"Buffy!" her mom's voice echoed through their home. She pushed hard against her bed, and the springs launched her up and onto her feet. She walked out into the kitchen area to find her mom removing groceries from a paper bag. Jonas Quinn was doing much the same, albeit at a much slower pace as he studied a lot of the food before he put it down.
"Hi, Mom. Hi, company…oh, it's Jonas, right? How was work?" she asked and grabbed an apple. It was her third that afternoon.
"Fine, so how was school?" her mom asked.
"Boring, we're still repeating stuff we learned last year. For a class called ‘advanced’ it seems not so much, and the fact that neither of my trainers are back from their vacations has just left me totally jumpy and indeed of some exercise. You think I might get on base to see Teal'c about a few staff lessons tonight?" she asked, guessing that her mom would like the chance to go back and work a bit of overtime, while she entertained the often bored Teal'c.
"Maybe tomorrow; tonight we're having dinner with Jonas," her mom explained.
"Why?" she asked.
Her mom gave her that crooked almost-smile with the look that was supposed to tell her she was being rude. "It is a valid question," she continued.
Jonas was looking at her a little confused.
"I wanted Jonas to try a home-cooked meal from Earth. He's only tried the cafeteria food at the SGC," her mom explained.
"Oh," she said, "Sorry, I didn't know. I wouldn't inflict the cafeteria at the SGC on anyone for that long." She began helping put away the shopping, her thoughts drifting back to the idea of training a bit with Teal'c or someone else who really knew what fighting was like.
"So after he just stood there and looked up at the ceiling, I finally figured it out... You could have said something," her mom gave Jonas a playful slap on the shoulder. They had been relating to her what had happened on Earth while she had been with the Jaffa. Jonas was a strange man, a mix of blinding intelligence and an innocence that reminded her a bit of Daniel, except his innocence was somehow different. Daniel's was a scientifically and philosophically driven innocence, while she was beginning to feel that Jonas' innocence was born out of being a more basic kind of pioneer. Daniel had felt more mature. But if Jack had decided to make him a part of SG-1, then a man whose decisions she trusted, trusted Jonas.
"I see, but why didn’t you guys just strap the gate to a rocket, instead of bothering with the prototype?" she said.
Jonas looked at Sam, then at Buffy in surprise: "She knows about top secret research projects?"
Her mom grinned a bit at her. "Due to a bit of paper trickery by a few people who shall remain unnamed, Buffy is cleared as highly as I am. It is actually because she had to be allowed to know about the Stargate Program and, well, frankly I didn't want to go about my time off work having to constantly lie to her.” Her mom reached over and caressed her chin with a gentle smile that made her all mushy inside. A part of her that was the young teenager wanted to bat the hand away, because it was making her blush, but the older part of her actually overrode those feelings firmly and bade her to let her mom do it. It seemed it soothed some old loneliness she could not grasp the reason for.
"Yeah, and I get to visit my mom and my friends at their workplace," Buffy agreed.
"Your friends…Oh, you mean Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c," Jonas said.
"Yeah, well, and the General, Janet, Walter and Siler, not to mention several of the nurses, my therapist and most of mom's science team," she continued.
"I had no idea," Jonas said and studied her for a few moments.
"Buffy has been involved with the SGC ever since she arrived here," her mom explained.
"I thought you and your daughter were Earthlings," Jonas looked in surprise from her to her mom.
She rolled her eyes. "I am adopted. Mom rescued me from the Goa'uld – well, there was a long adventure after that, but yeah, she did, and we came here. I saw the SGC and got to hear all about the Stargate, and I met lots of cool people," she explained.
"Really, where did you come from originally, then?" Jonas asked.
She really didn't want to talk about that, so she gave her mom a look. She didn’t want to dig too much into that right at the moment. Half of what memories were coming back to her of her previous life seemed to be of a superficial Los Angeles life as a cheerleader, a person both she and her mom would be sure to have hated. The other half, still the fuzziest half, were memories of fighting, and those were filled with sadness and, strangely, a sort of brutal joy that came with the fighting and killing her enemies. She didn't like to dwell on that part of her memory too much.
"Buffy is from Earth, just in a parallel reality," her mom said.
"Parallel, really? – well, have you tried to find a way to get her back home?" Jonas asked, all innocence and smiles.
Buffy threw down her fork, gave him a cold stare and left the table. "Buffy, wait," her mom called out, but she just couldn't stand that right at that moment. Memories of death and destruction, all that sadness, and then the feeling of safety and happiness she had felt for ages now. She had never entertained any hope or need to get back to that place. She went out on the mezzanine overlooking the garden and sat down, feeling the warm air drain away her anger.
"I'd better go see to her," she said and ran after Buffy. She had an idea about why Buffy had reacted as she did. There were all sorts of unspoken things between Sam and her daughter, and one of them was the slight guilt she felt over not trying harder to return tiny, young Buffy home, rather than just enveloping her in the life of Samantha Carter. Another unspoken thing was all the trauma in the past of her daughter: Buffy had shared some things in the beginning, when they had been told about her other life, but later -- especially after Daniel's death -- she had stopped.
Sam left Jonas with the food and a dismayed look on his face. She found Buffy had not gone too far. Her daughter, with the current hairstyle of long, straight hair, sat out on the mezzanine overlooking her small garden. She looked a bit lonely sitting there, lighted only by the sinking sun. Sam walked out and sat next to her. Buffy leaned her head over onto her upper arm. Her daughter was growing up rapidly, she realized.
"I am sorry," Buffy apologized.
"I know, it's okay. He couldn't have known. I am more worried about why you reacted like you did," she said.
"I know. I am sorry. I guess when he said that, I felt for a moment like I had ignored my past and, well, I felt a bit guilty too, because I'm not sure I want to go back, even if I could. My mom on the other side is dead, and I love you and my life here. I feel that there are people I left behind, or who were left behind, when I got taken, and maybe I owe them. Am I a bad person for not wanting, trying, asking to be brought back to them?" Buffy asked.
