Buffy and her mom wandered into the conference room, where General Hammond and a collection of SGC officers and Tok'ra were waiting. The heavy steps on the stairs behind her told Buffy that Teal'c was on the way up, too. The only one who wasn't invited was Jack, who was still out delivering Jonathan to his new place of residence. He'd probably be briefed later -- especially since this was an emergency session.
Buffy noticed a Tok'ra display device on the table, which matched the word they’d gotten that it had been the Tok'ra who had called the meeting. Jacob sat next to Hammond at the end of the Table. There weren't enough seats at the table, and several Tok'ra and officers were standing behind their commanding officers. Thinking ahead, Buffy didn't seat herself and instead waited beside the last empty chair, next to where her mom sat. Teal'c strode over and took his seat. She tried to look stoic, which was harder to do intentionally than she’d thought. Doing it both intentionally and constantly for more than a few minutes made her want to laugh.
"Alright, people, listen up. The Tok'ra have a very important report to give. Jacob," General Hammond said and indicated for her Granddad to continue. Buffy noticed he looked very tired.
"During these past three months the Tok'ra and Jaffa in a joint operation retrieved a large set of data from one of Anubis' trusted Goa'uld. We have shared this data with your organization and have since worked to decrypt and analyze it. A few weeks ago the data and other intel allowed us to start planning an operation to infiltrate the main research operation on a planet designated ‘Tartarus’. This operation has been ongoing for the last few days. Four hours ago we finally received word on what was being developed on Tartarus. Our operatives didn't make it out and died to keep secret the source of the operation and how much they had discovered," Jacob explained.
"I'm sorry," Buffy blurted out before she could keep her mouth shut.
"Thank you, dear," Jacob said and continued his report, "Anubis is looking for a replacement for the Jaffa. He has never trusted their effectiveness or their loyalty. He believes he has found a perfect new breed of soldier."
Jacob activated the holographic projector. It showed a black armored figure surrounded by Goa'uld texts. Sentences like "Armor impervious to kinetic, ion and plasma weapons", "Rapid plasma bolt cannon gauntlets" and "Genetic and Mentally modified Goa'uld cloned host." At the bottom in larger fonts it said, "Kull Warrior." Buffy was glad her body featured a Carter-genes-enhanced head trained by the best. She actually understood what those terms meant, and what she was seeing scared her. Those Kull would be able to shrug off all forms of small arms fire, be it from Goa'uld or Earth weapons. They'd be stronger than any Jaffa, maybe even on a par with her, and they'd recover from their wounds quickly. Coupled with the brainwashed loyalty they were a nearly perfect infantry weapon system.
"This is an artificially created and kept alive, genetically modified host being with a strong but brainwashed Goa'uld parasite wrapped in a shell that will protect it against both Tau'ri and Jaffa weaponry. It is completely loyal and extremely powerful, but it has two weaknesses. First: it has a short operation time. The entire thing is physiologically supercharged beyond what even the modified host body can handle, and so the host body dies if it isn't kept in stasis after approximately five days or so of operation. Second: its creation is currently heavily dependent on the Tartarus facility and several rare components. Our data indicates that the creation of prototypes is commencing now , having been delayed by the death of Thoth. If this weapon system is deployed, we will lose horribly -- or rather, lose even faster. We need to strike at Tartarus soon, and that is why we are here today," Jacob explained.
"The main problem is that neither the Tok'ra, Jaffa nor Tau'ri have the fleet strength alone to strike at Tartarus. When not deployed elsewhere, Anubis’ main fleet uses Tartarus as its staging point. We can't attack it directly," Jacob continued.
"So, what you're looking for from all of us is...?" Jonas asked.
"We wanted ask our allies for suggestions and help. None of us can survive long if Anubis gets the Kull warriors into the field," Jacob explained.
"Clearly," Teal'c agreed, sealing the issue for her as well -- at least, officially.
"General?" Buffy's mom asked. Sam seemed to have remembered enough of her Goa'uld to understand what Buffy had understood earlier.
"Alright, we need to come up with a strategy. Colonel Carter, I want an analysis of the capabilities of that thing within the hour. This takes precedence for all departments. Dr. Jackson, coordinate with diplomatic find out if we have any intel on Tartarus. Mr. Quinn, take that data to medical and have them look it over. Jacob, Teal'c, please join me in my office. And someone send word to Jack: tell him to come to my office as soon as he returns," General Hammond said and got up.
