Davros's Fanfiction

Chapter Twenty-One

April 2003

Desert. She was in a desert. That was . . . unexpected. She'd closed her eyes to sleep after getting back from the failed first trial of a shield generator and then, somehow, she'd found herself in a desert. As far as the eye could see, it was sand, sand, and more sand with a few whopping examples of sand dunes to liven things up. Fascinating scenery really. A quick glance up into the sky gave away the location. There weren't many deserts out there with the two suns. She was on Tatooine. And she was naked again. That, at least, could be easily fixed.

"If I wake up with sand between my toes, I'm gonna be pissed," said Rachel.

"No danger of that," said a familiar, and amused, sounding female voice from behind Rachel. "You need to brush up on your astral projection."

Rachel turned around, and despite her shock at what she saw, she managed to say, "well, it's not exactly a crucial skill."

It was Revan. The real Revan, that is. She had the same sharp blue eyes that Rachel clearly remembered seeing in the mirror once upon a time. Oh, there were differences - lines around the eyes, grey creeping in at her temples, and a generally softer appearance - but it was quite unmistakably Revan. Looking at her was like looking into a mirror set to thirty years in the future and it was quite disorienting.

"I suppose not," said Revan. "But you should at least learn to keep your clothes on. It could get to be embarrassing otherwise."

"Tell me about it."

Revan blinked. And then a muscle jerked in her cheek. And then she burst out laughing at Rachel. "Jolee?" she asked. "Force, I hope it wasn't Vrook."

"Jolee," said Rachel grumpily. "And there's no need to find it so funny. Remember, it's your body too."

"After five kids?" asked Revan with a small smile. "Not so much. Anyway, that's by the by. I didn't come here to poke fun at you for giving the old man a free show, as amusing as it is for me."

"And yet . . . "

Revan shrugged. "If you didn't make yourself such an easy target, I wouldn't be so easily tempted," she said. "Come on. You're smart enough to know how difficult doing this is for me. It's hard enough to do it from a few thousand miles away never mind with a few universes between us."

"Well, I assumed you'd get to it sooner or later," said Rachel with a shrug of her own. "You're the one making the grand gesture here, not me."

Revan stared at her intently for a moment before speaking again; it was a most disturbing experience to have that gaze turned on her for a change. "Ah," she said. "Residual bitterness. Understandable - and I apologise - but this isn't the time. This link was difficult to establish and no less difficult to maintain; our business must be attended to promptly."

Rachel frowned. Bitterness? She didn't think so. It was water under the bridge. It'd been years and she'd long since adapted to the changes. It hadn't been easy, or fun, at first, but she'd dealt with it. Sure, she missed just being Xander - it hadn't been a bad life really, though his parents had been utter bastards and he'd lacked any sort of drive to succeed in life - but being Rachel had its positives too. Her mind was sharper, she had a drive to succeed that Xander had never possessed for good or ill, and, of course, there was the Force. Not such a bad trade really.

Then again, a rational assessment like that didn't take into account the general unpleasantness of it all. Having two and a half decades of memories jammed into your head was never going to be fun; when those memories included three years as the Dark Lord of the Sith and the Mandalorian Wars? Horrifying didn't even begin to describe it. And with the sex change, it had been a violation right down to the core of her being.

Okay, so maybe a little bitterness. Rachel nodded in acceptance. Wasn't like it was worth getting into a fight over. Hell, she wasn't even sure if she should be angry at Revan, not when she remembered doing it to herself. "And what is the purpose of this visitation?" she asked finally.

"Well, I really did want to apologise," said Revan. "What happened to you is a bit of a footnote compared to some of the things I did, but it was bad enough. I am truly sorry for what that's worth."

Not a lot, really. Rachel might as well have apologised to herself considering the bizarre consequences of Revan's actions, but there was no point in saying that. "You wouldn't have done this just for that," she said. "The energy needed . . . you'll be laid up for a week after this."

"Not quite," she said. "I've learned to use my energy more efficiently over the years, but, yes, the general point stands. I've been talking to the old man, and you're walking a dangerous path."

"There's nothing new there," said Rachel dryly. "This has never been a safe world to live on if such a thing actually exists."

"You're being deliberately obtuse," said Revan. "You know what I mean. Vrook's an old fool with the people skills of a rock, but he does know what he's talking about once you discard the dogma."

"I'm surprised he hasn't showed up," replied Rachel. "Two of us to nag? I thought he'd be all over that opportunity."

