When Rachel came to she found herself staring up a very white ceiling and wishing that she was still unconscious. Everything hurt. Absolutely everything. The pain from her leg was the worst, well that was an obvious one, but her chest and back were giving it a good run for its money. Apparently being batted across the room hadn't done her any good at all. Surprise that. But ow. She was too young for back pain dammit.
As she grew more awake she became aware of the sounds and smells of the hospital facility she was in. Blood was the main scent, dominating her wolfish senses even over the normal sterile disinfectant smell of this sort of place. And she could hear the groans of the wounded, and the conversation and pleading of those who were waiting for the badly wounded to awake if they ever did. Oh yes, hospitals were always a good place to be just after a major battle.
She considered moving to a sitting position but it just seemed far too much like hard work to her. She just knew that the current dull pain would just cease to be dull when she started trying to move, and she just couldn't be bothered to deal with it.
"You're awake," said a male voice that could only be Giles from beside her bed. She turned her head to face him. "Oh thank God. Some good news, finally."
"How long have I been out?" asked Rachel in a rasping tone of voice.
"Only a few hours," said Giles. "But your wounds . . . you should have been out longer, Rachel. God . . . you were so badly hurt, so much blood . . . "
"All in a day's work," said Rachel in a carefully controlled voice. "I'll be fine. How're Buffy and Faith?"
Now there was a question she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to. Faith had went down hard and Buffy hadn't exactly been in good condition either all things considered.
"All in a day's work? Fine?" hissed Giles. "You get your bloody leg tore off just above the knee and then cauterise the fucking wound yourself, and you tell me that you're going to be fine? Are you completely out of your sodding mind?"
"Whoa there, Giles," said Rachel. "I know it's bad; I know it probably looks even worse. But it's hardly the end of the road. I will recover."
"You . . . you truly do not understand," said Giles. "Did you not even hear yourself when Glory took your leg? That was the worst thing I have ever heard. I cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of pain you must have been in, and then you tell me that you will be fine, just like that. And they say the English are bad!"
"It hurt," said Rachel. "Fine. It hurt like hell. Still hurts actually. But I'm not going to break down into floods of tears over it. I'll live and that's what counts. Would have been nice if I'd had the more traditional Star Wars injury and lost a hand instead of near on my whole damned leg but there you go."
"Well, I'm certainly not going to argue about your pain tolerance," said Giles. "Not after that display. But you have to be more careful. A more intelligent foe than Glory would not have let you survive."
"A more intelligent foe than Glory probably wouldn't have been so damn powerful," said Rachel.
"True," said Giles. "Just . . . don't do it again. Please."
"I'll do my best to avoid it," said Rachel somewhat unsettled by Giles's reaction. "Now how are Buffy and Faith?"
"They're still out cold," said Giles. "In fact, Faith's still in the operating theatre as we speak. Her wounds were . . . well, too much even for Slayer healing under normal circumstances. I'm not privy to the exact details of her injuries at this point but the amount of damage to her skull was considerable and she lost a great deal of blood."
Rachel closed her eyes and sighed. That was not what she had been hoping to hear. Expecting, yes. Hoping, no. "And Buffy?"
"Still unconscious," said Giles with a sigh of his own. "But there doesn't appear to be any damage that her usual Slayer healing factor can't deal with given some time, thankfully."
"Well that's a relief," said Rachel. "But Faith . . . "
"Yes," said Giles. "What has happened to Faith is terrible. I'm sure she'll pull through, though. She's a young woman of considerably strength and I can't imagine that she will let this keep her down. She won't stop fighting."
"No," said Rachel. "She won't. Faith doesn't know the meaning of the word surrender."
"Exactly," said Giles. "She'll be fine given time. She just needs this surgery to get her past the worst of it."
"Right," said Rachel. "And what of the others?"
"They are physically uninjured," said Giles. "Somewhat traumatised, yes, but physically uninjured."
"Exhausted," said Giles. "She burned through far too much magical energy with that spell and then shielding its effects. The chances of her waking up before I send her to the coven are slim indeed."
"You're sending her to the coven?" asked Rachel. "Why?"
"She shouldn't have known that spell existed never mind been able to cast it," said Giles. "That is not the sort of thing that a young woman coming into her powers should be playing with. The long-term effects of using such magic are quite drastic as you well know."
Rachel closed her eyes. "True," she said.
"Get some sleep," said Giles, his voice soft. "You must be exhausted."
Rachel felt like she should argue that even if just on general principles but she really couldn't work up the energy for it and instead just drifted off into blissful darkness away from the pain and weakness.
The next time Rachel woke up she felt somewhat less like something that had been peeled from underneath a freight train's wheels and more like something that had been peeled from underneath a car's wheels. It still sucked but it sucked much, much less than it had done. On the other hand, the place still stank of blood, and that was really beginning to get on her nerves. The last thing you want to be dealing with when you're a werewolf is the smell of blood, especially when you're weakened enough that self control is that much more difficult.
"You're awake again," said a female voice from the side of the bed; one that Rachel didn't recognise at first. When Rachel turned her head to face it, she saw that it was Tara. "How do you feel?"
