"Captain, sir, you have to come see this," Lieutenant Michaels ran into the locker room and stopped in front of him, acting like he wasn't a fully trained Air Force Officer but rather a little boy.
"Lieutenant, what is doing on? Are you jumped up on something?" Captain Hernandez asked with a smile, while wondering if discipline was actually lax at the SGC. He had just gotten his transfer here and had finished his training and orientation a few days earlier. In fact, the lieutenant would be one of his co-workers as a part of SG-9 under the command of Lt. Colonel Reynolds.
"You have to see this. Teal'c – you know, the rebel Jaffa they told us about during orientation? He's training with Major Carter's kid. It is insane
," the lieutenant explained.
Hernandez raised his head and looked at the lieutenant. Major Carter's kid was Buffy Summers Carter. She was a part of his secondary assignment. His briefing on her had been head-spinning, almost on the level of hearing about the Stargate program. She had come from a parallel universe, been off-world more than once, was a personal friend of several high level Tok'ra and Jaffa rebel leaders. And she had just been away four years in some sort of time loop, staying with the Asgard. This, added with the fact that the girl was a superhuman and a genius, made her someone his handlers in the NID wanted watched as closely as possible. "Poor kid, why is he wiping the mat with her?" he said, knowing full well that the situation was probably exactly the opposite.
"That's just it. He isn't. She is," his overly excited new teammate yelled, and gestured for him to follow as the lieutenant again dashed from the room. Captain Hernandez got up to follow, making sure he looked interested as he did so.
He jogged down the corridor to the big gym. Gerald Hernandez had to admit to himself, in the privacy of this own thoughts, that he was getting a bit excited himself. He had only seen pictures and descriptions of the kid before her little trip into space and time. The Air Force officer walked calmly into the gym where a crowd of soldiers, including General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill, were watching the show. None of the base commanding officers were cheering, and so most of the lower ranks kept their commentary sedate and private.
There was a metallic clang, and he looked across the mat-covered floor to see two unpadded people go at each other. They were a completely mismatched pair of fighters. The Jaffa was very tall and muscular, while the girl was just about average height and barely athletic looking. Still their fighting moves were evenly matched. The girl caught blows with her staff that should have sent a person of her mass tumbling along the floor, but she seemed to be fighting purely defensively, never attacking her opponent.
"Not a lot of mat-wiping going on, is there?" he commented to the lieutenant. The fight had gone on for several minutes at that point.
Lieutenant Michaels leaned in and whispered, "Sir, they fought like this before I went to get you, too. Whenever she attacks she wins after a short while, so I think they've agreed to have her be defensive to get her a workout."
The Jaffa said a few words in Goa'uld. The girl nodded and changed her stance and posture. "Wait and see, sir; now fun time is over," the lieutenant said.
And the young man was proven to be right. Buffy Summers Carter launched into a series of moves that took her into the air, involved a few kicks and a massive blow with the staff sending the Jaffa to the ground. She went over and helped the big man up while several soldiers applauded. Captain Hernandez was suddenly sure of one thing. In his assessment on how to contain that girl if necessary, he would include the recommendation of using long-distance sniping and surprise. He had forgotten all macho illusions of taking her down, one on one. That was just not going to happen. The crowd moved in and several soldiers took the chance to chat with the teenager and the Jaffa.
"Did you like the show?" a voice asked from behind.
He glanced around and realized that Colonel O'Neill had managed to walk up and stand next to him without him noticing. The older man's expression was worrying him a little. He looked a bit put out. Of course, having just been accused then barely exonerated of shooting a Senator had probably annoyed the man a great deal. It had also cost a great number of NID agents their jobs and freedom. "I did not see a show, sir. I think I saw a workout between superior hand-to-hand fighters," Captain Hernandez pointed out.
"No, Hernandez, you saw a small show. It’s sort of like your service record, a bit of truth mixed in with a whole lot of fakery. You know, I recently had the pleasure of seeing an Op rid the rogue NID of a whole lot of its power. During all of that, a couple of good agents got hold of a nice bit of documentation and some talkative people that revealed several current NID ops -- even one going on in this mountain. And so I had Buffy and Teal'c open one of their little, usually closed, training sessions and have you distracted for just long enough for your clearance to be revoked, sidearms removed and your locker searched. As we speak, a security team is searching your apartment for any other evidence," Colonel O'Neill explained in a disturbingly cold voice.
"You won't find anything at my home," Hernandez said.
"I don't care. Either way, you're out of here within the hour: trust me on that. And Hernandez, we know you have connections to groups we haven't been able to reach yet. Tell them to stop their harassment of Buffy, or I will make it my personal mission to make their lives hell. And that includes their family, kids and relatives. Leave her alone, or next time it really will be me who shoots someone with a sniper rifle!" O'Neill gave him an icy stare, then nodded to two Airmen who guided him away.
"Colonel, I did not just hear you threaten to shoot several civilians, did I?" General Hammond asked.
Jack turned towards Buffy and Teal'c, who were trying to shake off their fans. He said, "No, sir, I would never harm a citizen of the US. However, they can’t understand that, because they would
do it, and they think we're like them."
General Hammond looked thoughtful for a while, then said, "You’re probably right."
