The white light faded and they found themselves on a ring platform in a closed-off room with many doors leading out. Buffy knew she had to use her abilities to their fullest from there on in. She focused on listening, managing to tune out Jonas and Daniel as they moved for a door. "Not that one," she said as the pair approached the control panel for one of them.
"Jaffa," she whispered and pointed with her hand towards another door, while trying to recall the incomplete map the Tok'ra had made from their intelligence and shown them on Earth. "This way," she said and pushed the open button.
They looked out into the wide corridor and carefully but quickly headed out. Buffy entered the state where she let the Slayer's senses and instincts guide her towards the goal she envisioned. It was no longer like taking a backseat to something else, as it had been so often in her life before. The Slayer had merged with her, and so it felt more like focusing or concentrating on one single thing, excluding all others, rather than stepping back. She soundlessly glided across the floor, taking point.
On the bridge of the mothership Herak, Anubis' First Prime, noticed the activation of one set of transporter rings. It was unexpected, as no one he had sent down had signaled their return, and also unlikely, as the last group of his Jaffa had disembarked only a few minutes earlier. It was possibly a minor matter, and so he sent an extra patrol to the level of the ring platform without informing his lord. It was probably nothing, but it could be an attack, and so he decided to be careful.
Jonas watched Buffy and Daniel carefully. He had been a bit doubtful at first about bringing both these people on such a dangerous mission -- not because he thought them weak, but because he knew how deeply beloved they both were at the SGC. After spending more than a year at the SGC himself, he understood the sentiment. Daniel Jackson had a moral core and philosophical nature which he shared unobtrusively with all around them. He seemed to teach and guide people to greatness of humanitarian thought merely by his presence. And Buffy Carter was a kind of symbol of human power and leadership, the kind of leadership that all nations wished they had. She was like Daniel in being someone people naturally listened to and a person who was both caring and giving, despite her gifted nature which could easily have made her arrogant towards lesser mortals. So he felt responsible for being the one who had needed both of them to come with him because he was inadequate. He had argued with both Jack and Sam for nearly an hour, trying to convince them first off that he could do the translations without Daniel, and then Daniel had joined him in suggesting that the two scholars didn't need a babysitter in the form of Buffy Summers. Neither argument had worked.
Buffy signaled they had to stop and wait. He couldn't hear anything, but he did as she suggested. Down the corridor they heard a door open, then footsteps as Jaffa entered a corridor that crossed with theirs. Everyone tensed. The grip of his zat felt sweaty. The steps of the Jaffa receded in the distance. Buffy waved them forward. Since Colonel Carter and the Major they had recruited for the job were probably already on their way up for their attack run, the little group headed down the corridor, moving as quickly as possible as they headed for what they hoped was a computer terminal. The positions of objects aboard had been approximated by the Tok'ra scientists from experience with Ha'tak construction. "Here," Daniel said and gestured at a small inscription in the wall that indicated a well of knowledge was near. That was a classic Goa'uld euphemism for a computer room.
"Yeah," Buffy said and got down on the floor with Daniel. They got their zats ready.
Jonas pressed the door button and went over to covering their backs. The door barely slid up a few centimeters before he heard Buffy and Daniel firing. Four zat shots rang out, and there were two heavy thumps. He turned and headed inside. Buffy pressed the door close button. Inside, there was a large screen showing many Goa'uld illustrations.
Daniel pressed the button on the computer in front of the screen and tried to access the secure files. Several ancient letters showed up. "Mom said that from what they got at Thoth's base, the Ancient dialect is the same as the one on the tablet," Buffy commented while she kept monitoring the door. Jonas turned on the volume on their radios.
"Ground Control, this is the Rats. We're accessing the computer system now. A launch would be appropriate at this time," he said.
"Roger, Rats. Launch is underway. Advise when status changes. We're handing you over to Airstrike," the voice of Sergeant Harriman explained.
"Rats, this is Airstrike. Stay on this channel," the voice of Sam Carter said over the radio.
"Shh," Buffy said and pointed at the door. It slid open slowly, revealing a pair of feet. Buffy fired rapidly, already moving towards the opening. The two patrolling guards fell, and Buffy kept firing. Before their corpses touched the ground the third shot hit each of them and nothing was left.
Buffy pressed the door close button again and went back to waiting. "We don't have a lot of time before more come. Any patrol should be missed within a few minutes by the deck commander, if they follow normal Jaffa Ha'tak protocols while in orbit over a hostile planet," Buffy explained.
"How do you know that?" Daniel asked, while he studied the Ancient language that now filled the screen.