"Like hell," said Rachel, propping herself up on her elbows. "But I'll survive. Wounds heal in time."
Tara looked most doubtful. "If you say so," she said. And then she blurted out something on a completely different line, "I want to thank you," she said. "I felt you trying to help me, put me back together, even if it didn't work."
"I'm just sorry it didn't work," said Rachel.
"It's the thought that counts," said Tara reproachfully. "I've always thought you were a bit intimidating but you're not so bad. Now wait there while I fetch a doctor. They want to speak to you about your leg."
And then she was off. She was a nice girl, Tara, but she was a little odd. Intimidating? Rachel didn't think she was intimidating . . . well, only to her enemies anyway. Ah well. She waited, patiently, or at least as close to patiently as she could manage, for the doctor to arrive. When the doctor did arrive, it was a harried looking woman who had just the faintest streaks of grey appearing in her hair.
"Ah Doctor Giles," she said. "I'm Doctor Murphy. Any pain?"
"Just what you'd expect," said Rachel. "I got beat up pretty good, after all, and I'm sore all over."
"Hurts like the dickens," admitted Rachel. "But that's only to be expected, isn't it?"
"Pain from where the limb should be?"
"Not yet," said Rachel. "But I haven't been awake long since I lost it."
"Hmm," said the doctor. "Well, we have these prototype replacement limbs. They have been used much yet but-"
"I know, doctor," said Rachel. "I supervised the team that came up with them."
"Ah yes," she said. "Of course. Well, I suppose you don't need the spiel then. Do you want one?"
"Yes," said Rachel definitively. "Of course. What else could I do? Get a peg leg?"
"Well, prosthetics, normal prosthetics, have come along a bit further than peg legs," said the doctor. "But I can certainly understand why you'd prefer one of these new things. You're going to be about the first to get one, you know?"
"Yes, I know," said Rachel. "They've only just reached the prototype stage. It'll be fine. I know that they'll work."
"Well, it's nice to see a patient so confident," said the doctor. "Might be best not to get your hopes up too far though. It is an experimental procedure after all."
"It'll be fine," said Rachel. "When can I have it done?"
"I'm not sure," admitted the doctor. "But it shouldn't be too long. It really depends on how quickly the engineering facilities come back on-line and how quickly surgeons become available. We have a lot of people needing help right now and as you're not about to drop dead you're not the priority."
"That's fair enough," said Rachel. "But can I at least get out of here while I'm waiting? I don't need to be stuck here, surely?"
The doctor looked horrified by the mere suggestion of Rachel leaving. "You've just had your leg torn off and you want to leave the hospital the next day?" she sputtered. "It doesn't work like that. We have to keep in for observation; make sure you don't have a bad reaction."
"Oh please," said Rachel. "I'll be fine. I've had worse."
The doctor just arced an eyebrow. "Right," she said. "If this isn't your worst, then I shudder to think about what your life's been like up till now. Either way, you're not leaving for at least one more day."
Rachel sighed deeply. "Please?"
"No," said the doctor with a great deal of finality in her voice. "I would be neglecting my duty as a physician to allow you to leave now. I don't care how powerful or dangerous you are, you're still human and you need proper medical attention."
"Wonderful," said Rachel. "So how much longer am I going to be stuck here?"
"Well for a normal person in your position you'd probably be looking at weeks," said the doctor. "Your remarkable speed of healing will cut that to days it seems, but no earlier. Oh, and I have a question about your medical records. There's a notation for your having an infectious disease but no indication of what. I don't suppose you could enlighten us doctors as to just what is going on there?"
"I'm a werewolf," said Rachel, wondering just how that notation had made its way into her files and when.
"What?" barked the doctor. "That's absolute . . . oh, why am I even surprised anymore? How does that work then?"
"Bodily fluids," said Giles from behind the doctor, making her jump a little. "The infection is passed through bodily fluids. Normally it's saliva, when the wolf bites someone during the full moon, but blood, semen, and the other normal examples will work just as well if you're not careful, be they from the wolf or the person."
"Ah," said the doctor. "Thank you, Mr. . . . ?"
"Giles," said Giles. "Rupert Giles."
"Thank you, Mr. Giles," said the doctor before turning back to Rachel. "Now remember you're not to leave this hospital, Doctor Giles. Even the generals have to to listen to their doctors, you know."
"Only if they're not smart enough to avoid them."
"Ha," said the doctor. "Very funny. Just be good, okay?"
And then the doctor headed off to her next stop.
"Are you pestering the doctors, Rachel?" asked Giles, looking vaguely amused.
"I just want to get out of here," grumped Rachel. "The last place I want to spend my time is a hospital bed."
"Rachel, you've just had your leg torn off," said Giles, looking considerably more serious. "Hospital is where you should be. Why I need to tell you this is beyond me."
"And I'm better now," said Rachel. "Look! No bleeding! I'm quite well enough to leave this place till they have my replacement ready."
"Give it up, Rachel," said Giles. "No-one's going to believe you're all better this soon after your injury."
"Dammit," said Rachel. "I'm a werewolf. I heal fast."
"Not that fast," said Giles. "Just let it rest, Rachel. A few days of inactivity won't hurt you."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Right," she said. "Anyway, how are Buffy and Faith?"