"Well, if I am honest, I'd fight tooth and nail to keep you safe, and I'd rather that was at my side. I love you too much to lose you," she said and reached around Buffy and held her. They sat there and shared their warmth for a few moments. "But if we ever find a way back to your home, I would let you choose of your own free will. You deserve to be where you belong, wherever that is," she said. Although in her heart she would rather have something amputated than give Buffy up, she would never hold Buffy back against her will.
"Don't call it home, Mom; my home is here. I decided back when I was told about my past that while I had lived it, I couldn't live in it, and the more I remember, the more I don't want to return. I know I had good friends -- friends for life, actually -- but there were so many issues, so much blame, and so many mistakes. None of us were good at forgiving, and even when we did forgive, it was for the wrong reasons or the wrong people that got forgiven, while old wounds and things were left to fester. Besides, I was so sad all the time, and I don't like the idea of going back to that. I hope I never will feel like life itself is just something you have to get through again," her daughter said.
Sam often vacillated between wishing she knew more of her daughter's past and not wanting it to even exist. This was one of the times when she wished the latter. It was horrible to think that Buffy had been almost suicidal, by the sound of it, and she swore she'd never let it get that bad here, no matter what weight was to be put on her daughter's shoulders. Especially given that she knew many voices were asking her to nudge her daughter towards applying to the Air Force Academy when she was 18. Of course she'd do no such thing, not wanting to influence her daughter at all. She trusted Buffy to choose the career that would make her happy, and in fact, like any parent, while it was a bit hypocritical of her, a small part of her didn't think Buffy would make a great officer. Her daughter was probably too much of a leader to endure the crawl up through the ranks. Besides, she'd rather have Buffy become a scientist, or even some sort of doctor or psychologist, than a fighter. Especially if fighting had in the past brought her daughter so much pain. However, for the most part, she recognized that this would not be how things would turn out. Buffy had seen and felt the Goa'uld in her own body. Her daughter empathized with both the Jaffa and Tok'ra very heavily. And apparently there was also a very intense adventurous spirit in her daughter that she had been and intended to continue actively encouraging.
"Well, say something," Buffy said.
"Sorry, I was just thinking," she replied.
"Heavy thoughts, from the size of that wrinkle," Buffy said, and ran a gentle finger across her brow.
"Something like that," she agreed. "Should we go back and entertain our guest?"
"Yeah, but if he offers to tutor me in any language and replace Daniel, I will throw him through the front door, I swear, and don't think I am joking," Buffy warned.
"He means well," she said.
"I stand by my earlier statement," Buffy said.
"Alright, then let's discourage him from offering anything... Don't you like Jonas?" she asked, having learned to trust Buffy's feelings about people implicitly.
"Oh, no, I like him. I just miss Daniel so much," Buffy said, reminding her that Daniel used to visit every week in the last half year before he had ascended, and it had made him and Buffy really close.
"I know, honey, I miss him too," she admitted. She still often found herself drifting towards his old office, when she was on the way for a snack or at work late and wanted someone to chat to. In fact, she had talked so much with Jonas, who had more or less taken over Daniel's office in his absence, more because of that old habit than because of any actual liking for the alien, in the beginning. These days, the man was growing on her, however.
Weeks, then months passed after that evening. The news -- what little her mom revealed between trips into space, underwater, or to Antarctica – was dire. Anubis was seemingly able to see through the disguises of both Tok'ra and Jaffa agents. Jack disappeared for a while, and when he got back he was still intensely gloomy. Her granddad visited, and he also indicated that there were dark times out there. She remembered talking to him and Selmak in the living room, while mom had been making tea.
"Both you and mom seem to wear the dire faces all the time these days... Anubis?" she had asked.
"Kiddo, you shouldn’t worry your pretty head with these things. You're a kid -- why don't you focus on your studies? I hear you're still scoring top grades," her Granddad had said.
"Yeah, yeah, top grades in every course except languages. I audit classes in science at the Academy and I will be graduating from high school at 12 and a half. I am not a kid on the inside, Granddad. I never really was. It is a bit like with you and Selmak. You have ages of experience to draw from, but you're also Jacob. I have the experiences and lifetime of another girl to draw on. I am not a teenager. I’m a bit of a mess, really," she had replied.
"For a mess, you seem remarkably well-adjusted," he had said.
"Well, the reason for that is very simple. I have mom, experience with the weird…oh, and Karen, my therapist, who believes me. I just mean I can handle hearing about the bad stuff. There are some pretty horrible stories everywhere on Earth, just as there are in the sky, and I do have an Internet connection. I just want to know what is going on," she had agreed.
He studied her for a while, then Selmak had told her, "Buffy, thanks to you we’re actually not as desperate as we could have been. Anubis, however, can get any secret an operative knows out of any live one he catches. So, we have to commit suicide if caught. That has never been the case before now, and it darkens the thoughts of the Tok'ra. We're afraid he will share the technology he uses with other Goa’uld one day. With the recent confirmation of our queen's death our last hope to make our numbers swell significantly is over. One day in the not too distant future, the Tok'ra will become extinct, unless another queen joins our number. Something which has not happened to this day... Needless to say, if we're troubled by Anubis' measures, the rebel Jaffa, who are more soldiers than spies, have had even less success in their missions. We, the System Lords, the Rebel Jaffa, and Earth, are all losing to Anubis. He seems increasingly unbeatable, and every day Jaffa, planets, and ships are added to his armies and gain access to his superior technology. Our only hope is to assassinate the Goa'uld himself, but so far no Tok'ra has even been able to get on the same ship as Anubis."
Still, after all that grim news and all the other things that were happening, her life had gone on, and winter in Colorado was at its height as her birthday approached. Thankfully, although she now remembered her real one, it was suitably close to the one they had picked, and so she was about to celebrate -- for the second time in her life -- her twelfth birthday. The party with Anna, Cassie and a few other kids from school and a few adults had been yesterday.