"Sir, what about the permission for her to move back home? Why are they stalling?" he asked, referring to Buffy, who had been labelled a security risk by some bureaucrat in Washington and who hadn't been allowed to leave the SGC unattended since her return to Earth, four weeks ago. Buffy was bearing the limits on her movements with gritted teeth, but it was fraying their relationship with her. And, given the love both the Jaffa and Tok'ra held for the girl, as well as her considerable abilities, the General didn't want that. Jack just wanted to the kid to be able to return to a semi-normal life of school and friends. But so far the Pentagon had denied permission to reinsert Buffy into civilian life without a new identity, and they had even found the guts to suggest having her removed from Carter's custody and moved to a different location to live with specially chosen foster parents. He had told neither Carter or Buffy about that little gem yet, mostly because he didn't want to see their feelings hurt, but also because he was a little afraid of what their reaction might be.
"They aren't stalling. They have decided it would be too big a risk for disclosure or increased scrutiny if Buffy is returned to her old life. They claim that decision is final. I even tried calling the President yesterday, but he wasn't available. Apparently, he’s too busy helping his vice-president campaign to take over for the next term. They offered the relocation again, but I told them it was out of the question," General Hammond explained.
"What's out of the question? Are you talking about my suggestion that you guys spiff up this place by allowing people to wear their real people’s clothes every Friday?" Buffy said as she sauntered up. It looked like she had barely broken a sweat during her battle with Teal'c.
"Of course... That has flatly been turned down," Jack replied and looked at the General as if to shift the blame to his immediate CO.
Buffy pouted, then smiled. "No, seriously, I heard you guys talking," she said, her voice suddenly becoming serious and reminding him again that the girl he had known was a young woman now. Not that she had been a normal kid before.
"No one likes been eavesdropped on," he commented.
"Like I'd drop any eaves. I was just standing over there, all innocent-like, and heard your conversation clear as day. Seriously, Jack, George, why won't they let me go back to live off-base with mom? It’s not like I know much more than before we went away, and I'm still not gonna tell anyone. I'm big with keeping the secrets," Buffy said and made a turning movement in front of her mouth, then mimed putting the key away.
"It isn't about that, Buffy," General Hammond explained, "They are worried that your aging suddenly will be noticed by people in your mother's neighbourhood -- and your friends from school, of course. That, they believe, could endanger this project."
Buffy seemed to mull it over before saying, "Well, I am not, no way, no how, moving away from my mom... Why don't you just move Mom and me to a different neighborhood? Colorado is big enough for none of the regular people to care. I could stay here on the base and there at home, as planned, until I get my diploma, and then I can start at the Air Force Academy next semester. I know that on paper I’m just 16, and their rules say 17, but I am very mature for my age and, well, you know I can stand up to anything they'll throw at us. Oh, and if I can get someone in Congress or something to nominate me."
Jack looked at the General, who seemed to think it over. It was only a bit different from the original and now rejected plan, but the brass in the Pentagon might swallow it, given that Buffy had more or less just signed on the dotted line for a military career with the Air Force, something even he at this point applauded. "I think they'll listen to that," he said, and the general agreed before walking away.
He turned towards Buffy, "Have you told your mom that you want to join the Air Force?"
"Yeah, we talked about it last night. I was worried that I might get assigned to something I wouldn't agree to, but mom told me that all the more shady stuff is on a volunteer basis, and since I don't intend to get into nuclear physics or sign on for any kind of Black Ops duties, I think I'll be okay," Buffy explained.
"What do you want to study, then?" he asked, truly curious.
"I haven't gotten that 100% settled in my head yet, but I think I'll specialize in operations, management and strategy, along with whatever I need to be a pilot and a good officer," Buffy explained.
"You got bit by the flying bug, huh?" he said and couldn't help smiling. Sam had told the ‘woo-hoo’ story and how Buffy had taken to the rapid-reactions world of fighter piloting like a fish to water.
"Oh yeah, well, I might not be officially allowed to fly USAF fighters, but I know how to," she said with a smile that told him she was thinking about the near future.
"Don't remind me about that thing that will happen tomorrow. You have no idea how much paper work your mom's little fancy prototype demonstration is causing me," Jack said.
"Well, the research guys want to see the difference between the normal X-305 and the one she and Thor modified to be adaptable. I'm the only person it has been programmed for," Buffy said.
"Yeah, well, we're on for tomorrow. The airspace has been cleared, and I’ve bent or broken all the rules I could. So, tomorrow you'll be putting on a little airshow," Jack explained.
"I haven't been flying for weeks. I am so looking forward to this. But I’m a bit sad, too. I’m pretty sure that I won't be going up for a spin again any time soon after tomorrow," Buffy explained.
"Probably not," he agreed. It was already illegal that she was climbing into the cockpit tomorrow; he was sure the General and his superiors didn't want to compound the issue by making it a regular thing.
Sam looked around at the assembled crowd that stood huddled near the monitors inside the hangar. They had come to Nevada to see her remake of the X-302 in the form of a heavier fighter she had dared to name the X-305. She and Jonas were the only members of SG-1 actually on the ground. Jack and Teal'c were up in one of the latest X-302 revisions, flying a circuit throughout the test airspace. Their job was to fly alongside Buffy, as she demonstrated the special capabilities of the X-305. She and Buffy had demonstrated that her changed model was superior to both the X-302 and the Deathglider, earlier. Sam had piloted, and Buffy had served as her navigator.
Now, however, her daughter had to be on her own. Not because of any fear, but simply because of the different configuration of X-305 Buffy was flying in. She remembered when Thor had watched Buffy and Teal'c test-flying with herself taking down the telemetry. He had asked why she hadn't made it possible for her daughter to use her clearly superior physical abilities in the plane? She had laughed it off as irrelevant, because why should she design an aircraft for a single person? But Thor had contradicted her, asking if all human pilots were the same. Then she had stopped laughing.
