"Are the drones ready?" asked Rachel as John sat down in the slightly battered chair she had in her office for visitors.
"They are," said John. "We've got the test area all set up too. We'll be ready for when the boss-man shows up for inspection."
"Boss-man?" asked Rachel with some amusement. "I'm not sure I've ever heard a four star General called something like that before."
"Eh, I'm too old to care about piddling little things like rank," said John. "I'll do my job and if that's not good enough then tough."
"Yes. Well," said Rachel with a cough. "Anyway, the limbs are still working, yes?"
"Of course," said John. "They're not going to bloody break just because someone of high rank's watching, you know."
"That'd be the exact opposite of my experience," said Rachel dryly. "Anyway, I wouldn't be much of an organiser if I didn't make sure things were in workable condition beforehand."
"Things'll be fine as long as you keep that menace of a friend of yours from touching anything," said John. "Oh, and as long as Sarah doesn't lose anything that's incredibly corrosive too - that would be nice. I hear that demonstrations go better when you don't melt the person you're demonstrating to's feet."
"Hmm," said Rachel. "Well, Faith won't be coming anywhere near the lab, and Sarah seems to have all her ducks in a row at the moment. Now it's just a matter of avoiding any last minute disasters."
"Well, I reckon we're good to go then," said John. "We've got a pretty well drilled crew here these days after all."
"You're probably right," said Rachel. "I just want this to go as well as possible."
"Of course," said John. "And it will. Now, just out of curiosity, when are you going to stop loading Denver down with endless, pointless paperwork?"
"When he learns his lesson about running to the command behind my back," said Rachel, standing up from her seated position and smoothing her battered lab coat down into place.
"So about never then?"
"Something like that," said Rachel. "It really depends on him, doesn't it? I can't work with someone who I can't trust. He's either going to have to shape up or ship out. I'm sure one of the other teams will take him; he's not entirely incapable after all."
"True," said John. "But it would be pretty bad for his career to get turfed out of this outfit with the success we've been having."
Rachel shrugged. "That really isn't my problem," she said. "I've given him the rope but it's up to him if he hangs himself with it or not. I'm past caring anyway - the idiot has long since exceeded my tolerance for his antics."
"Statement: I would be more than happy to dispose of the tiresome meatbag for you, master," said HK.
John would have looked suitably shocked at that when HK had been first built but now he just rolled his eyes. Ah the joys of desensitising people to violent threats though constant exposure.
"Maybe some other time, HK," said Rachel.
A couple of hours after Rachel's conversation with John, the X-COM Supreme Commander, General Wilson, arrived at Rachel's lab and offices as part of his base inspection accompanied by two rather large and humourless looking soldiers wearing the most bizarre piece of black, spiralling headwear. She couldn't help but stare as they walked in.
"So what do you have to show, Doctor Giles?" asked Wilson.
"Well, we have some interesting new twists on the HK concept to show you to start with," said Rachel tearing her eyes away from the soldiers. "Artificial soldiers are nice but with droid technology you have access to some rather more imaginative concepts. Commander, I hope you don't mind me asking, but what are those soldiers wearing?"
"Psychic nullifiers," said Wilson. "They stop Ethereals and the like pulling anything supposedly."
"The things they come up with," murmured Rachel. "How quaint. Well, I suppose we'd best get on with the demonstration. You can watch it on the monitor just over here when we start. But while we're waiting on that we have some more items here on this table for you to look at."
"Robotic arms?" asked Wilson. "I thought this technology had already been mastered as part of the HK project."
"Not quite," said Rachel. "You see, these are replacement limbs for humans. We've got arms and legs right now, and all the in-betweens of that, say a hand or a foot, and they've passed initial testing."
"These limbs work?" asked Wilson, turning a razor-sharp look onto Rachel. "This . . . this would be a huge advance. All those soldiers who've lost limbs . . . "
"We're just waiting on getting some human test subjects who are willing and ready for this sort of technology," said Rachel. "But all signs indicate that they will work."
"Considering how successful your work's been, I'm inclined to trust you," said Wilson. "You can replace limbs but what about other parts? Say the spinal cord or the pelvis?"
"That would be the next stage of the research," said Rachel. "But I'm really not qualified at all for that sort of work. An artificial spinal cord would be incredibly complex and rather beyond my knowledge of biology."
"So another team then," said Wilson. "Still, this is some excellent work here, Doctor Giles. I am impressed. What do you have in the way of coverings for the limbs? I can't imagine that exposed hydraulics would last very long in the field."
"Thank you," said Rachel. "And for coverings we have a range of ideas, ranging from a moulded plastic model that looks much like a standard replacement limb to heavy armour such as HK-47's. I expect we'll end up going with something like the moulded plastic because people will want to look as close to normal as possible."
