Author: The Dark Scribbler PM
Xander goes for a rather different costume at Halloween. May the force be with him? Chapter 28 is here.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure - Chapters: 28 - Words: 239,128 - Reviews: 1,021 - Favs: 900 - Follows: 250 - Updated: 09-01-05 - Published: 05-17-04 - id: 1866354
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This marks the end of my longest story ever. Before anyone screams at me, I'd like to stress that it's the end of the beginning. This chapter will bring Jedi Harris to an end. It will have a sequel. It's already writing itself. But this is the end of Book One, as it were. More will come folks. Thanks for reading, and keep watching out for Jedi Harris 2.
A wave of the hand brought the relevant file up. Interesting. She seemed so normal on the surface… but once you dug down a little then you found all kinds of interesting, not to mention festering, issues. Oh this one had all kinds of knots in the woodwork. The figure paused. Just because she was the only one to appear, didn't make her the right choice. But the information so far… it all pointed to her being the only choice so far. There was power there. Badly used, ill-formed, too tenuous for words at times, but there was something there, alright. It was typical that Wolfram & Hart hadn't picked up on it so far. But then their Senior Partners did prefer more conventional… magicks. They had no idea what else was out there. It was pathetic at times. They were pathetic at times. Their concept of power was like a mailed fist, even when they tried to be subtle. The truth was that they wouldn't recognise subtle if it hit them with a writ in the face.
The figure closed the file with another wave and smiled. Perhaps an apprentice at long last? Maybe. There was a lot to think about. He just needed a chance to talk to her. Perhaps a little legal manoeuvring? There was always a way around things. It was time to step out of the shadows. It was time to move. He had observed for long enough. Now it was time to act.
"Here we are," said a cheerful voice, and then Giles walked back in, holding a tray. He put it down carefully, handed her a mug of strong coffee and then put a plate of crumpets on the table. Faith chugged the coffee contentedly and sighed. The G-Man made good coffee. Hot and milky but full of caffeine. Just like Horry used to make. She sat down, grabbed a crumpet and bit down. Yum. "Hey, Giles," she said after a buttery moment of bliss. It had been a hard evenings slaying, especially minus B and the two Jedi. Wesley was off researching a purple spidery thing that had almost had a heart attack when it saw her. "What's with the picture of the jungle?"
Giles looked up at the wall where the painting was hanging and smiled slightly. "Oh, that. My cousin sent it on from England. It was painted from memory by our grandfather, in India, near the border with Burma. He was at a place called Kohima, in April 1944. A beautiful place, but the scene of a terrible battle, where the 14th Army, in which my grandfather served, smashed a Japanese offensive to pieces."
The smile had hardened on the Watcher's face. Now, as he looked back at Faith, it softened again. "A hard battle, that along with the related siege of Imphal nearby. A lot of good men died, but it was the beginning of the end for the Japanese there. It was one of their most terrible defeats. Tens of thousands of them were killed, in very bitter fighting. At one point, in Kohima, my grandfather was less then a grenade's throw from their front line."
He sighed. "There's a memorial there, close to where he stood. It says: 'When you go home, Tell them of us and say: That for your tomorrow, We gave our today.'
"I've always thought," he said roughly after a moment, "That those words should be adopted by the Slayers. I intend that they will be one day."
Faith stared at the picture and mouthed the words silently. "I like that," she said after a while. "That's what it means, don't it? What we do?"
"Yes and no," said Giles grimly. "No more useless sacrifices. Just fighting for what is right and for the right to give the Slayers at least part of a normal life."
They clinked coffee mugs together. "I'll drink to that."
Major Samantha Carter's eyes flew open. She went one way, the blanket went the other and she was upright almost instantly, looking at her desk. Oh god. Oh GOD! The blueprints were gone. So was the energy cell. And there was a good chance that they were in the hands of Colonel Jack "What does this big red button do?" O'Neill. She grabbed her fatigues jacket and ran for it, almost knocking over Sergeant Siler as he went off somewhere with that massive wrench of his again.
As she ran she looked at her watch and then shuddered to a halt. She'd been asleep for 12 hours. That meant that she must have been extremely tired. That also meant that Jack had been in possession of the device for a long time. Oh hell. She ran on.
When she arrived at Colonel O'Neill's office, she looked reassured to see Daniel and Teal'c there as well. Judging by the fact that Daniel was blowing on a new cup of coffee, they had just arrived. She looked around wildly.
"Relax, Carter," said a voice over the tinny sounds of something carrying out a strafing run on something easily combustible, "Your doohickey is fine. It's on the table. Still doesn't work, but it's fine."
"What happened to the 'O'Neill Touch'?" asked Daniel, obviously trying not to smile.
"It's fine. That thing, however, isn't." There was the sound of more firing, followed by a whomph noise. "Crap," said Jack as he emerged from behind his computer and tossed the control to one side. "Damn flak." He looked at Carter with some amusement as she inspected the device carefully. She seemed surprised to find it in one piece. To tell the truth, so did Daniel.
"I was just trying to help, Carter."
She glared at him. "Please ask next time, sir. I was close to finding out what was wrong with it, I know I was."
Daniel's eyebrows rose and he shared a glance with the Jaffa. Then he started to count down from ten in his head. When he reached five, Sam said on cue: "Nope? I'm sorry sir, what do you mean by 'nope?'"
"Nope, you weren't close to solving it. You can't make it work, Carter."
"Well… Sir… with all due respect how do you know anyway?"
"Because…" Jack drawled, pulling the blueprints over and flipping through them carefully to one sheet, "The guy who built this thing left a piece out. It goes here." His finger jabbed down. Then he looked up to see them all staring at him. "What?"
"How do you know how to read blueprints?" asked Daniel, wondering if he'd slipped into an alternate dimension.
"Because I patented a stabilising device for my telescope during my short-lived retirement. And because I'm a pilot," said Jack, saying this last part in a slow voice, as if he was talking to very small children. "I fly planes. Planes have things that can go wrong. If they go wrong in mid-air, kablooie things can happen. That can be bad. I walk over every plane before a flight to make sure it's not in a pre-kablooie state. Is this too hard for you to grasp?"