They had time to spare, and with Thor having started the whole thing by opening his mouth, she had roped him in to help. Two months later -- just weeks before they were leaving Vindgloed -- the second X-305 had been completed, with a totally revamped electronic and avionics package. It was capable of flight with only one pilot and all the electronics, HUD and avionics were adjustable for the pilot and navigator. In fact, Thor had helped her make a HUD with a voice control that allowed a pilot to verbally control the weapons and aiming while still being dogfight capable. It had become even less of a joke when Buffy had killed them 80% of the time in all following practice dogfights, and her percentage had kept going up as they tested and found the outer limits of Buffy's reaction time and the X-305’s inertial dampeners.
"Ground control, this is Ghost. We have sighted the bogey. Out," Jack's voice came over the local speakers. She went over and looked at the radar images. Everyone leaned in. She saw Buffy veer left, then go into a power dive, which she twisted even more left and levelled, suddenly coming back up but now facing in Jack's direction.
"Fox One," Jack called out as his ship locked missiles on Buffy's ship.
Buffy replied by slamming the throttle fully down, hammering past the missile's arming range, making the computer call the hit a dud. Sam smiled. Buffy painted Jack's X-302 with her targeting lasers, and the computer registered a kill as it decided Buffy's blasters had just scored a killing blow to Jack's X-302.
"Slayer, that was a very risky move, out," Jack said.
"Roger, Ghost," Buffy replied over the radio, "Slayer has the next attack run. Out."
Sam smiled again, and noted several of the generals were looking very happy with the demonstration so far.
A few hours later, Buffy was walking towards her across the airfield in her flight suit, looking both tired and happy. "I did good, didn't I?" her daughter asked.
"You crushed him, Buffy, Jack's self-confidence might never recover," Sam replied.
"Aw, come on, it’s Jack. I let him win at least three times," Buffy said.
Sam just tapped her foot.
"Alright, twice. He got me fair and square the other times," Buffy admitted.
"You did well, Buffy," Teal'c agreed as he and Jack came over, looking just as tired as her daughter. It was impressive that Jack had been able to force Buffy into so many hard maneuvers that she was tired. But that was the value of training and experience, even though in the end Buffy and the superior X-305 had won 85% of the combats.
"Yay, me," Buffy said and shook her helmet in mock triumph. Sam decided she would get permission to have that helmet or one like it taken home and marked with Buffy's call-sign. It was fitting and deserved.
Together they turned and headed for the hangar where the generals, their staff, and a whole bunch of engineers were eagerly awaiting them. As they approached, Buffy lagged behind, then stopped entirely to stand and stare at her aircraft. Sam turned and walked back to her, after telling Jack that they would be right there. "You think you'll miss it, huh?" she asked.
"Yeah, I think flying is the first thing that has really challenged me since I came here," Buffy said, "And, well, isn't it just cool to be me, my age, and then be able fly that beauty?"
"But?" Sam asked.
"But I won't be flying again for ages. It’s not that cool being me confined to the SGC, and... I guess I just miss the entire friends, vacation, and life thing, again," Buffy explained.
"Buffy, I'm sorry, but after what happened with Jack and you not being allowed off base, we've just haven't been able to arrange it. But soon, I swear. This summer at the latest, I promise," she said.
"I just hope I get to walk under an open sky for a while again," Buffy said.
"There were open skies on Vindgloed," Sam replied.
"Mom, its axial tilt, atmosphere, orbit and the composition of its sun made the skies on Vindgloed pink," Buffy reminded her.
"Ah, you meant blue
sky. It's okay, honey, I understand completely, and General Hammond just told me that they liked your proposal a lot. And you're still sure you want to go to the Academy?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, I was a bit apprehensive at first, but after I realized it would be the best way for me to get to fly and maybe get back out into the Galaxy again, I just went with it. Besides, the Air Force has worked for you, Jack, and Granddad, so why not me?" Buffy said.
Sam wanted to say, ‘because you've done enough already,’ remembering the stories of Buffy's past before stepping through the mirror, or because she didn't want Buffy's life to continue to be filled with strife, but she forced it down. In the end, they needed everyone they could get, and Buffy was just too good to be wasted on Corporate America. "I think it’s great," she finally replied.
"By the way, I called up your granddad and he is coming to Earth as soon as possible," Sam continued.
"Did you tell him?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, Tok'ra symbiont or not, I don't want him to have a heart attack, no matter how fun you think the surprise might be," Sam replied.
Together they walked into the hangar where General Hammond had arranged a round of applause for Buffy. It seemed even multi-star generals were impressed by 16-year-olds flying high tech aircraft. Her daughter smiled but seemed very shy in that very moment.
Buffy stood beside her mom. They waited with baited breath as the wormhole rippled to admit Jacob Carter, along with several Tok'ra who were there to relieve those assigned to help the researchers down in Nevada. "Kiddo," he said and embraced her mom. It seemed that he easily recognized his daughter.
"Why are you looking so unhappy, Buffy?" Jacob asked and pulled her into a welcoming hug. "Afraid I wouldn't recognize you?" he asked.
"A little," she whispered into his shoulder.
"No chance of that. Your beautiful eyes, nose and that hair gives you away," Jacob said and stepped back to study her.
"Man, who do I have to thank that they've kept you here at the SGC instead of out there with all those young hormonal teenage boys?" Jacob said.