"Teal'c taught me everything he thought I could use while we were stuck on Vindgloed with the Asgard," Buffy replied.
"Oh, when was that?" Daniel said.
"Uhm, that's actually a bit complicated. I guess you could say it happened while you were away," Buffy replied.
"Shouldn't we disable the door?" Jonas asked.
"Not unless we can help it. It's still our best way to the ring platform. Otherwise, we'd have to go and find another one," Buffy explained. Jonas just nodded and decided to leave these decisions to the girl, as she seemed to know what she was doing. Unlike the rest of SG-1, he wasn't exactly an expert on the girl's past.
Jonas recognized a word on the screen; it translated to something close to ‘plan’. "Maybe that one," he said. Daniel looked up at it and smiled while nodding. He marked the entry and the screen changed to more new text.
"Rats, be advised, Airstrike is engaged with enemy Deathgliders and cannot maintain attack run for much longer," Carter's voice reported over the radio.
"My Lord, the Tau'ri vessel continues to elude our gliders," Herak said.
"Then send another squadron," his lord said. Herak quickly started relaying the orders of his lord, when he noticed the incoming report on his screen. One of his security patrols had discovered intruders on the ship, and a few moments later another report came in from a patrol on the surface, reporting more Tau'ri at a primitive military base on the planet below.
"The squadron has been launched. But my lord, we have discovered Tau'ri intruders on this ship and a base on the planet below," he turned and reported.
"Start the firing sequence; we will destroy the Tau'ri base with the first blast. And show me these intruders," his god ordered.
Herak turned and worked the machine made by his god. He tried to get an image of the room where the intruders had barricaded themselves inside, while the massive power for the weapon built up.
Someone pressed the door open button, and a Jaffa grenade rolled in. Buffy seemed to have been expecting it and batted it hard back outside before it could go off. She turned away. The characteristic noise and glow of the grenade came from under the door, followed by the noise of several armored figures dropping unconscious. But as soon as they did, the noise of more Jaffa arriving rang out, their armored boots clanging against the deck plating. "There’s no end to them," Buffy sighed and went to the control panel. Expertly, she closed and disabled the door controls. She started studying the room.
"That's it; I’m in," Daniel said, and the screen changed to show a lot of holographic data. "This might take a bit longer than expected," he continued, and Jonas gaped at the huge amount of detail and data they'd have to go through.
"We're all kinds of pressed for time, here," Buffy commented from the right side of the room where she was examining something.
"Can't you do a search, or something?" Jonas asked.
"Yeah, google it, or something," Buffy added.
"Search for what? ‘Achilles’ heel’?" Daniel fired back, sounding a bit irritated. There were noises of banging from the door.
"Sounds like someone is getting their memory back, along with their wit," Jonas commented. Daniel looked a bit puzzled for a moment, then typed something on the keyboard. The screen changed, and a feature was highlighted along with Ancient numerics.
"I got it. Sam, I’m sending you the data... now," Daniel said and recited several numbers over the radio.
"Thanks, got it. Now, get off the ship. Ground Control, this is Airstrike: we're starting our attack run," Colonel Carter’s voice said.
"Airstrike, this is Ground Control. We have reason to believe that Anubis' forces have detected our presence on the planet. We're getting ready for a general evacuation and scrubbing of the temporary base. Be advised, no part of the F-302 may fall into enemy hands. On finishing the mission you're commanded to destroy the aircraft and move through the gate at best speed," Jack's voice replied.
"Guys, the ship is powering the big weapon. They're aiming for the Stargate," Daniel said as an information page popped on screen.
"Roger, starting our attack run now," Colonel Carter replied, just as the door started to open.
"Get over here, now! We might get blown up any second," Buffy commanded, while holding a large air vent grate open. She easily tossed both Daniel and Jonas inside, and hopped in herself before anyone saw where they had gone.
"My Lord, the intruders!" Herak said triumphantly as the image of their three invaders finally came into focus on the viewscreen.
"Those three," his lord yelled, "I want them alive, especially the girl! Now, Herak!"
Herak saluted and quickly turned back to his console. He was tapping in the orders he wanted to relay, when he noticed that the enemy fighter had disappeared, and then suddenly reappeared inside the shield. Quickly, he ordered all batteries to fire, but the tiny ship easily eluded the big turrets.