She got up and sat under the warm covers of her bed, looking at the snow that filled the window sill outside. The party had been great, except for one fatal flaw. Her mom and SG-1 had been off-world again, to meet with the people that had been the cause of the Tok’ra queen Egeria’s death. It was about some drug that everyone thought might be important, if a bit dangerous or something. So she had been forced to have her party at Janet's, and while Cassie didn't mind she had kind of missed having her mom there for the party. But, thankfully, the actual day of her birthday was not the day before but that very day. She hoped her mom would manage to get home to see her.
"Hi, little sis, are you up?" Cassie called out.
"Yeah," she answered.
"Well... Happy Birthday. You should get dressed. Mom... Janet says you get to visit the SGC this afternoon to welcome your mom home for her vacation," Cassie said, after opening the door and poking in her auburn-haired head.
"They want me at the SGC?... I think they're up to something," she suggested.
"Mom said that they want you to make sure your mom actually takes a vacation, instead of going down to Nevada to help work on her pet project. What is it, by the way? I mean, you've been here a lot more than normal," Cassie said.
"You don't mind, I hope," she said.
"Of course not, I was more worried about... Never mind," Cassie said.
"And I know, but I can't tell you. I promised," she replied.
"It is so not fair that you're actually cleared to know what your mom is doing," Cassie said, as the older girl watched her pick out her clothes from her secondary closet. It was a bit weird, she knew, to have two sets of every essential piece of clothing, as well as a second high-powered, ruggedized laptop and a cell phone with both GPS and encryption, but for her it was essential gear, as she often moved between her home and Janet's.
"Well, I know for sure that your mom could have the same set up for you, but I guess she wants you to have a different relationship with the SGC," Buffy said.
Cassie nodded and rolled her eyes before smiling, "She actually thinks I won't apply to the Air Force and try to get work at the SGC the second I can. I am so gonna be working there."
"You and me both," she agreed.
She saw Cassie give her a warm smile before she headed for the shower. She wondered if Cassie wanted to be a doctor like her mom. Probably not, much as Buffy herself wasn't exactly planning on becoming a scientist.
She walked into the kitchen, where Janet was running around, putting down hot buns and making sure there was milk and juice on the table. "Good morning, beautiful, and happy birthday," Janet said, and pointed at the already full plate waiting for her. It had been jarring and -- for a girl -- a bit scary at first to eat as much as Buffy had to, but after a few long talks about her metabolism, anorexia, and a short picture show with anorexic girls, she had not so much caved in as completely flip-flopped on her dietary complaints. Sure, she sometimes didn't remember to eat right, but she didn't want to become some sickly stick-figure, either, and so she did eat when told to.
"Thanks," she said and dug in.
She was actually happily consuming her second grapefruit half when Cassie decided to join them, albeit remaining distracted by the music player she was wearing. "Cassie, not at the table, please," Janet said after gently taking one of the earplugs out.
"Sorry," Cassie said and turned off the music player. After a period of teenage issues and Cassie getting dumped by her first boyfriend, the relationship between Cassie and Janet was back to being as healthy as it had been when Buffy had first met them.
"So, Buffy, today your mission is to make sure your mom actually leaves the SGC. Doesn't make any side trips, except to go home and rest until tomorrow, when you and she get picked up and driven to the airport, so you can jet off for a nice ski trip," Janet said.
"Actually, we're driving, and mom said I'd get to snowboard. I hope I can figure that out," she admitted.
Cassie rolled her eyes while smiling, "Spare me the modesty. It is a physical activity. If you apply yourself to it for a few hours, you'll be better than most trained people, and a few days will make you almost a pro."
"Hey, I never know if I'll be good at anything or not, and it would be very arrogant -- not to mention, a bit dangerous -- to presume that just because I can do that with martial arts I can do it with everything else," she said.
"Really, and exactly how long did it take for you to, say, learn to off-road mountain bike or skate or free-climb? Remember, I have been there a few times when your mom takes you on those small adventures," Cassie replied.
"Ah, it’s that skating thing again. I told you my previous self had ice-skated before, and she was almost good at it. Of course I would be able to do a few things on the ice, then. Besides, you're just still smarting from the ice-hockey match afterwards," she said, remembering how she, Jack and Sam had a friendly match against Cassie, Teal'c and Daniel in the late Spring last year. They had totally crushed Cassie’s team, even with her mom sucking as a goalie. Jack had been a genius at it, and she had taken to the aggressive sport like a duck to water.
"It was cheating to allow you on the ice," Cassie insisted with a playful smile.
"Jack scored most of our goals," she said in their defense, totally glossing over the fact that she had often been the one to bring the puck from their half over to Jack near the goal so pathetically guarded by the slight, puck-fearing Cassie.
"Only because we stopped when your slap shot shattered a barrier. You would have broken something on me, padding or no padding, if... You know what? Never mind," Cassie said, after looking at the large clock on the kitchen wall, and rose from the table, done eating. The older girl picked up her plate and put it in the dishwasher.
"Mom, I’m gonna visit Vanessa. If you leave before noon, I will see you again tonight, right?" Cassie said.
"See you in a while, Cassie," Buffy said.
Cassie looked up, remembered that Buffy would be away for a week, and rushed over, giving her a hug. "See you soon, Buffy," Cassie replied, before leaving the kitchen. A few minutes later she heard Cassie putting on her jacket and leaving the house.
"We'll be going to the SGC around 11:30, so why don't you see if you can find something to do until then?" Janet said as she finished her breakfast. Buffy thought about it for a moment and decided to have a bit of fun and look up conspiracy theories on-line again. It was always fun to see if any of them were even remotely right or not.
A few hours later she was sitting in Janet's SUV as they finally hit the cleared road that led towards the base and the SGC hidden within. It was strange. As they passed the gate she could have sworn one of the Airmen outside the main gate had been following their car with his cell phone. Still, given the traffic and security measures she had to worry about, she soon forgot all about it.