"Buffy is awake," said Giles. "And much like you she is making an attempt to whinge her way out of her hospital bed."
"I am not whinging!"
"Faith is still unconscious," said Giles, ignoring Rachel entirely. "And in serious condition. But she is stable and should recover fully given her Slayer healing."
"Good to hear," said Rachel. "I want to see her."
"I'm not sure-"
"I want to see her, Giles," said Rachel firmly. "There's no way you're going to change my mind on this one. I'll float myself over to her if I have to."
"You would as well, wouldn't you?" said Giles with a sigh. "Well, I'll see what I can arrange. I suppose that as long as we promise to not take you out of the hospital wing they won't object too strenuously."
"Excellent," said Rachel. "Oh, Willow. How is she? Awake yet?"
"Not yet," said Giles. "She has quite thoroughly drained herself with that display of power she put on against Glory. Quite frankly, I would rather she stay unconscious for the time being. I'm not quite sure that your generals understand just how dangerous what she did really was."
"I'll talk to them when I get the chance," promised Rachel. "I'll make sure they realise that this isn't the sort of power they want to be tapping for their needs."
"That would be appreciated," said Giles. "I think it's rather for the best that the military don't persuade Willow to use her powers in such an aggressive way against their enemies."
"Indeed," said Rachel. "Now here's a question for you: where's my lightsabre gotten to? That weapon is rather important to me."
Left unsaid was the fact that if anyone had absconded with her sabre than she'd find them and soon after their testicles would be having an up-close and personal encounter with the blade.
"I retrieved it for after the battle," said Giles. "It's locked up in your bedside cabinet in your rooms as we speak."
"Thank you," said Rachel. "I do appreciate that."
Less than an hour after uncovering the location of her lightsabre courtesy of Giles, Rachel found herself on her way to see Faith with Giles wheeling her along in her newly issued wheelchair. She could have used her powers to wheel herself but Giles seemed to need to do something and small as it was this seemed to help at least a little on that front. Also, it would have been a somewhat frivolous use of her powers really. Certainly not council-endorsed, that's for sure
It was during this rather short journey that Rachel got a better look at the after-effects of the battle that had been waged, and they turned her stomach. The sheer number of wounded in the hospital wing of the base was incredible, and some of the wounds were terrible gruesome, gruesome enough to turn her hardened former-Dark Lord stomach. They truly did need to find a way to end the demons once and for all, get rid of them from this plane of existence.
When they reached Faith . . . well, that was an even more distressing sight as far as Rachel was concerned. Swathed in bandages and unmoving, all the energy and vibrancy that had made Faith what she was just wasn't there. She was so small and frail looking, and what skin was visible was deathly pale from the blood loss she must have suffered.
"Force," muttered Rachel as she took control of the wheelchair for herself and moved in closer. "Faith . . . "
"I know it looks bad," said Giles. "But I have been assured that she will recover given time."
"Yes," said Rachel. "I can still feel her life-force, weak as it is now. She has survived and she will recover. But this . . . if Glory was not already dead then I would make her death most painful for this. Most painful ideed."
"I would agree with that," said Giles. "But what's done is done and now we must deal with the aftermath."
"Yes," said Rachel, laying the back of her hand against Faith's bandaged cheek. "I will do what I can to help her."
Rachel splayed her fingers out, touching on both of Faith's temples and then injected her Force power into Faith's system just so. Faith promptly took one deep, strained breath and then sank into a much slower rhythm.
"What did you just do?" asked Giles, his voice and expression unreadable.
"She's in a healing trance now," said Rachel. "I dare do no more with my limited skills in that aspect of things. She'll heal a little quicker now. When her body heals, I should be able to call her mind out of whatever place it's decided to hide in."
"I had no idea your skills went so far," commented Giles.
"I'm no great healer," said Rachel. "But I can manipulate minds with the best of them."
Giles said nothing in response as Rachel leaned over from her chair and kissed Faith on what small amount of skin was visible on her forehead. "Hurry up and come back to us, Faith," she whispered in her ear. And then to Giles, "I think that's all."
"I suppose you'll want to see Buffy now?"
"Yes, I would like that," said Rachel.
When they reached Buffy, Rachel saw Buffy sat up in bed, arms folded, pouting, with an irritated looking doctor, Mrs. Summers, and Dawn arrayed around her bed.
"Are you trying to get out of here as well, Buffy?" asked Rachel in amusement, though she already knew the answer to that.
"It's boring," whined Buffy. "And there's nothing wrong with me."
"Your had six broken ribs and a cracked sternum," said the doctor, his voice bordering on shouting levels of volume. "And can't forget the concussion either. There's no way you can be recovered from that enough to leave so quickly. You're staying. End of story."
And with that the doctor stalked off in the huff to end all huffs. Quite amusing really, in Rachel's opinion. Buffy's pout was even more amusing.
"Don't worry, Buffy," said Rachel. "They're not letting me loose just yet either. Right bunch of old fusspots they are around here."
"And rightly so," cried Mrs. Summers. "Neither of you should be getting anywhere leaving the hospital after what happened."
"Mom!" said Buffy. "I wasn't that badly hurt, not for a Slayer."