She felt a little stab of pain. The Pentagon brass were still negotiating with the General about her permission to live off base, but he had promised that they were coming around. Buffy chose to put on her happy face and bear her confinement and Jacob's comment with the same discipline she had developed to keep from voicing her anger at their confinement on Vindgloed. "I think that would be the Pentagon," she said and realized she had failed to hide her displeasure as her voice resounded with resentment and anger.
Jacob blinked but chose to ignore her reply. "Anyway, I need to hear everything you can to tell me. How is life with the Asgard? The Tok'ra have very little contact with them, but we've always been very curious," he asked.
Thankfully, her mom took over the conversation as the Tok'ra were guided from the gateroom. Her mom had probably realized what was wrong and was guiding her granddad into a conversation about what they could hope for as help from the Tok'ra. It seemed a lot of it was focused on ship cloaking technology and her mom's hope that they might be able to find a way to hide with cloaks again, if the SGC and Area 51 scientists and Tok'ra worked together -- especially as a couple of Teal'c's rebels had gotten hold of a set of the upgraded sensors from an Al'kesh they had stolen from Anubis' fleet.
"We have another thing with us that you'll like. As you might have guessed, the Tok'ra don't rely on the stargate network and radio or just word of mouth to communicate. We use a special form of subspace communicators. They are much advanced and secure than the communications made available to the Jaffa. They come in small devices that can be easily hidden, and larger versions that can handle the relay of video and audio. I've brought three base stations that we think you should set up here on Earth, along with the schematics for building both the small and large units. If everything is put in place, you'll be able to have a reasonably security interstellar communication system that only the System Lords themselves can match, but not breech easily. Of course the Tok'ra try never to exchange anything over this network except code words and the like just in case. They have never allowed the Jaffa direct access to this type of technology, and that's why we want to share it with you and the Rebel Jaffa," Jacob explained as they headed up the stairs towards the General's briefing room.
Buffy knew that usually she wouldn't have been welcome, but as she was confined to base and hadn't made a nuisance of herself she had come to serve as one of the General's assistants, as well as sitting in on all SG-1 briefings. It also meant she could stay in the room while Jack and George talked to Jacob.
"Ah, Buffy, just who I wanted to see," General Hammond said immediately on seeing her. He was smiling.
"I just got good news. The Pentagon approved your idea and the Vice-President is sponsoring you for entry into the Air Force Academy. So you can start packing. You'll be going to your new house within a few days," the General reported.
"Really, thank you, sir," she said trying on the honorific that she'd have to use a lot later on. It felt really weird calling anyone, even General Hammond, ‘sir’. She felt that maybe she wasn't a ‘sir’ kind of person.
Jacob turned towards her with another triumphant smile. "Another Carter in the Air Force, I am so proud of you," he said and embraced her again.
"Hey, thanks," she said, a bit surprised at the reaction before she realized that Jacob was seeing the second generation after him follow in his footsteps. No wonder he was proud. Meanwhile she knew that moving to a new neighborhood also meant she would not be seeing Anna or any of her teachers from high school again -- except by accident, and then she wouldn't be allowed to acknowledge them or tell them anything. She was finding it impossible to be happy about that, but deep down she had known it was coming and had gotten ready.
Weeks passed. Her granddad left again. Her mom became busy with all sorts of strange missions. The Prometheus was nearly lost on its maiden flight, but they managed to get it back to Earth in one piece. The General and Major Davis had some sort of political trouble that ended up in them getting a short visit from Thor at the Pentagon and then later for dinner at their new house. Apparently, the Asgard were feeling very grateful for their help with the Replicators. Her mom encountered the genetic resequencers again -- this time in the hands of that bitch of a Goa'uld she had taken out when Cassie was sick, and whom Jack had been forced to release. No one in SG-1 had gotten permanently hurt, but she knew there could still be lingering problems from that. And several others had died. She knew only too well that the effects of those infernal machines and planned to implore her mom to get regular check-ups for a while.
Buffy knew she hadn't been the greatest help, lately. She was moping around at home, unable to do much more than work out, read, and wait. Her SAT scores had come back nearly maxed out, and she could in theory have her pick of colleges, but still she couldn't start with any of them for more than four months, meaning that she had nothing to do but keeping up a routine. She wasn't employed at the SGC, so she couldn't just drop by there, no matter her clearance level. She missed being around Teal'c and her mom all the time, too. It was like she had gotten home and was suddenly even more lonely than on a planet with only one other human, as had been the case on Vindgloed.
So, when someone put a key in the locked front door that day as she was trying to beat her own record in longest time spent in a handstand, she nearly fell over. She dismounted and walked out to find her mom standing in the hall, still in her work uniform and clearly dirty. Something was up. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Teal'c didn't call in as planned," her mom said. She had known that Teal'c and Bra'tac were meeting with a load of Jaffa rebels on some planet to distribute their new communications devices. Teal'c had been excited about the gifts from the Tok'ra and had called the meeting himself. He had even asked for permission for her to come along and meet more of the Jaffa, but her mom and General Hammond had decided that she would not be allowed off-world again any time soon.
"We went there. Everyone was dead except Teal'c and Bra'tac, but Bra'tac's larva was dead. Teal'c has been sharing his with Bra'tac to keep them both alive for nearly three days. He's dying, Buffy, and as his closest family you're required to come and approve any medical operations needed," her mom explained.
