Jack looked around, while Carter hugged Buffy. He didn't want to break things up, but they were in the middle of a battle and quite frankly they needed to stay focused. As he thought about it, he glanced around the room and really took in its state. Buffy, because it could only have been her, had really not been kind to the two Jaffa that had been Thoth's bodyguard. One was still mounted on the wall, hanging like an ornament from the architecture he had be smashed into, and the other at the door could, if he had been alive, check out his own ass because he was looking down his back anyway.
He heard Carter ask Buffy, "Are you all right?"
Jack was about to comment that she had obviously worked off some anger already, when he suddenly realized who he was thinking about. This was fierce yet somehow innocent Buffy. She was strong and a fighter, taught martial arts by the best he had been able to find. He looked back at the Jaffa on the wall as Buffy answered her mother, "I'm not sure. But I remember now. I remember everything."
"You did all of this, right?" Jack asked.
Buffy left her mom's embrace and looked around. "Yeah, I did... I was a bit miffed at the time, Jack," Buffy replied. Her tone was different -- a bit more insolent, challenging even, and if possible more self-confident. The girl that had come back nearly a trained soldier and a bit subdued in manner from Vindgloed was not fully there any more. This was someone else. Not entirely different, but still this was a new Buffy. And it was only a few months since she had completely changed on him the last time. It was rattling his cage a bit. And if he had to admit it to himself, he was unsure if this Buffy, the one who remembered being someone other people had called the Slayer, was on their side or her own.
"You did all of this," Carter said, sounding shocked.
Jack noticed from the wince on Buffy's face and the sudden, momentary disappearance of all that newfound self-assurance, that it had not been a welcome comment. "Good work. Now Carter, you and Buffy form the rear guard; we still have a base to conquer," he ordered.
"No," Buffy replied.
"What?" he and Carter said at the same time.
"I am not a rear guard kind of person," Buffy said and held out the hand device. It glowed for a moment. Buffy smiled at it. "Besides, I'm armed and ready for a fight." She paused, probably taking in his expression. Jack wasn't liking Buffy with a weapon. Of course he knew, intellectually, that she was old enough, had been days away from going to the Air Force Academy, and that she still learned the use of any weapon by watching their use. But he was in charge and he didn't let civilians lead. Ever. Especially not one he had come to rescue.
"It wasn't a request, it was an order. You have to get used to those, now," Jack reminded her.
Buffy seemed to mull it over, then said, "I am sorry. I know you've all taught me better, and I swear I'll get my head together and relearn the entire team player routine in record time, but I gotta quote an old friend of mine on this occasion and say: Screw that." She headed towards the door, stopped at the entrance, looked out carefully, and suddenly ran away.
"Buffy!" he yelled, yet again in synch with Carter.
They immediately moved to follow her, while Teal'c said, "I believe we are meeting the Elder Buffy. She would be used to giving orders and leading the charge."
Jack thought it over and in his mind found himself agreeing with Teal'c. This was probably the result of Buffy's old personality returning. He hoped for the sake of both Buffy and Carter – as well as himself, if he was being honest -- that it didn't mean their Buffy had disappeared permanently. From her expression he could guess that Carter was thinking about the same. They entered the corridor and saw Buffy in hand-to-hand combat with a Jaffa.
Buffy was ducking under the man's swings and blows until she was right up next to him. But instead of punching or kicking him, she only manoeuvred herself into place, so that she could place her hand, palm out, against the Jaffa's chest. There was a discharge from the hand device and the Jaffa was blown hard against the corridor wall. He sank to the floor, clearly out of the battle.
Buffy continued on, before he could yell for her to stay with them. They moved after her and saw her enter into yet another battle, quickly surprising and throwing a Jaffa into a wall after a combination of what he recognized as Aikido and Judo. The Jaffa slammed into the wall hard enough to dent his armor and leave him unconscious.
Buffy paused to look at something, a bit taken aback by something they couldn't see. She turned and yelled back towards them, "Stay back." She manipulated the hand device again and fired down the left corridor from the T-junction she was holding, before ducking back into the corridor they were running down. She held up a hand with three fingers, probably indicating the number of attackers. He signalled to Carter.
Carter took the grenade from her pack, pulled the pin and carefully bounced it down the corridor Buffy had fired down. It flew over the crouched girl and disappeared down the hall. "Jaffa!" A voice cried out in desperation, then there was a massive explosion.
"Why the hell did you run?" Jack grabbed Buffy's arm and asked.
"Because you had that look on your face. The ‘let's-keep-Buffy-safe’ look that I have to say I so don't need right now. I'm not a fragile little girl. I never was. Hell, for all intents and purposes my mind is almost thirty, except of course I'm not that old. I'm sorry I ran. I reacted with a minimum of thinking -- not the smartest thing,-- but I knew I had to convince you early on," Buffy said.
"That you can fight? I've practically known that since I met you," he replied.
"No, I was trying to convince you that you should let me fight," Buffy said and looked him straight in the eye.
Jack suddenly knew she had caught him there. That had really been his problem. She was the rescue mission and a little girl to him, not a fighter. That was what she had tried to tell him. He hadn't listened. A voice in his head hinted that maybe he should listen now. Instead, he forwarded the decision to the one voice Buffy had to heed in this. "Carter?" he said, and pushed the issue out of mind as best he could. He still had a firm belief, deep down, that Buffy shouldn't be living the life she was aiming for.
Sam was as astounded as the rest of her team by her daughter's behavior. It was still her Buffy, but there were subtle differences in mannerism, reactions and even in the way Buffy spoke. Jack was waiting for her answer to his tacit question. She looked at Buffy, who was still somehow -- even with a whole other person and lifetime added to her personality -- awaiting her decision, and if her instincts didn't deceive her then this Buffy even wanted her approval. Sam thought back and realized she had been preparing for a moment like this for years. It would have happened, sooner or later, if Buffy had gone to the Academy as planned. "Let her, sir. I know my daughter, she'll kick ass," Sam said and smiled warmly before refocusing on the mission at hand. She didn't want to get too mired in emotional stuff while in the field; that was a recipe for disaster. Even if a part of her wanted to stare into Buffy's eyes and see if her kid was still in there.
Buffy grinned and held out a hand towards Jack, "Gun." she demanded.
"What? Why?" Jack asked.