Sam closed her mouth, raised her eyebrows, lowered them again, seemed about to say something, changed her mind and then glared back down at the plan. When she looked up she said: "I'm sorry sir, but there's nothing there."
"I know. Which is why it won't work. Look at the first page, with the drawing of the whole thing. See that connecting arm at the back? The one that you can barely see? It's not on the other pages of the blueprint but it connects two areas and I'll be willing to bet that it's the bit you need to make it keep a charge. It should be listed on this page. But it's not."
There was a moment whilst Sam compared the two pages with the device. Then she slumped down on the chair that Jack had been using. "Damn," she said. "I wonder how it works?"
"I don't know," shrugged Jack. "Not on the blueprints though. And therefore a problem."
Daniel leant over the plans and frowned. "Odd. Why take the time and trouble to patent something and then not bother with one of the most important parts?"
"I'm sure I couldn't tell you," said Jack, fiddling with the controller in an absent minded manner and getting the look on his face that meant that he wanted to blow things up again.
"Still, it's odd." Daniel looked down again at the plans and then, acting on a whim, bent over to look at them carefully. Just before he leant back up again he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye and stared at it. "That's odder. Sam, what's this strange writing on the side here?"
"What strange writing?" asked a startled Sam and Jack almost as one.
"I'm not sure…" mused Daniel, running his hands through various pockets. Finally he pulled out a foldable magnifying glass, blew the fluff from it, polished it carefully and then leant over to look at the strange symbols. They were curved and entirely alien to him. "Never seen that before."
Taking the glass away from him, Jack inspected the writing. "Looks like chicken scratches to me. What do you think, Carter?"
The blonde Major looked at the writing and then straightened up. "Never seen it before. Looks vaguely familiar though."
"Please tell me it's not some weird form of snake, T," groaned Jack as the big Jaffa bent over the map.
"It is not, O'Neill," he rumbled in a rather bemused manner. "It is not Goa'uld."
"It is Galactic Basic."
This earned him one of Jack's best glares. "It's what?"
"What the hell is that when it's at home?"
Teal'c hesitated. "It is the alphabet used in the films that tell the story of the Galactic Civil War."
The three non-Jaffa inhabitants of the room looked at him blankly. Then Jack finally broke the silence. "I'm going to go back to my original question of: It's what?"
"It is the alphabet used in the films that tell the story of the Galactic Civil War, as recounted by George Lucas."
"You mean Star Wars?" asked an incredulous Sam. "You're kidding!"
"I am not. I have seen A New Hope many times. The writing was clear in several instances there."
There was a rather stunned silence. Then Jack said: "Well, I didn't see that one coming. You sure?"
"I am sure," came the grave answer. "I have seen the first film eight times by myself. Three further times with Master Bra'tac. The writing is visible best when seen from the perspective of Darth Vader's TIE fighter, as he attempts to kill Luke Skywalker."
"Oookay…." drawled Daniel as he raised and lowered his eyebrows. "So, what does it say?"
"I do not know. I will have to consult my reference book," said the Jaffa with a hint of humility.
"You have a Star Wars reference book?" asked Daniel.
"Yes. It is called 'The Big Book Of Star Wars.' It is most illuminating. I shall go to my quarters and bring it back."
"Wait, back up a second there big guy," protested Jack. "Did I hear you say that Bra'tac had seen the film with you?"
"That is correct."
"Okay, here's the question on everyone's lips: why?"
Teal'c smiled gravely. "I wished him to see it because it is a story that has great relevance to our cause – the rebellion by those who are good against a great and evil Empire that destroys entire worlds to subjugate people. Master Bra'tac agreed once he had seen it for the first time. And he is a Raker'Nos."
"Bless you," said Jack absently and then shook his head at their stares. "What? It sounded like a sneeze!"
"Umm… teller of legends?" guessed Daniel.
The Jaffa bowed his head slightly. "Indeed. It is an honourable title in addition to his other roles. It is an aspect to Jaffa leadership that I am only now starting to learn to emulate. He has many stories and legends that he can relate to young Jaffa to teach them of the things that they must know of in life. He has added the Tale of the Galactic Rebellion to them. It has been most beneficial."
Jack directed the kind of look that said that he was in full disbelief mode at the Jaffa. "It's just a film."
"It is a tale of a noble fight against a corrupt and despotic Empire that seeks to control its subjects through fear, intimidation and terror. It is something that speaks to the heart of what the Jaffa Rebellion against the Goa'uld means. Master Bra'tac has agreed that it is a truly fitting story to be told. It has become most popular with the free Jaffa and is told secretly even amongst some of the enslaved Jaffa."
"Well, that's going to piss off George Lucas's lawyers if they ever hear about it," said Jack after a long silence. "Kinda makes sense though. Never seen the films, but I've heard that they're good." He turned to Teal'c. "So Bra'tac tells the story 'round campfires and stuff?"
"Indeed. He is most skilled. I have much to learn from him, but I am able to emulate some of the noises, and use them as an accompaniment to his telling of the story."
This brought Sam's eyebrows up again. "Noises?"
Teal'c hesitated for a moment and then, cupping his hands together, brought them up to his mouth. There was a pause and then he breathed in slowly, in a harsh and laboured metallic rattle of air. It sounded as if Darth Vader was there in the room with them. Just behind them in fact, which was… disturbing. The Jaffa moved his fingers slightly and breathed out. This time it sounded like a lightsabre igniting. Teal'c lowered his hands. "I have been told that I have some skill."
"Yes, indeed you do," said Daniel hastily, feeling distinctly freaked out. "That just sounded… rather too realistic." Then he turned back to the blueprint. "Um, you mentioned the book?"
"Indeed. I will retrieve it now." He turned and left at a dignified but slightly urgent pace, as if he was in a hurry.