Teal'c rose. He bent and whispered into her ear. "Request time on the subspace communicator and contact Master Bra'tac. Tell him what is going on and that I want him to mobilize everything we have or can quickly steal, but not to move before we contact him again," he said. She nodded and strode off at her best speed.
"Ah, Buffy, it pleases me to see you well," Bra'tac's face appeared on her screen. He looked like he was standing on the bridge of an Al'kesh.
"Master Bra'tac, Teal'c has told me to tell you the following. Anubis is creating a new type of warrior using his knowledge of Ancient technology. This warrior is meant to supplant the Jaffa. I believe that would mean that he'd kill all of us as soon as he could after that. The Tau'ri and the Tok'ra are going to destroy the facility where these unnatural warriors are to be made. Teal'c asks that we gather all the forces we can muster for a battle. I wanted to relay his request to you. Master, these warriors are a grave threat, and even one would be able to kill a company of Jaffa or human soldiers without them being able to do much. Anubis has made them immune to the regular weaponry of the Goa'uld, Jaffa, and even the humans," Buffy explained.
"I understand. Tell Teal'c I will gather all our allies together and await word. And good luck to us all," Bra'tac said and cut the connection.
Buffy leaned back and sighed. Suddenly everything felt like May in Sunnydale: all disasters and apocalypses on the horizon. She looked at her watch. No one had given her anything else to do, so she decided it was time for a bit of private time, such as sending a message to a friend.
A few minutes later she was sitting at her desk in the small room designated as hers. It was sparsely decorated with a few pictures of her friends, a supposedly decorative weapon was mounted on the wall, and there were a few shelves over a tiny cot that she had placed in there, just in case. The security department either hadn't found or just tolerated the weapon she had hidden in the foot end of the mattress. Buffy knew some people would consider her paranoid, but given her own and the SGC's history, she was taking no chances. She flipped up her secure laptop. She had an email to write and before it cleared security and censorship, Jonathan would be back from his first day back at High School. She had promised him, after all. She would keep in touch and so would he.
Buffy wondered if she could write anything about the danger her Granddad had informed them off, but knew intellectually that Jonathan could not be told -- especially over unencrypted email. Instead, she filled her mail with vague indications of hard times and remembered to ask lots of questions about his first day at school. Given his years of experience Buffy had a bet going with herself on how long it would be before Jack's clone would have his first girlfriend, and given his genetic heritage how long it would take him to get in and out of trouble.
Buffy's phone rang. She saw that the caller id said, "R&D lab 26," which was SGC code for her mom's personal lab and office.
"Buffy Summers Carter," she said, trying to sound as if she had no idea who was on the other end of the line.
"Damn, I was looking for Buffy Anne. My mistake," her mom replied. There was a pause as they both laughed, "Seriously, though, Buffy: we're going back into the meeting. We think we have a plan. You should head back up to the conference room."
"Thanks for the heads up. Mom?" she asked.
"Yes?" Sam replied.
"What's the idea?" she asked.
"Just come to the meeting, honey," her mom replied.
"Okay, see you in a few minutes," she said and put down the phone. She wondered what her mom had come up with in such a short time. It had barely been half an hour since they had left the first meeting.
"Are you as fond of these meetings as I am?" Jack whispered. He had apparently made it back down in time for this briefing.
"Yeah, Jack, because I’m such a talker. Let me do things. Even plan tactical stuff. But honestly, these things are only fun when mom or someone else has come up with yet another wild, insane plan," Buffy replied as she sat next to him. The briefing looked a whole lot smaller than the previous one. Just SG-1, both generals, and her granddad . . . well, and her, but Buffy liked to count herself as a part of SG-1, official or not.
Buffy noticed her mom pacing near the big TV screen. It looked like they really did have a plan.
"So, Carter, I bet you've come up with some wild scheme again. How are we putting one over on Anubis this time? Stealth, invasion, or are we gonna have our first real space battle?" Jack asked as everyone looked ready.
"Well, sir, we considered several of those options, but both tactical and strategical analysis agrees that Stealth would currently take too long or be next to impossible to arrange," her mom paused and looked at her granddad.