"I can work this thing, but it’s taking too much effort and time. It's an impressive weapon, but way too slow for a running fight. So can I borrow a gun? I promise I will return it, sans any used ammo," Buffy said.
Jack looked conflicted for a moment. Sam knew this was a difficult turning point for him. Slowly he unholstered a 9 mil semiautomatic and handed it to Buffy, who promptly thanked Jack and held it correctly. Sam noticed that Buffy looked ready to go off and fight again, but was trying to rein in her instincts and habits, if the tenseness of her shoulders was any indication. Her child had never been afraid of battle, but she had never before seemed so at ease with it, either. Again, a difference, and she was starting to fear that her Buffy was no longer alive.
"More Jaffa approach: I will ascertain if they are enemies," Teal'c said and stepped out into the corridor. There were yells of “Shol'va!” and Teal'c jumped back into cover.
"High and low," Buffy said to her, barely giving her mother a moment to realize what Buffy meant before Buffy dropped sideways into the corridor ending up prone with her upper body free of the wall in a move that would have made anyone else miss every shot.
Buffy started firing, distracting the Jaffa and maybe even hitting several. Sam and Jack grabbed their P-90s and jumped out, in turn, laying down a major field of fire, while Buffy rolled to her feet and stepped back into cover. It had turned into a turkey-shoot and soon not even one of the seven attacking Jaffa was left standing. To Carter’s shock, it actually seemed that Buffy was enjoying herself for a moment, before some thought wiped the joy from her daughter's face again.
They had fought around the base for nearly three hours before Bra'tac declared victory over the Goa'uld's PA system. Jack felt bone-tired, but at least he wasn't alone in feeling the pain of over three hours of intense work and concentration. He nearly grimaced when Buffy, her arm bandaged from getting clipped by a staff blast, walked over to him, still with a spring in her step.
"So, you feeling your years?" she said with a teasing smile on her lips.
"This is the part where I call you ‘young whippersnapper’ and tell you to go away, right?" He replied.
Buffy chuckled, then sat down next to him and offered him something in a metal bowl. "Bra'tac found the mess hall, and I thought we might as well get a bite, while Granddad lands the latest Ha'tak you've captured," Buffy said.
"Good idea. You know, I wonder about that ship. Aside from schematics and maybe a once-over for any technology we don't have yet, I doubt anyone on Earth really wants that thing anymore. Your mom's Prometheus is keeping them really busy, and we're beginning to trust things we can build ourselves more than what we find," Jack said and took a bit of what proved to taste like sweet cereal mixed with something resembling strawberry juice. "This tastes good, if unhealthy," he said.
"Teal'c and Bra'tac swear it’s a luxury breakfast for Jaffa. I ate, like, three bowls already," Buffy commented.
"I like this, too," Jack agreed, not wanting to crack any jokes about getting fat. Sam and Janet had fought long and hard to have Buffy eat healthy for her metabolism. It would not be good to get Buffy started on body image issues. "So, I have to say, you still seem to be you. I kinda expected a totally different person, from the stories your mom heard from that other Slayer," he continued, deciding to broach a heavy topic that would probably occupy Sam and Buffy privately for the next long while.
Buffy looked at him and her smile changed to become a bit self-mocking. "Yeah, savior of the world many times over and all around perfect American Girl Buffy Summers, the Ultimate hero with the stiff upper lip. Right. I think a really good friend of mine said it best when he said I should get over myself. Or at least someone did. I have, though. Gotten over myself. Besides, you know how it is: saving the world -- while monumental --doesn't really change who you are or that you have to deal with tomorrow’s problems, either," Buffy explained.
He could see it now. She was a bit of both girls, and they hadn't been too different to begin with. Their Buffy had, by her own admission, been a whole lot smarter and the other one had probably been a much better warrior. "I understand what you mean," Jack agreed.
"Jack, I've been thinking about something I read a few weeks ago. Is it true that if I want to join the SGC I can never work for or with... my mom? That it's against regulations?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, but it makes sense, doesn't it? What if you were in danger? Wouldn’t your mom feel forced to do everything in her power to help you?" he explained.
"But she gets to work with Granddad," Buffy said.
"Yes, but he works for the Tok'ra, and our rules can't really force the Tok'ra council to send someone else on these missions," he commented.
"Ah, so if Teal'c wanted Rya'c to come work for him, he could," Buffy mused.
"Yeah," Jack said, not bothering to add that Teal'c had thought it better not to have his son join him on Earth.
Buffy looked around, "So where is Jonas and the rest of the SGC soldiers? I only saw Jaffa."
Jack winced before he admitted, "The Pentagon thought it would be a waste of resources going after you. Officially, your mom and I are on leave, while Teal'c is visiting his family and Jonas translates something."
"What! Why didn't they want to rescue me? The Generals were so nice to me at the Air show you and I held," Buffy complained.
"Because politics entered the picture, and we had a setback against Anubis. Besides, Hammond thinks that maybe some of the rogue NID's backers had their hand in it, as well. They were taking revenge on us, not you. You shouldn‘t let this sour you against the Pentagon. A lot of really competent people work there," Jack said.
"Well, screw all of them. You know what? I'll go annoy my mom for a bit," Buffy said and went off in search of Carter, who was probably already looking through the dead Goa'uld's stuff for anything they could scavenge. He wondered what Buffy really thought about it being the Jaffa and Tok'ra, not the SGC, who had come to her rescue. He knew their Buffy would have rationalized it away, but this one felt a bit more like him – anti-authoritarian, that is.
Buffy could literally feel her wound close and wished she could find some time to sleep, as the dull ache would, in her experience, fade overnight. She had lied to Jack a few moments earlier. She didn't want to go annoy her mom at all. She wanted to find her mom and ask her about the subject Jack had just broached with her. She was wondering if she was still Samantha Carter's daughter, now that she remembered being Joyce Summers' as well. Buffy had felt the same love as always when her mom had appeared with the rest of her friends a few hours ago. But she had to be sure, and she was certain her mom felt the same insecurity. Were they still mother and daughter? Did they both want that? Buffy felt unsure, and it scared her a bit. She knew she was different again, and worse yet, having two sets of memories of growing up was beyond confusion. She was sure that if she hadn't had Sam Carter's DNA and the benefit of her SGC-supported upbringing, then she'd never have had the mental capacity to stay at least semi-sane.
