeling really mattered in the face of Buffy actually being allowed to drive by her mother. There was nothing on Earth - or Hell - that was going to get between her and that bloody car.
It was at that point that Rachel remembered just how bad a driver Buffy was and a shiver ran down her spine at the thought of being in a car that this girl was driving. This was the girl who did so badly in driver's ed that they wouldn't even let her take the practical test at the end of the course. Duelling with vampires was less intimidating than the prospect of taking a drive with Buffy as far as Rachel was concerned..
So she begged off and disappeared into the night before Buffy could get the door open and didn't wait for the inevitable protests. Maybe Willow would be daft enough to brave the dangers of Buffy's driving but she sure as hell wasn't. She considered going back home but dismissed the idea quickly. Whatever was going on there didn't appear to be dangerous in any way and she really didn't want to see whatever Giles was going to get up to with Buffy's mom. No thanks. No, she'd head off to the Bronze and see if she could find any entertainment there.
"Bloody hell," whispered Rachel to herself when she entered the Bronze. "Did I take a wrong turn or something?"
It was full of adults. For most clubs, not all that surprising, but the Bronze? The place was terrible even by teenager standards. A roach infested pit that people only went to because there was nowhere else in town would be a fair assessment of the Bronze and why normally sensible adults would be there was beyond Rachel. The only adult she'd seen at the Bronze before was Giles and he was only ever there to fetch Buffy for something.
Prowling around the outskirts of the crowd, staying in the shadows all the time, and took in what was happening, observing the crowds. Between the elephant-sized woman who was grinding against a terrified looking man in a grey suit and seeing Snyder dancing awkwardly and being avoided by pretty much everyone else, she was going to need many years of therapy to deal with this one. What on earth was going on here? The smell was overwhelming.
She closed her eyes and opened her mind to the Force. In an instant she was swamped with the raging emotions that were coursing through everyone in the room. This was not normal. Not even close to it. She had to close her mind to the feelings almost immediately lest they take over her. Even the most rampantly out of control teenagers had more restraint to their feelings than these people had right now. Something was affecting them but what?
As she pondered that she felt two powerful presences enter the Bronze - two pack members at that - and she quickly drifted over to their location, all the while avoiding the crowds of wannabe teenagers that infested the club.
"Hey, this is not normal," said Willow as Rachel came up behind them.
"I'm inclined to agree," said Rachel, causing both Buffy and Willow to jump out of their skins.
Willow span around and slapped Rachel on the arm before saying, "don't do that."
"But it's so much fun!" replied Rachel with a lop-sided grin. That grin quickly disappeared though. "You're right. Something very strange is going on here."
"You think?" asked Buffy sarcastically.
Rachel was about to fire off a response to that when Snyder came bounding up to them. "Hey, Gang!" he said. He threw one arm around Willow's shoulders and moved to do the same to Rachel but the icy glare he received quickly dissuaded him. "This place is fun city , huh?" he followed up with a slightly nervous laugh.
"Principal Snyder?" asked a gob-smacked Buffy.
"Call me Snyder. Just a last name, like . . . Barbarino," said Snyder trying to act cool. He let go of Willow and that point and pumped his arms and fists around roundly. "I'm so stoked."
"It's a demon, Buffy, I'm sure. You know what you have to do," said Rachel. Buffy looked seriously tempted by the idea.
"Hey, did you see Ms. Barton? I think she's wasted," said Snyder. "I'm gonna have to put that in her next performance review 'cause . . . 'cause I'm the principal!" said Snyder with a smile and a laugh. And with that he turned around and disappeared back into the crowd.
"Becoming a werewolf has nothing on what just happened for disturbance potential," said Rachel, utterly agog. "Getting a magical sex change doesn't even top that."
"I don't like this. They could have heart attacks," said Willow.
"Uh, well... ma-maybe there's a doctor here," said Buffy.
An old, flabby man who, horror of horrors, wasn't wearing a shirt jumped up onto the stage as Buffy finished speaking and after pushing Devon aside and yelling, "yeah!" at very high volume he jumped off the stage, obviously expecting the crowd to catch him. They didn't. It looked and sounded rather painful to be honest. Willow and Buffy both cringed at the thudding sound he made when he hit.
"He-he's usually less... topless," said Willow cringing.
Snyder stuck his head between Willow and Buffy at that point - keeping his distance from Rachel - and said, "I got a commendation for being principal. From the Mayor! Shook my hand twice," looking very pleased with himself all the while.