"Anubis has upped his security after the infiltration. We believe he fears what we might have found in Thoth's database. Our access codes are no longer viable, and the force field covering the gate exit is not letting any type of electro-magnetic wave pass," Jacob explained.
"Invasion would then require that we defeat Anubis' protection in orbit. Current intel indicates that this is currently a fleet group made up of over 10 Ha'tak class motherships and the support of a nearly finished second flagship that the small space dock in orbit is building, according to Tok'ra observations. The base itself is seated in very hostile terrain, beneath a powerful-looking force field dome. Any invasion force would also be in danger of meeting the Kull while fighting in what, in the end, could only be Hazmat suits," her mom explained.
"Leaving us the option of blowing the sun again, right?" Jack said.
"No, sir, as I have explained before, the time dilation means that right now the gate wormhole exit hasn't closed from the last time yet, and probably won't in our lifetime," her mom explained.
"So what is your plan, Carter?" Jack asked.
"Actually, sir, Jonas gave me the idea.” Her mom smiled at the short-haired, multi-talented scientist.
"This is the Tartarus solar system," her mom said, and an image of the solar system appeared on the screen. "You'll notice the moon in orbit over the target planet. What we propose to do is launch it at the Tartarus planet. The impact will cause an extinction level event that would guarantee the destruction of the base and most likely a noticeable part of Anubis' fleet," her mom said.
Jack and Hammond sat with their mouths open. Buffy guessed neither had ever thought of a moon as a potential weapon, and Buffy was betting that her mom figured that neither had Anubis. Buffy liked the plan, and -- dependent on a lot of other factors -- it could also rid them of the main bad guy, as well.
"I love it," Jack finally said. "But how are we going to move a moon, Carter? I’m guessing that Anubis is not gonna wait while we mount some big, honking engine on it."
Buffy realized from the reports and stories of SG-1 and her mom's exploits what was actually being planned, but didn't say anything as it was her mom's show.
"Well, no, of course not, sir. What we're planning to do is borrow one of the Tok'ra Ha'tak that have been fitted with a stealth package. It isn't invisible, but it is quite stealthy. We'll then fly up to the moon, extend as much of our hyperspace window around the moon. Recent research of mine has shown that we can setup a small resonator unit on naquadah causing it to resonate and boost existing fields much like it does within a regular hyperdrive. It is a bit like blowing more air into a bubble. We can then use what remains of the Naquadah meteor Anubis launched at us as a large booster and fly the moon at full speed towards Tartarus. Provided the field holds up, we can switch it off a short time later and allow gravity to take hold as we jump away. Given the natural speed of the moon and a bit of vector math, we should be able to see Tartarus cracking open like an egg on our ship's sensors as we leave the system," her mom explained.
"There are a few issues still confronting us, however. The Ha'tak is pretty far from the target, and it would have to travel to Earth, then on to Tartarus. Even with the engines at full power, that trip would take longer than the Tok'ra are immediately comfortable with. We could be hitting an empty base this way, but we see no alternative, either. Further more the field expansion resonator would have to be pretty close to the moon to make the field encompass it. However the Ha'tak creating the field might then be caught in the moon's crash into the planet and be destroyed," Jacob explained.
"I don't know about the Ha'tak, but depending on how large the naquadah lump we'll use is then maybe we could just put the resonator in a Tel'tak and have it fly to the moon with the Ha'tak positioned out of harm's way," Buffy suggested.
"Would that work?" Jack asked. Her mom nodded.
After a few moments. Buffy could see Hammond and Jack getting ready to go off and discuss the plan when Teal'c weighed in. "I see another way. The Jaffa ship protecting Earth can execute this plan with great speed. Our engines have been upgraded using the technology from the Prometheus, and it is here, ready to take on the cargo of Naquadah now," he explained.
"But it would be detected immediately on jumping out of hyperspace without the stealth cover," Jonas said.
"That is a chance we should take to ensure that the abominations Anubis has been preparing to do not get out to murder innocent Jaffa and humans. My warriors will do this task with your help. Leave it to us, please," Teal'c said.
General Hammond stayed silent for a little while, then said: "Alright, I see no better plan on the table. Colonel Carter, get everything ready. I will call the Joint Chiefs and the President to get permission to move the naquadah. General O'Neill, please join me in your office," Hammond said and got up.
Buffy watched them leave. "Buffy, come with me. We have to go get our ship ready," Teal'c said.