Mrs. Summers rolled her eyes. "And that's why you were out cold for over thirty hours," she said. "Right. How could I possibly have thought that it was because you were badly hurt?"
"No buts, young lady," said Mrs. Summers. "You're going to stay here and receive proper medical attention."
"No excuses, young lady!"
"That's you told, Buffy," said Rachel. "So how are you really?"
"A little sore," admitted Buffy. "But no worse than I'd feel after a hard night of slaying. All the bad stuff's healed now."
"You always did heal fast," said Rachel.
"I'm not the only one," said Buffy. "You were hurt way worse than me and you're up and about."
"I wish," said Rachel. "I'll be back in my bed soon enough."
"Good!" cried Mrs. Summers. "That's where you should be after what happened. What are you thinking, trying to get out of here so soon?"
"That I'm bored," said Rachel. "And that I don't really need doctors fussing over me. They have more needy people to deal with right now. My wounds are as healed as they ever will be before I get my replacement."
"You cannot possibly be serious," said Mrs. Summers with a glare. "You've lost a leg and you tell me that you 'don't need doctors fussing over you'?"
"I'm a werewolf," said Rachel. "I really don't need the same sort of medical attention as normal people. As long as my head's still attached to my body, I'll survive."
Well, it was a bit of a stretch but essentially true. It would something rather extreme to kill her off for good these days. As she finished speaking, Rachel heard Giles sigh deeply from his position out of her view and judging by the look on Mrs. Summers' face what she'd just said hadn't gone done very well at all.
"As long as . . . " she said, trailing off dangerously. "Rachel Giles, you should damn well know better than that. You still feel pain, don't you?"
Rachel blinked. "Well of course."
"And you still feel weakness when injured?"
"And that would be another yes."
"Then you damn well need proper medical attention!" said Mrs. Summers sharply. "Just because you have some advantages doesn't mean you don't need normal human treatment anymore."
"No buts!" said Mrs. Summers. "I don't care how strong or tough you are, you still need the same things as any other human being, just like Buffy does. You're not Superman."
"Remember my idea about Ethan's ritual and getting Buffy to wear a Superman costume, Giles?" asked Rachel. "Told you we should have done it."
Thwap! "And no dangerous magical rituals to turn yourself into Superman either!"
Rachel rubbed the back of her head. "I wasn't serious, dammit," she said.
"Good," said Mrs. Summers. "Because it would be horribly irresponsible."
"Oh I don't know," said Buffy. "Superman? It would be kinda cool."
Thwap! "I know I didn't raise you to be so irresponsible," said Mrs. Summers. "Honestly, don't you remember what happened last time that spell was cast, Buffy? Want to get turned into a man like Xander got turned into a woman?"
Buffy turned green. "No thanks," she said. "I'll pass on that experience."
"Exactly," said Mrs. Summers. "And I'm quite happy with my daughter being, well, a daughter too."
"Gotta say I prefer it too," said Rachel. "I don't think a male Buffy would have caught my attention quite as much back when."
"Rachel!" cried Buffy.
Mrs. Summers pointedly ignored that last exchange. "And what about you, Rachel?" she asked. "How are you feeling? Really now, not some 'I'm fine, honest' answer."
"I'm f . . . recovering," said Rachel. "My leg's the only wound of real import that won't be healed within a couple of days and the rest are minor aches and pains for the most part. If they wired me up with a replacement leg, then I could walk out of here right now."
"And of course your leg isn't causing you any pain at all," said Mrs. Summers sarcastically.
"A little," said Rachel with a shrug. "Nothing I can't handle. I wouldn't be much of a Jedi if I couldn't distance myself from pain, would I?"
"I suppose not," said Mrs. Summers weakly. "So how did you train for that?"
"It's just the usual idea of a Jedi being more than just flesh and blood," said Rachel. "Like Yoda said in the movies, you know?"
The conversation pretty much ended at that point. Dawn continued to be silent, and Mrs. Summers seemed to have been stymied.
Much later on that day, Rachel was sat cross-legged in her bed - or at least as close to cross-legged as you can manage when you only have one leg - meditating when a familiar presence taking a seat by her bed drew her attention away from meditating.
"Supreme Commander Wilson," said Rachel. "What brings you here?"
"Well, I wanted to see how you were for myself," he said. "Doctors say you're recovering well but I wanted to see for myself."
"I am," said Rachel. "I will make a full recovery soon enough."
"That's good to hear," said Wilson. "Very good indeed. Now, I think we have some business to discuss, don't we?"
"Hmm," said Rachel. "I think so. I suppose you have questions. Well, I'll answer them to the best of my abilities."
"Well that's good to hear," said Wilson with some bite to his tone. "Anyway, what the hell happened back there? I knew there was a chance that this Glory would attack the base but that . . . you didn't tell us anything that could have warned us about that sort of thing happening."
"I wasn't expecting it," admitted Rachel. "Demons would never normally co-operate like that and Glory was not sane enough to summon up such forces according to my intelligence."
"Your intelligence seems to have been sorely lacking then."