"That's nice," said Buffy, deadpan.
Two attractive - if somewhat older - women walked past them with drinks at that point and Snyder tracked them all the way with his eyes. "Whoa! There are some foxy ladies here tonight!" he said before heading off after them.
"This is the epitome of all things creepy," said Rachel as the three of them quickly headed in the opposite direction.
"What's happening?" asked Willow.
"I don't know, but it's happening to a whole lot of grown-ups," replied Buffy, frowning in thought.
They stopped by the stairs and Willow took a long look around the crowd before speaking. "They're acting like a bunch . . . "
"They're acting like a bunch of us," finished Buffy.
"As hellmouth-y things go, this is definitely the strangest one I've ever seen," said Rachel.
"Even stranger than being turned into a girl?" asked Willow.
"At least that made sense or at least as close to sense as chaos magic ever makes . . . Chaos magic. Ethan. This is just like something he'd do. He's supposed to be dead," she hissed, her eyes full of malice.
"Dark Side. Remember the Dark Side!" said Willow backing off a step as an almost palpable aura of darkness emanated from Rachel. "Don't want to go all his-hush on us," she finished doing a pretty poor impersonation of Vader's breathing.
It took a long moment but Rachel eventually managed to shunt her rage aside. "You're right. There'll be time enough to deal with Ethan later."
"How can you even be sure it's him?" asked Buffy. "He's supposed to be dead."
"This stunt stinks of Ethan Rayne. It's exactly the sort of idiocy he always indulged in. The only questions are if he's doing it for himself or if someone's paid for his services and how the bloody hell he survived so I can make sure he doesn't next time," growled Rachel.
"Calm down, Rachel," said Buffy, looking deeply concerned, her gaze fixed on Rachel's hands.
Rachel looked at where Buffy's gaze was fixed and gawked at the deep imprints she'd left on the metal support pole she'd been gripping. Now that was definitely not something she should have been able to do. "Umm. That might be a good idea, yeah," she said, releasing the pole. Now she was thinking straight she realised that there was no way she should have been able to do that with raw physical strength. She shelved that for later contemplation. It wasn't important right now.
The conversation drifted for a while, speculating as to what the hell was going on - though Rachel already knew what was going on, and Oz joined them with the band between sets. They were interrupted when that worthless waste of skin and bone Snyder stopped by them and noted that Oz had 'great hair'. Honestly it was times like this that Rachel wished she carried a tape recorder because this would make truly wonderful blackmail material.
And then to top things off some old men pushed their way onto the stage and began to horribly mangle some song she'd never heard before.
"And it just gets more upsetting," said Willow.
"No vampire has ever been that scary," said Buffy, transfixed by the sheer horror of it all.
Rachel stood up and stretched, drawing some stares that were soon dissuaded by her glaring at those staring, and said "time to leave and try to fix this, I think."
As they left, Rachel heard Snyder calling for them to wait but she ignored him.
"We should find Giles. He'll know what's going on, right?" said Oz.
"Sure. Except for all we know, he's sweet sixteen again." said Buffy as she pulled on her seatbelt.
"He's with your mom at his place," said Willow.
"I said, wait up!" said Snyder as he jumped into the free seat and slammed the door shut.
"Oh bugger off," grumped Rachel.
"No time. He's coming with us," said Buffy as she slammed the car into gear and pressed down hard on the accelerator, throwing everyone back into their seats.
"Whoa, Summers! You drive like a spaz!" said Snyder.
The car journey was a rather unpleasant experience all told. Buffy's driving skills were in fact just as terrible as Rachel had expected them to be and it didn't help that she was most distracted by the idea of her mom spending time with Ripper. It didn't help that she was in close quarters with that obnoxious troll of a man Snyder. The entire thing culminated in their being rammed by some berk who didn't bother to stop for a red light.
Rachel pushed the car door open and stumbled out, rubbing at her sore neck. She saw the other other driver getting out of his car and it was all she could do not to jump over there and tear that idiot man's throat out. She blinked. Okay, that was a definite Hyena moment right there.
"Sorry! Gotta go!" said the man before running off into the night.
"Get back here, you idiot!" yelled Rachel but he didn't even break his stride. "Typical," she muttered under her breath, folding her arms over her breasts and looking very annoyed.
"Oh, God. Are you guys okay?" asked Buffy.
"Oh I'm wonderful," said Rachel. "Never better."