After a long moment Jack looked at the others and then cleared his throat quietly. "Does anybody else think that the idea of Bra'tac reciting the story of Star Wars whilst T does the sound effects is, well, a bit freaky?"
Daniel traded a careful glance with Sam and then they both raised their hands.
"Not just me then, good," said Jack, muttering. Then he reached over and plugged in his spare console. "Hey Spacemonkey, want me to kick your butt?"
"Anything to distract me from today's events," Daniel replied.
By the time that Teal'c returned Daniel had shot down Jack twice and was smirking as he placed the console on the table as the Jaffa re-entered the room. He was clutching a large book with the title: My Big Book of Star Wars. He nodded gravely to them and placed it on the table, before flipping carefully through it. It seemed to be rather extensive to Daniel.
After a while he stopped, raised an eyebrow and then quickly flipped the book around to face them. "As I surmised – it is the alphabet used on the plans."
They all leant over to stare at the page, where an explanation was written next to a series of pictures. To one side a series of symbols showed the English version of the odd-looking alphabet. "Interesting," muttered Daniel, "They obviously used characters that were inspired by a number of different pictograms including…" His voice died away as he felt Jack glaring at him. "Yes, well, I can use this to work out what the writing says, if it's anything useful that is. Can you pass that pen, Sam? Thanks. Um…" He started deciphering the strange writing, writing the words that emerged on a piece of paper one letter at a time. Teal'c watched him impassively, whilst Jack tried to get Sam to fly against him, with no success.
"Sir, if General Hammond comes in and sees two senior members of the SGC playing a computer game, I don't think that he'd be very impressed."
"Yes he would, he'd think: 'They've got things so much under control that they can kick back a little.' Come on Carter, live a little. Unless you're scared that I'll win?"
Sam directed a withering gaze at her superior officer and was only saved from saying something sarcastic by Daniel, who was staring down at the paper with some dismay. "Oh… dear. Not good."
This, inevitably, brought in Jack whose eyebrows went up. "Not good? Care to explain?"
Daniel handed the paper over to the Colonel, who read it impassively. "Hum," he said after a moment. "You're right; not good." He turned to look at Sam, who seemed about to explode with curiousity. Teal'c also looked intrigued: his right eyebrow was an eighth of an inch higher than the left. "According to Daniel it reads: 'If you're in the military then if you think that I'd detail the most important part for you then dream on, Sithspit' whatever the hell that means, 'you're going to have to work it out for yourselves. So get busy. Earth needs it, just not right now. One day you'll be ready.'" He lowered the paper. "Unhelpful."
There was a moment of tension and then Sam grabbed it from him with a very unladylike but all too marine-like expletive and stared at it. "Why?" she asked angrily. "Why would someone do that?"
"Whoa there Carter. You heard the… papery thing. Says we're not ready yet."
"Sir, this thing could give us a hell of punch against the Goa'uld, let us fight against them at equal terms on the ground, maybe, if we can get a working weapon, and some… guy… says that we're not ready yet? Bullshit!" She shook her head. "I'm going to make it work!"
"Um… Sam," interjected Daniel, "This – Harris did you say the name was? – says that it's the most important part, so it's hardly something you can jury-rig, is it?"
Samantha Carter picked up the blueprints, grabbed the power cell, threw Jack a hurried salute and stalked out muttering to herself and cutting a blonde, furious, wake through the people in the corridor.
The other three members of SG-1 watched her go. "Guess she has other plans," said Jack. "Anyone wanna play Doom2?"
Guido nodded and then moved off to deal with the first customer of the evening, something that had a lot of hair and three eyes. Well, at least the regulars were on time. He just hoped that no one asked for anything really exotic tonight.
The Host adjusted his tie carefully and looked around. The place looked good tonight. He had a good feeling about things.
As he immersed himself thought about the events of the past few days. What a wild ride. Then he thought about the files that were waiting for him on the counter. Yuck. Holland had left three cases for his inspection. All were… interesting. Although it depended on your version of 'interesting'.
Case One: The State versus Smith Holdings. Smith being Lionel Smith, a man who owned a large number of factories in various states, all of which drove a tank through various Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Smith Holdings had left a huge stain through those various states. Literally. Manners wanted him to get Smith and his pack of polluters off.
Case Two: Collins versus Collins. Louisa Collins had finally left her violent, raping, scumbag of a husband and was not only getting divorced but also taking him for everything he had. Robert Collins had been restrained several times during the initial proceedings, for fear that he might hit someone. Sadly, he was also a major contributor to a major Republican Senator who had a vested interest in making sure that as little bad publicity as possible leaked through to his re-election campaign. Holland wanted him to basically win the case by smearing Louisa Collins.
Case Three: The State versus Ortana. Ortana was a company that had a very murky history. For a start it was tied to a number of 'families', not all of whom were human, but all of which were originally from Sicily. They had a habit of squabbling amongst themselves and then seamlessly uniting to deal out terrible retribution to anyone who tried to move in to exploit said squabbling. This included several members of a certain family in New York that he didn't want to think about, because they reminded him of the Addams Family. There had been a clash, there had been casualties and there had been collateral damage, in the form of a number of innocent bystanders. And now Adriano Ortana was on trial for homicide. They could probably get it down to manslaughter, but that wasn't good enough for the Ortanas. Adriano had to get off. Frankly Adriano looked as if someone had cloned Lon Chaney and then thrown away the more presentable bits, and talked like a Navy sailor who had a compulsive desire to swear. But he had to be defended.
Lindsey levered himself out of the bath, pulled a bathrobe on and padded out, rubbing his wet hair with a towel. Dismissing the files with a curl of the lip he walked into the kitchen and pulled out a beer from the fridge, before going back into the lounge to stare out of the window. Somehow life in Sunnydale had been… different. He'd only been there for a few days, but it had felt as if he could improvise more, that he was less hemmed in by the files that surrounded him, by the things that seemed hang over him. By the things that chased him in his dreams. Ok, there were vampires in Sunnydale, and demons. Big deal. What did Wolfram & Hart deal with? Vampires and demons. Ok, Sunnydale had also contained a very large snake that had once been the local Mayor, but he'd been blown to smithereens.