"Yes," said Rachel without rancour. "Perhaps the anger focussed her mind; perhaps she wasn't as insane as she pretended to be. I doubt we'll ever know. She's dead now, after all, and dead people are hard to interrogate."
"That I can agree with," said Wilson. "From now on I want more comprehensive information sharing regarding the supernatural world. We need to know more about these things before they come back to haunt us."
"I cannot argue with that," said Rachel. "Perhaps you should employ someone like Giles as an advisor on the supernatural. I know quite a lot but I haven't got the years of experience that someone like that has and I have other duties you won't want me to neglect."
"It's being considered," said Wilson shortly. "It's not really our area but we can't afford to get caught out like that. We're also looking into hiring some witches like your friend Willow. That was some impressive firepower."
"No," said Rachel very quickly. "Stay away from that. That sort of dark magic is as dangerous to the people using it as it is to the people it's being used on."
"Didn't look that way to me," said Wilson. "Looked pretty damn lethal to the person it was used on though. Managed to weaken 'em a whole lot by the looks of it."
"You don't want me to go Sith Lord, do you?" asked Rachel. "Well you don't want a dark witch hanging around anymore than you want a Sith Lord. And using that sort of magic will make you a dark witch sooner rather than later."
"Well, it looked to me like it might just be worth the risk," said Wilson. "That sort of bang isn't easy to get from a normal weapon."
"You have no idea of the forces you are tampering with," said Rachel, her voice growing cold. "What do you think would happen if a witch was corrupted by that power? Do you think they would hold any loyalty to your organisation? You could defeat them, perhaps, but it would be costly."
"Fine," said Wilson. "We'll shelve that idea then. What about Potter, then?"
"I don't know," said Rachel. "Ask him. Different form of magic, not one I'm overly familiar with. He has his own issues that would come with using him."
"Yes," said Wilson. "We've been talking to him about that and we're not happy that he neglected to inform us of his legal status. And we're not happy that you didn't tell us something was wrong there either. That isn't the sort of thing you should be hiding from a military organisation."
"It isn't," agreed Rachel. "But I'm not really military and it was his secret to tell, not mine. It didn't affect his work at any point that I'm aware of, so it didn't seem worth worrying about."
Wilson just sighed. "It's not really worth arguing about," he said. "Not now. But don't do anything like that again. It would make people doubt your loyalty to X-COM, and that would be troublesome."
"I gave my word when I signed up," said Rachel shortly. "And I don't appreciate people doubting that."
"Who would?" asked Wilson. "Just keep it in mind. I might be the Supreme Commander but it's the funding nations that hold the power in the end, and not all of them are happy with your existence."
"Typical," said Rachel with a sigh. "Well, they'll just have to deal with it because I'm going nowhere."
"And that's the sort of attitude that worries them," said Wilson. "But I don't suppose you care. Anyway, what is it about that girl that made her so important to this Glory?"
"She's very powerful," said Rachel carefully. "Sacrificing her would have allowed Glory to break the barriers between this dimension and her own, and that would have been catastrophic. We would have become an outpost of hell."
"You're very powerful too," said Wilson. "Couldn't she have just used you for this sacrifice?"
"I would not have been suitable," said Rachel. "I would be far too difficult to keep subdued long enough in any event."
"Hmm," said Wilson, giving Rachel a measuring look before continuing. "Well, I don't suppose that's terribly important now. What are you going to do about the girl now?"
"What do you mean?" asked Rachel cautiously.
"Well, she didn't look terribly Jedi-like when she was stabbing Glory in the back," said Wilson. "And the last thing I need to be dealing with is a female version of Darth Vader."
"Oh, that," said Rachel. "Well, I'm going to train her of course. Sooner rather than later after what happened, I expect."
"Well good luck with that," said Wilson with a snort. "Just be careful with it. If things go wrong with her, well, that'd be unpleasant."
"In that event," said Rachel in an ice-cold tone of voice, "I would deal with her. That is not X-COM business."
"We'll see," said Wilson. "We just can't afford to have anything running around that might get in the way of beating the aliens."
"The world's full of demons already," said Rachel. "Don't they count?"
"We have plans afoot to deal with that problem," said Wilson. "They won't be an issue for much longer if we have a say in it."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
"Oh, we do," said Wilson. "We might not be occult experts but we know how to do some damage when we put our minds to it."
The rest of the day passed in meditation as Rachel sought to enhance her own rate of healing much as she had done for Faith without the unfortunate side-effect of rendering herself entirely insensate. It was not quite as effective as a true healing trance would be, but then Rachel wasn't willing to render herself defenceless if it could be avoided, even in this relatively safe location. One of the things you learn very early on as a Sith is that there is no such thing as true safety, and those reflexes do not just disappear when you stop using the Dark Side.
The meditation proved to be quite effective in the end. While she could not regrow her lost limb or truly repair the damage done, she could accelerate the rate at which she healed from it well enough. By the time the doctor came to perform her checks the next morning, there was no justifiable reason for Rachel to be kept in the hospital wing of the base, and she was released despite the doctor's lack of enthusiasm for the idea.