"Very true," said Wilson with a sharp nod. "Now I believe you had something you wanted to demonstrate?"
"Yes," said Rachel. "That looks like it's ready to go now so just watch that monitor and you'll see our latest work being put through its paces."
What the monitor showed was a fairly large but rather bog-standard sort of range that would present both hostile and civilian targets to those using it in order to test someone's reflexes and aim. A few moments after Rachel directed Wilson to watch the monitor, three of the new HK models floated into view in front of the camera. The HK-147 prototype was actually rather small compared to the HK-100 models - the artificial soldiers - which were smaller again than the HK-47 prototype unit. What it did have was a sort of organic, vaguely triangular shape with two wings that mounted swivel-mount blaster cannons and repulsor lift units.
The three HK-147 units hovered in place for just a few seconds before the range popped into life, presenting targets, and then they exploded into action, floating around the room and blasting any and all hostile targets that presented themselves to so much matchwood. A few of the civilian targets were caught in the crossfire, but not many. The display lasted something in the area of five minutes or thereabouts before the range simply ran out of targets and the prototype units had nothing left to shoot at.
"Interesting," said Wilson. "How much intelligence do these units have? Are they like your HK-47?"
"They're not as intelligent as HK-47," said Rachel. "They're not large enough to incorporate the sort of processing power and storage space you need for a droid to manifest that sort of individuality with our technology level. They have enough to take and follow verbal orders, but not much more than that."
"That's about as much as I prefer these things to have," said Wilson. "What about accuracy?"
"Their accuracy isn't as high as the HK-47 or HK-100 units," said Rachel. "The swivel mounts aren't quite as reliable as they could be and the AI is somewhat less intelligent than the larger models for lack of space. We might yet have to make this new model a little larger."
"I hope that doesn't mean they're going to end up costing as much as your other robot soldiers," said Wilson. "Those things would be a damn sight more useful if they didn't make my budget wince every time I signed off on their construction."
"We're trying to keep the costs down," said Rachel. "But the technology is advanced beyond almost anything else and won't come cheap."
"Statement: and we are worth every penny," said HK. "Even the pale imitations of me are far more effective than any feeble meatbag soldier.
"Well, I'd appreciate it if you tried to keep it as reasonable as you can," said Wilson. "Our budget is far from unlimited after all."
"We'll do our best," said Rachel.
"Hmm," said Wilson. "Well, that's all, I think, unless you have something else to demonstrate?"
"No," said Rachel. "You've seen everything we have to show."
Wilson nodded. "I'd appreciate it if you'd accompany me to my transport," he said. When HK moved to stand alongside Rachel, he continued, "and I'd appreciate it if you left that robot of yours behind."
Rachel nodded. "HK, stay here," she ordered. "I won't be long."
Rachel walked in silence towards the north-east hangar bay with Wilson and his escorts for a little while before he spoke. "So how are your friends?" he asked. "I hear things got pretty dicey before they were evacuated here."
"They're as well as can be expected," said Rachel. "Tara's still as badly effected as she ever was, and that's having the expected effect on the group."
"And your own abilities haven't been able to help her?" asked Wilson.
"No," said Rachel. "There's just something missing, and I can't recreate it. It's hard to put into words. I think the only way to cure Tara will be to retrieve whatever Glory took from her."
"That sounds to me like it will be something easier said than done," said Wilson.
"Indeed," said Rachel. "I do not fancy the prospect of tangling with a god."
"Yes," said Wilson. "That's something I'd rather avoid too. Now, these psychic nullifiers, do you really not think they work?"
"Technological trinkets such as those have absolutely no effect," said Rachel. "They are a waste of time and money, and whoever produced them is of dubious competence. The only way to defeat a psychic attack for a normal person is through discipline and simple willpower."
"Ah well," said Wilson. "It did seem too good to be true, I suppose. I don't suppose there are any supernatural trinkets that might be of use for this sort of thing?"
"Probably," said Rachel. "But you'd be better off asking Giles about that. He has a much broader knowledge of the occult than I do."
"I don't have time for that now," said Wilson. "But I will get in touch with him about that. I'd appreciate it if you could give him some advance notice so he could do a little research."
"Of course," said Rachel as they entered the hangar bay. "I'll-"
And there she trailed off and her eyes took on a distant, unfocussed look for just a moment before she snapped back to reality with a tense look on her face.
"Is something wrong?" asked Wilson.
"I just felt . . . " said Rachel. "Shit, we're about to come under attack."
The two escorts had their weapons ready to fire as soon as she finished speaking and she saw Wilson suddenly take on a very serious expression. "You're sure about this?" he asked. "No doubts?"
"None," said Rachel. "I fear that we may have miscalculated in this situation."
"What do you mean?" asked Wilson, as he tapped away at a control panel near the hangar bay entrance.