"Go!" Buffy yelled. Suddenly, alarms went off and the lights flickered in the corridors they could see through the smaller grates as they crawled along the tight ventilation duct. Buffy figured it meant her mom and the semi-hot pilot they had drafted to help her had done their jobs and, hopefully, were safely away. Now, she and her fellow ‘Rats’ needed to get off the ship before Teal'c and the Goa'uld swooped in and finished the job.
They scrambled around randomly, all the while hoping that the combination of their own speed and the protection of the Tok'ra chemicals would keep them hidden until they could make their way to the ring platform.
"Wait here," Buffy said as they came up to a grate leading to a small storage room. Buffy quickly moved through the room and opened the door to the corridor. To her amazement and joy, her mind easily recalled the floor-plan of this level of the ship. They weren't far from the ring platform. She dashed down the corridor and looked to the left. The ring room looked unguarded, which meant that it was probably a trap. A few moments’ patient listening revealed the sound of several men breathing slowly nearby, while the regular hum of power from the ring mechanism was gone. She quickly went back to the storage room, closing the door behind her.
"What are we waiting for?" Daniel whispered.
"The ring room has become a trap. We should trick them and go up a level or two before heading for a ring room. Daniel, do you remember where the next nearest one is?" Buffy asked.
"I'm not sure it has another on the lower levels -- at least, not one whose location we know for certain. We'd have to go up near Anubis' quarters. Those levels will be a lot more heavily guarded, especially now they know they have us aboard," he replied.
"The glider bays and hangar decks should be two decks above us," Jonas suggested.
"Good idea: we go there, grab a fighter or even an Al'kesh, and blast our way out. I like that plan," Buffy said and opened the grate to the air vents again. She crawled in first, before offering Daniel and then Jonas a hand up.
"We don't have a lot of time. The Goa'uld could hit this pile of crap any moment," Buffy warned.
"Rat team, report in: where are you?" Daniel's radio crackled immediately after he switched it on. Buffy felt a bit annoyed that he'd do that without asking her first.
"Crap! Turn it off, or something; the Jaffa will hear the echo," Buffy hissed.
Daniel fiddled with the volume, then whispered, "Still aboard the mothership. Our path to the ring room has been cut off. We're proceeding to an alternate escape route."
"Be advised: Ground Control and Airstrike are under fire and currently unable to reach the gate. Efforts to break through are proceeding. Our other help never showed, but primary objective was achieved," Buffy recognized the tension in Jack's voice as he spoke.
"We need to hurry," she intoned, and headed for one of the central ventilation shafts that ran through large parts of the ship. It was easy to locate from the rising wind tugging at their clothes.
"My Lord, the weapon . . . ! Its power source has been destroyed, and the eyes have been shattered. We have not found the intruders yet," he added, knowing that he might have just forfeited his life because of the incompetence of his underlings. Herak swore he'd personally torture to death any of those Tau'ri they caught, after his god was done with them.
"Not good enough! Go down there, yourself. Catch them," his lord ordered.
"Yes, my Lord," Herak turned and went, but stopped in the doorway leading out of the bridge. "My Lord, the battle down below . . . I have ordered our troops to engage the Tau'ri on the planet directly," he explained.
"Good. Now, I want prisoners, Herak," Anubis said. He bowed and again turned to leave.
"They're still aboard," Jack said to himself and looked towards a BDU-clad Major Davis. "Davis, go with SG-2 and 4. Swing around each the west of the battlefield and move through cover along the river there. You should be able to flank the Jaffa positions near the gate. But be careful. If they pull back too quickly, Anubis might be planning to fire his regular weapons at us from space. We will attack with full force when they're distracted. We have to secure the gate," Jack ordered, as he felt the shockwave of their camp exploding transmitted through the ground. A few moments later, the sound of the explosion roared past. Major Davis saluted him and left with the SG teams.
With a roar, the F-302 passed overhead with a single Deathglider on its tail. It seemed that the pilot they had picked had been as good as his records had indicated. Things hadn't exactly gone as planned, but then when reality met plans, the plans rarely survived unchanged.
"Airstrike, this is Ground Control," Jack said.
"Roger, Ground Control, go ahead," the steady voice of the pilot with the call-sign ‘Shaft’ replied.
"Airstrike, could you take out that bogey within the next six or seven minutes? I want you to start making attack runs against the gate afterwards, unless I tell you otherwise," Jack asked.
"No problem, sir. Airstrike out," the pilot replied.
"Now, all we need is you guys," Jack said to himself and looked up towards the sky, thinking of the rest of his team all alone amongst an army of Jaffa. He was starting to wonder if taking command had been an even worse decision than he had thought earlier. Still, the brass had insisted, and those parts of his body that were worn down had been thanking him ever since -- although his back was not too happy about all that sitting around.