Lindsey took a long pull from the bottle of beer and sighed. He had some files to read. He had a nasty feeling that after he had read them he'd need to wash his hands. And, if it was possible, his eyes and his brain. The taint from those files and the knowledge of what he had to do got everywhere. He paused. It had been a while since he went to Caritas, hadn't it? It wasn't that far… Perhaps he could put off looking at the files until tomorrow. After all, a good bout of singing could clear the brain. And maybe, if the Host read him, he could get a better idea about what he had to do. He had a nasty feeling that something was ahead of him. But he didn't know what.
He sighed and then looked over his shoulder. From here he could just about see into his closet, and catch a glimpse of his guitar. This brought a grimace. Tempting. He hadn't been to Caritas for a while. He shook his head… he had these files to look through.
Two minutes later the door to his flat banged slammed behind him as he strode down the corridor, clutching his guitar and running a hand through his still-wet hair. He'd dressed in record time. Hell, he had to cut loose sometimes, didn't he?
"You ok?" asked Lindsey as he approached the demon, who started slightly and then directed a woozy stare at the lawyer.
"Damn," said the Host, "Where do I start? My office, cupcake, while I can still stand."
Somewhat bewildered, Lindsey allowed the Host to shepherd him into his office, where they sat at opposite sides of the desk. The Host sank another green drink and then sighed. "That's better, there's less chance that my brain is going to run out of my ears in search of a drink now."
"You saw something," said Lindsey levelly, girding himself for news.
"Damn right I did, my strumming friend. I just don't know if you're ready for it." He paused, obviously thinking deeply. "Remember when you came in here a few months back? You were called out just after you finished singing, so I wasn't able to talk to you. I probably couldn't," he grimaced, "As I was busy being stunned. Well, it's still there."
He paused again before leaning forwards. "Something's changed within you. You know that. The only problem is, I'm not the person to tell you what it is. You've met him already, that's all I can tell you. And you're going to have to make a choice at some point. That being real soon. The kind of choice that changes your life and takes you down a new road, to a place that you didn't see coming."
Eyes wide, Lindsey stared at the Host. The demon's normal bantering tone had gone and he was speaking with an earnest seriousness that impressed him more than anything else. "What's going on with me?" he asked eventually.
"You already have all the pieces. You just need a push. You're going back to Sunnydale. You know who you have to ask."
Baffled, Lindsey leant forwards. "I don't understand. Talk to who? About what?"
The Host stood up. "I'd better get out there. Fortunately Agrajag can make "Everything I do" last an age and a half. You felt something in Sunnydale, didn't you?"
"I think so, but I have no idea what."
"The Force is with you," smiled the Host. "Gotta go. Good luck, kid." He swept out, leaving a still-baffled lawyer.
"What the hell is he talking about?"
Five minutes later he was standing on the sidewalk opposite the motel. There were a few lights on, so less chance of the noise being picked up. Not that he made much – the whole point was to grab, knock out and run, to have fun later on. He liked playing with his food sometimes. He stopped. He could hear steps off to one side and he turned to look. A short red-haired kid was walking down the sidewalk towards him, obviously headed for the motel, carrying a back of groceries in one hand. Greg grinned. This was going to be easy. He turned, put his hands in his pockets and slouched along the sidewalk himself, judging the distance carefully. As the kid passed him he span, his hands going out to grab the kid's head and snap his neck with a twist, when…
There was a blur where the kid had been, a buzz and a flash of green light…
Greg blinked at the stubs where his hands used to be. Something felt wrong with his neck as well. As if he had been hit… "Oh damn," he said, just before his head fell off and his body left a deposit of dust on the sidewalk.
"Ooh! Oreos here!" squeaked Willow, darting up. She stared at his sleeve. "Oz, baby, why are you covered in dust?"
"We almost had a visitor. He would have been unfriendly. Gone now." He rummaged in the bag. "Twinkie?"
"Here!" called Buffy, reaching up to snatch it from the air as he tossed it at her.
"And a chicken fajita for me?" asked Xander, as he stood by the phone, listening intently. Then he raised a hand. "Answer phone. Here we go. Hey Doyle it's Xander. I'm going to be in town with a few friends tomorrow. We're going to Caritas. See you there. Here's a number you can get us on." He reeled off Buffy's cellphone number and then hung up. "It'll be good to see him again. I hope he worked out his problems. And Buffy, he's half Bracken demon, don't forget, so he's good."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy grinned at him. "Duh, he was the guy at the shelter, right? I remember seeing him. He had those blankets out for everyone. Nice of him." Then she looked at her friend seriously. "You sure you want to do this? Look at the future with some green guy?"
This brought a deep sigh from the Jedi. "Yes. I think I have to." He grinned suddenly. "Why, are you scared of my singing voice?"
"A singing Jedi," mused Buffy, as she munched on her Twinkie. "Nah, take more than that to scare me."
Leaning forwards, Lee Manners grimaced slightly. "Not too good. The DA refuses to talk to us – he thinks that he can win this one. He has at least two good witnesses that he's sitting on. We don't know who they are or where they're staying, which makes it difficult for us. Hopefully we can pry some information out of one of his people before the trial starts so that we can put some pressure on them, but it's not looking good."
"What's the DA pushing for?"
"The death penalty."
"The judge assigned is Dredd. No deals possible unless the DA backs off. Minimum? Death."
Holland tapped his pen thoughtfully. "Tricky… well, we can always break a few minds open if we need to. I'll have a word with Special Operations. Next, Lilah – how's the Sullivan case going?"
As Lilah talked about the case she was dealing with Lindsey closed off part of his mind, absorbing the information absent-mindedly whilst he thought about other things. Namely what the Host had said. It made no sense. What was that about? What had he sensed on the Hellmouth? It was starting to worry him now. Which was both a good thing and a bad thing. He paused for a moment, wondering what he was going to do about it. More research on Harris, probably. He was missing something, he could tell. Then he dragged his attention back to the room, where Lilah was winding up.