She passed Bra'tac in the halls. The old master warrior looked thoughtful and distant as he walked resolutely towards the hall she had just left. She guessed he was going to talk to Jack or one of the Jaffa there. Instead of going on, though, he stopped and looked down at her. "Can I help you, Master Bra'tac?" she asked, shifting to Goa'uld and hoping her recovered memories hadn't scrambled her skill in that language. She tried her hand at being polite and patient, something she had mastered in this dimension.
"I would apologize. In the past I had considered you a child, and even after Teal'c returned, having trained you himself, I must admit I considered you a woman but not a warrior. I am sorry, and I will not make the same mistake again. I would be honored to fight at your side again," Bra'tac explained.
She decided the older and slightly pompous Jaffa was a actually nice guy, then and there. "Nothing to apologize for. I kind of like it when people underestimate me. It feels familiar. Anyway, I just did my best," Buffy said.
"You killed one of the false gods with your bare hands -- that is a great feat. Now, Buffy Summers, we know each other well enough to speak to each other by name, yes?", Bra'tac asked, looking apologetic for his possible presumption. She just nodded, trying to look as grave as possible. The Jaffa liked stoicism. "Good, should you ever need my aid again, I will come," Bra'tac said and walked on.
Buffy watched him go and thought about the success Teal'c and Bra'tac had to be feeling. The first battle of the Free Jaffa against the very best Jaffa of Anubis, and the Free Jaffa had totally kicked ass. "Master Bra'tac!" she called out.
The old warrior stopped walking and turned, looking at her with curiosity while he asked, "Yes, Summers?"
"Do you know where my mother is?" Buffy asked.
"Ah yes, somewhere on the fifth floor over there; she has discovered the source of Thoth's knowledge," Bra'tac said.
It ended up taking her fifteen minutes to find her mom standing in front of a Goa'uld computer, working her way through the inventories of inventions. Only the screen lit the room. All the lights were dimmed in this section of the building. A fact that had helped when Buffy had escaped from a room a few floors up and gone on a rampage, tracking down her prey, several hours earlier. Even her memory of those rather messy minutes of her life was slowly returning -- not the best thoughts to have running through your mind, and something she hoped to repress over time.
"Mom?" she asked softly, almost feeling like she was testing the title again. Thankfully it felt right, if still not perfectly so.
Sam turned around and looked at her, a soft smile coming to her lips. "Hey, you," Sam said and gestured for her to come over.
Buffy went over and stood at her mom's side. Even though taller than she had been, she could still only put her head on her mom's shoulder. As she stood there, she understood two things. She had really missed Joyce, so deeply that it had been as if a part of her had been missing since her mother’s death, and Sam wasn't her replacement. She was another mom. It took her a bit of thinking to get it to fit in her head, and it would probably take a lot more thought over the next months -- maybe even years,-- but in the end the emotions she felt for both women were of the same intensity and type. Her relationships with her mothers were vastly different, too. Joyce Summers had been a loving, all-encompassing mom who had shared in all her normal needs and interests. Joyce had fought to keep Buffy from getting consumed by her life as the Slayer when it had secretly been way too much for her. Sam was equally loving, but she was more the type to constantly challenge her to be the best, and Sam was accepting of her flaws and weirdness in a way Joyce had never truly managed. Sam was, however, much more of a closed book to her than Joyce could ever be. They had both been what she needed at those times. But as she stood next to Sam she understood that she would possibly never really stop needing either of them. And if she could have had paradise it would have consisted of her two moms, Dawn, Willow, Xander, Giles, Jack, Daniel and a human Angel, all living out the rest of their lives in peace . . . but it would never be like that. Because she was a warrior, chosen as one of the universe's protectors, and she was never going to see her old friends again, either. That depressed her
"Deep thoughts?" Her mom asked.
"Yeah: life, destiny and shopping," she quipped, indicating her borrowed set of Goa'uld clothes.
"Hello, you know we've met before right? Of course, I brought a change of clothes for you. It's in our transport ship. Granddad will bring it down for you," her mom said.
"What'll happen with this place?" Buffy asked.
"I guess the Jaffa and the Tok'ra will take whatever they can from here before Anubis sends ships or troops to take it back," her mom explained.
Buffy felt uncomfortable with the next things she had to ask, "Mom, before we go, could we look for the samples Thoth took of me? I don't want anyone to own a part of me."
Her mom turned and looked at her with worry in her eyes. "Of course. I just wanted to get the copy of Thoth's database. It looks like he kept it in Ancient. Maybe it'll help us against Anubis later," her mom said and pointed to a rigged-together crystal recorder the SGC had first developed for the Prometheus computer systems and now was being used to interface with and store the data in the machine it was attached to with what looked like fiber optics.
"Something has happened, right? You all seem a bit more on edge about Anubis, and Jonas isn't here because of it as well," Buffy commented.
"We think he might have destroyed Abydos with a weapon that ensures he completely outclasses the other System Lords. Worse, we even gave him the final component in trade for our lives and something else he can't know about," Sam admitted.
"Not good, but the first rule should always be: Don't Die," Buffy agreed, remembering how she had pompously tried to educate a group of girls nearly her own age with those words. She had been out of her depth so often back then. She hoped she'd avoid that much responsibility this time around, but given the role that the being claiming to be the Universe said she was to play, there was at least a chance of it happening again.
"Maybe," Sam answered and, after a beep from her recording device, disconnected it from the console.
"We should look for the samples now," Her mom said and indicated that Buffy should follow her.
They ended up looking for hours, but found nothing. And that scared Buffy.
Jacob carefully considered the assembled group: Jaffa, humans and now a couple of Tok'ra were crowded around the entrance to the Goa'uld base. They had conquered the base nearly nine hours earlier, and since then they had all worked hard -- especially the Free Jaffa warriors -- to strip the base of anything of value. He and Selmak had, like his daughter, copied the data stored in Thoth's and the mothership's computers. It had been suggested that the precious personal cloaking devices the SGC had gotten hold of when Buffy had taken down her Jaffa attackers on Earth could be studied by both human and Tok'ra scientists with a promise to share any results with the Jaffa, but Jack had been unable to promise anything. All the stuff at the base, except the intelligence gained, would go to the Jaffa. The Intelligence information and scientific data were shared between the Tok'ra and the humans. Now they were discussing the final major piece of the spoils of war: the Mothership. Jacob had agreed to let Selmak lead the discussion for the Tok'ra, who actually didn't want the mothership, because they wanted to keep a low profile. The humans, argued Jack O'Neill, didn't really want to keep it either: they would like to take it apart, instead.