"Grab my hand," Buffy said and held her right hand out. With a look of stark fear on his face Daniel jumped towards her, crossing the open shaft that continued for hundreds of yards straight down underneath him. Buffy grabbed hold of his wrist and pulled him up. He was forced to clamber over her and join Jonas in the duct that they hoped would lead them to the hangar deck.
"Go on," she whispered, and Jonas led the way. After a while they heard the noise of a Deathglider and what Daniel swore was the noise of a fighter docking. They found a small grate and looked into what proved to be the lowest deck of the massive hangar bays of the mothership.
"Would you take a look at that?" Buffy whispered, a bit awestruck by the stadium-like room..
"Yup, we should just look for another ring platform instead," Daniel suggested.
"Goddess, no. We could disable this entire ship here and now with all of this," Buffy said.
"What? No! Even with all this firepower around we can't do anything. We can't make all those ships do anything without flying them, and look at all the guards," Daniel protested. Buffy noticed that while more thoughtful for a moment Jonas quickly agreed with Daniel.
"Come on, you heard Jack on the radio: the Goa'uld haven't shown up. Anubis is probably aboard. If we can toast this ship, then he'll go up with it. A chance at either result should at least make us pause and think it over. Besides, I wasn't planning on firing all those lovely weapons. I just want to start an explosion. All those ships have naquadah power plants, and so do all the Tel'tak and Al'kesh they've stored. If we can start a big enough explosion here, it could cripple the ship, or at the very least prevent any sort of pursuit," Buffy explained.
"We'd need some way to open the hangar bay doors," Daniel said and sounded doubtful they could do that.
"They're open," Jonas said from his grate a bit further down the vent.
"Oh," Daniel said with a wince. Buffy smiled at Jonas.
"I am my mother's daughter, Daniel. We Carters know how to make things go boom. I am still in training, so no planets or suns for me yet, but I have to start somewhere," Buffy grinned at the look Daniel sent her at that comment.
"Fine, how do you plan to do it?" Daniel asked.
"I will -- as stealthily as possible -- make my way over to the Deathgliders and turn on all their engines and weapons. Then, when as many as I can get to are running hot, we take one of those two Al'kesh. We head for the bay doors, and I fire its turrets at the hot ships. With a large charge in their system, each Deathglider I hit should explode with sufficient force to reach the next in line, and so on. The entire bay hopefully goes boom, we head for the planet as fast as possible, and ring down from the Al'kesh before this ship's weapons take us out. If by chance the damage we cause is great enough to take this heap of junk out, it’s fine; if not, we're still away safely," Buffy said.
"What do we do while you rig all those ships?" Jonas asked.
"How about you go take over that Al'kesh?" Buffy suggested, and waited until she thought none of the Jaffa were looking at the grate. She opened it and squeezed out.
"I guess that's the plan," Daniel whispered, before she was completely out of earshot.
Buffy worried if she could really be as stealthy as she had just claimed she'd be, or as sure of her plan, but she was certain that if they tried to fly away in just a hijacked Deathglider, they'd get shot down. She hadn't told Daniel or Jonas that she was afraid to get caught by Anubis. It hadn't really occurred to her as a possibility when she had accepted the mission, but if Anubis caught her, she'd probably go back to being tortured and repeatedly implanted with parasites to see if they could break her. She and people like her mom and her granddad all thought that Thoth's interest in her had been supported by Anubis. She had never been all that good at admitting to herself and others that she did get afraid at times, fearing that it would destroy other people's belief in her. Buffy climbed up underneath a Jaffa guard, using the backside of steps of the staircase as handholds. It was time to yet again move beyond her fear. A thing she was also good at.
"They cannot have disappeared. They clearly used the air flow system. I can't believe you didn't follow them in there immediately. Now, go! I said, go!" Herak yelled. One by one the armored warriors worked themselves into the duct, their armor and staffs not fitting that well. He watched the Jaffa clumsily work themselves inside, while all he could think about was the fact that his lord might punish him for the failure of the incompetents in front of him.
"Tek'ma'tae Herak," one of his lieutenants said, saluting as he walked up.
"What?" he demanded.
"The troops on the ground are under heavy fire. They need reinforcements," the lieutenant said.
"No, I want everyone still on board to find the intruders," he said, judging that his lord would not punish him if he had the intruders. The troops on the ground had already been written off once, when they were about to fire the big weapon, so his lord would not mind them perishing. He tried wracking his mind to find out where the intruders were going. He had shut down the rings, so where could they be going? The only other way off was a ship.