"Me? Why me?" Buffy asked, completely taken aback by this new responsibility.
"After we returned from Vindgloed, Teal'c told Janet and the General that should it come to something like this and Bra'tac not be available, you should decide," her mom continued.
"What about Rya'c? According to Jaffa custom he has more rights to make these decisions than I do," she said, remembering the many lessons Teal'c had drilled into her.
"We don't know where Rya'c is. He wasn't with Bra'tac or among the dead, so you're it. I'm sorry; I'd like to have spared you this," her mom said.
"Don't be. It isn’t like it was your fault. Let's just go," she said, steeling herself.
Sam watched Buffy accept her granddad's suggestion about trying the experimental tretonin variant on Teal'c. Jacob had arrived while she had been off getting Buffy. They had barely had time to say hello, before Janet had asked for them to decide. It was a strange thing to watch Buffy make such an adult decision.
"Are you sure?" Janet asked.
"If this works, it could mean that the Jaffa could free themselves of the Goa'uld. Unless they want to keep some around to grind into their medicine. Teal'c would sign up as a test subject even if he wasn't hurt. Do it," Buffy argued.
Janet looked around as if to see if anyone would stop them from taking this big risk. Sam knew, however, that it hadn't been a frivolous decision on Buffy’s part, and she was certain that Teal'c would approve if – no, when
-- he recovered. Her dad handed Janet the vial of the drug and started to tell the Doctor about dosages and concentrations. Buffy walked up to stand between Teal'c and Bra'tac's beds. Buffy seemed be very focused, yet was staring into empty space, and so Sam decided not to go up and ask her if she was alright. It was obviously not the case, but it was also not yet the time to comfort her. When that time came, Buffy would seek her company or leave the room completely, in either case expecting her mom to come for her. Sam knew her daughter.
"She is unhappy, isn't she?" Jacob asked after finishing Janet's instructions and nodded towards Buffy. Sam guessed he didn't mean now but in general.
"She isn't happy. Her SAT scores were stellar, but I guess the loss of her friends still hurts and she feels that her freedom of movement is limited," Sam said.
"You should make sure she gets to see all the friends who can see her, like Doctor Frasier's daughter. Throw them at each other and make sure that she gets out a lot, even if you have to take on less overtime," her dad suggested. She thought it over, and maybe she could talk Cassie into doing more than visiting every Saturday when they weren't visiting Cassie's home. It was a good idea, after all.
Teal'c had been moved to the normal infirmary, and he was rapidly recovering. It had been nearly four days now since he had first taken Tretonin, and it seemed to work pretty much as the larval Goa’uld had by replacing his immune system. That wasn't why Buffy was there, though. Well, she had used that excuse to her mom, but there was another reason for her ignoring her dislike for hospitals. Something she had told no one about.
It was seeing him that pulled her back to the SGC every day these last few days. Buffy had seen or felt him several times before, years ago, but only in glimpses. Now he was just there, watching over Teal'c while she watched over him. Earlier, he and Teal'c had a talk about him being there and if things would be alright.
"You can see me, right?" Daniel asked sitting next to her on the empty gurney, acknowledging her for the first time.
"Yeah, but I've seen you before, or felt your presence; just never like this," Buffy admitted.
"The others don't know if they should fear, study, or just ignore you. I think I’m getting why, now. You've been able to sense us all this time, but we can't see into your mind without being in actual danger, according to my teacher," Daniel said and looked back at Teal'c.
"He will be alright, right?" she asked looking at Teal'c. She didn't want to talk about the darkness she knew lived in her mind along with everything else. It was the one of the parts of her she didn't understand at all. Her older self had, but she couldn't.
"The drug is working," Daniel replied.
"I hate cryptic, so don't go there," she suggested, feeling an intense dislike welling up from her forgotten past.
"I have to be cryptic, there are very strict rules," Daniel said.
"There always are. Doesn't mean you have to follow them," she said and meant it.
"I have to. I want to. Buffy, I'm sorry you didn't get to grow up in a normal way. Are you happy?" Daniel asked.
She held out her hand, fingers out, palm down, and wobbled her hand from side to side. "Depends," she replied.
"You have to be careful in the future. The Goa'uld are a greater threat than ever before," Daniel said.
"Mom keeps saying so. Why don't you show yourself to her and Jack more? They still miss you so much I think it hurts them. Less for mom now -- you've been gone for a while to her," she said.
"I'm not even supposed to be visiting you guys. Well, that’s not entirely true: since you can sense and see me even when I am invisible, you I can visit. But Buffy, it hurts them when I do let them see me. And I love them too much to do that to them. You understand, right?" Daniel asked.
She could only shake her head. "I think it’s stupid. But then, I think it’s stupid that you didn't just retake human form, like Orlin did, right after ascending."
"I wanted this, Buffy. It was more than an escape. Enlightenment was what I wanted and still do. I can do a lot more good like this. I still believe that," Daniel explained, but Buffy thought he sounded a bit bitter about something.
"Are you sure it’s enlightenment? I mean, can you be enlightened people when... You know what? I don't know," she admitted, not feeling arrogant enough to say that she didn't consider the very limited nature and strict rules of the Ascended to be a sign of enlightenment.
Daniel got up and looked about ready to leave. She said, "Danny, you don't hurt me by visiting. Please, I miss you." He started to fade into bright light that only she seemed to see. He didn't acknowledge her last comment before disappearing completely.