"Glory is a god to demons," said Rachel. "What happens when a god declares war on someone?"
"Ah," said Wilson, as the same sirens that sound during base-defence drills started up. "Well-"
"Whatever he was about to say was cut off rather abruptly by the terrible grinding sounds being made by the hangar bay door's motors as it ever so slowly began to slide open.
"I take it you didn't want this to happen?" asked Rachel.
"No," said Wilson as he drew his sidearm, an old-fashioned magnum revolver. "This must be their attack vector."
Rachel's response was immediate. She thrust her arm out and drew deeply upon all the reserves of Force power that she could muster, locking a powerful grip on the door's motors that arrested its opening. The motors made a truly awful groaning sound as the two powers competed for control over them.
"You'd best run, commander," said Rachel. "I don't think I'll be able to hold this for long."
"And leave you behind?" asked Wilson. "You must be mad."
"Hardly," said Rachel. "But I do think that X-COM would be rather poorly served by you getting yourself killed here."
"She's right, sir," said one of the soldiers. "We need to get you to a defensible position."
"Yes, yes, I know," said Wilson. "But she's far too important to leave her here alone to play the hero. Is this even the only point of entry?"
Rachel's eyes went unfocussed for just an instant and the hangar bay doors ground that little bit further open. "No," she said. "They've compromised the other hangars and the access lift has fallen under their control."
"Then there's little to be gained holding this position," said Wilson. "We have to retreat to a defensible position. There's no point throwing our lives away here."
The doors slid open a little more and Rachel saw a smaller, blue demon start to worm its way through the gap. The demon's head exploded in a mist of gore a moment later and Rachel felt the boom of Wilson's gun being fired right down in her bones.
"Fine," she said, releasing her grip. "Let's move."
"HK," yelled Rachel into her com-link as she ran away from the hangar bay. "The base is under attack by demons. I want them hunted down and killed. No restrictions. All safeties are disengaged."
In the distance, Rachel could hear the screams as the demons tore through the unprepared soldiers and the roars of the demons as they rampaged and killed their way through the base.
"Declaration: your will be done, master!" said HK. "Oh, this is the best day of my existence!"
"Just do it," said Rachel, as she flipped the com-link off. "I need to get to Dawn, commander. She is the target here and she must not fall into enemy hands. The consequences would be . . . unacceptable."
"We'll do what we can," said Wilson, not dropping his pace one bit as he spoke. "There's only so much we can do."
Any further discussion was interrupted by a swarm of vampires that seemed to come out of nowhere. Rachel's lightsabre was active immediately as she started to tear through the vampires accompanied by the supporting fire of Wilson's escorts and the booming fire of Wilson's handgun. The group of vampires didn't last long at all, but when it was over one of Wilson's men was on the ground, his neck twisted at a horribly unnatural angle.
"Shit," said Wilson as he quickly reloaded his pistol. "Well, Thompson, I'll send some of this scum to hell in your name."
"We need to get moving," said Rachel. "There's a whole damn army of demons right behind us, remember?"
"Well let's get going then," said Wilson. "If I remember right, there's a defensive emplacement not far from here according to the plans Miller filed for base defence."
Rachel nodded and was about to say something when the base lights were abruptly cut. The emergency lighting kicked in a moment later but still. "What the hell is going on here?" asked Wilson, as they started running again. "There's no way they could have penetrated that far into the base to be able to shut the power down."
"We are dealing with a god," said Rachel. "The exact limits of her power are not known to us."
Fortunately, they managed to reach the defensive emplacement without running into any more demons. Rachel felt a great deal more secure with the Star Wars equivalent of a chain gun emplacement between her and the demon army, and having half a dozen X-COM troops armed to the teeth with the latest in blaster carbines being put out by the X-COM foundries just added to that.
"Sir, Doctor Giles, you'd best keep moving," said one of the soldiers. "We might not be able to hold this position."
"I'm staying," said Rachel. "If we don't hold this point then there'll be hell to pay for everything behind it."
"Giles, you have-"
"No," said Rachel. "I'm holding this point. Go, commander. I'll catch up; don't worry, I have no intention of dying tonight."
And soon enough the demons came. They came boiling around the bend of the corridor, swarming down the narrow length of the passage, and a moment later the air was thick with blaster fire and the smell of ozone as the troops and the E-web opened up with everything they had. The sound of it all was absolutely thunderous. And on top of the sound of the gunfire, you had the sounds of the demons as they were struck down, screeching and wailing as their pathetic existences were brought to an abrupt, painful end.