"Is anybody else all creeped out and trembly?" asked Willow.
"Oh, Buffy . . . Your mom's gonna kill you," said Snyder while rubbing his shoulder.
Rachel joined the rest of the group in ignoring Snyder completely and took a quick look around, taking in her surroundings, seeing several groups of pseudo-adults just standing around. "Some thing's definitely not right here," she said.
"No one's protecting their houses. Everyone's just... wandering." said Buffy.
"And it doesn't look like anyone's taking advantage of it," said Rachel.
"So where are all the vampires?" asked Buffy.
"Someone's pulling the strings," said Rachel. "A new master vampire maybe?"
" Something's happening . . . someplace that's else," said Oz.
"I'd say something big," said Buffy.
"That guy took my candy!" cried Snyder.
And suddenly it all made so much sense.
"The candy. I-it's gotta be the candy! It's cursed," said Buffy, giving the rest of the gang an astonished look before turning to Snyder.
"A curse?! Oh, I've got a curse." said Snyder, the stupid little man.
Oz and Willow said something at that point but Rachel's full attention was on Snyder. Before she could do anything, Buffy jumped at Snyder and shoved him up against her car. "Who's behind it?" she said.
"I don't know. It came through the school board," said Snyder. He shook his head, "if you knew that crowd . . . "
Rachel plunged into his mind with all the power she had, smashing through what feeble defences the man could muster, and he visibly wilted under the assault. "Tell us where it came from."
"There's a factory in the industrial district," said Snyder in a daze, and then he rattled off an address. And then his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed to the ground in a boneless heap.
"Is he going to be OK?" asked Buffy after Snyder collapsed.
"He'll have a hell of a migraine when he wakes up," said Rachel, her voice betraying her utter lack of caring about it. "Let's go."
"Willow, Oz, you two go find Cordelia and research this, maybe find a solution," said Buffy before getting in the car with Rachel. "We're going direct to the source."
Getting to the source of the candy proved to be a somewhat harrowing experience for all concerned. Buffy's driving was, as always, the stuff of legends, legends about demons and the carnage they inflict anyway, and running into Giles and Mrs. Summers at the factory was more than a little disturbing. The G-man was not supposed to act like a teenager. On a scale of one to ten on the weird-o-meter that got about a thousand. It didn't help that the closer Rachel got to the factory, the more on edge she began to feel. She was beginning to think that she might have been wrong about the whole Ethan thing and that there was something a whole lot worse waiting for them.
Well, whatever it was, it wasn't going to change because she was dragging her feet getting there. Completely ignoring the argument going on between Giles, Mrs. Summers and Buffy, Rachel stalked through the crowd - who, it seemed, decided that discretion truly was the better part if valour after seeing the look on her face - and made quick work of the scum who were handing out the candy before entering the factory.
Rachel knew something bad was coming for sure as soon as she entered the factory and quickly drew the rapier she had been concealing in her long coat. It was times like this that she really missed her lightsabre and HK-47. She was only vaguely away of the rest of the group catching up with her as she cast her senses out to try and find out just what was going on here . . . and then she felt it just as she heard the voice.
"You've gotten sloppy, Revan. I would never have caught you off guard so easily in the past," said the voice. Rachel turned to face it and what she saw almost made her heart stop on the spot. It was Malak. He even had that orange body armour and red cape. The only difference between the way he looked now and the way he'd looked on the day he'd killed her was the newly organic jaw.
"This isn't possible," she said, quietly, shocked beyond belief. "You're not real. Malak is a fictional character."
"Really?" he said, in a mocking tone of voice. "Then where do your powers come from? Your memories? Where do you come from? Don't be so foolish, Revan."
"I'm not Revan," she whispered, but the sound still carried. Everyone else had fallen quiet, watching the confrontation, even the newly regressed teenagers.
"Are you saying that for my benefit or yours? Your appearance, your force presence, the way you hold that pitiful piece of metal, the way you carry yourself . . . it's all Revan."
"I AM NOT REVAN," she screamed. "I am Alexander Harris."
The smile Malak gave her had less warmth than an artic wind. "Oh really? Strange, you look like a woman to me," he said, almost playfully, a parody of the man that Rachel remembered from before the war and the Star Forge. That playfulness abruptly disappeared when he next opened his mouth, "stop deluding yourself. You. Are. Revan."