"… we can probably settle for an acquittal along with costs. If we really turn the screws then we can get him off without a stain on his character and so on. We'd better recommend that his father keeps him on a tight leash for the near future though."
She looked up from her notes. "And there's been movement on the Killick case. I think that we can file a motion to dismiss, based on the witness list and how the DA scared them up from nowhere. I'm going to file the motion with Judge Dansey tonight. He might be amenable. He mentioned that he'd like to have a word with me anyway about procedures during the case."
Holland nodded and moved on to young Sarah Cho, who looked about 15 years old, but who had a heart as black as the third circle of hell. Lindsey looked around the table quickly. What a collection. The ambitious, the cynical and the downright twisted, all working for an evil law firm.
As the meeting broke up, Holland called him back. Avoiding Lilah's dark gaze he turned and walked back into the room. Holland was writing up some notes, before looking up with a smile and gesturing to a chair next to him.
"Lindsey. Well done with the Wilkins affair in Sunnydale. The Senior Partners have been informed and they're most impressed."
"I… didn't do much sir, the Slayers did the bulk of the work."
"Dealing with Wilkins wasn't what I was talking about, Lindsey. You were able to provide us with information about what he was doing. If he had broken out then we would have had assets in place to take care of him outside the Hellmouth. The tactical team was nothing more than a pawn on the board. So, well done. Plus, you were able to find a good location in Sunnydale for an office."
He smiled. "Which is what I wanted to talk to you about. We will go ahead and set up a branch of Wolfram & Hart in Sunnydale. It's too good an opportunity to miss. Bob Rove is going to be in charge, but he's been asking after you as a key asset for the office. I told him that I'd talk to you about it. It would be a significant step up, Lindsey – it wouldn't be departmental status, but you'd have a high profile and be in a good position to be able to take over, say, my position when I move on up."
Lindsey just stared at him, stunned. "Thank you sir, but…"
Holland raised a hand. "It's a bit much? Don't give an instant answer. Think about it. It's not without its risks. You mentioned what the Watcher said. I'm sure that we can block the Watcher's Council. And living on a hellmouth is risky in itself. There have been… problems… with previous offices on such places. But as I said, think it over."
"Cool," was the verdict from Oz. "Balance."
"Will I have to do any, you know, slaying here?" whispered Buffy during a break in the music. "Because I wouldn't know where to start. Apart from the vamps here. Much on the vamps here." She paused. A vampire was staring at her, with a sickly expression on his face. When he noticed her looking back, he smiled weakly, dropped something on the floor and bent down to retrieve it, using the table as cover to crawl away. "Wow, I'm doing good things here already."
There was a flash of red and then the Host was stepping down from the stage, where he had been introducing the next singer, a pink that thing that did not look in the least bit fluffy. He flicked a salute to the crowd, picked up a drink from a passing waiter and then caught sight of Xander. Pausing, his eyes wide, he then swept on through the crowd to where the quartet were standing.
"What is this, a Jedi convention? Hey there, Kenobi-kins, how's it going? I've seen the apprentice and the Slayer before. Well, sorta. Hard to describe how I know people just through a vision via someone else. Hi, I'm the Host. Welcome to Caritas. Please don't try and slay anyone tonight, there's a non-violence spell on the place and I'd rather not explain how it works. Magic gives me a headache sometimes."
As he escorted them to a table, Xander noted with some amusement the reaction of the vampires in the crowd. Some blanched, some whispered violently to their neighbours and at least one stood up and left hurriedly.
"Table for four, or will more be joining you?" asked the Host, also watching the vampire reaction wryly. "Hey, don't scare them all off. I have to pay the bills with this place."
Buffy sat down primly and batted her eyelashes at him. "Who'd be scared of little old me?" she asked, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
"Honey, in that dress you're the only Slayer in town. Please warn me if you're going to be singing tonight, I've never read a Slayer before, and I think I'll need some bracing beforehand. The last time I read young Xander here, I had to have a lie down afterwards. Of course the vodka I sank had something to do with it as well."
This threw Buffy slightly. "No singing from me," she said after opening and closing her mouth once or twice. "I never really thought about it. But I don't sing that much and besides, with the whole being a Slayer thing, I think I know that my future holds lots of gloopy icky things that I'd rather not know about."
This sobered the Host slightly. "It doesn't always work like that," he said quietly, "But sometimes it lets you have a quick glance ahead. It depends. For Obi-Xander here I had a few glimpses of his Padawans, and the piece he needed for a lightsabre. Which," he said, poking at the lump in Xander's jacket, "I can see that he built." He looked back at Buffy. "You sure cupcake?"
Buffy looked down at the table for a long moment. Then her head came back up again with a look of vague longing. "No thanks," she said softly, "Part of the whole 'chosen one thing' is that I don't want to look too far ahead down the road. I want to have the normal parts of my life without something like when it's going to end hanging over me." She sounded, well, very un-Buffy, and Xander traded a quick startled look with Oz. The Slayer sounded tired.
The Host looked at her with a great deal of sympathy. "Honey, it's ok," he said, patting her hand absent-mindedly. "Sometimes not all of us want to take a look. Some people don't want to look over the horizon. Others, well, they think they're storing up karma in a big way. Don't worry about it. Tell you the truth, I'm kinda glad about it. Reading a pair of Jedi-" he dropped his voice for the last word, but didn't glance over his shoulder suspiciously or place his hand next to his mouth, "Is going to be bad enough. I have Guido on call with a Seabreeze or two that should keep my brains in place." He paused and then patted Buffy's hand again. "Hold that thought. Back in a jiffy." Standing up the demon walked off to the bar, where they could see him talking to the barman, who nodded abruptly and then started mixing something from a selection of coloured bottles. After a few minutes the Host returned with a large drink. It looked, well, green. With swirly orange bits.