She passed by heavy doors, soldiers who seemed oblivious to her passage, and through all the security checkpoints, as usual. Her fingerprints were verified, her retina was zapped, and four times she passed different forms of scanners that were only disguised as metal detectors, according to her mom. They finally entered the SGC elevator and headed down. "So, are you two going to do anything special for your birthday today?" Janet said.
"Not as far as I know," she replied.
"Oh, I am sure Sam will come up with something," Janet said neutrally. For a moment, Buffy was afraid that there was some sort of tension between Sam and Janet over her, but then decided that it hadn't sounded like that.
They walked out on level 25, where the gate room was. The halls weren't as busy as usual, but given that it was a Sunday that was probably not that unusual. Although the Stargate was always open and the SGC always active, there were usually not that many present on the weekends. General Hammond, who had been speaking with some airman on her arrival, walked over. "Thank you, Doctor, I can take her to the gate. SG-1 radioed in last night and they're arriving in a few minutes," the General said.
"Thanks, sir, I want to review the reports on SG-11 anyway," Janet said and wandered off, giving her a friendly wave goodbye.
The general led her towards the gate room. They walked towards the door, when the warning blared and Walter said over the speakers, "Off-world activation." The general looked unconcerned, and they headed up to the heavy security door to the room. He hit the open button and it slid aside. The room was bathed in the blue-white glow of the Stargate as several people yelled: "Surprise!"
She almost sat down in shock. The gate room was filled with SGC personnel, Jaffa, and Tok'ra. Her mom, Jack and Teal'c were rolling a cake over on a trolley. "Happy twelfth birthday, honey," her mom said and gave her a brilliant smile.
With watery eyes all she could say was, "Thanks." For a moment she felt unusually shy. All those people there to see her. She spotted her Granddad, Ren-al, and several other Tok'ra talking – happily, it seemed – with Bra'tac, Rya'c and a few other Jaffa, including Al'rak.
"There are presents," Jonas said from the side and stepped out of the way to reveal another table filled with items, some gift-wrapped and some not.
"Guys, you're all so nice to me. Thank you, thank you all so much," she said, hoping it was loud enough for everyone to hear.
She watched Buffy, a bit dazed but apparently deliriously happy as she unpacked her second set of presents. There was a game console with games from Jack. Teal'c had gotten Buffy a complete selection of his favorite Earth movies. Jonas had gotten R&D to fashion Buffy a very pretty bracelet out of trinium, because he wasn't cleared to leave the base on his own yet. She had bought Buffy several things, including a new and much improved laptop and a very generous gift certificate for the mall that she just knew would be spent on clothes and shoes. More mysterious were the gifts the Jaffa and Tok'ra had brought. Her dad had given Buffy her own little hologram projector, which could show pictures of Buffy, herself, and her dad, as well as a complete animation of the Milky Way galaxy. The other Tok'ra said that they had another gift, but that they wouldn’t present it at this party. And the Jaffa…well, after she had been able to convince Teal'c to diplomatically tell Bra'tac that an offer of schooling with him would not be accepted, they had decided on making a complete set of Jaffa battle armor that would await Buffy when she was older and big enough to fill it out. Some other Jaffa had also left one of their training staffs, but that was then the entire haul.
They were just about done handing out the cake and the beverages when Ren-al walked up onto the Stargate ramp and stood in front of the now turned-off Stargate. "People of the Tau'ri, if I may have your attention," she called out. Everyone turned their heads and looked. Jack looked irritated, she noted. After his latest experience with the Tok'ra, he was even more biased against them. "Today we are gathered here to celebrate another year that has passed in the life of someone who has meant much to all of us. We are here to celebrate one of the heroes of Revanna and the one who single-handedly made us see sense and saved so many in doing so. In honor of that deed -- and hopefully many to come in the future, when she reaches adulthood -- I say we should raise our glasses and call out a cheer for Buffy Summers Carter. Long may she live," Ren-al said, and at the Tok'ra's gesture they all yelled out three cheers.
After that the SGC personnel, including at this point many of the SG teams, medical staff and R&D scientists, spontaneously broke out into song – led, she discovered, by the General and Jack. Finally, blushing deeply, Buffy resolutely joined Ren-al on the ramp. "I just want to say thank you all. If not for each and every one of you, none of us would be alive today, least of all me. Take a good look at each other. Today you party together, tomorrow we fight the enemy; let's never see the day when we fight each other," Buffy said and looked around the room, seeking out all three groups, with her eyes lingering on certain Jaffa, Tok'ra, and Jack.
"Hear, hear," her dad called out. Bra'tac and General Hammond added their voices to that.
After the second set of cheers passed and Buffy had gone back to her cake, Sam was about to drift over to her daughter, when Ren-al called out again, "I have one more announcement. In respect for our allies who have aided us so greatly in our troubled times and done so much for the galaxy, we offer the following. We will leave two of our best scientists and teachers here on Earth to help you in your efforts to understand Goa'uld technology, and we would also, in the same spirit, like to offer the Tau'ri and Free Jaffa access to our intelligence and to our subspace communications technology. Although not completely secure, it will allow us to coordinate better and hopefully bring down our enemies faster."
Sam looked over at the General, then to Jack, who looked shocked, and she thought she even saw a hint of Jack's potential forgiveness for the Tok'ra one day. Bra'tac, Teal'c and a couple of Jaffa were conferring, and then Bra'tac stepped forward. "Then we, too, will add what strength we have to a common pool. We are but warriors and often swords will dull if used wrong or for the wrong purpose. We offer our best warriors to any endeavor of the Tau'ri or Tok'ra that we can morally support and are able to aid," he said.