Buffy wondered for a while if she should tell Jack or her mom about Daniel's visit, but she decided to keep it a secret, like all the other visits in the past. There was no reason to tear open a barely healed wound if Daniel wasn't going to make a habit of swinging by.
Buffy was in the backyard throwing knives, gifts from Teal'c that Jack hated and her mom barely approved of. Her target was a small piece of paper pinned to a lawn chair standing in the middle of their large garden, bounded on all sides by tall trees. Their new house was in a secluded enclave near the mountains, barely on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. It was close to both Jack and General Hammond's houses, and it was only a short trip to the SGC from there. Her cell phone chirped and vibrated in her pocket. It startled her just in the middle of a throw. The knife left her hand with too much force, sending it across the backyard to imbed itself in a tree several yards beyond the intended target.
Buffy whipped out her phone and read the caller ID before taking Cassie's call. "Hey, semi-sister," Cassie said in their recently decided-upon greeting. Buffy smiled.
"Hey, yourself. What's up?" she asked.
"Well, I got the car and I’m pulling up next to your house in ten minutes. How about you and I go on a shopping spree? You still need to teach me proper shopping endurance, O Great and Wise Shopping Goddess. Besides, I seem to recall my mom saying you had both money and the guilt of not having given me birthday presents for four years," Cassie said, affecting a Californian accent as best she could.
"Cool, I'll be right out. Bye," Buffy said, waited for the goodbye on the other end, and ran for the house after hanging up.
As she found her wallet and picked out a small backpack to wear Buffy wondered if her mom thought she hadn't noticed that either Cassie or Janet was supposedly casually dropping by a few times every week. She had guessed that the visits were a deliberate effort to cheer her up a few weeks ago, but she hadn't told anyone. She did like going out, and even with her visiting the SGC occasionally, life had gotten incredibly dull.
She heard Cassie honk and walked out, thinking that she had to have her mom give her permission to take Driver's Ed courses somewhere.
Jonas watched Buffy leave the room and turned towards her. Sam looked in the direction of her daughter, then back down at the Kelownan man, who had just undergone brain surgery two days ago to remove the remainder of the tumor produced by Nirrti's genetic manipulations.
"So, she seems a bit happier. How are the preparations for her summer going?" Jonas asked.
"Well, it is a bit strange for me seeing Buffy going off to College, or at least a summer of basic military training. I wonder how she’s going to handle basic; those instructors can get very tough on you," Sam explained.
"You afraid she'll attack one of them?" he asked.
"Kind of, yeah – but a bit more afraid that she'll laugh in their faces when they give her a command," she admitted.
"So, when the academic year starts she'll actually move to the Academy, right?" Jonas asked.
"Of course: she’s gonna be a normal cadet like everyone else. But I can visit her any time. Everything is prepared now. I'll hate it of, course, but everything is ready... Well, except the paperwork; Buffy and I are signing the first set this Friday," she replied, lost in thought for a moment.
"So we'll be seeing a lot less of her here at the SGC," Jonas said.
"Yeah, well, Buffy and I have agreed that we'll see each every single moment we can, but honestly, we will miss each other. There is almost no chance Buffy will be back here before she's done at the Academy," she explained.
"We'll all miss her. Seriously, I think a lot of the younger Airmen and SG team members are lusting for her," Jonas teased.
"Not when Teal'c's around," she said, remembering the incident with Lieutenant Michaels.
Two weeks earlier.
He was adjusting slowly to the tretonin. Teal'c knew that he no longer needed to Kel'no'reem, but he was still on the way to observe the ritual meditation, when he heard something that lit up his mind like fire: “...So I looked at her fine ass in those tight jeans, and I thought, ‘Man, I am perving on Major Carter's kid.’"
Teal’c stepped up to the group of very young lieutenants fresh from the academy, standing right behind the speaker. Teal'c recognized the dishonorable little man as Lieutenant Michaels. "The rest of you, leave," he said in his most intimidating voice as he put his hand on the lieutenant's shoulder. They ran.
He decided that intimidating the lieutenant openly would be the gossip of the base, and so put a damper on any further dishonorable talk about Buffy.
"Why are you doing this?" the shocked young lieutenant asked, as Teal’c spun the young man around.
Teal'c grabbed the guy with both hands and lifted him by his collar. "You -- and any one else whom I hear speak disrespectfully of a woman of my blood -- must understand there will be consequences for any such talk," he said and maneuvered the man up to one of the closed elevator doors.
Teal'c heard running steps and the voice of his friend Jack O'Neill call out, "Teal'c, stop!"
He chose to use the last moments before Jack stopped him to hiss into the lieutenant's ear, "Next time, they won't stop me before I can drop you into the shaft." Jack arrived to pull him, supposedly resisting, off the terrified lieutenant.
Jonas laughed, seemingly remembering the story as well. "So, where was Buffy going just now? She seemed in a hurry," he asked.
"Oh, Cassie is taking her out to shop and see a movie tonight. They're gearing up for a party next Friday, and Cassie doesn't have time again until next Thursday, so they decided to go for shop for it today. Buffy'll be busy, too; she’s trying to cram for her driver's license test before the summer," she said.
"How is she doing?" Jonas asked, still not having an official license himself. Teal'c, who had learned from Daniel, had been teaching him a little.
"She is scaring the crap out of her teacher. Buffy gets bored by the speed of her fellow motorists and the slower reaction time of everyone else, and being who she is, she then often starts talking, messing with the radio, or focusing on something trivial elsewhere. Still, she is getting there. I think all she needs to learn is to restrain herself. She might manage the final driver's test and get her learner's permit next week, giving her even more reason to party," Sam explained.