"Stop that!” he barked at the hapless Jaffa still squeezing their way into the air duct. “Everyone, follow me. We need to go to the Hangar. NOW!" he screamed and turned.
They watched for a few minutes as Buffy carefully took out several guards and seemed to stash them in any nearby Deathglider. As the coast got clear enough, Buffy scaled the metal framework that held up the walkways between the many levels of glider storage, and they got out of their hiding place. Daniel knew he had not exactly supported the girl's plan, but as he increasingly got flashbacks of a younger version of her, he kept recalling the protective feelings he had harbored for her younger self and had wanted to stop her taking the insane risks of her plan. Still, she had convinced him -- or rather, them. He looked over at the man who was watching the spectacle with him, equally worried and fascinated.
"We should get going," Daniel said.
"Yeah," Jonas replied. They went down the vent to a bigger grate and crawled out into the hangar.
Carefully, to avoid being seen by the remaining guards, they made their way up a flight of stairs, going up each level with their zats held ready. They came up to the level of the first Al'kesh and saw that there was a single guard left in their path. "Let's get it done," Jonas said and nodded resolutely at him, then charged down the walkway towards the guard.
Daniel covered Jonas as best he could, hoping to make sure no one shot the man in the back. A few hours earlier he would have considered making such a charge stupid, but with every moment they stayed aboard this ship a piece of his memory -- his personality -- flowed back to him. This was something he had done before. Jonas fired his zat at the Jaffa, who still managed to fire off a single blast from his staff before dropping to the ground, covered in the electrical swirls of a zat bolt. Daniel winced as he watched the blast trail off into the hangar and slam into the ceiling high above them.
'Now, for the difficult one. Three Jaffa, two covering my approach facing the last guy. Shin kick, toss, back-kick the second, move into high kick, then fire zat into second guy's chest, probably dodge first guy, finish him, turn, finish the last one. Right, that's the plan. Now let's see how it really goes,' Buffy thought to herself as she moved towards the only group of Jaffa nearby. Suddenly, a staff blast hammered past from below, along with noises of zat fire. Buffy looked towards the edge of the platform, then over towards the three Jaffa, who were all turning. One of them was opening his mouth, getting ready to scream. But that was no longer her concern: Daniel and Jonas were in combat, her job was to protect them, and now everyone in the huge room had been alerted.
"Gotta boogie," Buffy said, and swung herself over the rail along the edge of the platform, into a full handstand as the word, "Tau'ri!" was yelled somewhere off to her side. As the first staff blast came her way, she flipped over, let go from the rail as her feet started to point down and swiftly fell with her legs pointed straight down. She immediately grabbed the next rail, a story down, swung inwards, making sure her legs were tucked in, and swung nearly back up to another handstand before she let go and rather ungraciously landed on her ass. "Ouch!" she moaned, but got up, running at her best speed for the stairs.
She also noted a very large batch of Jaffa entering the ground floor of the hangar.
Herak watched his troops deploying around him. He looked up and saw two Jaffa running down a walkway towards the blond female, who was on the move. "Impossible," he said as he saw the female move faster than anyone he had ever seen as she ran for an Al'kesh that looked already powered up. He looked around the hangar again. He might need to send out another group of Deathgliders.
Daniel watched while Jonas inexpertly tried to activate the Al'kesh they had boarded. "Buffy is coming," he said and pointed towards the walkway where Buffy was dashing down towards them, a couple of Jaffa far behind. Staff blasts buzzed in the air around her -- all coming from below, it seemed.
"She'll be fine," Jonas said after only glancing up.
"How can you...?" Daniel started, until he noticed her inhuman speed, then remembered in a flashback his entire life experience with that girl. "Maybe," he whispered, thinking about the much younger and a lot more lost-seeming child that this near-woman had replaced.
A few moments later, Buffy ran into the cockpit. "I closed the airlock, but I don't know how to lock the thing. So let's get out of here. Jonas, you drive. I have to be in the gunner's seat," she said, and climbed up into the seat above Jonas. Daniel looked up.
Slowly, a bit more lumbering than if they'd had a trained pilot, they set out from their berth
"Suck on this, Anubitch," he heard Buffy mutter to herself -- not with a triumphant look on her face, just a resolute one. Something Anubis had done had affected Buffy deeply, or maybe it was her empathy with all his victims. He could hear the ship's weapons array fire, but all they could see from the pilot seat was outer space and a HUD showing that they had just cleared the hangar bay doors.