It was like an avalanche, Sam realized. The Tok'ra and Jaffa had a lot of bad blood between them, and both groups in a way looked down on the SGC, but they had always needed each other. The Tok'ra had the science and spy network, but had always been too retiring, too careful, to effect change. The Jaffa were warriors, and while a small rebellion could be led by those, in order for it to spread and last you needed resources, communications, and savvy. The SGC had the savvy and the will to create change, but they didn't have the manpower or the technology that they needed to win more than small victories. Now, because of this party – together with the earlier defeat of the Ash'rak at the Alpha site, Egeria's death, Revanna, and their continued contact with both groups through her dad and Teal'c – what had been weaker alliances had suddenly crystallized into what could be a much stronger coalition, and she was sure the general was already thinking treaty or something again.
It was strange: as she stood in the middle of the party, she had a feeling of a great presence. She looked around but couldn't pinpoint it. Then there was a flash of white and Daniel's voice said in her head, "Happy Birthday, Buffy." She tried calling out to him, but the sense of presence had gone and Daniel probably with it. After the speeches and the cake, the gift unwrapping, the thank-yous and lots of cool stuff, the Tok'ra and Jaffa started to leave. Except for Ren-al, Jacob and Bra'tac, who wanted to talk about their speeches. The other guys went back to work, and she headed home with her mom so that they could get ready for their well-deserved vacation.
Two days later Samantha Carter was standing at a small table, drinking hot cocoa as she watched her daughter learn snowboarding. It was already obvious that Buffy would be able to go downhill like at least a gifted amateur before the day was over, and probably would be begging permission to enter the half-pipe or something like that before the end of the week.
"Excuse me?" a female voice asked, and a woman dressed from head to foot in obviously new-bought and unworn skiing clothes walked over to stand across from her, almost cutting off her view of Buffy. Sam slowly slipped her hand into her pocket, where she kept the panic button that Jack had made her swear she'd take with her ever since her last kidnapping.
"I am sorry, I don't have time to chat. I’m watching my daughter," she said, and fixed her stare at Buffy, who had just slid a few yards downhill.
"Major Samantha Carter, US. Air Force, assigned to the Deep Space Telemetry project, most of your file is classified, yet you only work in an obscure and apparently over-funded Air Force project, and you have that job despite being a decorated pilot, one of the world's foremost minds on astrophysics, and until a few years ago one of the Air Force pilots believed to be next for rotation in the Shuttle program. I am Julia Donovan from ZNN's ‘Inside Access,’" the woman said.
She looked over at the woman, realizing that this could only be an NID agent or a reporter. "I have nothing to say. Now, I am a private citizen enjoying a vacation; would you mind leaving me alone?" she said.
"Major, you have one of the most guarded personnel files, but that is not why I am here. I have reason to believe that you're part of a military appropriations scandal involving a spin-off of the already wildly over-funded DST project, something called Prometheus, which has had billions of dollars supposedly earmarked for overseas operations funnelled into it, yet it is nothing more than a paper ghost hidden from the American public. Over 2 billion dollars that has been moved into a secret government project outside the regular congressional oversight -- taxpayer's money. I believe my viewers will find that very interesting... My sources tell me that Prometheus involves highly complicated research and that you, Major, are seemingly behind a great part of the technology used in the project. Now if you could, would you please explain to me and your countrymen what is going on?" the woman, whom she now recognized as a famous ZNN reporter, placed a tape recorder in front of her.
She leaned down and said into the recorder, "I have no idea what you're talking about, and I would point out that all those government conspiracy theories are usually wrong."
Julia Donovan sighed and produced two more things, placing them on the table. "Apparently this Prometheus is being produced using this alloy. Now my own lab claim they've never seen anything like it. It appears also to break several rules of current material science according to them. My sources claim it is called Trinium," the reporter said.
That clinched it. They had sprung some sort of gigantic leak. She had to get Buffy and then call the SGC. Her vacation was most likely over, and she wasn't exactly happy with the reporter for that.
"Listen, I have no idea what this material or that Prometheus you're talking about is. I am basically a form of radio astronomer on the Air Force payroll, and now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go get my daughter," she said.
"I had hoped you would be reasonable and understand that the people deserve to be told the truth. Major, I could also go with my other related story, about an apparent freak of nature," the reporter said and switched on a small video player, placing the LCD in front of her. It showed a collection of scenes -- some taken from afar, some taken way too close -- all of them showing Buffy at school or worse, at sports. They showed Buffy entering the mountain, and then there was the cut where Buffy tossed around three military guys for one of her aikido practices.
"Don't you dare bring my daughter into this! And if you call her a freak of nature again, I will shove that..." she almost yelled, but regained control of her temper. She had never felt like this before. She swore that, had she not been a good person, that reporter would have met a fatal accident rather than show that video to anyone else.
"Your daughter. According to what little background I have been able to find, your daughter is adopted but also barely exists. Her paper trail is newly issued. Her birth certificate is fake. Her entire history up until she was adopted by you is classified, and most of her life after that is as well. Major, I don't know if you know this, but that is not normal for an 11…no,12 year old girl. But then your daughter is not exactly normal. She is going to graduate high school in half a year. She tosses around people I can verify are trained by the special forces in what an expert assured me was no mock fight. Honestly, Major, like a lot of other things about the official record, there is something very rotten about your daughter's," Julia Donovan explained.
Sam just got up and strode over to get Buffy, ignoring the reporter calling out for her as she passed through the crowds. Buffy looked up as she approached and seemingly read her intentions. Buffy unbuckled from her board and moved towards her with a look of curiosity on her face.
"Something has come up, I need to call the base," Sam said, and watched a look of annoyance flash across her daughter's face before Buffy just nodded and followed her to their cabin.
"To tell you the truth, sir, I am worried. She caught me completely off-guard, but she has good information on the project, including what appeared to be a sample of trinium. She even had disturbingly complete surveillance and information on Buffy," she explained. She had sent Buffy down to the hotel restaurant to eat before what she feared would be a car trip back home to deal with this new problem.
"Major, I will brief the Pentagon on this. I am afraid this cuts your vacation short. It appears we have a leak, and I want both you and your daughter close to the SGC for now," General Hammond said.