"Oh, he's long since given up on me," said Revan. "I think the idea of a Jedi retiring to spend a quiet life raising their children blew a fuse in his head. Amusing and it got him off my back like nothing else. Would make it worth it even without everything else."

"It doesn't exactly do much for me either," said Rachel. "The idea of having children gives me the creeping horrors."

"It did me too once upon a time," said Revan. "Things change. And that's not what I'm here to talk about. Look, you're pretty much where I was after the Star Forge when my memories started coming back. It'd be easier for you to go back to being Darth Revan than not and you feel the temptation every time you're confronted with an enemy. Been there, done that, did some really stupid things. You need to be careful."

"I already know that," said Rachel tetchily. "I'm not an idiot."

"You're also working from a poisoned perspective," said Revan. "Being a Sith Lord does things to you that aren't easily undone. I was never the most empathic of people, but being a Sith destroyed that entirely. And you're suffering from the same now because of me. On top of that, your perspective of what is acceptable is horribly skewed."

Rachel raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Would Xander have raped the mind of an enemy for information?" asked Revan. "Or would he have provoked people into attacking him so he could kill them? Or would he have killed an unarmed enemy because they might attack him in the future?"

"I think you'd be surprised by what Xander would have been willing to do to protect his friends and family."

"Well, I'll have to take your word for that," said Revan. "I only have limited information, but I was under the impression that Xander was generally a kind, good-hearted boy; certainly not a particularly ruthless sort."

"Oh, I had my moments," said Rachel. "I had to be pushed to it though."

"It doesn't take so much as a gentle nudge these days, though, does it?" asked Revan. "I was the same. Still am, to be honest. It's a bad trait for a Jedi, though; you need to realise that. It took me a long time and cost me a lot before I did. You don't need to go through that."

Rachel frowned. It was true that it was hardly an ideal trait, but she didn't see didn't see it as a critical flaw. And she said as much.

Revan shook her head. "You'll see in time," she said. "There's more than just being ruthless. You just run close to the edge. Too close at times. That has its benefits, but it's risky."

Rachel arced an eyebrow. "That's interesting coming from you," she said.

"Perhaps you'll listen you her," said a male voice from behind her that could only be Vrook. "Arrogant as you are, perhaps you'll take advice from yourself if nothing else."

Vrook moved around to stand in front of her as Rachel formulated her reply, though he was carefully maintaining distance from Revan. It was quite amusing to Rachel; it seemed somewhat childish on his part. "What can I say?" she asked, plastering a smirk across her features for extra irritation value. "I have a hard time following the advice of the sort of person who doesn't lift a finger to help when barbarians are rampaging unchecked across the Republic."

Vrook's eyes narrowed with irritation but before he could reply, Revan barged in. "Don't even think about it!" she barked. "If you want to squabble, do it on your own credit. I have better things to spend my energy on."

Vrook grumbled but he acquiesced. Rachel simply nodded.

"Was I ever this bad?" asked Revan. "Don't answer. Rhetorical question." She whirled around to face Vrook and jabbed a finger at him as she spoke. "You're an ass," she said. "Always have been, but you'd think death would change you. Apparently not. If you want her to listen to you, you might want to stop insulting her. It helps, believe me." Then she turned to Rachel. "And you . . . you just need to stop assuming that everything he says is wrong. He isn't a complete idiot no matter how much he acts like one. I know he gets your back up every time he opens his mouth, but you're just going to have to learn to ignore it."

"I offer honest evaluations," said Vrook. "How people deal with is their own concern. I see no reason to molly-coddle students."

"I stopped being a student a long time ago, Vrook," said Rachel.

"Are you two incapable of listening?" asked Revan looking rather too much like Mrs Summers for Rachel's comfort. "Quiet! You're as bad as my youngest two and they're not even five years old. Do I really have to send a pair of Jedi Masters to the naughty corner?"

Rachel just gaped at her, as did Vrook. It was just too bizarre for words.

"Vrook, you didn't come here without reason," said Revan, her form starting to flicker. "You won't accomplish your goals by antagonising her. She's stubborn. Believe me, I know. Rachel, just listen. Don't let his pathetic social skills get your back up."

"Will you be paying any more visits?" asked Rachel.

Revan shook her head. "No," she said. "It's too much. I can't take the risk of doing this again, even with the link between us. The time differential alone is a killer."

"Then I suppose this is goodbye."

Revan nodded. "I'd wish you luck," she said. "But you don't need it. Just don't do anything stupid."