"I ask that you consider giving it to the Jaffa," Bra'tac suggested.
"If you keep it at Chulak the System Lords would feel obliged to send a contingent to destroy it," Selmak answered. Jacob reviewed the history of rebel Jaffa taking motherships as Selmak remembered it and agreed with his symbiote.
Buffy, his granddaughter and one of the universe's main contenders for the title of strangest life ever, spoke up: "Why don't we ask the Asgard if it’s okay for the Jaffa to have a base in our solar system? Then Bra'tac and the others can move the Ha'tak there and help protect Earth. The SGC helps furnish and maintain it in exchange for getting to examine the ship, so Earth gets more protection and the Jaffa get a safe harbor from which they can operate. Of course, they'd have to promise something like not drawing too much attention to Earth, but really, hiding a Ha'tak can't be any worse than SG-1 killing a single Goa'uld or a System Lord."
Jacob felt Selmak's approval of Buffy's idea and the friendly affection the symbiote had for his clever grandchild. "I believe that to be a wisest move that would further improve our alliance and the safety of Earth, while helping all of us. I am certain the Tok'ra council would approve of sending one or two more scientists to assist in this, if the SGC will promise to share its results on researching Anubis' technology and database with us," Selmak said.
Jack smiled and said, "I'm not here, officially, but I’m sure we can get the Pentagon or the White House to really like this little suggestion. In fact, I’m sure they'll jump at the chance of making the alliance stronger. I can't speak for the Asgard and their treaty, though. I suck at ‘treaty-speak’ so I don't know if they'll go for it. What do ya say we move this party back to Earth and have the boys in Diplomacy bang out the details?"
"A wise suggestion, O'Neill. Here, Anubis may attack at any moment," Teal'c agreed.
"Let's go, then," Jack said and they all headed for their ships.
"What about this base, are you just gonna leave it here for Anubitch?" Buffy said, personally liking her new nickname for the supposedly over-the-top Goa'uld arch-villain.
"Heh. No, your granddad set the reactor to super-productive mode," Jack commented.
"So, boooooom," she said.
"Indeed, Buffy," Teal'c replied as their little transport cleared the atmosphere.
"Neat," Buffy replied. She wandered over and looked out over the small fleet of ships that flew at their side. She felt humbled that men had given their lives to free her, even though they had never known her. She felt that she owed the Jaffa something. Her granddad and the Tok'ra were on the Ha'tak following the fleet, helping the Jaffa that had joined them aboard to fly the ship in the face of any unexpected surprises. There was also all the other things the humans hadn't done and had done to her during her stay in this universe. It had been the Jaffa and the Tok'ra that had saved her. Politics had kept the SGC from doing what needed to be done..
Buffy looked back towards her mom and Jack, who were checking out their supplies and supposedly trying to make something edible out of their field rations. Buffy didn't want to go back there, because the chemistry and suppressed emotions vibrating between them were annoying her a little. Air Force rules, which made a sort of sense in many situations, prevented her mom's happiness, which made Buffy -- in an admittedly egotistical way -- consider the rules to be bad rules. There was also the fact that going back there would sooner or later devolve into talk about her and her oh-so-new personality, which she herself was still unsure of.
Rules: that was another part of the reason she was not going back there. Her mom and Jack would distract her from thinking things through, while up here Teal'c was content to just fly the ship, unless she actually started a conversation. Jack had said things that day that were slowly germinating to a plan in her mind. Buffy wasn't all that sure about the idea she had gotten, but it made a kind of sense. It was also fraught with danger -- not of a ‘do-or-die’ kind, but of a ‘life changing forever’ kind. First of all, she needed to secure the help of their pilot, though.
"What do you think about all those Jaffa she...?" Sam stopped, at a loss as to what word to choose.
"Killed? Slew? I don't know. Buffy did no different than you or I would've done in that situation. Okay, maybe I wouldn't have killed my way to the head honcho -- I'd have gone for the gate instead, -- but I guess she was running on some high-octane rage," Jack replied, while opening and sniffing one of their ration packs.
"Seriously, Carter, we need to get Hammond to approve us getting rations from somewhere other than the US military. I tried some of the stuff some of the Europeans give their troops when I was overseas, and some of them get stuff I'd kill for," Jack groused.
"Ok, I kinda like them. Not to the degree that I'd choose them over a better meal. But as rations they're not too bad. Sir, about Buffy, you don't have to worry. I think even with her old memories she’s still our... my Buffy," she explained, hoping Jack wouldn't reject Buffy just because she had changed again. Of course, she hoped even harder that Buffy wouldn't reject her.
"What’re ya talking about, Carter? I'm not worried. Me and Buffy already talked about it. We're good. Are you sure you're alright?" Jack asked.
Sam studied Jack for a moment, unable to determine if that was true or not. Sam realized that maybe she wasn't alright. Maybe that was why she was telling everyone else to accept Buffy. She had some sort of hang-up, and she couldn't put her finger on it. "Sir, I'm not sure. I guess I am afraid she might have become an entirely different person. Someone I don't always know. Someone who doesn't want... want me as her mother," she admitted to Jack and herself.
"That'd never happen. Seriously, look at that kid's eyes. Sure, she's got a real mess of stuff in her head. But she was always part grown-up inside. So now she is just an even more mature 16, and it'll be tough for a while -- maybe she'll even feel alienated from us -- but we just have to hang in there. And Carter, remember: as long as you care about her and ask yourself these kind of questions, you're at least on the right path," Jack explained.
Sam looked around, realizing too late she was looking to see if anyone was listening or watching, as she said, "Thanks, Jack." She still wondered though, with or without Jack's approval. Maybe time was all they needed, but then in time it could all go wrong, too.
Jack smiled but said nothing in reply. Buffy came wandered in as their food looked reasonably ready. "Look what came when the food got ready! You're like a cat, Summers," Jack teased.
Buffy smiled, but didn't reply with her own little comment. Instead, she sat down and studied the both of them. "What is it?" Sam asked.