"Here you go, honey, my treat," said the Host as he placed it in front of the Slayer. "Don't worry, it isn't alcoholic. It's just a combination of fruit juices and herbs. All on the level. Try a sip, it puts a zing in anyone's step."
Directing a very sceptical gaze at the Host, Buffy cautiously sipped at the drink. Then she brightened visibly and took a larger sip. "Yummy!" she said. "That's good!"
"Guido calls it a fruit explosion. I think the name needs some work."
"Very yummy," said Buffy. Then she looked over at Willow. "You want to try singing, Wills?"
This brought a start of horror from Xander's oldest living friend. "Um. Um, no. It would be bad. Me, in front of everyone here? No, that would be bad. Hard to breathe bad. Besides? Me and singing? Not a good combination. Horrible squeakiness."
"Christmas play. 1991." said Xander tonelessly, and Willow flinched visibly, closed her eyes and nodded sadly.
"Mrs Grant never played the piano for us again," she said morosely.
"Honey, no one's that bad," said the host in sceptical tones. In response she looked at him with big eyes and then hummed a quick scale. It sounded like a ferret trapped with a kazoo down a valley. The Host did his own flinching. "On second thoughts, Red, you're the exception to the rule. Please enjoy yourself tonight, and please don't sing. Or hum. Or whistle." He stood up again and gestured at the stage. "Well, if you two want to take your places in the queue, then follow me."
As they walked towards the microphone, the Host paused. "Hang on a sec, Kenobi-kins. You too Padawan. You're seeing her, right?" Oz nodded. "Well, keep an eye on her. She's powerful. Very powerful, kid. But she needs to learn the whole Spiderman shtick. Great power, great responsibility. She's going to increase in power slowly, but sooner or later, she's going to have a problem. Keep an eye on her, both of you. She's got enough to save the world. Or blow us all to smithereens, and I prefer to remain unsmithereened, thanks." He gestured at the stage. "On you go, kids. Who's first?"
Xander and Oz exchanged another glance, this time thoughtfully. Tonight was just chock-full of interesting information so far. Buffy was tired and Willow was a potential worry. What next? Xander shuddered slightly. Did they really want to go through with this. Then he nodded at Oz, who nodded back. "I'll go," said his former Padawan.
"Ok, my Naired wolfy-kins, stand up and do your thing after Gerald finishes murdering his song. I don't know about doing anything for love, but I'd love it if he stopped real soon. Shame about what's going to happen to his leg. I need to tell him to avoid that trap, but I don't think he's much for listening." The Host waved at the bar, where the barman stopped what he was doing and started to mix something from an impressively large number of bottles. "A little something to settle my nerves. I'll be over there," he said and walked off to sink into a large chair. He looked a bit harassed.
As Oz walked off to the stage, Xander caught sight of a familiar figure walking through the entrance, and waved. The figure waved back, grabbed a beer from the bar and walked over.
"Hey there, Xander, how's life been treatin' you?" asked Doyle, chugging down a large part of the bottle of beer as he did. He looked tired but the faint air of jumpiness that had been hanging over him the last time that they had met was gone. Instead he looked alert and focussed. He also had a band-aid over his knuckles. Doyle followed Xander's gaze and chuckled. "Little altercation with a demon. Had to go Bracken to take care of it. Did the job though." He looked around the bar. "Place is jumpin' tonight. Did the Slayer come with you? You said that she was in town with you."
"She's over there," said Xander, pointing her out.
Doyle peered at the blonde and chugged the rest of his beer. "That's better. I had a hell of a thirst on me. She looks better than last year. 'Course anyone would look better now after being in a hell dimension. She ok after that?"
"A bit wobbly, but we fixed a few things. We took out the local Mayor a few weeks back. He was trying to turn himself into an Old One. Had everyone running around. Including a lawyer from Wolfram & Hart. You heard of them here?"
"Those bastards? Yeah. Rumour has it they have a finger in every bad bit of business that goes down here in LA. Not to be trusted. As if you can ever trust a lawyer that is." He turned and requested another beer from a passing barman, who nodded and scurried off. Xander stared at his legs. He wasn't sure how many he had.
"Grajug demon. Harmless. Just the two legs, but it looks more. Great fellas for bar work." His friend paused. "A few weeks back the lawyers were in the middle of a major panic. Called in everyone. That linked to that mayor thing?"
"Probably. They could only send one lawyer into Sunnydale though, thanks to a deal they signed with the Mayor. Guy called Lindsey McDonald."
Doyle paused in the act of lifting his second beer to his lips. "Texan guy? Plays the guitar? Sulky-looking fella?"
"Yes on all counts. You know him?"
"He sings in here. Funny thing is, the Host was knocked on his back by something he saw in the fella's aura or whatever it was. He told him something, but I don't know what."
No, thought Xander, musingly, but I think that I can guess. I think that I have found my second Padawan. Hell of place to find him, but perhaps I can turn him away from the dark side. But what else was out there? He looked up at the stage, where Oz was standing at the microphone, obviously thinking about what to sing.
"Calon Lan," said the other Jedi into the microphone, and then he started to sing.
"Kid," he said, as Oz stepped down from the stage, "That was great. Sad as hell, but great. There's a vampire over there who's sobbing into his beer over how he never got to say goodbye to his mother. Terrific." He paused and beckoned him to one side.
"Ok, here's what I saw. You've come a long way. And you're a Jedi who'd rather talk than fight sometimes. Consular is the right word? Ok. But you're wondering about what else you want to do. Simple answer – teach. And heal, when you need to. I see medicine ahead, as well as lightsabres. There's a lot out there that needs to be done. There's a lot of fighting ahead, there's no way around that, as you know. But yes, there's a lot of good you can do. A lot of things that you can prevent. Kenobi-kins is the general, but you're more the diplomat. Go to it, kid. There, that wasn't too hard, was it? I need another Seabreeze though, as there goes Xanderoonie."
Oz nodded slowly and then looked up. There was Xander, as he strode to the microphone. He paused to adjust it up to his height and then looked around the club. "Talk To Me," he said, and then started to sing.
