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Chapter 1

The Spark of War

The sound of enraged yelling could be heard all the way down the street that night as three young people marched towards their destination. The parking garage looked and sounded more haunting the closer they got, and there were no lights save the ones that speckled the windows of a nearby apartment complex. The street lights had not worked since long before any of them could remember. As the yelling grew louder the three became more restless.

"Sure sounds like the place," one of them said.

"Considering I beat the location out of four different punks did you really think I'd get it wrong, Dax?" the largest of the three replied.

"I still don't get it," Dax spoke up again. "This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I mean, who in their right minds would be stupid enough to challenge so many different gangs for their territories all at once? And with letters of challenge? You're not even up to that, Andy."

"I don't know who this person, but whatever's going on we gotta make sure that these guys still know where we stand."

"Right in front of the kids," Angel said as they entered the parking garage.

The sounds of the yelling only grew louder as they echoed off of the the walls of the empty structure. As Angel led Andy and Dax closer to the center of the garage they began to notice the number of people all around them. Members from various gangs were staring each other down or having shouting matches with rivals from the lowest floor to they could not tell how many floors up. Standing in the center of the parking garage were seven people that Angel recognized right away as the top gang leaders of the city. They were just standing there staring at each other. The tension was almost tangible.

Not allowing anything to disturb or distract her, Angel continued leading her two boys right into the mix. All seven pairs of eyes turned on them and the shouting slowly began to die down. There were five men and two women who looked completely surprised by her presence there.

"Are you kidding me?" one of them asked. "You called us here?"

"No, you moron," Angel replied. "I'm here to make sure whoever walks away from this knows the rules."

"You've been here for less than ten seconds and I already want to smash in your pretty face," one of the women said.

"Try me."

Angel was not one to back down or show fear in any situation, but this was a little extreme. She would have liked to have had Dwight there with her as well as her monster and goof ball, but he had been gone all summer. Still, Andy's presence went a long way when she was trying to keep things civil. Or at least as civil as they could be given the circumstances.

"I'm getting bored," one of the men said.

Every one shifted with slight agitation when he spoke up. Angel only knew this man as The Jackal. He was always causing some kind of problem in Serpent's Pass. Mainly because he did not think anything was of value, not even lives. Not even his own. He had a way of convincing others to think the same way as him and that was how he got his following. They were definitely the most dangerous bunch because they had no qualms with killing or dying. It made them dangerous.

"I'm fixin' to leave if this loser don't show up soon," another gang leader said.

"Don't leave now," The Jackal grinned. "I just got a really fun idea!"

"I've warned you about your fun ideas before, Jackal," Angel said.

"Now, now, now, children," a booming voice echoed around them. "You should learn some patience."

The thudding of footfalls could be heard in the dead silence that filled the parking garage. All around the gang members stopped arguing and fighting in order to crowd the railings to get a glimpse of whoever it was that had challenged all of the leaders. Soon it became apparent that whoever was approaching was not alone. Six men walked into the light facing the ring of leaders who were all now staring back.

"So you're the ones with the death wishes," one of the girls said.

Something flew from the hand of one of the men and struck her in the forehead, knocking her to the ground. All of the others who remained on their feet were suddenly more alert.

"It is not your turn to speak yet," the voice from before said.

Another figure joined the other six. He was a slightly tall man with long black hair tied back in a top knot. When Angel looked into the man's eyes it was like staring into the heart of an inferno, but his face never changed or showed any emotion. He was perfectly calm.

"You have all squabbled and argued over this area of the city for years now. It is pathetic how little headway any of you has made. In the time that you have taken to get where you are now, the size of what you call Serpent's Pass has dwindled and shrunk to only a portion of what it was. It is time someone came and took charge again."

"And you think that should be you, old man?" the leader next to Angel asked. "What do you know about this place?"

"Far more than you, boy," the man answered. "Just a few short years ago the influence of this section of the city reached much farther than any of you even dared to think."

"Talk talk talk talk talk talk talk!" The Jackal groaned. He began stalking his way over to the group of men and grinned maniacally in the face of the man. "I was hoping to have some fun. And since you're being the most boring, I'm gonna start with you!"

Before The Jackal could even raise his hands, the man was already gripping his neck. Angel watched in disbelief as an amused smiled spread across the man's face. The Jackal may have been nuts, but he was definitely no slouch when it came to fighting. The fact that this guy had just gotten the upper hand on him so quickly was almost unbelievable.

"I have no use for people like you, boy. Say goodbye."

A quick jerk of the arm and wrist and it was over. The Jackal's body fell to the ground with cries of anger and disbelief coming from the crowds in the garage. The six men who had arrived with the challenger stepped forward and drew weapons. One carried an enormous steel pole, another was wearing metal gloves. There was one swinging around a length of chain and another who was actually just pointing his fists at the crowd. The last two drew a long, curved blade and what looked like small round balls.

"Silence!" the man commanded. Everyone listened. "It is high time that things went back to the way they were! You will fall in line and you will do as you are told! Anyone who causes me any problems or disobeys me will meet the same punishment as the fool here on the ground!"

Enough was enough. It was time to speak up. Angel brushed past both Andy and Dax, and they were immediately on her heels. She stopped just short of the group of men with weapons who eyed her hungrily.

"You can do whatever you want with this bunch," she said. "I really don't care. But you stay away from the Fallen Angels. Understand?"