Herak saw the Al'kesh take off and its turret start to turn. He glanced at the many, many gliders and other vessels in the hangar and immediately ran for the nearest corridor entrance, while cursing under his breath.
Without warning there was a massive impact on the ship, and Daniel was flung against the viewscreen for a moment. He landed on the cold metallic floor, feeling his arm hurt. "That was just perfect," Buffy said, and climbed down from the gunner's seat, "I've set it up for you to use, Jonas. I'll take over flying for now."
"Could we take a look at the damage?" Daniel asked.
"We don't have time for sight-seeing," Buffy said, looking around as if expecting Deathgliders or something worse.
"They're not firing at us," he realized.
"I noticed. Cool! We might have done a bit of damage. Danny, run down and give us a yell when the ring platform controls light up, then we should be in range," Buffy said and steered the ship into what looked like a spiral dive underneath Anubis' ship.
"Where are you going? Most of the Ha'tak and bigger ships have their weapons under-mounted for bombardment," he said.
"And the brains have returned. I'm doing it because that ship is more or less parked exactly over where the ring platform is on the surface. Now, please go and keep an eye out," Buffy suggested.
He ran down to the platform chamber, which reminded him a lot of the storage of a Tel'tak, even the size of the room matching it more or less. He guessed most of the rest of the space on an Al'kesh was taken up by engines, shield generators and weaponry. The controls were already lit. "They're lit!" he yelled back up to the bridge.
"We're coming," Jonas yelled. Daniel felt the ship change course again and stop. Buffy and Jonas came running into the room.
"Hurry," Buffy suggested and pulled out her zat, while they got on the platform. She pressed the button and ran over before the rings came out of the floor. A white flash later, they were back amongst the ruins.
Herak was burned in several places and he was sure his left arm was broken, but he had a duty to fulfill, and so he walked onto the bridge, awaiting his lord's judgment. "My Lord, the intruders got away and destroyed the hangar on the way out," he said and knelt before his lord's throne.
Anubis rose and walked past him. "This vessel is no longer of any value. Its primary engines have been damaged beyond immediate repair. Order the remaining Jaffa aboard to attack the Tau'ri using what weapons still work and defend this craft with their lives, while my slaves attempt repair. Meanwhile, you will pilot my escape vessel... And Herak, do not fail me like that again," his lord said.
Herak rose, unwilling to show either relief or pain. He forced himself to only feel acceptance and walked over to his console to effectuate his lord's commands.
Buffy turned around as they arrived, scanning with all her senses for any lingering enemies. "What happened when we were leaving?" Daniel asked.
"I pointed the Al’kesh at Anubis' ship and sent it at its highest speed forward," Buffy replied.
"You're a little destructive," Jonas commented, but looked around as she was doing.
Buffy sensed no enemies nearby and relaxed. "A bit . . . Hey, take that back!" She pretended to pout, trying to look like an upset child. "I take pride in being very destructive. It's practically my purpose in life, my reason to be," Buffy said and smiled. She didn't feel sorry for stopping Anubis. She did feel sorry for any Jaffa aboard, but as Teal'c said, she also couldn't hesitate. They wouldn't. According to him, the Free Jaffa could only try and educate those who were still slaves to their false gods. Buffy felt that maybe a bit more aggressive style of marketing -- such as a few messy Goa'uld executions -- would swing a few more Jaffa to their side, when they noticed their gods weren't that immortal or godlike to begin with. But then again, that
might just be the Slayer side of her personality offering its opinion; that side of her seemed rather nasty whenever it formulated an idea.
"We should head for the gate before Anubis gets creative and blows it to bits," Buffy suggested.
"You think he would do that now?" Jonas asked as they headed out of the ruins.
"I hope not, but if it was me up there, that’d be what I'd do at this point. He has got to be screaming mad," she remarked, without saying she hoped that she had at least managed to get the Goa'uld upset.
They ran for the gate.
The smell of acrid smoke greeted them before they crossed the ridge leading over to the field where the Stargate was placed. They could see the plumes of smoke, but there was no noise of firing guns. They ran over the ridge to see a single SG team and Jack standing next to her mom and the pilot of the F-302. Everyone looked ready to leave. A smoldering wreck of an F-302 lay nearby. For a moment, Buffy felt a chill roll down her spine. She wondered if her mother's ship had been shot down. Then she noticed the parachutes and F-302 ejection pod nearby. They had probably crashed the fighter to protect its secrets.