Rachel couldn't really see what was going on though. One of the side-effects of becoming a werewolf is a major boost to all your senses, and the sheer brightness of all that fire was completely overwhelming her eyes. She could feel it though. She could feel the demons winking out of existence one by one, those foul presences just vanishing as they were cut down in a hail of crimson death. And she could smell it; oh boy could she smell it. All those demon entrails being spilled made for one god-awful smell for someone who could pick out an individual scent in a greasy spoon cafe.
Eventually the demon horde managed to close in to melee range despite the piles of dead bodies littering the corridor and then Rachel was in the battle, lightsabre flashing and lab coat flaring as she cut through demon after demon after demon. The demons were nothing more than slugs as Rachel danced through them cutting them down almost at will. Of course not all demons are so weak and eventually a massive red demon with huge horns on its head smashed her across the corridor with a swipe of one of its massive clawed hands.
"Puny humans," bellowed the demon. "Skorag smash you!"
One of the soldiers moved to open fire on the massively over-sized demon but before he could do anything the demon just moved and the next thing anyone knew the man was impaled on the demon's claws and screaming in agony. With one mighty heave the demon hurled the man off its claws and tossed him into the wall where he desperately tried to hold his entrails in. Before the demon could do anything else it was struck by half a dozen blaster bolts and then had its head sliced off by a thrown lightsabre.
Rachel was at the soldier's side a moment later but there was nothing she could do for him in the state he was in. She simply could not form flesh and muscle out of nothing to replace what the demon had destroyed. And by the time medical attention arrived, he would be dead. He was going to die and there was nothing anyone could do about it, and he knew it. She could see it in his eyes and in his aura.
"Sleep," she said, weaving her power into her words. It was all she could do. Put him to sleep so that he did not feel the pain. And he did not resist her influence.
With that done Rachel regained her feet and returned to the battle with a vengeance, a whirling blur of green energy as she dealt death to all who would oppose her. The demons were simply no match for her re-energised assault and soon the swarm that had attacked the emplacement was annihilated in its entirety.
"Doctor Giles, it would be best if you kept moving," said one of the soldiers as the others set the E-web back up. "We might not be able to hold this position."
"You are correct," said Rachel. "But do try and avoid getting yourselves killed. We've lost enough good men already for one day."
"Of course," said the soldier.
And then Rachel was off again, heading deeper into the base, towards where Dawn would be now.
When Rachel found HK he was stood amidst an absolutely massive pile of demon bodies and various puddles of goo and piles of dust left over from demons that don't leave bodies while cackling like an absolute maniac. There were a couple of dead X-COM soldiers laid out, and they looked like some great monster had been chewing on them, and a few piles of scrap metal that looked like they'd once been HK-100 units.
"Exclamation: master!" he called when he saw her. "You do find me the most glorious slaughters to participate in!"
"And you're the only survivor," said Rachel dryly. "How surprising."
"Statement: the inferior construction of the sub-standard clone units proved to be inadequate for the task at hand," said HK. "I would recommend enhancements but I found their abject failure to be quite amusing."
"Yes, that does sound like something you'd find quite hilarious," said Rachel. "Now come. We have work to do."
"Statement: yes, I can hear many more engagements taking place, and I am eager to participate in more unadulterated violence, master," said HK. "Lead the way!"
"And, HK, our primary mission is to protect Dawn," said Rachel. "Not to kill demons, but to stop them getting to Dawn."
"Disappointment: yes, master," said HK. "If I must."
It took only a very brief moment for Rachel to locate Dawn through the Force - they had take refuge in the base's command centre - and then they headed off in that direction. They ran into a handful of demons along the way - living demons anyway - but those demons . . . well, they didn't have a very long lifespan. What they did run into in large quantities was bodies. Lots and lots of bodies, human and demon alike, and most of them looked like they'd died in considerably pain if there was enough of them left to tell.
One corpse that stood out was that of an X-COM soldier bearing the rank insignia of a rookie fresh from basic training. He was surrounded by piles of dust, and had obviously took his toll on the forces that had killed him, but it wasn't that which caught Rachel's attention. It was the blood that stained the area around his mouth and the feel of a fledgling demon growing inside the body.
"Query: why have we stopped, master?" asked HK. "I see nothing exceptional about this particular deceased meatbag."
"You wouldn't," said Rachel, staring down at the corpse. Damn but he was young. Couldn't be much out of high school. Not much younger than her physical age, really, but still. "This one has been Turned, HK. He will wake eventually and become a vampire."
"Assertion: then it must be destroyed."
"Indeed," said Rachel. "But I cannot think of a way to do so without destroying the body even at this stage of the infection."
"Statement: then I will disintegrate it," said HK.
Rachel blinked. "Yes," she said. "That seems to be the best option at this point."
And then she summoned the soldier's blaster carbine to her hand and flipped it over to disintegrate before firing and destroying the body.
"He deserved it to at least be a human who pulled the trigger," she said by way of explanation. "Come. We have to keep moving. I can feel Glory approaching."