Getting from the hospital wing to her rooms proved to be quite the exercise in patience. She was rather unable to use her normal bag of tricks for avoiding people when confined to a wheelchair and virtually everyone they ran across on the way seemed to want to shake her hand or thank her or, well, you get the idea. And no matter how many times she told that she'd just been doing her duty there always seemed to be more people for her to run across.
That pattern would thankfully taper off after a few days but the new aura of respect didn't dissipitate. It wasn't that the soldiers hadn't respected her before after a fashion - she'd been on a mission with some of them and more than held her own, and there'd always been the rumours about how she was recruited - but now it was just more. They looked at her as if she was some sort of superhero or something. It was not something she enjoyed at all; it was just far too reminiscent of Revan's life. The Republic's troops had looked at her like that once as well, and look what happened to them.
Almost as soon as she was released from the hospital wing she returned to work, and that was an odd one. The entire lab complex her team used fell silent as she wheeled herself in - she drew the line at having Giles escort her to work - and then everyone stood up. Rachel couldn't help but furrow her brow as she tried to figure out just what the hell was going on. And then they broke out into a rather vigorous round of applause.
"Why you're almost warming the cockles of my cold, dead heart, people," said Rachel. "Now get back to work. We still have aliens to be dealing with."
And with some grumbling - good-natured grumbling to be sure - they went back to what they'd been doing before Rachel showed up. She took a look around the room, taking in the fact there seemed to be several faces missing - and then wheeled herself into her office. And for a moment she stopped dead. The in-tray was a most fearsome sight indeed. Ah well. She could delegate that to Denver. As she took a place behind her desk, her office door slid open allowing both John and Sarah entry.
"We'd have been to see you earlier," said John. "But they were being pretty fussy about who was allowed to come and see you in hospital."
"Odd," said Rachel. She could think of several reasons why they might prohibit visitors but neither Sarah nor John were the assassin types and it wasn't like she was in the sort of supreme commander position that she'd been as Revan where a grave injury to her would result in massive morale loss if news got out.
"I thought so," said John. "So how are you? And I didn't know they had electric wheelchairs in the hospital wing here."
"They don't," said Rachel.
"So . . . oh," said John. "Well, that's handy. I didn't know Jedi could do that sort of thing."
"Just an application of telekinesis," said Rachel. "I suppose everyone's twigged on now that I'm a Jedi?"
"Well, duh," said Sarah. "What do you expect? What I want to know is how?"
"Magic," said Rachel.
"Uh, what?" said John. "You're a witch pretending to be a Jedi? Well, that still begs the question of how being that magic isn't supposed to be possible."
"Will you just stop going on about that," said Sarah. "We all saw that red-head blow the woman-thing up with a few words. Magic exists. Deal with it."
John at that point began mumbling under his breath about those damn kids and needing some whiskey before he could deal with this nonsense.
"Actually it was a spell gone very wrong that turned me into someone with Jedi potential," said Rachel. "The details aren't overly important but a series of flukes basically resulted in my merging with a spirit of a fictional character summoned from an alternate dimension."
"Revan," said Sarah. "You're Revan! That's so cool!"
"Darth Revan, actually," said Rachel. "The spirit of Revan summoned was just as she was dying from Malak's betrayal."
"Okay, that's not so cool."
"I'm not exactly the biggest Star Wars fan in the world," said John. "But aren't 'Darth's the bad guys?"
"They are," confirmed Rachel with a slight nod.
"Well," said John. "That's not good. It isn't, right?"
"It wasn't," said Rachel. "It makes little difference now though. I am a Jedi, not a Sith Lord."
"Well that's good to hear," said John. "Because I really don't want to be strangled over a video monitor next time I make a mistake."
"I'm saving that for Denver," said Rachel dryly. "Now, how many casualties did the department suffer, and how badly damaged is HK-47?"
"We lost six," said John. "Roger Osborne, Andrew Jones, Ian Porter, Lisa Westwood, Daniel Dobson, and Ashley Kay are all dead. There weren't any major injuries suffered outside of those six but everyone's pretty well shook up by what happened."
"HK's a real mess," said Sarah. "She blew holes right through his abdomen; looks like a major job to fix and the armour's a goner completely."
"Wonderful," said Rachel. "That's going to cost a fortune to replace. John, any news on leave? I can't expect that the commander won't give time off to the staff after a battle like that."
"They're going to be rotating people out starting soon," he said. "As it is, we're not working all that hard right now. People just aren't up to it."
"That's fair enough," said Rachel. "I'd appreciate if you kept an eye on things though. I have a feeling that some of the staff may not be at their most stable right now and I'm too distant from most of them to notice any trouble that might arise before it's too late."
"You think they might get violent?" asked John with a raised eyebrow.
"I rather doubt that," said Rachel. "I'm more worried about traumatised civilians reacting poorly to being put through that battle. Post-traumatic stress and the like, you know?"
"And what about me?" asked John with a raised eyebrow.
"You're too damned ornery to get that," said Rachel
Work was slow and rather tedious from that point onwards. The staff simply weren't up to the heavy workload required to get the new technologies working so Rachel spent most of her time trying to work on HK. And try really was the operative word there. With a leg missing and being stuck in a wheelchair, her manoeuvrability was rather more limited than normal, and by the time she'd gotten even close to used to it and able to compensate she'd have an artificial leg wired in.