"Coming," she replied and headed for the ring platform nearby with her friend.
They were halfway down into the corridor leading from the Gate control room into the main corridors. "Buffy, wait up," her mom called out. Teal'c gave her a look and headed on ahead. She guessed he wanted to give her time with her mom, although Buffy had no idea what her mom wanted.
"Sure," she replied and stopped.
"That attack on Tartarus . . . are you coming with us?" Her mom asked, looking as if she feared the answer.
"Yeah, Teal'c wants to go with his ship, and so I’m coming, too. At least I think so," she replied. She realized this was the moment she had dreaded coming. When she'd have to really choose between family and her destiny. She would again have to turn down her chance at safety to fulfill her destiny. It came sooner or later in every universe, it seemed. If there was one thing she dreaded more than anything, it was the feeling of loss she got when she disappointed her family members by putting everyone else ahead of them. The look on their faces always killed her.
Her mom ran a hand through her short blond hair, seemingly wrangling with her feelings for a few moments. "Promise me you'll come back okay, okay?" her mom said.
Buffy pulled her taller mom into a hug, feeling all warm inside. "Thank you for understanding... And I promise I will," she said.
Buffy turned and took a few steps before stopping. "What about the rest of SG-1?" she asked.
"Jack had an idea and just told me. We're taking the Prometheus in ahead of you to distract as much of Anubis' fleet as we can. I’m shipping out in a few hours, after I get a transport ship with the Naquadah and my resonator over to your ship," her mom said.
"See you on the other side, then... And, mom, what you said to me . . . that goes for you, too," she said.
"I promise," her mom replied and went up the steps into the Command Center, while Buffy turned and ran to catch up with Teal'c.
Buffy felt slightly uncomfortable and exposed in her Jaffa armor. It seemed Teal'c had even found a helmet for her. She had tried activating the hawk helmet once, but the lack of vision it forced on her was practically unbearable, although Teal'c swore that in many cases her helmet was better than regular eyes at seeing things no human could, such as heat signatures and the like. She didn't really care to test the theory. Still, seeing it folding away to be nothing more than a golden collar on her shoulders was impressive.
The ship dubbed The Vengeance of Generations in Goa'uld by its owners was ready, and the last civilian and Tok'ra personnel had gotten off a few minutes ago. A transport ship filled with Naquadah was landing at the moment, and Teal'c was chatting with a happy-looking Jack aboard the Prometheus, with her mom standing behind him. The image cut off.
"We should tell Master Bra'tac to stop gathering his ships," she said remembering that the old warrior was still readying for a big battle.
"No, we should tell him to be ready to come to the defense of Chulak or Earth, if Anubis should survive our attack," Teal'c said.
Buffy remembered her many hours of training with the large warrior while he drilled the behavior of her primary enemy into her head. The Goa'uld were proud and vindictive to a fault. "Of course... Do you think the SGC knows what this might lead to?" she asked.
"I believe they know, deep down. But the Tau'ri like to hope for the best. Still, we have no choice. The abominations cannot be allowed to spread into the Galaxy," Teal'c said.
"True," she agreed.
"I want you to fly us out of here," Teal'c said and offered her his space at the main console.
Buffy thought it over. That meant she'd be flying a mothership, at least for a while. Of course, there were two or three better candidates on the bridge, but no one looked like they minded. That could just be Jaffa stoicism, but she hoped it was okay. "Cool, but you know you have to show me how," she said.
"Indeed. But then that is how we all learn," Teal'c said as she placed her hand in the control alcove and before her eyes an image appeared, showing many more details of the ship than were visible if you just looked at the main display. She hadn't known that the bridge of a Ha'tak had a telepathic kind of interface, but it made sense. It even looked to her like her hand was on some sort of large display. Quickly reading the texts she figured out how to set the speed and hyperspace coordinates, which were controlled much like on the other kinds of Goa'uld ships. There was also an activation button for the tactical console and direct control over the weapons. Somewhere in her mind the information on how to use the weapons and how best to aim them starting appearing.
Teal'c started explaining the controls from memory, starting with how she could set a course for Tartarus and activate the hyperdrive. The controls were easy, but then they were meant for a people that were kept in the dark about the truths of the technology that surrounded them.