And then she was gone. Vrook harrumphed and then he disappeared as well. Rachel just shook her head in disbelief. Of all the things she'd thought possible, having Revan showing up in her dreams was just . . . well, it was surprise. And being threatened with the 'naughty corner' was a new one on her. She really didn't need another mother watching over her like a hawk. Mrs Summers was more than enough. At least that particular mother wasn't in 'dealing with five year olds' mode.

She'd need to think about what Revan had said though. She didn't think she was skirting the line that closely, but if anyone could say that and have it mean something to her it was Revan. She really didn't want to go Dark Lord on anyone; just wasn't part of her plans for the future.

"So what were you up to last night?" asked Dawn. "Anything interesting?"

Rachel looked up from the newspaper she'd been flicking through. "What?" she asked.

Dawn just looked at her as if she was a complete retard. "You know, whatever it was that had you going full power," she said. "You have been teaching me to pick up on that sort of thing, you know."

Rachel blinked. "Well, that's good," she said. "It's a good sign that you're picking up on things like that when it's not obvious."

"Felt pretty obvious to me."

"Smartass," said Rachel. "I meant that you picked it up even though you had no reason to be looking. Most apprentices who've been training for the amount of time you have don't have crap for passive senses. You're coming along well."

Dawn puffed up under the praise, but she didn't let it go. "So what was it then?" she asked. "Some weird ritual?"

Rachel shook her head. "Nothing like that," she said. "I was just being visited in my dreams."

"The old men again?"

Rachel waited till Dawn was taking a drink from her glass of milk before replying. "Not as such," she said, waiting till the moment was just right. "It was Revan."

Score. Perfect spit-take from Dawn. That'd teach her to be a smart alec with her superiors. "What?" she managed.

Rachel gave her a look that was an exact duplicate of the one she'd received a moment ago. "Whatever did I do to be cursed with an apprentice that cannot understand a simple statement of fact?" she asked, with a mock put-upon air.

Dawn just pouted. HK's eyes flashed in amusement.

"It's nothing to worry about," said Rachel. "Just some business she wanted to clear up with me."

"Right, because former Sith Lords visit people in their sleep all the time," said Dawn. "Yeah, there's nothing to worry about there. Nothing at all. Excuse me, I think I'm going to go commune with my inner Darth Vader."

"That'd work better if you had an inner Darth Vader to commune with," pointed out Rachel.

"Everyone's a critic."

Dawn subsided and returned to her breakfast, but Peter was not so inclined. "You're sure that it wasn't something to worry about?" he asked.

"Not at all," said Rachel. "Just another person butting their way into my head to offer advice. Nothing new really."

"I can't claim any expertise in the area but, considering some of things I've heard, it would seem to me that advice from one such as Revan should be approached with great caution."

"Quite right," said Rachel. "But I detected no malicious motives and her advice was nauseatingly sensible."

Peter raised an eyebrow. "Coming from the person who believes that single-handedly assaulting a military base is a good idea, I'll take that as a recommendation," he said.

"Very funny."

"We've narrowed the list of possible assassins down to half a dozen witches and wizards based on what we already know," said Hermione crisply. "But we can't proceed further till we locate the suspects."

"You're a witch," replied Rachel. "Can't you use some sort of locator spell to track them down?"

"If it were that easy, the Death Eaters wouldn't have been a problem," said Hermione. "And Sirius wouldn't have made it more than half a mile from Azkaban. Methods exist to locate people, but they can be blocked."

"And they are," finished Rachel. "Brilliant. I assume that warrants have been issued for their arrest?"

"Interpol has been notified as of yesterday," replied Hermione. "But I don't expect much success. It's not difficult for a wizard to move incognito. You should know that as well as anyone."

"And I don't supposed wand-waving types are big on using conventional transport channels anyway."

"No," said Hermione. "You won't see many normal wizards of witches moving through airports or ferry terminals any time soon, never mind the dark, muggle-hating types we're talking about, and monitoring apparation is near impossible."

"Try contacting the Devon Coven," said Rachel. "They know a few tricks that the average wand waver won't. Might be able to help us."

Hermione nodded. "I'll do that," she said. "Well, the investigators will do that after I 'advise' them to do so."

"You know, reducing them to gibbering wrecks probably isn't going to make them any more inclined to listen to you."

"I don't care what way they're inclined," said Hermione. "As long as they do what I say eventually, I'll be quite happy. Of course, I'd be happier if there wasn't some sort of James Bond wannabe watching my every move, but I suppose I can't have everything."

"Indeed," said Rachel. "I'm afraid that the spooks are just a fact of life right now. The government isn't terribly trusting of people like you. Once burned, twice shy, and all that."