"I've decided to do something that might upset some people on Earth, and you won't like it either. But I have to do it. Otherwise, my life won't mean anything. I have to do this, not because I'm angry with you, or anyone, or want to be ungrateful. Please understand that, before I say anything else. I've decided to ask Teal'c to accept me into the ranks of the Jaffa as one of his warriors," Buffy explained.
Sam's mind raced. What was Buffy doing and what did it mean that she wanted to join the Jaffa? "Why? Don't you want to go the Academy anymore?" she asked. Maybe this was the beginning of the very rejection she feared.
"In a way I do. But for the same reason that I wanted to join the Jaffa. Mom, I wanted to go to the SGC and work with you, fly fighters and protect the Earth. All in good time, I thought. But I don’t think I have that kind of time to spare, before something happens you'd need me for. So, I have to take a faster path. Teal'c considers me a trained Jaffa, proven in battle. I might need a bit more training with Goa'uld tech, but that won't take several years. Besides, he and I think that in the name of your alliance more Jaffa need to come and work with the SGC directly. In fact, he said that he'd demand it in the name of the Free Jaffa. And I'd be one of those Jaffa warriors working at the SGC with you guys," Buffy said, revealing her true agenda.
"Buffy, you don't fool me. You want to be at the SGC to protect us... me," Sam countered.
"No, mom, not entirely. Sure, I'd go far, far out of my way to save your life, but I got a hint like a baseball bat to the head while I was regaining my memory. I am a Champion. A chosen warrior. And the last time I was only 15 when I started fighting in a war that had next to no downtime or off-hours. This universe needs me," Buffy replied.
"Now wait a minute, who woke up and decided that you'd be our savior?" Jack said.
"No one, and I'm not. I used to say I’m just a girl, but that was never really true. I might not be a hero, but I am a fighter, someone who'll step in and save all those who can't fight for themselves, even if they don't want me to. I was chosen for a reason, and even here and now that reason holds true. It's who I am," Buffy explained.
"Buffy, you're sixteen. There is no way the General will allow it. Regulations are against it, and well, you're not a Jaffa, either. No one at the Pentagon would buy it. Heck I don't want to buy it, either," Jack countered.
Sam wasn't so sure about that. Teal'c was not just one single Jaffa anymore. All over the galaxy over the last year Jaffa had been overthrowing their masters in his name, and while the Jaffa weren't unified under his leadership, Teal'c and Bra'tac were in control of the largest and most progressive Free Jaffa group, helped along nicely by their fruitful alliance with the Tok'ra and Tau'ri – an alliance to which Teal'c had been smart enough to openly admit, so that none of his political opponents could later use that as a weakness. That meant, in a way, they had a Jaffa head of state in Teal'c, and this was someone who they were allied with even more deeply than with the Russian government. So if he finally started using that status, the Pentagon and the White House would listen. And with the Ha'tak as yet another important bargaining chip, he'd be sure to get Buffy in at the SGC. Sam asked herself if she could live with Buffy already joining them at the base. She had mentally prepared herself for it with Buffy leaving for the Air Force Academy, but this was much sooner and her child was a great deal younger than she liked. Still, a voice in her head told her that in a way Buffy had been involved ever since her child had been stolen from her own universe, and that maybe Buffy was right and there was a higher power that had chosen her daughter to be their helper.
"Oh, they'll accept it. You see, not only will I be one of Teal'c's Jaffa, but if they try to run me out of there or interfere I'll just call my granddad and have the Tok'ra threaten their withdrawal from the alliance, or even call my buddy Thor and let him rattle their chains," Buffy threatened.
"Are you threatening the Earth just so you'd get your way?" Jack said, his voice rising.
"Ok, maybe I'd not go that far, but don't tell them that. Listen, Jack, I'll be a great addition to the team. Jack, I promise. Besides, with my memory restored I'd never survive a day, let alone a career, in the military. I am just mentally wired wrong for obeying orders from people I don't respect. I think I’m used to being my own boss," Buffy admitted.
"Jack, why don't we let Buffy and Teal'c at least try? Buffy would've ended up on the base either way," Sam said, believing it to be true. Even if she didn't exactly like her kid openly admitting to wanting to manipulate the brass to get her way, there was also the feeling in her heart that Buffy had come to this sudden decision because her daughter had been given some sort of hint that it was needed.
"Yeah, and I am sorry for this, but if they turn me down I'm leaving Earth for Chulak . . . for a while, at least," Buffy said, surprising Sam a bit more. She had not expected Buffy to consider truly leaving Earth and her. It really told her that parts of Buffy weren’t tied to her anymore. It saddened her.
"You're really sure about this being a good idea, kiddo?" Jack asked.
"I think it’s essential. Jack, I promise you won't regret it... I wonder, though, will they force me to renounce my citizenship and civil rights?" Buffy said, giving both of them worried looks.
Sam started thinking about it but knew they couldn't be sure. The politicians and brass involved in the SGC's operation didn't like getting pushed around and they might decide to be petty and not even allow Buffy to go off base, as if she was to be considered legally as having the same status as Teal'c did. However, a part of her doubted that General Hammond would let conditions like that exist for long, and Sam was sure she'd fight any move to have Buffy declared an alien. She’d fight to have Buffy stay her daughter. In a way, maybe that could allow Buffy a form of dual citizenship, both American and Jaffa by adoption.
"I don't think they will. Security is even thinking about allowing Teal'c off-base accommodations, now that he hasn't got Junior anymore," Jack replied. Sam hadn't known about this, but then administration was more Jack's beat than hers.
"Your granddad is welcome on Earth as long as he tells everyone where he's going and why," Sam said.
"Not really the best example, Mom. Granddad has Selmak in his head; that makes his situation different from mine, again. But I get what you're saying. So this means you won't try to stop me -- I mean, us -- from arranging this?" Buffy asked, which looked like her daughter was seeking her approval.
"I'd feel thousand times better if you were twenty-one rather than sixteen," Jack said.
"Jack, if you count battle experience and the like, I'm more like thirty than sixteen. For nine years I was either the Slayer or the leader of the Slayers on my world. Slayers live with a constant war that goes on every night and many days. I've died twice and prevented the end of my world over and over again. I'm experienced enough. Especially with you, Mom, Teal'c, and everyone else making sure I knew all the basics of this world as well as all that school stuff. I'm sure I can audit classes while I work at the SGC. I might graduate from college at a normal person's age, rather than at twenty or less," Buffy suggested. Sam was happy that Buffy hadn't suddenly given completely up on getting an education, just in case her daughter changed her mind about her life.