They were about an hour from Tartarus, she figured. She had taken a short nap and returned to the bridge, where Ma'chak -- one of the Jaffa pilots -- was behind the controls. Teal'c was standing behind him, looking like a lonely stone giant overlooking the blue-white hyperspace in front of the view screen.
"Teal'c, you've been avoiding a couple of issues," she said.
"Which ones, Buffy?" he asked.
"The Naquadah needs to get down on the moon fast, and you need to be here to pilot the mothership. Putting the transport down on remote is too risky. And I am sure we'd like to keep that lump of precious metal for later too. All things aside, you're the best mothership pilot we have. You should let me fly the transport down," she said. She wanted to be the one to pilot the mothership, but she also was quite aware of the fact that it would be a mistake for her to think she could fly the giant hunk of metal after only a short introduction to the main console. And this way at least she felt like she was doing more than just sightseeing on this mission.
"I know. But to send you in the transport requires me to go back on my promise to keep you safe, Buffy. Your mother would be very displeased with me. And I do not like it, either. You'd have to escape on your own, as we would not have time to await your return after the jump. My heart bids me to send someone else, but my soul says you are the only small craft pilot I have who could, I think, fly a transport through the ensuing chaos safely," he said.
Buffy realized she hadn't thought about that. She was trained in most types of space-going crafts from her time on the Prometheus, but that had all been done on the Asgard simulators. She was good at flying the X-302s and X-305s. She could fly an Al'kesh and a Tel'tak with ease, but she didn't consider herself any better than any other pilots. "You're saying you want me to fly the transport, too, but can't get yourself to ask me to do it?" She asked.
"Yes," Teal'c agreed.
Buffy took a deep breath. "I want to fly that transport, Teal'c. Don't worry about me. I'll just fly clear when we get out of hyperspace and kick my own drive into gear. With all that Naquadah aboard I should make it back before you guys do, with time to spare. I won't be in any more danger down there than I would be up here," she said.
Teal'c thought it over, "Fine, but if you see us damaged or destroyed you're ordered not to come to our rescue. You take that ship and its cargo back to your planet." He looked quite serious about it.
"Yes, Master," she deadpanned, then stared at her wristwatch which she had to admit looked very out of place on her Jaffa outfit. "I should go down to the transport and make sure it’s in good shape," she said.
"Yes," Teal'c agreed.
Buffy stopped and turned to walk back to the big black man. She leaned against his armored back and reached around him, giving him a warm hug that he could feel even through his armor. "In case you don't see me again or I don't see you. I love you like family, Teal'c," she said.
Teal'c patted her hands softly and said in a low voice so the other Jaffa couldn't hear: "I love you like a daughter, too, Buffy Summers. Be safe. I will see you back at the mountain."
"It is time," Teal'c’s voice said over the communicator. Buffy nodded to herself and watched the docking bay doors open. Outside the stars were still moving fast as the ship slowed down from hyperspeed. She activated the thrusters, and the transport powered out of the Ha'tak at a good clip. The sensors lit up.
Several hostile Ha'tak were firing at what could only be the Prometheus engaging the patrol above Tartarus. Small swarms of Deathgliders were flying around the green dot on her radar like a cloud of tiny red pixels. Below, a large blue icon indicated the position of the moon, but she didn't need the sensors to tell her that. The nosedive she was performing had already brought the moon into view.
Their Ha'tak was moving a lot like her transport ship, albeit naturally slower. Teal'c had sent her a set of coordinates. She flew down at full speed and pulled up just at the last moment, settling in underneath the growing shadow of the Ha'tak. On her sensors she could see the Prometheus moving off at high speed, finally jumping out. She breathed a sigh of relief at seeing her mom leaving to safety.
"Buffy, we are starting now. Get ready," Teal'c said. She tensed. All around her there was a moment of breathless anticipation. The air smelled like warm metal. She knew that somewhere behind her the Naquadah in the cargo hold and her mom's little device was amplifying the hyperspace field of the Ha'tak to a much bigger size. Nothing seemed to be happening.
An alarm started blaring. A small swarm of Deathgliders was on the way towards them. Several orange bolts of energy flew past silently. There was a large surge that threw her back into her seat.
The ship was in hyperspace only for a short moment, but it was long enough. The blue of hyperspace disappeared, replaced by something a lot like the sound of a gong. The transport jerked around as the world outside seemed to explode into fire. She looked up and saw that the jump had fired them directly into Tartarus' atmosphere. "Fuck! Something went wrong with the jump," she cursed and hammered the ship into drive as the moon seemed to disintegrate around her.