Thoth watched his loyal Jaffa pilot the cloaked Tel'tak the last bit of the way, settling them in to land in the woods near the humans’ Chappa'ai. They had spent nearly a day in orbit awaiting the sensor report pinpointing its location. He had come for his prize. His lord and master Anubis had finally allowed him time off from the Kull project, so he could track down the girl he had lost nearly a year ago. He had everything ready: he had even gotten specially trained Jaffa, highly sensitive naquadah detectors and a few of his master's rare personal cloaking devices, as well. They'd be able to hunt their prey, who was sure to be living close to the gate, because of her Tau'ri parent and contact with the rebel Jaffa known as Teal'c, both of whom were known to operate from the Tau'ri gate.
His honor guard formed near the airlock. "Find the girl I have shown you the image of. But do not alert the Tau'ri or confront her. I, myself, will bring her in. Now, go," he ordered and watched his borrowed Jaffa leave in silence. He looked down at the modified zat'ni'katel he was preparing. The knowledge sent to him by his former students long ago -- beings so close to him he had called them sons -- had been put to good use, and the weapon was now much better at stunning strong opponents while hopefully leaving them alive and in great pain. He had to be careful in using it, but he hoped it would be able to defeat the superior warrior hidden in the little girl. And if it didn't, he had brought a few other devices that he hoped would be of use instead.
Buffy looked out the window. The rain was pounding their driveway as Janet's car drove up to their house. It was strange to have a drive, gates, and a house that was bigger than Jack's. "Mom! Janet and Cassie are here," she called out. As she turned she thought she saw something move in the garden, but when she quickly turned back and looked there were only bushes getting whipped about by the wind.
"Weird," Buffy muttered, trying to remember what exactly she had seen, while she heard her mom open the door to allow Janet and Cassie in.
"Hi, Semi-sis," Cassie called out, carrying in the bag containing her party clothes and make-up. They were heading out to a party later, and they had designated Buffy’s house as their dressing room. She pushed away the thoughts of the movements in the night and headed out to meet their guests.
"Hi, Buffy," Janet said. Buffy gave the closest thing she had to an aunt a hug. Her mom had a brother named Mark, but she had never felt welcome with his family. Because her mom was incredibly busy they had only been to Thanksgiving dinner and a birthday once, but on neither occasion had her uncle, his wife, or even his kids seemed to like her. She had no idea why they had treated her like an unwanted outsider, but given that it had been over four years ago for her, she harbored no resentment for her treatment anymore.
"So, congratulations on your learner's permit," Janet said.
"Thanks," Buffy said and turned to her mom as Cassie stepped up to stand next to her.
"We're in my room," she said and ran off with Cassie. For some reason she couldn't quite pin down, Buffy felt they needed privacy to dress up and get ready.
A half hour later they were setting their hair and chatting about life, boys, and updating Buffy on the general gossip on the people they were meeting. Buffy felt completely relaxed, as though she were surrounded by familiarity and warmth. Music filled the air, keeping the noise of the rain and wind out. For a moment she glanced around and thought she saw a branch of a bush outside her window move differently than the wind should have made it do. She blinked, thinking she saw a figure for a moment, then it disappeared.
"What's wrong?" Cassie asked as Buffy went rigid. But as she studied what she saw, it turned out to be mistaken. There was no figure in the rain, and the branch was just whipping in the wind.
"I don't know, it's like I’m feeling tense, but for no reason," Buffy explained.
"You're just nervous about the party. I promise it'll be fun," Cassie replied.
"Yeah, I'm sure it’s just nerves," Buffy agreed, but she looked out into the night for a little while after.
"My lord," Thoth heard the voice coming over the small communication globe. He walked over into the cockpit and looked down at the image of one of his Jaffa. For over a week now they had sought his elusive prize, but finding her amongst the masses of the Tau'ri had proven difficult. He hoped he would not get another negative report. He did not have unending amounts of time before he had to at least report back to his lord. "Speak," he commanded the Jaffa whose image stood drenched in the small globe.
"I have found her, my lord. The female you seek, aged, but the sensor confirms it is her. She looks like her original image, not the other one you showed us; that is why we have missed her so many times so far," the Jaffa explained.
They may have expected his coming and tried to conceal the girl by aging her. The Tau'ri had obviously failed, if that had been their goal. Still, he had to be sure. "Stay with her. We will join you there, and if I verify her true nature we will capture the creature for my experiments," Thoth commanded and went towards the airlock as the image faded from the globe. "Jaffa, call all the others and have them join me there," he said as he, too, cloaked and headed into the rainy night.
"You have to promise me you’ll get back to Janet's place at midnight," Sam intoned.
"I'll be there," Buffy said in jest, as Cassie and she got ready to dash to Janet's car. Cassie was driving them to the party.
"Mom, be careful on Abydos," she said. SG-1 were leaving Earth early that evening in response to an official visit by Daniel. She had no idea what it meant, but she was sure it wasn't good. Her mom had not said much, except that it had something to do with Anubis.
"Have fun," Janet called out.
"We will," Cassie yelled back, while they tried to get to the car more or less in the dry.
He looked at the Tau'ri running in the rain. They had arrived in their primitive vehicle from their home a few moments ago. Only by using his cloaked Tel'tak had they been able to follow them. But he was sure now. It was her. The face, the sensor readings -- they all more or less matched what he expected. It had to be her. Thoth turned towards the Jaffa standing respectfully a few steps behind him on the right, his helmet closed against the rain. "Lure her into combat. I will put her down. Should it fail, you must bring her out here using any means possible. I have set the trap," he explained.