"Alright, but you get the pleasure of breaking this to Hammond. Promise me I get to be in the room, though, if some of the other brass is there. I'd like to see their faces when you and Teal'c make them understand that the Jaffa are someone they have to make deals with, not just expect to be there," Jack said, and Sam nodded her approval as well.
"Cool," Buffy smiled brilliantly and ate.
General Hammond looked at the spare silo not far from the Stargate room and wondered what the gray metallic structure in the floor was. A group of Tok'ra and SGC technicians were puttering about.
"Sir, the Tok'ra have brought a small improvement for the SGC that they wondered if you'd approve," one of the R&D people said.
"What is it?" George said, not liking anyone even starting to think about installing stuff at his base before he gave it his approval.
"It's a ring platform that can be powered by our systems, sir," Sergeant Siler explained, and connected the power to an outlet.
"General Hammond, over the last months our understanding of your power grid has grown and with the help of your scientists we've been able to modify a ring platform so you can activate it when you need to and operate it from your control room. This way it will be possible for you to allow visiting ships in orbit to transport into this secured silo only when you allow it. We've even managed to conceal the matter stream from the view of your population by modulating its effect into the infrared light spectrum," one of the Tok'ra explained.
George thought it over and figured it made sense if they kept the room bolted shut and set up several security measures. It would make visits from their allies easier. And, given the installation of ring platforms on the Prometheus and the upcoming production models of its class, they’d be able to ship things and people to and from orbit, further expanding the value of the SGC, which currently also served as the space command central for Earth's space fleet. "Keep it powered off for now, until we have the security measures set up and it’s all been tested, but I approve of the idea," he said and left the spare silo, wondering what they'd think of next.
Sergeant Harriman ran up to him, "Sir, we've just gotten a message off the Subspace communications grid. It appears Teal'c is returning to Earth, bringing along a Ha'tak they've captured. He and Selmak request a discussion on drawing up a formalized alliance treaty between Earth, the Free Jaffa under Teal'c, and the Tok'ra."
"Really," George said, and thought about it. Something had clearly happened during SG-1's search for Buffy and her kidnapper. He hoped everyone was returning with Teal'c, including Buffy. "Were there any other details in the message?"
"No, sir," Walter replied.
"Thank you, Walter. I'll be in my office talking to the Pentagon," he said and headed there.
"General Hammond just sent word. We can use the ring transport to travel from the mothership to Stargate Command. The Tok'ra installed a ring platform yesterday," Teal'c said.
"It's about time. Now we just need the Asgard transporters, and we'll never have to drive to work again," Jack said.
Sam looked at Buffy, who had seemed focused on something that required deep thinking. It was probably yet another part of her daughter's adaptation to regaining her memories, or it was a sign that Buffy was working on some new plan. Either way, Sam wasn't going to disturb her. There was still so much unsaid and unasked between them, just because she had decided to give Buffy her space.
"I wonder if they've included a description of how it works? I haven't quite cracked that yet. I think that it would even get us closer to understanding how the Stargates work, and maybe even how to make our own," Sam mused out loud.
"Probably not, but I'm sure they've included the user manual." Buffy walked into the cockpit as well.
"So, welcome back to the land of the speaking," Jack said.
"Some of us have to do the thinking," Buffy replied.
"Hell, even I manage to do that without spacing out for nearly an hour," Jack fired back. Sam smiled when Buffy gave him an insulted expression.
"I'd like to see you compose a speech in Goa'uld that sounds remotely like something Teal'c would agree to saying, along with an outline for a treaty. In your case, at least, without mumbling and a few hundred pieces of paper," Buffy said.
"Harsh," Jack said, but didn't look upset at Buffy's putdown.
"I have not asked for a speech, Buffy," Teal'c said, giving her daughter an expectant look.
"I thought since this is at least partly for my benefit that I could take care of the dull stuff. Consider it a rare offer. Usually, Buffy's don't do busy work," Buffy explained with a winsome smile.
Teal'c remained silent for a moment, then said, "You can give me the benefit of your advice before the meeting, but when I am speaking with the Tau'ri you will stay silent. And for future reference, as you are to come under my command, know that I will ask the same of you as I would ask of any of the other warriors loyal to the cause."
Sam for a moment expected Buffy to protest, but her daughter just stared at Teal'c for a moment, blinked, then nodded without saying anything. While it had surprised Buffy, it seemed her daughter thought she could accept being under Teal'c's command.
"I am landing us on the Ha'tak now," Teal'c explained.
Jonas watched the figures of the other members of SG-1, Jacob and Buffy Carter appear out of the blazing white of the ring transporters.
"Welcome back, SG-1," General Hammond said. "It seems you somehow ended up off-world during your vacation. The Pentagon is going to demand a full accounting on that," the General said, but didn't make it sound like much of a threat. Hammond turned towards Buffy and continued, "I am glad to see you back on Earth safely, Buffy. They're still saving a spot for you in the Summer Training Program for the Academy."
Buffy looked up at General Hammond, and something in her eyes made her look much older than the Buffy Jonas remembered. "I'm sorry, General, but I'll have to go back on my promise to join the Air Force. I got an offer from another party that I liked," she said.
General Hammond looked at Jack immediately.
"Don't look at me, sir. We think she's Goa'uld-free and all that, but I guess Doc Fraiser will have to confirm that."
"What offer is she talking about?" General Hammond asked, as Buffy, Sam and Teal'c were allowed to head for the infirmary for the required check-up.
"Apparently, Teal'c made her a better offer," Jack said and -- as Jonas noted -- not without glee in his voice Jack continued, "Maybe if those morons at the Pentagon hadn't left her to be tortured by a snake, she wouldn't have decided to work for the Jaffa instead."
"Colonel, you're not making much sense. How can she be working for the Jaffa?" General Hammond asked, and Jonas wondered the same thing.
"Just you wait until the treaty negotiations, sir," Jack said, as he too left the room with the General. Jonas decided the situation was better explained at the source and headed for the infirmary instead of following Jack and George, who were heading towards the General's office while talking.
Jonas waited patiently near the exit of the infirmary, watching as first Teal'c, then Sam, and finally Buffy was examined by Doctor Fraiser, who seemed pretty happy to see Buffy back safely.