Eventually Rachel caught Mrs. Summers on her own and they had a conversation that neither really wanted to have but had both known was coming since the battle. It truly wasn't something that Rachel was looking forward to; she expected it to be difficult, but knew that it was necessary.
"It's time, Mrs. Summers," said Rachel. "Your daughter must be trained as a Jedi."
"We agreed that she would be trained till she was an adult," said Mrs. Summers abruptly. "Not till she was old enough to make an informed decision."
"Our hand has been forced," said Rachel. "The Sith will have felt her loss of control and use of the Dark Side. There's no chance she can avoid the need for training now."
"There has to be a way," said Mrs. Summers quietly. "There has to be."
"There isn't," said Rachel. "The only possible solution I can think of now would be to strip her of her connection to the Force, and I'm not sure I could do that to her even if I was willing to do such a monstrous thing."
"And why not?" demanded Mrs. Summers. "If it would keep her safe, why not?"
"You do not understand what you are asking of me," said Rachel, her voice growing cool. "This is the equivalent of thumbing someone's eyes out or slicing their tongue off. It is a monstrous thing to do to a person! And even then I don't think I could. Dawn's connection to the Force runs too deep to be easily severed or blocked, and I am only a single person no matter how powerful or skilled I am."
"It . . . it would be that bad?"
"Worse," said Rachel. "There aren't words to describe how that would feel, to be cut off so completely from something that is so all-encompassing. The trauma of it would change a person forever."
"Well then that's out," said Mrs. Summers. "But there has to be something. Can't you hide her?"
"Perhaps," said Rachel. "But that would require her to be in my company all day, every day which is little safer than sending her out to face the Sith without Jedi training. It would also require me to spend considerably energy on cloaking her presence that would be rather difficult to maintain if I entered battle or, even worse, if I was injured."
"So there is no choice," said Mrs. Summers, her expression glum. "She has to be trained."
"Yes," said Rachel. "Don't worry, Mrs. Summers, I'll make sure no harm comes to her beyond the usual lumps you get from serious physical training."
"I'm not worried about that," said Mrs. Summers. "I know you won't let her get hurt if you can help it. I just don't want her turning out like those people in the new film with their 'there is no emotion; there is peace' nonsense. Oh don't look so surprised. I did my research when I found out about Dawn."
"Obviously," said Rachel. "Well, that's a relatively new philosophy for the Jedi, and I don't follow it myself. Revan was one of the first products of that approach, and I think that speaks for itself. It is a failed philosophy, and I do not teach my students to be failures."
"So you won't be teaching Dawn that?"
"No," said Rachel. "That code is a failure. Denying emotion is a quick path to utter failure. The key is to acknowledge the emotion, to feel it, and then to do the right thing anyway."
"Well that's better," said Mrs. Summers somewhat doubtfully. "But she'll be allowed to get married and have children if she wants to, right?"
"That will be her decision to make," said Rachel. "She may decide on her own that the responsibilities of a Jedi Knight are not compatible with those of marriage. Many do."
"I don't like it," said Mrs. Summers. "But I don't think I have a choice. Better that she ends up spending the rest of her life fighting like Buffy than the other options."
"Indeed," said Rachel. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I did not want things to turn out this way. Events have moved entirely beyond my control."
And then Rachel left Mrs. Summers to face the fact that her daughter was about to join up with an Order that would be in a perpetual state of war till the Sith were exterminated. Now that she'd persuaded Mrs. Summers to not stand in the way of training Dawn, she only had to deal with Dawn herself.
Getting Dawn alone to have the conversation proved to be something that was easier said than done. The girl was much sneakier than Rachel remembered her being and being confined to a wheelchair made it pretty much impossible to sneak up on people like she had in the past. But she managed it eventually. Age and treachery defeated youth and enthusiasm once more, and Mrs. Summers arranged for Dawn to be caught alone in the quarters that been allocated to the Summers family when they'd been evacuated to the base.
"You've been avoiding me, Dawn," said Rachel as she wheeled herself into the quarters.
Dawn positively jumped out of her skin before she turned on her heel to face Rachel. "Have not!"
"Oh really?" asked Rachel, somewhat amused.
"Nuh-huh," said Dawn. "I'm not avoiding you."
"Hmm," said Rachel. "So why did I have to arrange for you to be left alone here with your mother?"
"No reason really," said Dawn quickly. "Things have just been hectic."
"Telling bald-faced lies to a Jedi Knight?" asked Rachel. "Not the most intelligent thing you've ever done, Dawn."
"I think I can guess why," said Rachel. "It's not difficult. You think I blame you for my injuries, right? Think I'm angry with you? I'm not. Your guilt is entirely misplaced. What happened was Glory's fault and Glory's fault alone."
"No buts," said Rachel sternly. "You hold no responsibility for what happened to me and the other who were injured or killed by Glory."
Dawn looked like she was going to burst into tears for just a moment before she forced it back.
"Anyway, that's not why I want to talk to you," said Rachel. "Not really."
"Then what?" asked Dawn. "Oh. Glory."
"Remember how you felt when you killed her?" asked Rachel. "Remember the rage? The fear? The hate? That's bad mojo, Dawn. For people like us, that's very bad mojo."