The command centre was the nerve centre of the base. Radar control, flight control, base defence control, security control, power management, it was all done from inside this one massive room full of computer consoles. Of course the room also happened to be one of the most secure in the base even with only having a single way to get in or out of the room that also happened to have a blast door made out of the new metals that had came out of Rachel's team. And the fact that there was currently half-a-dozen E-web's covering the corridor along with a dozen carbine-toting X-COM troops.
The room itself was full of people. Soldiers, scientists, engineers, and, of course, the Sunnydale gang. Some were grim, some were scared, and others had bloodlust written all over their faces. Quite the collection really. Of the Sunnydale group, most looked grimly determined, but Dawn looked both terrified and horror-stricken at what was going on.
"So you made it," said Wilson, from a chair near Rachel. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd bitten off more than you could chew."
"Got a little side-tracked," said Rachel. "Nothing I couldn't handle."
"Evidently," said Wilson. "Do try not to do anything else as damned stupid as holding your ground against an enemy army, hmm?"
"I'll try," said Rachel before Dawn thudded into her and grabbed hold of her in a rib-breaking embrace.
"I thought you weren't going to make it," said Dawn in a voice muffled by Rachel's lab coat.
Rachel shot Wilson an apologetic look and walked over to the Sunnydale group with Dawn clinging to her. "It'll take more than a few demons to take me down, Dawn," she said as she walked. "Been killing these things since I was sixteen, remember. It's nothing new."
"Not this many," said Dawn, releasing her grip. "Nowhere near this many."
"Suppose so," said Rachel. "But I've took out some pretty big groups before."
"Statement: all the more for me to slaughter," said HK. "I most eagerly anticipate the continuation of the unadulterated violence I have been enjoying this day."
"How did the situation seem as you made your way here?" asked Giles.
"The outer defences are broken," said Rachel. "Some of the inner emplacements have been broken, but most are holding, I think. None of them have mounted an assault on the defences here yet."
"Have you seen Glory?" asked Buffy, clutching at a monstrous hammer as she spoke.
"No," said Rachel. "But I can feel her. She's here and she's pissed. Don't worry, Dawn. We can handle her."
"We have a plan," said Buffy. "Willow has a spell that can weaken Glory and me and Faith here have some weapons that should be able to hurt you."
"Speak for yourself, B," said Faith. "You have that fancy Troll God hammer and I have a sword with a bit of mojo in it. God only knows if it's actually going to do anything."
"So that's why Willow's over by the doors with Tara," said Rachel. "Well, is there any place for me in this plan?"
"No offence but we have no idea if that lightsabre'll do anything," said Buffy. "We're pretty sure our weapons will do the job but what you have? No idea."
"Fine," said Rachel. "I don't like it but I'll go along with it for now, but I'll step in if things go bad."
"Kinda counting on it, Darth," said Faith. "Can't be letting that hellbitch get her hands on mini-B."
"We have contact, sir!" called out one of the technicians. "A blonde woman is approaching emplacement B-3."
"That's her," called out Buffy.
"Tell them to open fire," said Miller. "And patch it through to the speakers."
The sound of blaster fire immediately filled the room as the E-webs at that emplacement hammered away along with the carbines of the men manning it.
"It's not stopping her," called out one of the soldiers over the speakers. "Intensify fire!"
For a moment the sound of blaster fire intensified to an absolutely thunderous level before the screaming started.
"Hold your ground! Hold your ground, dammit!"
The fire trailed off to almost nothing over the next few seconds and the screams rose in quantity before falling to nothing.
"Well, that's that," said Miller, looking older than Rachel had ever seen him look before. "Patch out now."
And then Rachel's were set ringing as the base shook under the force of a thermal detonator being set off.
"Jesus," said Faith. "What the hell was that?"
"Sounded like a bigger version of one of Rachel's toys going off," said Buffy.
"Nothing could survive that," said Miller. "Surely?"
"She lives," said Rachel, her eyes going unfocussed for a moment. "She's weakened but she lives."
"Well that's a start then," said Wilson. "It proves that our weapons can hurt her and, if we can hurt her, then we can kill her."
"Sir, we have contact on the cameras," said a technician. "One blonde woman approaching our position now."
"Well tell the soldiers to open fire then!" ordered Miller. "Dammit, I want a perimeter around the door. She might get in here but no further."
"Commander, we have a plan," said Rachel. "We think we know how to stop her or at least do some real damage."
Miller stared hard at her before sighing. "Fine," he said. "But I hope you know what you're doing. Men, take positions, I want all guns pointed at that door, but don't fire till I give the order. Send the order for all active units to converge on this location. Have them set an ambush so she can't get back out."