"Come on, this isn't a camping trip,” Jack yelled when he saw them. Buffy, Daniel and Jonas decided to run over the blasted and Jaffa corpse-strewn field. No SGC personnel were left in the field, with all their own dead and wounded having probably been moved through the gate already.
They were nearly at the gate, when a massive bolt of energy thundered into the ruins her team had just left. The ensuing explosion sent a mushroom-like cloud of dust into the air. "Go!" Jack yelled. The next bolt wouldn't be far behind, and the gate was a prime target. Buffy continued straight through the gate, after Daniel and Jonas. Only Jack and her mom were behind her.
She almost stumbled on exiting the gate. "Close the iris,” Jack yelled, coming out last. Buffy heard the noise of the iris swirling shut and a thump a few seconds later. The wormhole shut off just after.
"Talk about last minute!" her mom said.
"Yeah, it has been kind of an intense day," Buffy agreed.
"Is this how it always is at the SGC?" Buffy heard that pilot -- his name tag read C. Mitchell -- say. He really was kind of cute, if a good bit older than her. Of course, given her history, he was a lot younger than several of her earlier boyfriends.
"No, sometimes Earth is on the line as well, not just our asses. Debrief in an hour, people. And Buffy, I need you to get me in touch with the Free Jaffa after your medical. We heard and saw nothing of the Goa'uld attack force Teal'c was supposed to bring," Jack said.
"Sure, sir; yes, sir; uh-huh," Buffy said, and as she passed her mom she said with a crooked smile, "I bet you I can get him to yell ‘Summers!’ at me within a half hour."
Her mom followed her out of the room while saying, "That's a sucker bet, honey. You'd just have to grab a random Airman and kiss him in front of General O’Neill to get him really upset. And that is just one easy option among many."
"Mom!" Buffy said a bit shocked at the suggestion, although she had been contemplating the general yumminess of all those well-trained men in uniform many, many times these last months. It seemed something else had also caught up with her, along with her returned memories.
"What? You're seventeen, practically. It's time for boyfriends, flings, hormones -- you know what I'm talking about," her mom said, still with a teasing smile on her lips.
"Mom, I have to tell you . . . actually, I seem to recall having told you already: Buffy and boys is a weird and long story, full of love, sex, and above all, heartache," she said, lowering her voice.
Her mom looked at her, probably going over the stories she had been told of Buffy’s love life with Angel, Spike and Riley. "Mom, I have the hormones. Oh, believe me, I have the hormones! But I also have the memories of my earlier life, and at least that lets me control them," Buffy explained.
"Ah, really? I guess that poster you have in your room and in your locker of Orlando Bloom is just because it's a pretty picture," her mom said with a grin on her lips.
"He's so pretty," Buffy admitted, and couldn't help smiling dreamily as she thought about the picture of that actor. She shook her head to clear it. She looked at her mom and they both laughed.
"So, your plan pretty much disabled the hangar, and then you hightailed it out of there, right?" Jack asked.
"Short and simple. Next time, we should just insert several sabotage teams, instead of waiting for the Goa'uld to help. Honestly, Anubis' internal security is laughable," Buffy replied.
"I like your thinking," Jack said, when suddenly the alarms blared and the on-duty sergeant announced an unauthorized gate activation. A while later, they were able to greet a tired-looking Teal'c, walking down the ramp towards the assembled group.
"Tek'ma'tae Teal'c," Buffy said and saluted her commander. It was a necessary part of her role as Jaffa warrior. She was beginning to get used to the idea of having the large man as her leader. He was a man of few words, and he often suggested, rather than ordered. Of course, that was all built on the idea than when he did order her, she was expected to obey. So far, that hadn't been a problem, either. Admittedly, having been trained by the guy for several years and having him as a close confidante had helped a lot. Her relationship with Teal'c was a bit like it had been with Giles, except for the parental bond. Giles had more or less ended up her father figure.
"Ba'ja'kakma'te Buffy," Teal'c responded. Buffy fell in behind Teal'c as he headed for Jack. She wasn't exactly the subservient type, but she had herself thought of the plan that had led to her current position, and the least she could do was play her part to the fullest.
"Buddy! Good to see you back," Jack said. "We were just getting around to discussing if we needed to send a rescue party."