"They trust you."

"I've been working for them for years," said Rachel. "I wear their uniform. I do their bidding. I'm one of them. And they probably still have plans in place just in case I go rogue on them even if they boil down to 'bend over and kiss our arses goodbye'."

"It just annoys me. I don't like the idea of someone doubting my word."

"Not so much you as the aurors," said Rachel. "The spooks don't think your lot are loyal."

Hermione sniffed. "I still don't like it," she said.

"I don't think anyone really cares."

A moment of silence followed before Hermione spoke again. "I should go," she said. "I need to get back to work."

Rachel nodded. "As do I," she said. "I have a strategy meeting with my department heads to deal with."

"Better you than me."

"Thanks a lot."

Ah, strategy meetings. A forum for discussion and evaluation of the research effort going on at the base. Supposedly. More accurately, a forum for Rachel to deliver orders and ignore the bitching of her scientists before delivering the same orders again and sending them along to do their assigned work. She had a firm picture in her mind of where they needed to be and what they needed to do to get there; there was little room for side journeys into fields that wouldn't produce military benefits.

"Have you read the documents I distributed?" asked Rachel, her tone of voice making it very clear that they'd better have.

A chorus of affirmations followed. And then, "is that really possible?" from Dr. Smith. "I mean, fusion power . . . that was a big deal. This . . . "

"It's a necessary step," said Rachel. "So it had best be possible. Without hypermatter we'd never produce enough energy for a hyperdrive and that would be . . . troublesome."

Dr. Vasilyev started. "Hyperdrive?" he asked, his expression slack with shock. "As in faster than light travel? As in completely impossible? Even the aliens can't manage that!"

"It'll be quite an advantage for us then, no?" asked Rachel. "It's quite possible, my friend. I've seen it in action. Oh, it'll be pushing it for us to get it working, but it will be worth it when it's done. Believe me. This is all in the documents."

"I thought it was some sort of joke! We have done much that seems insane here, but this . . . this is something else entirely!"

"It will be our crowning achievement," said Rachel. "There will be no barriers to human expansion once this technology has been perfected."

"Except for all the aliens that won't like us spreading out all over the place," noted Dr. Stewart.

"Galaxy's a big place," said Rachel. "And if it was heavily populated, we'd have made contact with other aliens by now. There'll be plenty of room for human expansion."

"One contact's enough for me," grumbled Vasilyev.

"They won't all be like the Ethereals," said Rachel "But that's not relevant to this meeting. We have more important things to discuss. Hypermatter's all well and good, but it's only the start. Dr. Vasilyev, you will be working on hyperspace technology in general. This will require close co-operation with Dr. Smith, so please do try and get along."

There was some grumbling, but they didn't argue.

"Of course, a hyperdrive wouldn't be much use without something to put it in and I rather doubt that the shuttle will up to the job," said Rachel. "We need starships. This will be a hell of an effort and I can only provide limited guidance."

"Don't you think it's a little, well, premature?" asked Dr. Schrader. "It seems an awfully big jump."

"Without starships, we can't bring this war to an end," said Rachel. "We need them too much for this to be up for debate. Dr. Schrader will be in charge of the overall engineering effort. Sarah, you will work on the atmospheric requirements for the ship. Air scrubbers and what have you. Dr. Moore will work on the computing and other internals side of things. I expect you three to work closely on this. And, Dr. Moore, I need you to perfect the shield generator technology as well."

Some grumbling, but they all nodded.

"Excellent," said Rachel. "I don't think I need to emphasise how important this is. The future of humanity rests on the results of the work done here. Yes, the pressure is on, and I'm asking a huge amount of you, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't think you could deliver. You are here because you are the best and now it is time to live up to that label. Dismissed."

Later, as Rachel read a report on the progress of Operation Mongol, the liberation of the Middle East, she received a phone call. She left a bookmark at the page she was up to, the progress of the invasion of Pakistan which had somehow ended up under the same banner, and answered.

"Rachel Giles."

"Hey, babyface, I have something you might be interested in here."

"Lorne?" asked Rachel. "Fire away."

"Well, I've been hearing some interesting rumours about some particularly militant demons," he said. "Now, you might say that's no proof of relevance, but I've also heard that there's a witch involved. How does that sound?"

"A witch?" asked Rachel. "Description, please."

"Snooty," said Lorne. "And she uses a wand."

"That's . . . well, that's amazingly unhelpful," said Rachel. "I think you've just described ninety percent of the wand-wavers' female population. Come on, I need more than that, Lorne."