As the first notes hit, the Host closed his eyes and then flinched. Oz did some flinching of his own. He had a feeling that Xander's viewing would be more stressful than his own.
"The low-down. The information you came here for?"
Xander paused. This was what he had came for after all. The question was, what was it? Did he really want to take that step to look into his future? He shook his head mentally. That was a foolish question. There could be no doubt on this point. He had to know. A Jedi faced the future without flinching, without turning away from his duty. He had to know what lay ahead.
"Yes. I need to know."
"Ok. There are more of you out there, kid. More Jedi. More than you think. And yes, the tiny Texan is one of them. You've met Lindsey McDonald, right? I've seen it. He's the second Padawan. He'll come to you by the way. But there are more, like I said. And it's going to be up to you to bring them together. I wouldn't go as far to say Jedi Order, but certainly Jedi Council. Because there are things out there that need fighting. Enemies at home and, let's say, further afield. A lot further away than you've dreamed of kid. Not quite in a galaxy far, far away, but closer to home than that. And you're going to need help."
Xander stood there, his mind racing. It was a lot to take in at once and he needed some time to think it all over. But he needed everything first.
"How much can you tell me?"
"Step into my office and I'll tell you as much as I can kid," said the Host grimly. "I need to. Remember my comment earlier? I want to remain unsmithereened."
After a long moment he looked up at her. "You seem to be rather annoyed, Ms Morgan," he said dryly. "Have I said something to cause offence?"
You're an old fart who deserves to die for wasting my time, thought Lilah, but then shook her head. "Of course not, your honour. I was just admiring the view." And wondering how you knew that I was annoyed, she added in the privacy of her own head. How odd.
Judge Dansey looked at her as if he knew that she was lying through her teeth and then smiled briefly. "Of course you were," he said with a sarcastic edge to his voice, before going back to looking at the papers in front of him. Judging by the slowness that he was taking to get through the document, he was reading at five words a minute, she guessed.
At least she'd been able to get Sullivan off. Harkness had been shaken up by whatever had happened to him, and she'd been able to get the witnesses to admit that they had a few doubts about what they'd see. It was too dark, too rainy, too noisy, they'd been distracted by other things, the list was endless and had just gone to show that it was possible to blur the collective mid of a jury with a little care and attention to detail. She might even get a 'well done' from Holland.
Irritation started to give way to anger within her. Holland Manners had been talking about sending McDonald to Sunnydale. That little bastard. She deserved that post – she'd done most of the best work in the office whilst that short-assed Texan had been sunning himself in other places. Ok, so he'd been there to help take Wilkins down, but by his own account the Slayers had done the actual work.
She stared at the Judge and did her best not to pout. Why the hell had he called her in here? What was taking him so long to read what was a basic motion to dismiss for the Killick case? Was he actually slowing down? And he'd been sarcastic to her. She wanted to stand up and storm out, but that was something you didn't do to Dansey. He was known as a tough judge who ruled a courtroom with a razor-sharp tongue.
As if he could read her feelings, Dansey looked up from the brief. "Tell your secretary to learn to spell. 'Application' has just one 'l' not two." He bent his head again and slowly turned a page.
Outrage warred with fury with Lilah. How dare this son of a bitch? She stared at him, trying to imagine what it would be like if Dansey suddenly came down with whatever the hell Harkness had been hit by. Unfortunately Dansey just sat there.
And then he looked up, his eyes gleaming. Just for a second she could have sworn that there was a hint of red in his eyes. She must have imagined it. He seemed very amused by something.
"My, my," he said softly, "You are a feisty one, aren't you? A lot of anger there, my dear. A great deal of anger."
"I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about," she protested, frowning slightly. How had he picked up on that? She'd been careful not to show anything, either in her voice, her face or in her body language.
"Don't play games with me," he said, leaning back in his chair and dropping the papers onto his desk. "By the way, motion to dismiss is denied. Tell Wolfram & Hart to stop whining and do a deal," he said with a sneer. She looked at him carefully. He wasn't acting like he normally did.
"Not that I'm surprised," he went on, steepling his fingers. "Wolfram & Hart can be very blind at times. The belief of the Senior Partners that they know everything is rather… incorrect."
Lilah kept her face smooth. How the hell did he know about the Senior Partners? What the hell was going on here?
"If the motion is rejected, then I'd better be going," she said smoothly, standing up and tucking her purse under her arm. As she turned to go, the inner doors leading to the closed outer doors of the office slammed with a suddenness that made her jump despite herself. The thing was, she didn't know how they had closed. No one was next to them. There were no wires or anything else that could be used.
Turning she looked back at Dansey, who was smiling at her coldly. "Sit down," he said, gesturing with one hand as her chair turned to face her with a jerk.
"I see you know some magic," she said with a brittle smile as she turned the chair back to face him and then sat down. "I'd advise against threatening me. That has been known to backfire. What do you want?"
"A chat," purred Dansey, his eyes hooded as he looked at her. "But not about magic, which is a foolish waste of time and effort. Too many links to the earth, too much ritual and time-wasting chants. Too many appeals to insane or dying gods. No," he said, waving his hand again and looking down as her motion to dismiss balled itself up and then flew through the air into the waste bin, "This isn't anything as hit and miss as magic. This is something else. This is another power."
She stared at him, assessing his attitude. He looked calm, collected and in control. Interesting. "I'm sure that the Senior Partners would disagree with you," she said.
"The Senior Partners are a group of high-level demons with parallel or competing agendas and a taste for blood and complicated plans based around revenge that have diverted them for years," said Dansey, smiling at her. The smile was confined to his mouth and did not reach his eyes. "They have no idea about this. They never have. They are tied to their own magicks and they are… blind."
"Then why tell me? What's the point of this talk?"
He looked at her. "What happened to that soft-minded idiot Harkness the other day? During the Sullivan case? I heard that he had trouble breathing?"
"He had some kind of seizure. Didn't last long," she said, looking at her nails. Then she looked up. "Why?"