"You have to go see Cassie immediately after I'm done with you. She is so afraid you were badly hurt. I think she hasn't slept through a single night since... Oh, god, Buffy what have they done to you?" Janet said, sounding upset as she received an X-ray. Sam ran over and was soon joined by Teal'c as well. Jonas found himself edging closer, too.
"What's wrong, Janet?" Sam asked.
"They've tried infecting her with Goa'uld parasites several times. The concentration of the protein markers and naquadah in her blood is very high. But that's not what worries me," Janet put a sympathetic hand on Buffy's shoulder. It looked like the girl had been prepared or had already known about some of this. "They've also taken one of her ovaries. I also see evidence of at least one or two sacrophagus healings. Have you been feeling angry, hotheaded, or found it hard to empathize with other people?" Janet asked Buffy.
"No more than usual for me," Buffy said.
Janet looked towards Sam, and Jonas noticed Sam's slight nod. It appeared they were accepting that assessment, for now.
"Either way, I would like to keep you here for observation, at least for a day, and also I think we should reschedule your therapist appointments," Janet suggested, and looked towards Sam, who responded by looking at Buffy.
Buffy seemed to wrestle with deciding something in her mind, before she said, "I think that would be a good idea. I kind of regained all my memories of my past, and there are some pretty un-nifty moments in them."
Janet nodded grimly.
After a while everyone left Buffy alone, and Jonas was able to walk over and ask her something in private, "Why did you decide to join the Jaffa? Are you really angry over the lack of rescue attempts?"
Buffy looked up at him, then back down at the bed linen. "No, I just want to help before something happens that you really do need my help for while I’m stuck elsewhere. I don't want to be off at school while you save the world -- especially if I'm supposed to help you do that. God, I understand Dawn so much better now," Buffy added, although Jonas had no idea who or what Dawn was.
"I guess I can understand that," Jonas said, and thought about how he had risked death from brain cancer to see if he was able to predict and prevent the future. In the end, everything had worked out without his help, but he understood the sentiment all too well.
"Mom told me about Abydos. Any news of the people there? Or Daniel?" Buffy asked.
Jonas knew that all the rest of his team were being told this sometime today anyway, so the least he could do was explain it to Buffy. It wasn't bad news -- just a bit twisted. "Abydos was destroyed, but all the Abydonians ascended, somehow," he explained.
"I'm not sure Ascension is all that it's cracked up to be. I also got the complete scoop on Daniel from my mom and Jack," Buffy said.
"There has been no sighting of Doctor Jackson since, but it could just be a question of time," Jonas suggest.
Buffy seemed to think about it, then said, "I don't think so. I knew this guy named Orlin. He made one mistake, and it took hundreds of years and an act of lethal self-sacrifice before the other Ascended forgave him. They're big on punishment."
"Oh, okay," Jonas said and wandered off.
Sam was sure something was up. The Tok'ra and the Jaffa had been negotiating with the generals and diplomats for nearly two days, and only Teal'c seemed to have remained as calm as always – but then, she'd expect him to remain calm in the face of his imminent death, so that wasn’t much of a clue. It wasn't the negotiations that were making her feel suspicious. It was the amount of collusion and closed-door conversations Jack and General Hammond were having, alone or with the visiting generals. Rumors were flying fast and thick at the SGC that anything from the dissolution of the SGC to the disclosure of the project to the public was on the way.
Only the fact that Buffy seemed more or less normal -- if a bit more quick with the pun -- was making her feel better. Of course, since they were both dodging really having those all-important serious talks, Buff’s normality could all be facade, as it was with her. Buffy had been asked to stay at the SGC until they cleared her status as a part of the negotiations, but unlike Sam herself, Buffy seemed to be taking the prolonged process with uncanny patience. Sam was, in fact, seeking Buffy out at the moment, and found her daughter reading one of her physics books in her lab.
"Is everything okay?" Sam asked as she noticed the slightly amazed look on Buffy's face.
"I just had a total oh-my-god moment," Buffy replied and put down the book.
"Why?" Sam asked, and decided that the reason she was antsy was the lack of puzzles to crack, so she called up her ‘to-do’ list on her laptop and looked at the top entry. It was the same as it had been for nearly ten years: 'Figure out how to make a wormhole and then build your own stargate.' She passed it over and took the first feasible one: 'Determine mechanism behind the improvements of an Asgard hyperdrive over a Goa'uld one.' She called up her equations from her studies of both types of drives along with the schematics.
Buffy finally replied, "I used to be an average student before I lost my memory. Sure, I could get great grades and high test scores when I could gather the focus to do it, but most of the time my life was so caught up in my battles that it was pointless. A lot of people actually thought I was a bit dim. I was just uninformed, though, and my life never allowed me to learn more than superficial things. Now I have this ability -- this drive, even -- to focus and think. My ‘ah-ha!’ moment was when I just figured out the problem the book presented without looking up the answer. I just figured out the proof from what I knew. You know what? I am so grateful to you and all my teachers here. You've believed in me, all along, and I think I have needed someone to do that... So, I guess I wanted to say, thanks for being the best mom I've had in this dimension."
Sam smiled and felt her heart warm a bit, even if Buffy’s words didn't really remove all her doubts. But then, that would be hard to do, since she was unsure as to what they were. "So, what’s going to happen after you've gotten your position here? Are you gonna stop studying?"
"You think I should? I mean, the Jaffa don't have scientists and universities, but I hope I can still take classes by mail and maybe audit a few in my spare time, like we talked about on the transport. And you know what? It is just too cool to actually be able to understand what everyone is talking about to give that up. Hell, I could even basically understand my over-the-top genius friend back in my dimension, now, if she started techno-babbling. She'd be so proud of me," Buffy said and reminded Sam that Buffy now fully remembered and missed the friends she had lost in her transfer to this dimension.
Sam decided that it would be a good idea to get to know all about those people, so that her daughter could work through her emotions and she could learn about these people who were so important to her daughter. "Why don't you tell me about your life before? All of it that you can remember. I have nothing that I have to do right now, so how about it? Tell me of your first mother. Who was your dad? What were your friends like? And that sister that you love, even if she annoys you?"
"You sure?" Buffy asked.
"Very. I'd really like to know," Sam replied.
Buffy took a breath and started all the way from the beginning. "I guess one of my first important memories is of how my mom and dad brought Dawn home. It never happened, but I still treasure it, true or not..."