Rachel eased herself into her favoured duelling stance. Weight resting on her back foot, front foot extended forwards, and blade held by her head and pointed at her opponent. "Be quiet," she hissed.
The look of eagerness and bloodlust that adorned Malak's face at that point was truly terrible to behold. He reached behind him and in smooth motion he pulled a cylindrical object free of his belt and, to Rachel's complete shock, a red blade hissed out of the end of the cylinder at the press of a button.
"If you are so eager to die then I will not deny you," he said, assuming his own more neutral stance.
Rachel began channelling her power into her sword, "I didn't think that sort of technology existed on this planet," she said, trying to buy some time. If she didn't reinforce her sword sufficiently before the fight started, she was going to be just another Sunnydale statistic, and she was not eager to die. "And how did you get here anyway?"
"This planet is technologically primitive but it has some rather interesting magics," he said. "You don't need to know any more than that."
Rachel nodded. "So be it. Everyone, leave. This is not a fight you can help with."
"Now hang on just one sodding minute," said Giles. "I'm not leaving you with this lunatic."
"Don't be an idiot," she hissed. "He'll kill you all in an instant if you try to fight him. RUN."
Not that she'd last much longer; she was nowhere near in control of her powers to a point where she could fight a Dark Lord, but at least the others could get away safely and maybe she could engineer an escape for herself.
Malak just looked too smug for words and she didn't know how much longer he was going to hold off on the fighting. Only his arrogant belief in his own power kept him from attacking now as far as she could tell. "I'll get to them eventually, Revan. Don't worry about that," he said.
"Just go," said Rachel, not taking her eyes off the Sith Lord. "You'll only get in the way here, even you, Buffy. This is not a Slayer's fight."
The sword felt sufficiently reinforced to withstand a lightsabre now, Rachel felt, and she immediately attacked. Hurtling forward at speeds no normal human could match, she launched a lightning fast series of stabbing attacks all aimed at Malak's chest, but he was equal to the challenge and blocked each strike with the raw, physical power that he had always been famous for as the foremost master of the Shien form of lightsabre duelling in the galaxy. The sword looked a little singed but it held, and Rachel funnelled a little more strength into it.
"Run," she yelled, as she desperately fell back, carefully parrying Malak's attacks all the while. Damn but he was fast and she wasn't in good enough shape for this. It didn't help that he had a much more powerful, weightless weapon while she was slinging around a piece of steel that actually had weight and momentum for her to worry about. Thankfully the others seemed to have listened to her now, probably thanks to Willow who would realise just how bad this was from some of the things they'd talked about from Revan's memories.
Calling upon the Force to enhance her abilities once more, Rachel vaulted over Malak's head and launched a series of slashing attacks at his back with all the speed she could muster, but again he was blocking every strike, not even seeming to be in any difficulty at all. It was quite humiliating really, Rachel noted in the very small part of her mind that wasn't totally focussed on the battle. She forced a little more speed out of her straining muscles but it didn't seem to press him any harder. The bastard could at least look like he needed to try!
It wasn't all that long before Malak stopped fighting on the defensive and with a quick but powerful series of strokes he forced Rachel into a desperate retreat. Eventually her defences began to falter, and, after one parry that was slightly too slow, Malak nailed her with a kick to the gut that sent her flying back to bounce off the wall of crates several feet behind her and her weapon skittering out of her grasp.
"This is almost too easy," he gloated. "You've gotten weak, Revan. Where is the power you showed on the Star Forge at our last confrontation?"
Rachel jumped to her feet, wincing slightly at the pain in her abdomen, and summoned her sword back to her grasp. "I have no idea what you're talking about. The last thing I remember is you betraying and killing me," she said, as she assumed the standard Jedi Neutral stance and steeled herself to defend against the inevitable attacks. She could only hope that her friends had listened to her and got the hell out of dodge because this was not going to end well.
Malak's lip twisted in an expression of disdain as what she'd said registered. "So you're not even the real Revan," he said, looking utterly disgusted. Rachel felt the Dark Side begin to grow in strength around him and his eyes seemed to glow with an unholy power. "Pathetic. So much for my vengeance," he sneered, raising his off-hand in a very familiar, fingers spread, pose.
Ah, shit, thought Rachel, just as the lightning began to spew forth. She raised her sword into a warding position and channelled as much power as she could into deflecting the lightning but this was not something she'd been able to practice in the limited training time she'd had and her defences were soon breached without a lightsabre to focus her defence around. It was all she could not to scream herself hoarse as she dropped to one knee, agonising pain flaring up and down her body as the powerful lightning struck.