"Hey, I'd love to help," he said. "You know me, can't keep a secret worth a damn, but that's all I have. Sometimes she's brunette, sometimes she's blonde; sometimes she's short, sometimes she's thin. Get the idea? We've got a real master of disguise on our hands here, kiddo."

Rachel leaned back in her chair and pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Wonderful," she said. "Well, I don't suppose it matters. Blonde or brunette, she'll die all the same when they disintegrate her. What's the address?"

Lorne read off an address that Rachel recognised as being in LA's warehouse district.

"Right. Thanks," she said. "I'll send this along to the appropriate people and they'll deal with it."

"Sounds good, babyface," he replied. "Last thing this town needs is people trying to pick up where the evil lawyers left off."

Rachel paused before she put the phone down. "Will you be safe, Lorne?" she asked. "I mean, these are some nasty people you're going to be pissing off. If they can get at a US Army officer in the middle of a secured facility, I wouldn't fancy your chances if they came after you."

"I'll be fine," said Lorne. "Between my sparkling personality and anti-violence wards, I think I'm quite safe here. That and there are some quite dangerous people who'd be pretty peeved if I was killed and Caritas closed. The local Navy SEALs, for one, would not appreciate that."

Rachel frowned. "Well, I'd like to send someone around to have a look at your wards at least," she said. "You're no use to me dead, Lorne."

"I can almost feel the love."

"You're the least objectionable demon I've ever known," said Rachel. "And that's despite the ridiculous nickname you've given me. I have to go now, but I will send someone round to look at your club's wards as soon as possible."

Goodbyes were exchanged and then the conversation was terminated. Now what to do. It would be most efficient to get in touch with Giles and have him pass the information onto the brigade he was working with to deal with. But that wasn't her decision to make. She dialled the number for Harry's communicator.

"Captain Potter speaking."

"Got some information for you, Harry," said Rachel. "Seems that there's a group of demons based in LA who look to be related to our problem. And a witch has been spotted with them."

"Do tell," he said.

"No idea who the witch is," said Rachel. "She's been disguising herself, but she's definitely one of your lot and she's snooty apparently. Ring any bells?"

"My enemies are all purebloods," said Harry. "And just about all purebloods are snooty. So it rings a lot of bells while not really telling me all that much at the same time."

"Well, I'm sure you and that clever little friend of yours will figure it out," said Rachel. "But for now, that's all I have." And then she read off the address. "And that's the location."

"Thanks," said Harry. "I'll arrange a raid. Anything else?"

"Oh, see about sending someone to Caritas to tighten up the wards," said Rachel. "I'm worried about the possibility of a revenge attack here. The last thing we need now is to balls things up with the demons who aren't already trying to kill us."

"I'll have Hermione take a look," he said by way of reply before he left. "I'm sure she'll be able to rustle something up."

Rachel couldn't help but smile. It was all coming together quite nicely. They were so close to getting the bastards who'd murdered Miller that she could almost taste it. It wouldn't be long before justice was served on the creatures responsible and she had every intention of making sure that it was a lesson that the demon community could never, ever forget. She'd have thought that they'd learned the price of declaring open war in such a way after Glory's attack but it seemed not so she'd have to see to reinforcing that lesson.

It didn't sound to Rachel as if Pakistan had much more time left before it fell. With the Indian Army advancing on one side and a combined NATO force spearheaded by the newly raised British Army coming over the Afghanistan border in large numbers, they just couldn't resist. The aliens were helping them out somewhat, but it looked like a token effort to Rachel. They hadn't deployed any of their new armour there whatsoever and she couldn't think of a better statement of disinterest than leaving it to their obsolete mecha that weren't good for much more than soaking up missiles before they got to more important targets. Well, that's what happens when you form an alliance with a group whose ultimate goal is the extermination of your species.

On the up side of things, it sounded like the new upgraded tanks had worked out quite well in the battles they'd been involved in. It wasn't exactly tank country out there, but they'd stood up well to everything the aliens had thrown at them and picked up some respectable kills along the way. It'd be better if they'd been able to create a totally new design to take full advantage of their discoveries but they'd had to take advantage of existing construction facilities. Ah well.

On the down side, the death toll was incredible. Pakistan had picked the wrong side, sure, but they were still people and they'd need bodies to fill up the colony ships post-war amongst other things. It wasn't the most forward-minded decision to allow millions of them to die caught in the crossfire or from famine. Then again, she doubted any force in existence could persuade the Indians to show anything remotely resembling mercy after what had been done to Delhi. Ah well. You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and all that.