This brought her another smile, as Dansey chuckled softly. "You really have no idea, do you?"
She was close to losing her temper again. "No idea of what?"
"You have potential, Morgan."
"Potential for what?"
"This," he said and lifted his right hand up in a pinching, claw-like gesture. She stared at him, about to repeat her question, when something invisible clamped itself around her throat and squeezed hard. Her hands went up to her throat, but there was nothing there, nothing to pull off her and she couldn't breathe, she couldn't take a breath of air, she couldn't… the clamp vanished and she took a deep, shuddering gulp of air, before rubbing her neck carefully. Then she glared at Dansey, who was actually smirking at her.
"What… what was that?"
"That, my dear Lilah, is what you did to Harkness. I said that you had potential. Anger management issues as well, but we can work on that."
This was nuts. She froze in place. "I did what?"
"You did that to Harkness. I could feel your anger on the other side of the building. Almost stabbed my hand with my pen. Very impressive, by the way. Probably a good thing that you didn't kill him, although the autopsy would have concluded that he had asthma or something, and smashed his own throat. People often come to the wrong conclusions. It can be amusing to watch them tie themselves in logical knots as they come to those wrong conclusions sometimes."
Still rubbing her throat she leant back I her chair. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Yes you do. You were angry, remember. Very angry. Just as you were angry a little while ago, when I was deliberately taking an age to read that motion to dismiss. I was trying to bait you. I succeeded. Your little attack on me was pathetic, but would have affected someone else." He smiled again. "Like Harkness."
Lilah froze in her chair. Dansey hadn't been in that courtroom. How had he known? How had he obstructed her breathing? What was going on? "I did that?" she said, disbelievingly. "How, when I don't know what I did?"
"Potential," he said, drawing the word out. "You seem to have some. Stronger than the last person I found. Anger is the key. You got angry and triggered it without knowing. It was weak and rather formless, but it was there." He stood up, a black figure in his robes, and walked to the window. "I was impressed. Now, if you can use it, you might be able to do something with it. I have." He chuckled again. "I have plans of my own, and I'm strong in the power."
"What… is the power?" she asked after a long moment.
He shrugged. "I'm not sure. It can make you move faster and hide sometimes. It can cloud the mind of those with weak brains. It's not magic, it's something else. It's everywhere, if you can see it. I was briefly taught by my grandfather. He had some old book that mentioned a sect that was destroyed centuries ago, which knew a lot more about it. Most of its teachings were burnt or buried at about the same time that the Templars were being persecuted. No connection by the way." He looked at her, shrewdly. "Very few people can use it. The last one I met was…. weak. Couldn't see the best use for it."
"Which is?" asked Lilah, a flicker of excitement sparking deep inside her.
"Why, the pursuit of power. What else is there? The ability to kill your enemies and use their bodies to build a platform to power." He spat the last word with a hiss, and for a moment she thought that the red gleam returned to his eyes.
Dansey walked back to his desk and sat down. "For those who want the right things in life, it can offer everything. If they are ready to learn."
Her head was whirling. "Are you offering to teach me?"
"Only if you're willing to learn. I don't teach spineless fools who won't listen. Not that I think you're one of those fools. I've been keeping an eye on you for some time now, Lilah. I think that you're being held back by Wolfram & Hart. I think that you're under-appreciated by them. Especially Manners. He always did like to play favourites."
This brought up the thought of Manners and McDonald at her feet, clutching at their throats while she squeezed the life out them. "Why me?" she asked again, her mind racing.
"You're the strongest one that I've found in years."
"What about the last person you found?"
"He was weak. So I killed him."
She looked at him. She felt as if something was opening up before her, something that glittered with power. She thought of the lightsabre and what she could do with it and this power. There was only one answer she could give.
He sighed. A lot to do. And he had a decision to think over. He paused. Someone was approaching behind. He smiled. "Morning, Oz."
"Hey." His fellow Jedi Knight joined him. "Nice view."
"Willow and Buffy are worried about you. So was Doyle. You were very quiet."
"Had a lot to mull. Much mulling."
"What to do next. You're all off to College. I'm not. What next?"
"Good question. Any decision?"
"Yes." He hesitated. "Two of them. I'm going to take up Giles' offer to work for the Council. Or rather for him. Faith and Buffy need help, you know that."
"I know," sighed Oz. "So does Willow. I have to be there for her. Spiderman gig is a hard one." He looked at Xander, squinting in the early morning sunlight. "What's the other one?"
Oh boy. This was the hard part to explain. "Based on what the Host told me, we've got some hard times ahead. And there are others like us out there. Jedi."
"And others. We're going to be needed, Oz. We all are. The Jedi teachings I gave you protect you from wolf boy. I think that Lindsey McDonald can be pulled back from the Dark Side. Who knows what else is out there? We can make a difference. We can help people. Fight evil. Use the Force for good."
He turned to face his old Padawan. "Oz, Earth needs the Jedi. We have a duty to help this planet. And I think that our task is to make sure that we fight the good fight, to make sure that people don't go down into the night without a struggle, to fight against what is evil and corrupt and violent in this world. We both knew that anyway. But we need to spread the word. There are other Jedi out there and we have to find them, somehow. It might take ages, but we can do that and help keep the Hellmouth at bay."
There was a pause while Oz did his own mulling. "You're talking about building the Jedi Order on Earth."
"Maybe just resurrecting the Jedi Council here. Who knows? But if we don't I'm afraid that a long night will fall on all of us. The Host told me a few things that he'd seen. I think that we're all going to have a lot to think about in the next few years."
He looked back out to sea. "What we sensed in the sky the other day was a part of that. We dodged a bullet there I think. But the Force was with us. We have to decide to step forwards and build something here."
Oz grinned. "More Jedi on the Hellmouth? How do you think the vampires are going to handle that?"
"Badly, I suspect. What do you think?"
"I think you knew how I'd answer that, Obi-Wan. I'm in."
They shook on it as the sun rose. "The Force is with us."