Wilson wasn't exactly quiet on the issue either. "Giles, this had better work," he said. "This is going to be hard enough as it is."
Rachel steeled herself as she heard the battle outside the blast doors begin. Chances were, she was going to need to be on top form for this one, and she didn't want to be found wanting, not in this situation. The battle outside the doors reached a fever pitch as all six E-webs reached maximum rate of fire and a series of small explosions heralded the detonation of explosive charges along the corridor to slow Glory down. Of course, it was futile. In seconds the fire began to trail off and within half a minute it was stopped entirely.
Rachel clutched tightly with her right hand, squeezing her lightsabre, as a dull thud could be made out from the blast door. And then another louder thud.
"Ready arms," barked Miller, aiming his own sidearm at the door. There was an instant flurry of motion as dozens of blaster carbines and pistols were aimed at the blast doors.
The doors bulged inwards at the next strike and Rachel saw several soldiers' eyes widen as they saw Glory's strength up-close. They knew how strong those doors were and now they saw someone breaking through them with their fists, a rather sobering sight to say the least. Another strike and the doors bowed further, allowing the room's occupants a sight of the rampaging god. It was, Rachel reflected, quite a strange thing to see an attractive blonde in a slinky dress pounding the hell out of a blast door like that. And then with the next strike the doors were smashed open enough for her to stomp into the control centre.
"Alright, you hairless apes," said Glory. "Just give me my key and I won't kill you."
Before anyone could snap off a response Willow moved behind Glory and placed her hand on the god's head. As Glory's expression turned to outrage, there was a flash of blinding white light and the pair of them were blown apart. Glory was the first back to her feet.
"What the hell did you do to me, you stupid little witch?" she shrieked.
Before she could say anything else, a mighty hammer swing from Buffy sent Glory slamming back against the wall she'd just bounced off as a result of Willow's spell. Glory was back on her feet in an instant but then Buffy knocked her back down on her ass with a hammer blow to the temple that would have took any normal human's head off. Hell, would have took a demon's head off most likely. Glory rolled with the blow and came back to her feet, but she looked both dazed and somewhat off-balance.
Buffy and Faith both moved in at that point. Buffy smashed Glory upside the head with her hammer and staggered the hellgod back a couple of steps and then Faith lashed out with a lightning-fast slice of her sword across Glory's cheek. Glory turned her head away just for a moment as the sword struck but Rachel could smell the blood that was drawn and feel the rage gathering in the hellgod. Some of the troops who saw the blood actually cheered but Rachel was in no mood for that. She could feel the dark power gathering and started to move towards where the trio where fighting.
Before Rachel could move more than a couple of steps, Glory lashed out and in a blur of motion she tore the sword out of Faith's hands before stabbing it back through the Slayer's gut. As Faith's eyes widened in shock and pain, Glory took hold of the Slayer by the head and hurled her across the control centre which she flew across till she collided face-first with a steel support pillar and did not move again. She wasn't dead, Rachel could still feel a spark of life in her, but she wasn't far off it. If she hadn't been a Slayer, she'd probably not have hit the floor in one piece after that hit.
Buffy screeched in rage and charged Glory, hammer held high above her head cocked to deliver a terrible blow, but Glory simply lashed out and caught Buffy on the jaw with a straight punch that catapulted her backwards and bounced her off the wall before she slumped to the ground. Glory stalked towards Buffy as the Slayer struggled back to her feet, obviously not quite all there, and lashed out with another punch that would have probably finished it but the fist never landed.
"That's quite enough of that, I think," said Rachel with a confidence she simply did not feel as she held an iron grip on Glory's wrist just short of Buffy's head.
"Who the HELL do you think you are, little girl?" screeched Glory as she tore herself free of Rachel's grip. "Don't you know who I am?"
"You're someone who needs to be taught some manners," said Rachel coolly as she ignited her lightsabre and brought it into a standard ready position.
"A Jedi?" said Glory. "What are you doing here? Your kind aren't supposed to be in this backwards little mud-hole of a dimension. This isn't right!"
Glory would have probably whined some more but Rachel was not interested in hearing this foul creature's whining, so she attacked. She launched herself forward in a blur of motion and slashed lightsabre up and across Glory's chest, causing her dress to bubble and briefly melt before it was reformed under the weight of Glory's powers. Rachel took a swing that would have cut Glory's head off but the hellgod was too fast and ducked under the swing before replying with a body punch that knocked all the air out of Rachel's body and caused to lose her footing and stagger back a couple of steps. Damn but this bitch hit even harder than Malak.
Glory's next move was a straight punch aimed at Rachel's head, but Rachel managed to deflect it with her left forearm - which felt like something akin to deflecting a freight train - and then responded with a thrust of her lightsabre that Glory managed to twist away from with disturbing ease. Glory then lashed out with a left-arm punch that smacked Rachel square in the ribs that almost knocked her off her feet; the follow-up right hook to the head did knock Rachel off her feet and sent her lightsabre out of her grip and skittering across the room.