Sam yawned. Getting Buffy's life story -- even in mostly general terms with a few plunges into excruciating detail -- had taken all evening. It hadn't cleared everything up for her, but it had been a beginning she hoped they could both build on. Then, having barely slept five hours, she had been called back to base to help with an energy-supply problem for the new X-305 prototypes they were building from scratch. And now, as she walked towards the Gate room where she had been told to go by the email sent to all personnel on base, she was noticing a lot of other people standing around in the halls. All of the SG teams that were home were lingering around. Several of the department heads, and even Janet and the medical staff, were making a rare visit to the room. Jack and General Hammond were standing at a podium in front of the Stargate.
At first she thought that it was the declaration of the new treaty, but given the lack of Jaffa and Tok'ra in attendance it looked like it was a strictly SGC moment. After a few more minutes General Hammond stepped up to the podium. The Gate room fell silent. Sam finally noticed Buffy, Teal'c and her father observing from the briefing room.
"I have several announcements to make today. First of all, the SGC has, due to external pressures, been reorganized, and now this base has been put in primary command of the Air Force's Space-based assets. This extension of our responsibilities, along with the moving of most of the NORAD activities to Patterson, allows us to mostly take over the entire facility for the SGC. This change also forces the SGC to reorganize internally. I have been put in command of the enlarged operation, and so I will not be able to directly lead what will be only one third of the SGC -- the SGC Field Department -- any longer. This honor is given over to Colonel O'Neill, along with his promotion to Brigadier General. Now we will be divided into several departments: SGC Fleet Department, which will deal with what hopefully will be the growing fleet of Earth starships, satellites and communications; SGC Field Department, which will continue our exploration, diplomacy and intelligence efforts through the Stargate; finally, there is the SGC research department, which will be based out of Area-51 and 52 but commanded from here," General Hammond explained, and paused for the applause, which came immediately upon the news.
Sam smiled, glad for Jack, while her thoughts immediately also focused on what other changes the General had in store for them. It sounded like they had been given an expanded budget and role. She wondered where the money came from.
"As most of you know now, we have, as of last night, signed a strong formal treaty with the Free Jaffa and the Tok'ra, ensuring our continued alliance and support of each other. As a part of this, the Tok'ra scientists that have been helping us will stay on more or less permanently. We will also begin looking for terminal patients with high enough security clearances who might be interested in being joined with the Tok'ra and opening the way for the sharing of intelligence. Meanwhile, the Jaffa have asked that they be allowed to base parts of their fleet in lunar orbit, where they'll help protect Earth in exchange for our support in keeping their fleet functional. Finally, like our Russian allies the Jaffa will be bringing a few warriors to the SGC, who will serve on the SG teams, helping us to deal better with the Jaffa culture and strengthen the bonds between us. To help deal with this, and because of the need for a more flexible structure of operation, the SG team structure will have to be changed. In the future, an SG team will consist of two to five core members, chosen for their military competence, and according to the mission the team will then be upgraded with one or more mission specialists, which can consist of more soldiers, scientists, diplomats, medical personnel, or something else entirely. We hope that by using this structure we will keep our existing tightly trained teams, while improving our use of specialized resources such as our scientists," the General explained.
There was a slight period of murmurs as the General paused, but it died away as he continued, "Finally, there is one last item on my agenda for the day. It has been decided that Major Samantha Carter ... Please step forward, Major," General Hammond said. Sam took a few confused steps up the ramp towards what was now a pair of smiling generals. She noticed the single star on Jack's shoulder.
"Major Samantha Carter, for exceptional service and continued excellence, even during an extended period without contact with your superiors, it has been decided that you should be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel," General Hammond said, while Jack walked over and changed her rank insignia. She was sure that somewhere in a room a floor up her daughter was cheering.
Buffy let go of her mom, who still seemed shell-shocked by her sudden promotion. She walked over to Jack, who was sitting at the briefing room table looking through some papers. "So, how did they rope you into leading this nerf herd?" Buffy said.
"You've seen too much Star Wars," Jack said without looking up.
"Hello, a Teal'c friend, here! Of course I have," Buffy agreed, then her tone became more serious. "Honestly, Jack, tell me, are you gonna let me work here?" she asked, fearing yet again that Jack would work against her, especially as it looked like he'd be her immediate boss, alongside Teal'c.
Jack looked up. "We got the guys at the Pentagon to swallow it, even if a few of them thought you were betraying them a little by going over on the side of the aliens."
"Bah, for me there are no sides, except the one against the Goa'uld," Buffy said, oversimplifying intentionally.
"Yeah, well, they left one hoop for you to jump through," Jack said.
"Which is?" Buffy asked.
"They want you to complete a series of admission tests, to ensure you're good enough and can work with the SG teams. Stuff like that. But at least you're not alone. All the guys who're going out have to pass it now. I kind of approve. This way, no one gets onto an SG team without belonging there," Jack explained.
Buffy smiled as she thought of a nice little comment for Jack to chew on, "Jack, think of Daniel 7 years ago, and tell me keeping him on Earth would have been a good thing, just once."
"Scoot, Summers," Jack said, after frowning.
"Jack, am I staying or not?" Buffy asked.
"Welcome to the SGC, Buffy Summers," Jack replied and focused on his papers again. He didn't seem super happy about it, but still, she felt it wasn't rejection, either. She refrained from skipping on her way out.
Anubis looked at the reports of devastation. "This is distressing. Thoth was a powerful ally. Have you determined the identity of his killers?" He turned towards his first prime.
"No, my lord. Your enemies erased their tracks by causing his base to explode. The Jaffa I sent to listen for anyone boasting of their victory have reported nothing. I do not believe one of the System Lords did it," his first prime said.
"True, this is too subtle to be their doing, and too brutal to be the Tok'ra," Anubis mused.
"The Tau'ri," his first prime suggested.
"No, it is too advanced for their primitive methods... Wait, maybe you are right to suspect them. Have my Jaffa ask about their allies amongst the Jaffa, to see if the rebels might know who did this. Tell me the moment you learn anything," he hissed, and gestured for his first prime to leave. He had needed Thoth a little while longer. The worm had been a vile and completely immoral scientist , and especially amongst the Goa'uld it was hard to find any valuable scientists with those qualities. Especially any of real creative caliber. It would slow down his Kull project, and it might even have compromised its secrecy.