She hoped that Teal'c was able to do the same, but really there was nothing she could do but get herself to safety. She flew forward. She let her mind relax, and her Slayer nature took over. Instincts hardwired to move out of harm’s way guided her hands as she jerked left and right, dodging mountain-sized chunks of slowly melting rock, as well as pieces of torn-apart Deathgliders that had been taken along for the ride.
She lost her hold on time and just reacted. She would never be able to tell how long her flight took, but at last she came free of the debris of the moon and flew towards the sky, heading into space. She didn't get to see the moon plow into the planet, hitting almost exactly next to Anubis' base, cracking open the planet as the moon moved into it like the planetary equivalent of a speeding bullet. She didn't see it become a red-hot ball of fire as the atmosphere evaporated from the generated heat and the core of the world spilled onto the rocky surface. Instead, she set the coordinates for Earth and jumped out, sensing that to stay for a look around would have been a mistake. So she didn't see the arc of Ha'tak gunfire that hailed onto the position she had just vacated, her ship entering hyperspace at vastly greater speeds than normal. The resonator was indiscriminate about what hyperspace fields it extended.
His God's presence filled the room with cold anger as the flagship jumped into the Tartarus system near the gathering point for the fleet. His Lord's other ships hovered over the massive asteroid field created by the sudden attack in a silent vigil for the loss. His lord bent forward -- he could hear from the rustle of his clothes. "Do they know who did this to me?" Anubis asked, his calm voice, he was sure, a deceptive illusion.
"Yes, my lord. Our agents have verified that the unknown ship is a Tau'ri design from the writing on its surface, and the other one was the ship captured by the Rebel Jaffa over Thoth's destroyed base -- the rebel movement which is based around the Shol'va Teal'c and his trainer, an old warrior named Bra'tac," he said. He was looking forward to what he was sure would be said in the next moments.
"This is intolerable," Anubis said. "This affront must be punished. Heed my words, First Prime," his god commanded.
He turned and knelt before his master, as the god continued to speak. "Call my battle fleet together. Have Osiris defend my realms with the rest of my ships. Then we will punish them. I have tarried too long in exacting my revenge on the Tau'ri and those pathetic rebels. We know of their secrets; now we will use our knowledge," Anubis commanded, and his voice was filled with anger.
She, Jack, Daniel and Jonas arrived on the ring platform. They had made it out with the Prometheus scratched but intact. They had managed to see Teal'c arrive, but they hadn't gotten the chance to find out how things had worked. Sam expected they'd hear about the result from the Tok'ra soon or later.
They took a step off the platform. "I hope Teal'c and Buffy make it back alright," Jonas said.
"They'll be fine. We'll find out in a few hours, at the latest," she said.
"Actually, I don't know if Teal'c and the mothership are fine, but I am," Buffy said, sauntering into the ring room of the SGC with a teasing smile on her lips.
"Honey, how did you get back here so fast?" Sam asked, and ran forward to embrace her daughter without waiting for an answer.
"Large pile of Naquadah and a transport ship: fast combo, really," her daughter said as they hugged. They stood there in silence for a moment.
"Seriously, though," Buffy said as they stepped apart, "I don't know if Teal'c made it out alright. The jump went wrong and we ended up just inside the atmosphere of Tartarus. I had to fly like a mad woman to make it out through the stones and crap that was melting all around me."
"The big guy will pull through. He always does," Jack said, but Sam knew that although no one showed it they were all equally worried. Fortunately, she at least had her daughter back home safely. She had worried about letting Buffy go, knowing the moment that Teal'c had volunteered the Jaffa for the mission that he'd entrust Buffy with the job that he, due to his position of leadership, couldn't do himself: flying the transport to the moon. She hadn't told Buffy before she left, because she had held out some fragile hope that her daughter would not do something like that.
An Airman ran into the room, skidded to a stop to salute her and Jack, then turned towards her daughter. "Miss Carter, there is an urgent call for you on the subspace transmitter. Some sort of emergency."
Buffy didn't even blink or complain; she just broke into a mad, world-record-breaking dash out of the room.
"Airman, explain!" Jack commanded.
"Yes, sir. About 5 minutes ago we received an emergency broadcast from Chulak. Master Bra'tac called for Miss Carter or Mister Teal'c," the Airman explained.