"Open fire!" barked Miller. "All units, fire!"
As the air filled with blaster fire aimed at Glory, Rachel rolled away over to where Willow and Tara were taking cover.
"I thought your spell was supposed to weaken her," gasped Rachel, rubbing her battered chest.
"It did," said Willow manically, flinching at all the gunfire. "She must have been sucking brains all the way down here or something to be this strong still."
"Got a backup plan?" asked Rachel. Willow shook her head frantically and Rachel sighed. "Typical."
The sheer volume of fire seemed to be pressing Glory back as they spoke but it wasn't to last. Soon enough she straightened up in the face of the fire but instead of physically charging the men and tearing them apart she raised her hands and let loose a wave of translucent energy that shimmered out and blasted everyone to the front of her off their feet.
"This is getting real old," said Glory. "Just give me my key!"
Unfortunately for Glory, her energy attack had failed to affect those to the behind of her, and she was rather rudely informed of this fact by Buffy smashing her off her feet with a swing of that troll hammer of hers. Glory immediately started to jump back to her feet but Buffy brought the hammer down once more onto Glory's back and smashed the god down onto her face. And then again and again she brought the hammer down.
"Just die, you bitch," snarled Buffy as she brought the hammer down once more.
Before Buffy could continue her attack, Glory lashed out with her legs and sent Buffy crashing down onto her back before jumping to her feet and booting the Slayer back into the broken doors before Buffy could react.
"I've got a better idea," said Glory. "Why don't you die?"
She stalked over towards Buffy but before she could do anything Rachel blasted her off her feet with a tremendous wave of telekinetic power that slammed Glory into a wall and left quite the indentation.
"I think I prefer Buffy's idea," hissed Rachel. And then they were on each other in a blur of arms and legs as Rachel pushed her powers to the very limit of what she could accomplish to try and defeat the hellgod. It was quite the display to watch for everyone else present as two extremely powerful beings went at it hammer and tongs at a level of speed that made it virtually impossible for anyone to actually figure out exactly what was going on.
But eventually one had to fall. Rachel made a misstep that left her open to Glory's unskilled but brutally fast and powerful attacks, and the hellgod took full advantage. With a brutal stomp just above the knee of Rachel's right leg, Glory snapped Rachel's thigh-bone like a twig. But she wasn't finished there. She reached down and took a firm grip of Rachel's right foot while she kept the wounded Jedi pressed down with her foot at the break, and then she just pulled.
The scream of pain that Rachel let loose as Glory tore her leg off just above the knee was something that no-one present would ever be able to forget. When Glory was done maiming Rachel, she picked her up off the ground and hurled her away into a group of X-COM soldiers.
"Oh Jesus," said one that sounded vaguely familiar to Rachel's foggy senses. "Medic!"
"Ain't no medic can fix this," said another. "She'll bleed out way before any medic gets here, and that's if we survive that long."
That managed to pierce Rachel's pain-fogged mind. She had no intentions of dying that day. She reached out with her powers as best she could and tried to summon her lightsabre. At first it just rolled around on the floor as her loose grip failed miserably to take it but eventually, as she managed to focus through the endless pain, she brought it soaring through the air to her hand.
"What is she doing?" asked one of the soldiers.
"Exclamation: DIE MEATBAG DIE! HOW DARE YOU DEFILE THE MASTER WITH YOUR DISGUSTING FLESHY HANDS!?"
As HK opened up with his canon, Rachel ignited her sabre and steeled herself. She had allowed herself enough displays of weakness this day. And then she dragged the lightsabre across the wound that had once been the point where her kneecap had connected to her thigh. The pain as the nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and all the rest were burned closed was quite tremendous but Rachel permitted herself not a single whimper of pain.
"Oh man . . . "
"Toughest. Bitch. Ever."
"What are you doing, Potter?"
The one upside to feeling as much as Rachel had felt when she cauterised her leg was that it had dragged her right out of shock and had her focussing on her surroundings once more. Just in time to see a monstrous green beam of sickly feeling dark magic slam into Glory's side and blast her off her feet.
"Fuck's sake, Potter," said one of the troops. "If you could do that, why didn't you do it a bit fucking earlier?"
"I don't believe it," said another. "She's not even scratched."
And then Rachel felt an absolutely monstrous spike of dark magic, beyond anything she'd ever felt before. She glanced over to Willow and saw her best friend since kindergarden floating several inches off the ground, her hair and eyes absolutely pitch black and dark veins bulging on her face.
"Darkness beyond twilight; crimson that flows beyond blood," chanted Willow.
Oh no. No, no, no. She wouldn't! Surely!