"I will drive directly to the base, sir. Could I ask you to have my on-base quarters readied for two? I will be bringing Buffy along. This might be an NID maneuver to get to Buffy again," she suggested.
"I will put things in motion at this end; see you soon, Major," the General said.
She hung up and looked out into the room.
It was late at night when she entered the briefing room, finding Jack and the General sitting there awaiting her arrival. "Major, glad you could make it so quickly," the General greeted her.
"Thank you, sir. Any news?" she asked.
"Well, we have verified that Julia Donovan and her editor had a sample of some metal tested at an East Coast lab a few weeks ago. The Pentagon has asked for assistance from the NID and other agencies to look into Miss Donovan's life, but so far we have found nothing linking her to any SGC or Air Force personnel," the General explained.
"Carter, you sure the trinium was real?" Jack asked.
"No, but that she knew the name alone would indicate we have a breach of security, sir," she explained.
"That much is obvious," he agreed.
"The Pentagon is tracking Miss Donovan's movements," the General explained.
"Where is she now?" Jack asked.
"Heading to Washington D.C. She flew out in a private jet immediately after talking to Major Carter. I am sending Major Davis over to try and convince her of the gravity of the matter," the General explained.
"Do we know if there is a genuine report that will be aired?" she asked.
"They haven't started advertising it yet, but it seems that a special report by Julia Donovan will be aired sometime this weekend. So we have four days," the General explained.
The next morning had been tense until about midday, when the General had called her in and told her to fly out to Atlanta and meet with Julia Donovan and her editor. She and Major Davis were there to confiscate the footage and evidence, given that a personal appeal by the President, made at the request of General Hammond, had convinced the network owner to order the story pulled.
She had said goodbye to Buffy, who was getting a few lessons in Mastaba by Teal'c in her absence as a sort of ‘sorry’ for their vacation getting cut short. Only her daughter could regard Jaffa combat training as a gift, she mused, as she and Major Davis stood silently in the lift heading up to the offices of the ‘Inside Action’ show.
They walked out into the busy corridors, standing out in their dress blues, and walked over to the receptionist. The woman told them to wait for a moment before she disconnected her headset and guided them to a conference room. Outside, the night was approaching, and she knew that somewhere closer to the light, across the globe, her daughter would be sitting down in the SGC cafeteria for a meal with Jonas and Teal'c. She hoped her daughter was happy.
"Welcome," a balding man said as they entered the conference room. He looked both glad and worried at the same time. He felt like a very stressed person to her. "Call me Al, I am the editor for Julia Donovan's segments on ‘Inside Action,’" he said. "She'll be joining us shortly."
"Al, we need to talk about my production schedule," Julia Donovan burst into the room, seemingly unprepared for their presence and stopped in her tracks. "What is this?" the reporter asked.
"Julia, please take a seat," the balding man said in a tone that seemed as much a plea as a demand. He was obviously not a strong leader.
"The head office has decided they don't want to air your story on the Air Force at this time," he explained.
"They caved under pressure. Figures. Listen, this won't stop my story. I researched it, I have the footage, the evidence. I'll just go to another network. I'll make sure the truth comes out," Julia started explaining, slowly raising her voice.
"Julia, listen: no American broadcaster will ever air this. The President himself asked the Network owners to stop your story. The President, Julia! That is how dead your story is. It doesn't go higher than that. It stops here, I am afraid," Al explained.
The man was growing on her, Sam thought, and fought back a smirk.
"We're here to pick up your evidence, your footage, your notes and everything else," Major Davis said, and sounded almost as smug as she felt.
"You can't force me to give you anything," Julia said, her eyes narrowed and filled with anger. This was apparently important to her. It was a good thing the reporter didn't know the truth about the Stargate, or there would have be no deterring her.
"Actually, we can... But we would very much prefer it if you would cooperate," Major Davis said.
"I am sure you would like me to. Well, then, listen to this. If I disappear or you try to force me, I have already made sure my evidence goes to certain overseas contacts, including broadcasters in countries that would like nothing better than to ignore the US president or its military," Julia continued.
"You underestimate how far we are willing to go to get your evidence, Miss Donovan," Major Davis nearly yelled.
"Whoa, there. Both of you, relax," the editor said, "There is no need for ultimatums and the like. How about we strike up a compromise?"
"Compromise?" Julia asked.
"Yeah," the editor turned towards them. "Now, whatever Prometheus is, one day in the not too distant future it will be made public, yes? I mean, I figure it is too big to stay secret forever. Am I right?"
She looked at Major Davis, and they both just stared back at the editor uncomprehendingly. Then Major Davis said, "That is a fair assumption."
"Anyway, how about this? You let Julia, me, and a hand-picked camera crew, whom you approve, document this project. You let us document the project and record the facts. Then, when you decide to go public, we get the world exclusive and the first fresh interviews when it happens," the editor offered.
"I don't think so," she said. There was too big a chance of Stargate secrets getting revealed by such a documentary.
"Everyone will sign Non-disclosure Agreements, and the Air Force gets the tape and the notes afterwards, so you decide what happens when," he continued.
"Forget it, they'll sit on it for 50 years," Julia argued.
"Julia, when the President of the United States kills your story, that's it. Game over. You go foreign with this, they could charge you with treason," the editor explained to his reporter, being quite right, too. Not to mention that she knew the NID and several other agencies would stop at nothing to quell any broadcaster, going to lengths she didn't want to know about.
"We will present the idea to our superiors," Major Davis said and got up.
"Wait a minute, what about the girl?" Julia asked.
Major Davis looked confused, as did she. They had agreed to acknowledge nothing about Buffy's situation. "What girl?" Major Davis asked.
"Buffy Summers Carter, the mysterious daughter of Major Carter here. If I am to agree to this, I want her to be in the documentary, as well. I want to know how she could do that to three special forces soldiers," Julia insisted.