"This is bad," Daniel said. Sam could only nod.
"We should see if there is something we can do," Jonas suggested. Jack nodded, and they ran in the direction of the subspace communicator room.
"Bra'tac, I'm here," Buffy called out as soon as she could grab the mike and speak.
"It is good to hear your voice, my friend. As Teal'c bade me before your attack on Anubis, I have set the fleet to protecting Chulak. And it was well I did. Over the last half hour several of Anubis' ships have arrived in the system, attempting to get into position for an attack on us. We can hold them off for now, but if a fleet comes -- and I believe it is sure to come -- then Chulak will burn. Wait. . . .
“More ships are arriving. By the Gods, there are hundreds! I am sorry. I hoped you could help us, but against this there is no hope. Live well, little warrior. I will see you in the afterlife. I die free," Bra'tac said and cut the transmission.
Buffy turned to see her mom and Jack standing in the doorway. They had arrived a few moments ago and couldn't have heard much of Bra'tac's message. "We've gotta go and rescue him. If he and the Rebels leave through the gate or on their ships, Anubis might be satisfied with a complete surrender, rather than planetary obliteration," she said and immediately thought about the path from the secured communications room to the armory, then to the gate.
"You heard her. Carter, get your boys in gear and get that thick-headed old Jaffa to safety. He's gotta learn that the Rebellion needs him to live a little longer," Jack said, then sighed. "I would have liked having Teal'c here now," he said.
"It'll be at least an hour before the Ha'tak is due back. We should move up the schedule for getting a communicator aboard, sir," her mom suggested. Buffy walked out past Jack and her mom, finding Jonas and Daniel standing right behind them.
"Come on then, SG-1," her mom said. Together they headed out to get ready, while Jack went to get the Gate ready.
The "gate open" warning sirens were blaring as Buffy hurried into the room, again dressed in her Jaffa uniform but carrying a regular rifle, a zat, and a couple of big knives instead of a staff weapon. She didn't stop to wait for any goodbyes from Jack or for the rest of SG-1 to gather. Buffy just continued through the gate at a brisk jog.
The universe of stars and the tunnel of light flared in front of her eyes, and Buffy emerged into a firefight. Several of what looked like Anubis' loyalists were huddled around the gate, cut off from their route home by the SGC dialing in, she guessed. Several groups of Rebel Jaffa -- her allies -- were firing on the improvised cover of a tumbled-over pillar. Several wounded, dying, or dead Jaffa were strewn on the ground all around. She tried to ignore the gruesome image in front of her eyes and instead reacted immediately, unleashing her capacity for violence with casual ease. Moving so fast she was almost a blur, she hammered into a rising Jaffa, flinging him into the air towards the firing Rebels. Another one tried to turn to meet her assault, but she easily knocked him away before quick-drawing her zat and firing once into the last one conscious or alive at the position she had just attacked.
It was clear that several other places around the Stargate were occupied by attacking Anubis loyalists. Buffy ducked behind the pillar to avoid a couple of blasts coming her way. The by now familiar sound of someone exiting the gate alerted her to her mom's team arriving. "Get behind cover!" she yelled.
Thankfully, SG-1 was in good shape and experienced with combat at a Stargate. Daniel headed for the DHD with Jonas, while her mom threw herself down next to Buffy. They both got their rifles ready. Her mom squinted, then fired a short burst of rounds from her P-90, easily taking out a Jaffa in spite of his cover. Again, the precision of the human rifles proved superior. Buffy followed suit.
"Daniel, Anubis might try to dial in again. Dial out to the SGC; we need to keep the connection up," her mom yelled.
Buffy put her rifle against her shoulder and laid down a hail of gunfire to keep the Jaffa behind their cover as Daniel tried to dial the DHD. Jonas and her mom followed suit immediately after. With a satisfying ‘whoosh!’ the gate opened.
The firefight continued to be a stand-off for a while; then there were several staff blasts from the bushes behind Anubis' Jaffa, and the fight quickly and messily ended. Al'rak -- the Jaffa who had made her welcome in the first Jaffa camp she stayed at, way before her adventure with the Prometheus and the exile on Vindgloed – came out of the bushes, followed by the rest of the surprise relief force "Hello, young warrior. I am glad to see you again," he said.