"You did not. I bring news. Lord Yu is dying, and so issued the wrong orders to the assembled fleet. I managed to convince his First Prime to give all the ships in the fleet over to Baal, who could not ignore the chance to attack Anubis. We arrived very late, to find his mothership drifting with its engines damaged but most of its weapons working. Unfortunately, Anubis had already left the ship in a large detachable vessel, and so Baal could only destroy it and its technology. He would have captured it if he could, of course, but Anubis’ Jaffa fought with honor and would not give up. Anubis will regain his strength soon, but he will not be able to use the weapon on his mothership against us," Teal'c explained as they walked out of the Gateroom. Buffy smiled at the news, but her mind was occupied with the question of whether or not the cloak on Teal'c’s armor made him look fruity, and wondering how she'd look in her armor, which Teal'c had told her was being fashioned for her by some of Bra'tac's warriors. She wondered how she'd look, dressed all medieval-style. She was not too happy about the prospect.
"At least the operation was a measured success," Buffy heard her mom say. She nodded, but in her mind another voice was saying that it had also been a demonstration to Anubis that Earth was a more significant threat than he had probably expected, which put the kibosh on any celebrating on her part.
"We should start thinking about keeping a low profile for a little while. Or Anubis' fleet will be in orbit as fast as he can get them here," she suggested.
Jack looked at her for a while. "I think you're starting to get into the right frame of mind for your near future. Thinking all convoluted and stealthy," Jack commented.
"The Tok'ra thing again. Wait a minute: Teal'c, is this really necessary?" Buffy commented.
"Bra'tac and I both believe the Free Jaffa need to understand the Tok'ra better. The warriors we are sending aside from you are not familiar with them and will have the usual prejudices. You are there to help them work together with the Tok'ra. In fact, we have already decided that you will be in command of them. O'Neill has said that the experience will also help with your later tasks here, and I agree with him. You will not be far from us. Most of your training will go on at the Beta site," Teal'c explained.
"Fine, when are you getting rid of me?" she asked.
"Sometime next week. There is a lot of after-action stuff I want handled, first," Jack interjected.
Buffy couldn't help sighing loudly. Writing reports was not really something she considered interesting, especially when they were mostly about retelling deeds done and why she had done them. As far as she was concerned, that was history and she had already moved on. "Well, if I’m to be shipped off Earth and away from any decent, civilized retailers, I have to put in a buffer. I guess it’s time for me and Cassie to go shopping again," she said, after Jack and Teal'c headed back to the conference room while she lingered for a moment with her mom.
Her mom didn't so much as wince. "At least you're earning your own money," her mom said.
"How does that work, by the way? I mean, I work for Teal'c -- at least, as far as I understand. The Jaffa are not big with capitalism, so how come I get paid in dollars?" Buffy mused.
"You don't know?" Her mom asked.
"Hence my wondering," she replied, as if it was the most natural thing to wonder about.
"I just thought that maybe Teal'c had told you about it. Teal'c and Bra'tac paid by adding some Naquadah to our war chest. I think the Pentagon is valuing it at about ten times its equivalent weight in platinum. Actually, the Jaffa have been great in helping us set up and run mining operations, with a cut going their way, of course," her mom explained.
"Nice," Buffy said, and wondered how much of those minerals Teal'c and Bra'tac were keeping back for later payments and maybe the later construction of their own ships. Of course, that required Jaffa trained in construction or human help, but she knew when offered the minerals Earth would provide such training easily.
"You think the meeting is gonna go much longer?" Buffy asked as they, too, headed up the stairs to the conference room.
"Shouldn't be much longer. By the way, do you want to go out for dinner tonight?" her mom asked.
Buffy couldn't help smiling, "I'd love to." They went to the back of the conference room, to grab the last free chairs, Buffy sitting next to her mom this time. She leaned her head over to rest on her mom's shoulders. She remembered her acceptance of her life -- both her old life, when she was held captive by Thoth, and her new life, as she had found Daniel again and realized the emotions she felt for everyone seated around the table. And the steady heartbeat she felt through the fabric of her mom's jacket was a pleasant reminder of home to all parts of her now. It was almost enough to make her fall asleep, as she started to really relax. Only a serious effort of will kept her from nodding off as Major Davis reported on the ground battle from his point of view.
Teal'c felt as though his arm was burning. Buffy had just hit it with her staff. She was already out of his range, giving him a bewildered look. "Something is wrong, isn't it?" she asked and signaled with her position that their fight was at an end.
"Nothing," he replied, trying to push away the thought of past training bouts with his student, whom he had always been able to at least show how to fight, when she wasn't applying her full strength. Now, with his recent loss, that might no longer be possible.
The door to the gym was torn open and an out-of-breath Jonas dashed inside. "You won't believe it. A boy turned up this morning with Jack's credentials. I was just up in holding. I think it might actually be Jack," he said between heavy breaths.