"Buffy Carter is a genius, Miss Donovan. She is born with the ability to learn highly difficult physical skills with great ease and, well, her intelligence is merely inherited. There is no story there. Major Carter, as her legal guardian, will decline any request to infringe on her privacy -- especially in what is little more than a human interest story. And let's not forget all the laws and practices of privacy that you'd be violating to present Major Carter's daughter on the air against her will and the will of her legal guardian," Major Davis explained.
"It is simple, Major and Major Mom. All or nothing. I don't mind the kid being under the same agreement as the rest, I just want to know how what she did was possible," Julia said.
"My daughter is not involved in any of this. Leave her out of it, Miss Donovan," she said trying to sound as steely as possible. The thought of footage of Buffy being aired or even just leaked revolted her.
"No, Major, I believe she is. A kid of 12 that has a thick but eyes-only DOD file and whom I have video footage of tossing around grown men like rag dolls, I want to meet. Besides, I want to find out if you've really been growing super-soldiers in a lab," the reporter said.
Both Sam and Major Davis looked at each other, then laughed. Still, growing serious for a moment, she turned around and studied the reporter again. "I won't allow any footage of Buffy being made. Would you accept an off the records interview including under the NDA. It is the best I am willing to offer and if you break the agreement not only will I sue you for every thing I can, but there will consequences beyond what you might imagine," she said coldly and made a mental note rattled as she was at that moment that she'd arrange for Teal'c and his Jaffa to meet this reporter should she break their agreement. For a moment she felt almost primally ready for violence.
The reporter seemed to think about it for a while. "I think that is fine. I want Prometheus not your kid anyway," Julia said.
"Goodbye," she said, and left without saying another word.
It had taken a great deal of fast-talking by Major Davis to convince Jack and the General to let the reporters do their report on the Prometheus, but in the end Julia Donovan had them over a barrel, and none of them wanted to unleash the NID or worse on the reporter, but neither could they allow the report to air. Instead, they decided to cheat by agreeing with the reporter's demands to tape a documentary, so that they could conveniently lose it and all the evidence, after plugging their leak.
She had struggled against it, but the reporter had kept insisting on meeting Buffy, and so it was that her daughter was introduced to the Prometheus that morning, and now they waited outside the well-concealed entrance, together with Jonas. Buffy had not taken the prospect of going on camera well, not really feeling secure about anyone ‘civilian,’ as she called it, knowing her secrets. She had just told Buffy to stick to their cover story. Buffy was her adopted daughter from Canada, her paperwork had been destroyed by a fire, she was cleared for top-secret because of her mom's job, and her daughter was able to do the things she did because of her brilliance, not because of any superhuman ability.
She noticed how cute Buffy looked in her sunglasses and flowery sundress. The camera crew rolled up in their van, while Julia arrived with Al in a car. They looked around, probably wondering what they were doing in the middle of Nevada.
"Miss Donovan," she said, not able to muster more than a fake smile, given that the hard-nosed reporter could cause her daughter a great deal of trouble.
"Major," Julia said sounding almost bored.
"This is Jonas Quinn. He'll be joining us on the tour, along with Buffy," she said and gestured towards the pair standing in the shadow of the elevator shaft opening, chatting.
"I guess a couple of billion dollars doesn't buy what it used to," Al said and looked around at the flat barren landscape.
"You'd be surprised," Jonas said with a friendly smile on his lips. It had probably been a good idea to have him and not Jack or Teal'c along, given that Jack had been liable to be really obnoxious and Teal'c had offered last night to have the reporter detained indefinitely on Chulak.
She led the group to the shed and slid her card through the lock to open for the palm print scanner. The wide double blast doors opened to admit them to the inner elevator. She tapped in her personal code and the number of passengers, as well as the access clearance for the presentation. She, Jonas, Al, Julia and Buffy went in, leaving the three-man-and-one-woman film crew outside with two guards who would bring them down after them.
"How far down are we going?" Julia asked.
"Several hundred feet," she replied cryptically, despite knowing the internal dimensions of Earth's one and only starship production yard quite well.
The door slid open and immediately granted them a view of the Prometheus. They left the elevators, with Julia and Al gaping at the sight before them. "I knew it was big, but not this big," Julia stammered.
"This is the Prometheus, also known as the X-303," Sam said with no small amount of pride. The hyperdrive, the shield and the reactors of that ship were engineered from her designs and theories. Soon, however, it would all be fine-tuned, helped by the Tok'ra – although they had thus far been focused more on making some changes to the X-302, mostly on the weapon and drive systems.
"I hope you brought a lot of tape," Julia told her editor. They headed for the ship. Sam trailed behind a bit and looked towards Buffy. Her daughter seemed quite taken with the Prometheus, constantly looking it up and down, despite having seen it earlier in the day.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"No... Maybe... It's strange, Mom. I dreamed about this ship, this exact ship, just after we got back from the mountains and you went off to Atlanta to visit her," Buffy said and pointed towards Julia.
"Maybe you had seen the designs on one of your visits to the SGC," Sam suggested.
"Maybe," Buffy agreed and they followed everyone inside.
Buffy liked the design of the ship inside. It was well-lit and while it seemed ‘spacious’ it felt both bulky and strong, capable of surviving combat. Then again, it was supposed to be a sort of aircraft carrier in space. Too bad it cost so much to build that it would take ages before more could be finished, at least according to her mom, when she had asked this morning.
"This is a joke, right? There is no rocket on Earth that can lift this ship, let alone put it in orbit, and it doesn't look capable of re-entry, either," Julia said.
"Prometheus is the third in a series of designs that incorporates both human and alien technology," her mom explained.
"You're saying little green men helped you build this," the nervous bald man said.
"Actually, they're gray," her mom commented. "All the key systems were reverse-engineered from a starship that crashed 100 miles North of Fairbanks, Alaska in 1978. It was only in these last few years that our technology evolved to a point where we could take advantage of what we had found," her mom lied.