"She deserved it," said Dawn bluntly.
"Oh indeed," said Rachel. "If anyone's ever deserved death for their actions, it was Glory. But the ends don't always justify the means, Dawn. You took your first step down the dark path when you killed Glory. All that rage and hate . . . you'll have stuck out like a beacon to every Sith on the planet."
"I what?" asked Dawn. "They know?"
"Oh yes," said Rachel. "They'd have to be both Force-blind and stupid not to have felt that little eruption. You've marked yourself as the number-one candidate to become a Sith Acolyte on this planet."
Well, she wouldn't stay a mere acolyte for long if the Sith got their hands on her, but it was the principle, and there was no need to swell her head by telling her she was the number one candidate to become a Sith Lord.
"I don't want to be a Sith," said Dawn in a very small voice, her face pale.
"Well, there're ways to avoid that," said Rachel. "I wasn't really planning on starting your training so soon, but we could go that route."
"You're going to train me?"
"If you're willing."
"Yes!" said Dawn. "I'm willing!"
And got you. Always easier to get a teenager to do something arduous when they think it's their own idea.
"There's no going back on this," said Rachel. "Once you've started the training I won't release you till it's complete. No turning back."
"I can do it!" said Dawn, her expression stubborn. "I won't fail you."
"No, you won't," said Rachel. "Well, that's it then. You're now Padawan Summers of the Jedi Order.
"Isn't there supposed to be, like, a ceremony or something?" asked Dawn. "And don't I have to get a braid?"
"Ceremony?" asked Rachel. "I don't think so. I have no appetite for such wastes of time and energy. And the braid was not part of Jedi tradition in my time; unless you have some great desire to have the braid, I think we'll skip that."
"No thanks," said Dawn, one of her hands creeping up to cover her hair. Yeah, she wasn't over enamoured of that idea.
"Well, that's all for now," said Rachel as she pulled a thin book out of a lab coat pocket. "Here. Read that. Memorise it, in fact. That's the bare-bones basics you'll need to get started. I'll know if you don't read it, so don't even try to skive off."
"I won't," said Dawn, handling the book as if it was some sort of precious gem. Ah, the enthusiasm of the new. That would pass for sure.
"I'll hold to that," said Rachel. "Now, we probably won't have time to start your proper training till after my operation, so I'll expect you to really have that material down by the time we start. Understand?"
Dawn just nodded, entranced by the book. Rachel shook her head and wheeled herself out. She'd leave the girl to it. Wasn't like she was going to get any sense out of her now anyway.
Time passed quickly after the conversation with Dawn. Willow was shipped off to the coven in England that Rachel had trained with before she'd woke up from her magical exhaustion and Tara left with her. That was something that Rachel wasn't especially happy about but she couldn't argue with the necessity of Willow spending time with someone like the coven to give her a firm grounding in the proper way to use magic. She just thought that it would have been, you know, polite to clue Willow in before shipping her off. Sure, using a Dragon Slave was bad, but it wasn't that bad.
A few days after the conversation with Dawn, Rachel received word that her replacement leg was ready to be installed, and she was in for the operation almost immediately afterwards. It was then that she was informed that it would be necessary for what remained of her leg to be amputated as her forced cauterisation had effectively destroyed the nerves in it. Not something she wanted to be hearing and certainly not something that would have been necessary in the Star Wars dimension, but there wasn't much she could do about it.
At least she still had a general anaesthetic. She could deal with many things, but being awake will they hacked what was left of her leg off and wired a robotic replacement to the socket was a step beyond what she could put up with. And so she found herself waking up in a hospital bed a day after the operation feeling somewhat groggy. She took a few moments to blink and focus her eyes before she even started to think at all.
"Well, that feels weird," said Rachel, looking down the bed at where two legs were clearly visible underneath the sheets.
"I do hope that it's the sort of weird that involves a working limb," said a voice that could only be Giles from the side of her bed. "It would be rather inconvenient if we had to do this again."
"It's a bit . . . dull," said Rachel. "But that's to be expected. Metal and plastic, even with the best artificial nerves money can buy, just don't feel like flesh and bone. I'll get used to it."
"I can't claim to have much knowledge of that," said Giles. "I'll just go get the doctor. They wanted to speak with you and run some tests before you start moving around."
What followed that was the most excruciatingly boring lecture that Rachel had ever received - and she'd had lectures from Vrook! - on the proper care and use of cybernetic limbs. The fact that she was, in this dimension, the inventor of the technology didn't seem to come into it. Bloody doctors. Thankfully, they took the hint eventually from the death glare she was giving them and buggered off, leaving her to test her new limb.
Getting up on her feet was an experience. She never thought it would feel so good to be able to stand on her own two feet, but there she was smiling wide enough to feel like she was cracking her head in two just because she was stood up under her own power. Her first few steps were faltering but she soon had the new leg figured and was walking around the room as naturally as if she'd never lost a leg.
"It's working," she whooped before grabbing Giles in a bone-crushing hug and swinging him around a few times. He came rather close to falling flat on his arse when Rachel released him.
"Quite," said Giles, looking slightly dazed.