Then her phone rang again. "Rachel Giles."

"Turn your television on, Giles." It was the new base commander, Major General Davis.

What she saw on the television screen gave her pause. It took a moment for her to recognise it, but when she did she recognised it as Bogota, the capital of Colombia. A Bogota with large numbers of troops occupying the city in sealed armour.

"The death toll is as of yet unknown, but it is expected to be high," said a female newcaster providing a voiceover for the footage. "The cause of the plague is also unknown, but all current indications point towards some sort of biological warfare."

The scene cut to another city that was in similar shape.

"Martial law has been declared across South America as governments struggle to deal with the rising tide of chaos that has followed in the wake of the plague," she continued. And then paused for a moment. "News just in, a blockade has been established at Mexico's southern border to prevent the the plague's spread to the north. We're going to our reporter in Mexico City now for an update."

Rachel clicked the TV off. She didn't need to see any more.

"Aliens?" she asked.

"Who else?" he asked in return. "It sure as hell isn't natural. Not unless Ebola's mutated to a slow-burner. And that thought is going to give me nightmares."

Rachel drummed her fingers against the table in thought. "Well, this going to be troublesome," she said finally.

"No shit, Sherlock."

"Any news on counter-measures?" she asked after a moment's thought.

"That's higher up the food chain then I get to hear about," he said. "Mostly anyway. All free medical resources are being diverted and a lot of machine doctors are being sent down, but I don't know anything about plans for retaliation or containment or any important stuff."

The droids would be worth their weight in gold out there. Their lack of human emotion would allow them to deal with the bodies without being fazed one bit and their immunity to human disease would allow them to treat the infected without fear of being infected themselves. In a plague situation, droids were always incredibly useful.

"Machine doctors? Are you a luddite, General?"

"If some thing's gonna be prodding and poking at me, I prefer it to be human," he said. "I don't think that's too much to ask. Anyway, I just thought you'd want a head's up. I need to get back to work."

And with that the line went dead. Ah, such social graces. It was no wonder he'd ended up getting the single dullest assignment going for someone of his rank.

She leaned back in her chair and pinched the bridge of her nose as she processed the news she'd just received. It was bad. Very, very bad. They knew that the aliens had significant skills when it came to genetic engineering from autopsies performed on corpses retrieved from battlefields. Few of the aliens had evolved naturally - only the Snakemen and the Cryssalids - and if they could engineer an entire sentient species then what could they do with a disease?

Bad didn't even begin to describe it really. Chances were that millions were going to die in South America. And that was one of the few parts of the world that hadn't already been torn up to some extent. Well, Venezuela had took a real battering because of the idiocy of its rulers and its neighbours had suffered some in the fighting, but it was nothing like what was happening in much of the rest of the world. That only left North America as a relatively clear territory considering the semi-regular raids the aliens launched into Europe from North Africa.

But what could she do about it? Nothing. It was beyond her. She was powerful, very powerful, but she couldn't fight something like that. And she wasn't a doctor or a biologist or anything like that, so there wasn't even anything she could do about finding a cure. It was beyond frustrating. She hated being powerless in the face of a threat; it reminded her of the Mandalorian Wars, of being forced to sit on the sidelines by the Council and kick her heels while the galaxy burned. At least then she'd been able to force her way off the sidelines and do something; there was none of that with a biological attack.

She was used to bad things happening - hell, she was used to making bad things happen - but she wasn't used to being powerless to do anything about them. Being entirely powerless with no solution in sight was as new as it was unpleasant. And what did it say about the world's situation that a deadly plague hadn't even registered with her Force senses?

"Yo," said Faith, drawing Rachel out of her thoughts. She hadn't even heard her come in "Heard about this plague thing?"

"Since when did you have psychic powers?"

"Doesn't take a psychic," said Faith. "You ain't exactly uninformed, are you?"

"There's that."

"You're brooding again."

"I am not!"

"Are too."

Rachel opened her mouth but closed it again before she instinctively fired off an 'am not'. She was not getting into that game.

"Look, you can't fix everything," said Faith. "It sucks but you can't. Like I can't kill every demon before it does some nasty shit to people."

"Doesn't mean I have to like it."

"No-one expects you to. I sure as all hell don't. Just don't get all Angel-like on me, OK?"

"Now that's just insulting."

The next day a nuclear device was used against the alien base in Colombia. Dawn weathered the feedback very well indeed. Rachel wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.