The reporter and her editor entered the bridge first. She wanted to see that, as well, however her being ahead of her mom and Jonas, who hung back for a moment, didn't prevent her from hearing. "Fairbanks?" Jonas asked.
"Better than Roswell," her mom replied, making her chuckle and causing Jonas to give her mom an uncomprehending look. It was often easy to forget that Jonas was actually also an alien, so to speak.
"This doesn't look very alien to me," the reporter woman said.
"The controls are all modeled on research done for next generation Navy vessels and adapted by NASA's engineers. Some of the key systems on this ship are actually based on alien crystal technology, rather than wires and chips. The hard part has been making the technologies compatible," her mom said.
The camera crew arrived and started putting up their stuff under the watchful eyes of the two guards. "All right, let's set up the first shot in here and do the interview with the Major," Julia suggested to the editor guy, who nodded almost as if he didn't really care.
"Let's continue the tour until they're ready," Julia suggested. Her mom nodded and led them off the bridge. Buffy was temporarily forgotten and she decided it would be kind of cool to wander the ship for a bit and take a look around.
"This ship is capable of reaching orbit in 30 seconds," she explained, proudly remembering, the Pentagon presentation they had given a few years back when telling the brass about their idea and explaining the figures. It had been the moment most of the Joint Chiefs had gone from polite supporters to full-on fans of the SGC.
"What about the G-forces?" Julia asked while looking around with respect.
"Well, if the inertial dampeners and artificial gravity are functioning properly, it shouldn't feel like much more than a ride in a fast elevator," she admitted.
"How long until this thing is ready to fly?" Al asked.
"It'll be a while. A number of support systems are still being assembled," she explained, not wanting to say ‘invented’, which was actually the case for the ship’s weaponry right now. They had already decided on rockets and rail-guns, but a few new ideas from the Jaffa and Tok'ra at the Alpha site -- and hopefully the new Tok'ra support, as well as what they had learned from the Al'kesh from Revanna being disassembled nearby -- all meant that the Joint Chiefs were actually extending the prototype stage, in the hopes they could add armaments like the Al'kesh's energy weapons to their ship.
They walked into the engine room. "This place looks important... And reinforced," Julia said as they walked past the heavy bulkhead.
"This is the engine control room. The engines are out there," she explained and pointed out the glass into the multi-story hyperdrive and reactor room.
"How fast does it go?" Julia's editor asked.
"Using our current model sub-light engines, the ship can accelerate to 110,000 miles per second -- approximately half the speed of light," she explained, unable to keep from smiling.
"Of course, that is nowhere near fast enough for interstellar travel. For that we need the hyperdrive," Jonas said and pointed at a console next to her. Both Julia and Al looked at each other, then at her.
"I get why this is so secret now," Julia said.
"This is possibly the largest collection of scientific and engineering secrets on Earth," she said.
"I'd say," Al agreed.
Buffy walked through the halls, noticing how here and there tools were still lying about and stuff being built. The ship was definitely not finished yet. It was also all very exciting. She had climbed down a ladder, expecting that her mom wouldn't mind, especially if it made the reporter woman forget her existence for a while or for good. Being away would help that. She walked into an area that seemed even more heavily shielded than the rest of the ship. "Reactor material bay," the sign outside the door read. She thought it over.
Naquadah and that stuff that Jonas had brought was used to power devices like this spaceship, which meant that this room was probably either for fuel storage or fuel loading. That was usually volatile stuff and therefore the room was shielded even more than the rest of the ship. She continued on, looking for the hangars, hoping to maybe catch a glance of an X-302 or at least just a space hangar.
Sam glanced down at the engine room command console. A screen read, "simulation #47 interrupted.... System busy."
"What’s wrong?" Jonas asked, probably because she had put on a surprised expression. There were supposed to be no other computer activities aside from the simulations that day.
"I'm not sure. The computer was running a series of hyperdrive power curve simulations, but they've been interrupted," she said, an inner voice warning her that this was unlikely to happen by accident, and that having outsiders onboard increased the risk of danger exponentially. Something could be wrong.
"So?" Jonas asked.
"So, there are no other tests scheduled for today, and in fact right now all of the R&D department are off the ship because of the tour.” She walked over and activated one of the intra-ship communications handsets. She pressed the bridge button and said, "Engine room to the Bridge. Sergeant Gibson, this is Major Carter, come in." She waited but there was no response, aside from electronic noise.
"Maybe those systems haven't been finished yet," Jonas suggested, but his eyes showed he was beginning to fear the same things she was.
"I doubt it, they worked last time I visited. Listen, I’ll go check it out. Keep an eye on those two and be careful: this might be a trick," she said and left.
She went up a few levels and was headed for the engine room, when she heard approaching steps. Two of the camera crew were heading for her, but their body language indicated aggression, not curiosity or friendliness. "Major Carter," one of them called out as they approached her. They were going to get violent; she could read it in their body language.
She tried to seem calm as she replied, "Aren't you supposed to be on the bridge?"
"We had a little trouble with the equipment. We're gonna need another battery from the truck," the other crewman replied.
She saw the guy, who had called out her name drawing a pistol. She punched the guy in the throat, using the technique as shown to Buffy by her latest martial arts teacher in something called Krav Maga. The guy dropped into a fetal position and whimpered, while she spun right and kicked the other guy in the chest. He stumbled back.
She saw the gun on the floor and had snapped it up, when there was the tell-tale noise of a zat readying to fire. She ducked randomly to the left and saw the blue-white flash hit a wall. She started running, while firing off a few shots back towards her previously unseen assailant.
She hadn't found the way down to the hangar deck. Instead she had found what she was pretty sure was the ship's mess. She had barely looked the unfinished kitchen over before she heard a distinct set of sounds that she hadn't expected. One was gunfire; the other was zat fire. It was distant, and she could in fact only hear it at all because of her enhanced senses.
"I swear, I can't go anywhere these days without there being trouble," she said with a sigh.