"Buried in the flow of time; in thy great name, here I pledge myself to darkness," continued Willow as a massive ball of magic began to form in her hands.
"RUN!" yelled Giles. "EVERYBODY RUN! GET AWAY FROM HER!"
As unnerved as the men where, they didn't take much persuasion to retreat to the far reaches of the room. Thankfully, Harry thought to hoist Rachel over his shoulder before he beat his retreat.
"May all the fools who stand before us be destroyed by the power you and I possess," continued Willow's chanting as the ball of magic continued to grow.
"I have a feeling that I should remember this," said a puzzled looking Glory.
Rachel had fully expected to die when the spell was cast but the explosion reached bare metre away from the point of impact and then just stopped as if it had ran into an invisible barrier. With that done Harry lowered her to the ground and propped her up against the wall.
"Holy shit," said Harry. "She has got to teach me how to do that one."
"You've seen nothing yet," said Rachel in a rough voice. "She shielded the damn explosion. That should have killed everyone here, easily."
"The cloud of debris kicked up by the explosion was quite formidable. Rachel couldn't see a damned thing even with her enhanced senses.
"That has to have done it," said one of the soldiers nervously. "Right?"
"Ready arms!" called out Miller.
The soldiers responded automatically, aiming their carbines at the dust cloud. Rachel couldn't even sense what was going on. All the magic in the air and the constant, throbbing pain in her leg were making it extremely difficult for her to focus on anything.
"Rachel . . . my god, are you . . . no that's a stupid question," said Giles. "Is there anything I can do?"
"You can help me up onto my own damn feet," said Rachel. "Well, foot."
"Of course," said Giles. And a few moments later, Rachel was upright and leaning on Giles to stay that way.
"Is Glory defeated?" asked Giles in a very quiet voice.
"I don't know," admitted Rachel. "My senses are pretty useless at the moment."
So they watched and waited for the dust to clear. When it did, there was Glory stood tall, somewhat charred but still alive, who was holding Willow by the throat with one arm while cocking the other back to throw a punch. Rachel's reaction was immediate. She ignited the lightsabre and launched it through the air at Glory, hoping to distract her if nothing else. When the lightsabre cut through the arm Glory was using to hold Willow in the air midway between elbow and shoulder, the whole room went silent. Glory didn't scream or utter even a single sound of pain; she just stared at the stump.
"She's weakened!" called out Miller. "FIRE!"
But before they could do so Glory unleashed another energy attack that blasted the whole lot of them off their feet, except for Rachel who, adopting the same principles of avoidance she would use against a telekinetic Force attack, was almost entirely unaffected. It didn't really help though because a moment later she was several inches off the ground with a vice-like grip around her throat as Glory took out her anger on Rachel.
"Jedi bitch," she snarled. "You're going to pay for that."
But before she could live up to her threat a red blast caught Glory right in the side and blew her away from Rachel who fell to the ground in a messy heap.
"Declaration: you will not lay hands on the master ever again, meatbag," said HK.
The sheer fury on Glory's face at that moment was something to behold, it truly was. The facade of beauty was well and truly gone. She raised her still attached arm and a moment later black energy arced out of each of the fingers of that hand and smashed into HK, blowing him off his feet and across the room.
"Systems failing, master," said HK, and then he was silent.
"Wow," said Glory, staring at her hand in amazement. "I didn't think I could do that in this stupid shell."
And then she levelled her arm at Rachel, who even in this state could sense the dark energy gathering around the god.
"Well, so much for you then," said Glory. "I'll see you in hell when I'm done in this stupid dimension."
Rachel summoned what reserves of power and will she still had access to. She'd be damned if this bitch killed her without a damn good fight. She was in the process of summoning a shield spell into place when Glory's eyes suddenly went very wide as a green lightsabre blade pierced her abdomen and poked out of her front.
"Well damn," she managed to say, before the blade was pulled out and she slumped to the ground. As Glory fell away, Rachel saw Dawn, lightsabre in hand, her face contorted with fury.
"Oh," said Rachel weakly. "Dawn."
And in a flash they were surrounded. People milling everywhere. Rachel could feel her consciousness fading as the adrenaline ebbed and her strength fled her in face of the overwhelming pain and weakness that was afflicting her physical body.
"Hey, the hellbitch has turned into a guy," said a soldier. "And he's still . . . "
Whatever he was going to say, fairly obvious really, was cut off by the booming sound of Wilson firing his large handgun and the wet sound of a bullet blowing an extremely large hole in someone.
"What was that, soldier?" asked Wilson, sounding more forbidding than ever.
"Burn the body," ordered Wilson. "Burn it and scatter the ashes to the corners of the Earth."
It was at that point that Rachel lost consciousness entirely and drifted into darkness.