"Understood, my lord," the Jaffa intoned.
"Good. Now go," he commanded.
"Hey," Cassie yelled over the loud music.
"Who is this?" One of Cassie's classmates yelled as they shrugged off their coats.
"This is Buffy; she's one of my best friends," Cassie replied.
"Hi," the girl yelled.
"Hi, I love your shoes," Buffy replied, admiring the beautiful pair of pumps the girl wore.
"Thanks! Hey, how about I take you around and introduce you to everyone? I am Veronica, by the way," the girl said.
"Cool. Come on, Cassie," Buffy said as the girl guided them through the dancing crowd in the entry and living room, towards the stairs.
Buffy noticed a noise of some glass breaking, but as everything seemed to keep going, she ignored it. It had probably just been a glass breaking.
Upstairs proved a lot less noisy. Veronica guided them towards a room down the hall. Buffy felt a joke about sorority initiations and dark rooms coming on, when she heard a noise she hadn't expected to hear. It was the sound of a staff weapon arming. On instinct, she pushed Cassie aside and threw herself in the opposite direction. The familiar whoop-whoosh sound of a staff weapon bolt passed her and impacted the ceiling.
The screaming started downstairs. Along with the noises of Zats firing. "What's going on?" Cassie yelled.
"Jaffa," she yelled back and rolled back up into a ready position while trying to pick out something that would work as a weapon. She was in somebody’s bedroom, probably the parents’. She saw a bag that gave her a good idea.
C'tha was feeling great. After a week of watching the Tau'ri infidels go about their meaningless, godless lives, now finally his lord had allowed him to punish the evil Tau'ri. He ran up the stairs towards the female they had to capture. He had tried to wound her with his first blast, but the girl had managed to avoid his energy bolt. His lord wanted to use his powers on her, but C’tha was sure he could easily defeat her with his staff. She was, after all, just another Tau'ri, and not one of the godless monsters they sent through the Chappa'ai.
He stopped below the charred mark in the ceiling and looked to either side. He saw the dark-haired girl. "Fore!" a voice yelled behind him. Before he could turn there was a resounding blow to his helmet. He fell limply to the floor, unable to see as his helmet visor ceased working. He struggled to stand, but before he could, a blow unlike any other hit his back, punching all the breath from his body and lifting him in the air. He felt weightless, then he hammered into some hard surface and fell unconscious.
Buffy watched the Jaffa fly back down the stairs into another of the warriors. "Why are the Jaffa here?" Cassie asked as Buffy pulled her to her feet.
"I don't know, but they seem to be going for us," she replied, when something invisible fired towards her from behind the fallen Jaffa. The zat blast crackled into the ceiling again.
"We have to get out of the line of fire, here," Buffy said and ran back away from the stairs with a borrowed golf club in hand.
"Jaffa, kree!" the distinctive voice of a Goa'uld yelled, clearly angry downstairs.
"Goa'uld," Cassie said, clearly shocked and afraid. Buffy felt a bit apprehensive herself, but more on behalf of everyone else down there. She had a feeling, a knowledge that she had to do something. It was her duty. The fear evaporated.
"Cassie, here: take my cell, call my mom, get help!" she said, throwing the cell phone to her friend. Cassie caught it. Buffy took hold of her and, feeling a bit sorry for doing it, pushed Cassie into a room and closed the door.
She turned and ran towards the stairs, the club held ready.
She launched herself through the air, hitting the first Jaffa she saw with a powerful flying kick. Buffy rolled, back-flipped, and landed on her feet. She smacked the Jaffa trying to jump her with a back-handed fist. He staggered back, just enough for her to turn and hammer a knee into his guts.
A zat blast hit her. It was jarringly strong. Her body seemed to hurt and tingle all over. She grabbed the winded Jaffa and swung him around, making him take the next Zat blast.
Buffy liberated the man's Zat from its holster and started firing at the remaining three Jaffa near the shattered living room window. "Outside," a Goa'uld said, but she couldn't see him, only Jaffa. Another blast hit the Jaffa she held. He died in her arms, going limp.
The Jaffa ran outside. She saw a figure outlined by the rain and guessed the Goa'uld was hidden by some sort of cloaking field. Another zat blast disintegrated the Jaffa she held. She hit one of the fleeing Jaffa with her own blast, sending him to the ground outside. She carefully advanced towards the window, keeping out of any obvious lines of fire.
She saw the Jaffa running into the night. They seemed to be getting away. Buffy decided to follow them. Stunning them all would sure make Jack happy. She jumped outside and ran after them, firing another shot and taking down the second-to-last Jaffa.
She stopped in the middle of the lawn, getting drenched by the heavy drops of rain. She fired and hit the last of the Jaffa. He stumbled and slid into a bush. She lowered her weapon and focused on trying to sense the Goa'uld.
Suddenly there was an intense white flash and strange, song-like noise. Buffy felt everything in her body freeze up, her view of the world went gray, then she passed out.
Cassie ran up and looked out the broken window. She saw a figure appear out of the black next to Buffy. Before she could yell or do anything, transport rings appeared from above and swept away both Buffy and the figure she guessed was the Goa'uld they had heard earlier.
"No!" she yelled as the transport ship that had appeared above the lawn flew off, while fading from sight behind its cloak.