"And so it ends," said Malak, sounding almost sad, channelling more dark power. "Pathetic really."
This time she screamed. It felt like there was nothing but pain in the world now and she could focus on nothing else to mount a defence. Even the feral instincts of her newly born wolf were thrown out of her mind by the all-encompassing, overwhelming agony that was being inflicted upon her by Malak's attack.
And then it stopped. It took several long moments for her mind to begin to focus again, and several more to shakily lever herself to her feet. What she saw almost made her groan out loud. They hadn't listened. Buffy, Faith, and Giles were circling around Malak armed with various kinds of swords and Willow, Mrs. Summers, and Oz had crossbows drawn on him.
"Yo, tall, pale, and ugly, why don't you try us on for size?" quipped Faith as she assumed a fighting stance.
"Brave of you," he commented evenly, "but it will change nothing. You cannot defeat me."
The worst part was that he was right. Even outnumbering him six to one, the gang could not hope to stop Malak. They had no answer to his powers. The lighting, the telekinesis, the short-term pre-cognition, the ability to drain life from his foes if injured - he was simply beyond them unless there was a miracle. Until she developed her powers sufficiently, Malak was going to be almost unstoppable here on Earth. And unless they had magically enhanced swords, they really were as good as dead.
"We'll see," said Giles evenly. It seemed that something had happened to knock some maturity into him. Either that or she'd been fighting longer than she had realised.
And then the battle was joined. The crossbows were fired first but Malak casually dodged those attacks. Someone who could deflect and dodge blaster bolts was not going to be troubled by relatively slow moving pieces of wood launched from a bow. With that approach proved to be utterly futile, the three swordsmen launched into an attack that would have likely left any other for skewered in three separate places, but Malak parried all the attacks in a blur of motion. Well, at least it looked like they had magic swords of some description because they weren't being sliced clean through.
As they others fought Rachel took stock of her condition. As shaky as she felt, her powers felt mostly intact and accessible. Looking down, though, she saw that her sword was so much twisted metal now. That wasn't going to help. Steeling herself, she reached into the Force and at least tried to use her powers to try and limit Malak's as she could manage. At least she could buy her friends a chance, however small it was.
"Ohmigod, Rachel, we have to get you out of her," screeched Willow, as she just seemed to appear at her side.
Rachel waved her off. "Without me you guys have even less than the zero chance you have now."
"And what are you going to do?" she snapped. "You can barely stand."
"What exactly do you think is stopping Malak from going Darth Vader and snapping all your necks with a thought?" growled Rachel as she watched the battle and began to channel what small portion of her powers she wasn't devoting to limiting Malak towards healing her injuries. She winced as Faith was flung across the room and bounced off a set of shelves but the Slayer was up on her feet and leaping back into the fray with a snarl in a flash. Tough girl.
This wasn't going to hold much longer. Another volley of bolts was launched from the crossbow wielders but Malak just leapt away and lead the battle away, obviously not concerned at all. Arrogant as always. It was the downfall of so many Sith in the end, they get arrogant and then they get dead. And with that thought a plan began to percolate in Rachel's mind. It was going to be a damned miracle if it came off, but she didn't see another way.
Wrapping the Force around herself like a cloak, she slunk away from where she had been observing towards the battle, all the while deadening Malak's senses as best she could. She winced as Giles took an uppercut to his jaw that would leave him seeing stars from hours but she couldn't afford to let any more of her power go towards limiting Malak. The two slayers began to work in tight co-ordination after Giles was knocked out of the fight, carefully approaching from opposite angles so that Malak couldn't focus on one of them, and it helped, but it wasn't going to be enough. Malak's skill, power, and weapon advantage was telling more and more as the battle continued to rage.
Rachel was in close now and watching carefully, waiting for an opportunity. Malak blocked an overhand strike from Buffy and slammed a fist into her gut, staggering her back and knocking her on her backside when she lost her balance, before turning to Faith and parrying aside a stabbing attack before lashing out with a rapid series of slashes that sent her scurrying back on the defensive.
The expression on Faith's face began to border on panic as she realised the trouble she was in. As Malak smashed her broadsword out of her hand, leaving her defenceless, Rachel made move and stabbed her ruined sword deep into Malak's right shoulder. Before he could control himself his hand flexed open and his lightsabre was dropped. In a flash of motion, the situation changed completely. Rachel was now the one with the lightsabre and the confident expression on her face and Malak was the wounded one with what was left of her sword hanging out of his shoulder. "Not so confident now, hmm?" she taunted.