"My dear Angel," the man said. The fact that he knew her name sent chills through her body. Did she know this man? "You taught me a very valuable lesson. Six years ago I never would have thought that the annoying little girl in the recreation center would ever develop such a following. And yet here you are with two of the most potentially useful people in Serpent's Pass."

"They won't ever work for you," she told him. Andy and Dax nodded their agreement.

"They won't have to work for me as long as they continue to work for you," the man said calmly. "You will be my most prized possession."

"I don't think so," Angel glared. "No one owns me."

"Oh, but I do," the man said more quietly as he approached her. "You've become quite successful here with your little band of friends. Bringing the people together to help the children. Keeping the other gangs out of your territory with as little fighting as possible. I applaud your efforts, but one should not spread themselves so thin."

"I'm not spread thin. And I'll keep you out just like I've kept everyone else out."

"I'm sure you'll try, but first let me ask you something." He leaned in and whispered softly into her ear. "How is Alexander doing at school these days?"

The blood rushed out of Angel's face. Aside from Zuko, no one outside of the Fallen Angels even knew she had a brother. She could feel her body beginning to shake slightly with fear and she prayed that no one could see it before she willed herself under control.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"We never had the pleasure of meeting before my incarceration, did we?" he asked. "You may remember the one man that everyone feared and respected a few years ago. The one that they whispered about, but no one dared speak openly of him. The one that really did control all of this."

"The Fire Lord," Angel said.

"Arson is an easy way of disposing of both problems and evidence," he replied. "I am Fire Lord Ozai, and this is the rebirth of the empire I once had. Be proud to be a part of it."

* - * - * - * - *

The walk back felt like it had taken both years and no time at all. Angel's head was swimming with the memories of the way things were in Serpent's Pass when that arsonist was around. All the rural development that had taken place since he had disappeared had definitely made the run down part of the city smaller, but he and his people had their hands in everything long before that. If he still had his old contacts then there was no way she could ever hope to keep him away from her home.

When all of the other leaders saw how easily he had silenced her uprising, they were practically licking his shoes trying to get on his good side. Killing The Jackal and scaring Angel was all he needed to get their support. He had probably planned something like that all along. Before she had left he had even told her that he would be in touch with her soon. How was she going to protect her family? The kids?

"Angel?" someone interrupted her thoughts. She looked up from her seat on the crates to see Lynn and the boys standing at the doorway. They came in when she nodded to them. "Dwight's back."

"Where's he been?" she asked absently.

"Was off with Zuko's sister for summer vacation," Andy answered. "Said that her uncle asked him to."

"At least someone had a nice vacation," Angel muttered.

"We gotta bring him up to speed," Dax said. "He doesn't know what's going on."

"And he's not going to," Angel said. She knew she could not protect those already involved, but she could protect those who were not. She would get as many out as she could. "You guys have to go with me on this, okay?"

The others were not sure what she was planning, but agreed none the less. Angel let them out into the activity area of the rec center and saw Dwight leaning up against the football table. She stormed over with as angry a face as she could muster and shoved him over.

"What the heck?" Dwight asked, outrage apparent. "That's a great way to say hello."

"Cut the crap, Dwight, you've been gone for months!"

"I already told the boys it was a favor to my tea shop boss."

"And I'm sure spending your vacation with some girl had no affect on your decision at all, right?"

"Hey now, don't bring her into this!"

"I didn't, jerk, you did!" Angel yelled at him. "You can't just disappear without telling anyone and waltz your way back in here like nothing's wrong! We could've used your help these past couple of months, but we didn't know where you were!"

"I get it! I'm sorry! It won't happen again, alright?"

"No! No, it's not alright!" Angel went on. "You can't be a Fallen Angel and have other priorities above it."

"Okay!" Dwight shouted back. "I'm an Angel first, I get it!"

"It's not that easy," Angel said, loosing her voice over all the shouting. "You can't be just an Angel anymore. You've got something else going on."

"Are you saying I gotta choose between being an Angel and working for the tea shop?"

"I'm saying you don't get a choice," Angel told him. She fought back any emotion that might betray how she was really feeling at this moment. Dwight was one of the very first Fallen Angels. One of the four that promised he would always be around no matter what. "You're out."

"You gotta be kiddin' me," Dwight said, shaking his head. "Lynn, talk some sense into her."

"I think she's making a lot of sense."

"Dax, come on you know me. The Angels are my family too."

"Funny," Dax said folding his arms. "I didn't think family bailed on family."

Andy was already shaking his head by the time Dwight turned to him.

"Not you too."

The pain in his voice was almost too much for Angel to take. She mentally kicked herself for what she was doing, but she knew it was for the best. She had to protect him like he had always protected her, the kids, and the rest of his family.

"Get out, Dwight," she said. "You're not welcome here anymore."

Dwight stood there just staring at them for a few minutes. When it became clear that none of them were joking his face fell. He looked as if he was about to say something, but he just closed his mouth and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath before looking Angel in the eye one more time. Then he turned and walked out the door without another word.

Angel could not take it anymore. The tears started rolling down her cheeks even though she was fighting them with everything she had. Her friends did as they were expected and pretended not to notice them as the pain of losing one of her family stained her face. This was something she needed to do. It was for his own good. But knowing that did not make it feel any better. If this was an indication of what was to come, then Angel feared the worst for her and all of Serpent's Pass.