Malak just laughed at her as he yanked the sword free of his shoulder and tossed it aside. "You always were resourceful, Revan. But this is not over."
With that said, Malak let loose a tremendous blast of telekinetic power that slammed everyone back against the walls of the warehouse and then with one mighty leap he smashed through the skylight and made his escape before Rachel could skewer him.
"Well thank God that's over," sighed Rachel as she deactivated that lightsabre.
"This is real, real bad," babbled Willow as they all sat around the library table. "A Sith, a real Sith, here!"
"He's just like any other big bad right?" said Buffy. "He shows up, we kick his ass, we party."
"You're joking right?" asked Rachel while rubbing at her rather sore shoulder and staring mournfully at the twisted piece of metal that had once been her sword. "He can crush your throat in an instant with a thought and you think he's like some random demon? You were lucky today. He'd crush you in a moment if he wasn't playing with you."
"So why didn't he just go all Darth Vader on us then?" asked Faith.
"Because I stopped him," said Rachel, bluntly. "If I wasn't there to limit his powers then you wouldn't stand a chance and even with me there he'd have killed you all eventually if I hadn't stabbed him in the back."
"What sort of powers does this Malak have exactly?" asked Giles.
Rachel's eyes took on a distant look for a moment as she thought it over. "Standard Sith stuff really. Powerful telekinesis, limited pre-cognition, the ability to generate force lightning, the ability to drain life from others to heal himself, some telepathic type powers, and the fact that he's one of the best swordsmen you'll ever find. He also has the enhanced durability that most Force users have but he has it to a ridiculous degree. You won't be able to beat him in a fist fight. Gas won't work too well on him either; he was always good at the breath control stuff. Probably some more stuff I can't remember right now."
By the end of that list, Giles was doing the whole glasses-cleaning, nose-pinching thing he always does when things go wrong as vigorously as Rachel had ever seen.
"The upside is that Malak was never big on strategy or forethought. He's a great warrior but he's a lousy commander unless someone's holding his hand and leading him along. Someone's got to be pulling his strings. Deal with whoever's playing the big bad here and he'll be much easier to deal with. Revan was always the thinker of the pair and I'm guessing that with Revan out of the picture Malak got himself killed within a year or two when he bit off more than he could chew."
"I have a question," said Oz, raising his hand. "How's a guy from a computer game walking around Sunnydale?"
"Same way I got my powers, I suppose," said Rachel, shrugging her shoulders.
"That's a possibility. Perhaps necromancy of some description," said Giles. "Hope for the first because necromancy of that level would take an extremely powerful mage." He paused in thought for a moment. "Or perhaps . . . would Malak come to this dimension willingly?"
"No," said Rachel without even thinking about it. "Why would he? He had an empire all of his own wherever he came from if he wasn't dead and no Sith Lord worth their salt would give up their power like that. Necromancy would make sense. 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away' remember? Malak was around thousands of years before even that time period."
"So we have to find the wicked witch of the west coast and get rid of her?" asked Faith.
"It won't be that easy," said Rachel, her lip turning up at the corner as she thought it through. "Bringing someone back from the dead takes a lot of power on its own but whoever brought Malak back would have had just about nothing to work with to do it: No personal items as a focus, no body to re-animate, no nothing, not even a scrap of skin or a bone. I didn't think that was possible."
"It's not," said Giles. "Not for a normal human mage. This has to be either someone of extreme power, beyond anything documented by the council, or someone who's made a pact with a particularly powerful demon of some description. Considering the amount of power it takes to make a pact with a demon of that level and survive the experience, I'm not sure which is worse."
Yup, they were screwed. They had one long-dead and rather less than sane Sith Lord running around and on top of that they had some sort of uber-mage raising the evil dead from other dimensions for kicks. Yup, that definitely counted as screwed in Rachel's book. At least she had a lightsabre now even if the damn thing had a grip that easily twice the size she'd normally use. And the best part had to be the fact that meeting Malak had brought all those lovely Revan memories right to the fore again. Another fun, fun week of nightmares ahead. Joy.
Stupid Sith. He was so going to get it when she'd trained herself up to a level where she could take him. She did not need this right now, not with the whole getting furry and howling at the moon thing she had coming up soon.