"Wish it was under better circumstances, old friend. I'd have thought Master Bra'tac would have had you up in the sky fighting with him," Buffy said in Goa'uld.
"He did. My ship was damaged and we had to land it nearby. We are under heavy attack. You should not be here. You are in danger, Buffy Summers," Al'rak said.
"Friend, I know you have sworn to protect me. Right now I don't need your protection: I need your help. Bra'tac is feeling his age and wishes to go out in a blaze of glory. But it is before his time. We can't afford losing him right now," she said rapidly.
"I see. What do you propose?" Al'rak asked.
"A ruse, and it will anger him. I will send out orders making it look like they come from Teal'c, so that he'll be forced to withdraw. We need to leave this world and let the other Jaffa surrender. That way, maybe Anubis will let them live. We should let anyone who wants to do so relocate off-planet, to whatever safe location we can get them to agree on. Mom, you know any semi-safe place right now that could take up a butt-load of refugees?" she asked.
Her mom looked lost in concentration for a while. "Yeah, there is one place. We could send them to the Gamma site. It’s safe, stocked, and one of our fallback points," her mom suggested.
Buffy grimaced. It seemed her mom hadn't yet realized what Buffy had guessed the minute she had heard Bra'tac talk about Anubis attacking Chulak. "No, we're gonna need that ourselves soon enough," she said bluntly.
Her mom stared at her for a while, then nodded, "Okay, then I guess we could send them to Harlan and his underground complex. He needs the help anyway, and no one would expect them there."
"Harlan?" Buffy asked. She had no idea who her mom was talking about.
"The guy that made robotic copies of me, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c," her mom replied.
It seemed there was yet another story she hadn't heard yet. Buffy made a mental note to ask at a better time, "O-o-okay, maybe someone should go give him a heads up."
"I'll go," Daniel said, "I remember the coordinates. I'll dial them after this sequence. I guess you guys have somewhere to be."
"We really do. Al'rak, can you get me somewhere where I could reach Bra'tac?" Buffy asked.
The big Jaffa nodded.
"Alright, Jonas, you, and I are going to try and convince as many civilians as we can that they should evacuate," her mom said.
"I'll come as soon as I’m done lying to Bra'tac," Buffy said, and followed Al'rak.
"In here, Slayer," Al'rak said.
"Thanks," Buffy replied, while she felt a shiver go down her spine. It had been years since she had been addressed that way. It had been one of Spike's favorite names for her. She guessed Teal'c had shared her history with Al'rak at some point in the past. The Jaffa pointed her to a still-working comm console in his downed Al'kesh. She activated it and dialed in the latest communication codes used by the Jaffa Rebels. It helped being the right-hand girl of the Rebellion's leader.
"Chulak calling Bra'tac. Please reply, a.s.a.p.," she said, and after a few moments repeated her message.
There was significant background noise on the reply when it arrived, "Buffy Summers, I am surprised to hear your voice." Bra'tac said.
"Bra'tac, listen, I returned here with Teal'c. He's headed to the main city to proclaim what I am telling you. Out of necessity the Rebels have to withdraw now and leave what will survive of Chulak to Anubis. It's the only way to stop him from destroying everything. You have to order the fleet to regroup at a safe location, while we take everyone on the ground through the gate. However, if you could hold off Anubis' landing parties for a while, that would be helpful," she lied.
"Why would he order a retreat from his home world?" Bra'tac asked.
"Because it is his home world. The False God won't live for long, but for his reign to end, Master Bra'tac, the Rebels cannot throw lives and ships away. It is your duty to live to fight another day. Anything else would just be abandoning your post and your duty. We fight for each other, Master Bra'tac, but if we are to do that, there was to be someone alive to do the fighting," she said.
There was a long pause. "Fine, Buffy Summers. I will comply with... your idea. I know that Teal'c would never have done things this way or sent you to tell me something like this if he was truly here. One day, we will have words about your attempt at deception, but until then I have things to do. I will be at the carcass of Ra's first colony with the fleet, awaiting word," Bra'tac said.
"Okay... And Bra'tac, thank you," she said, while her mind figured out that Bra'tac had meant he would take the fleet to Abydos. It had been burned by Anubis, but had been slowly rebuilt with a hidden base for the Jaffa at Teal'c's suggestion.
"Just rescue as many as you can, child. I fear that no matter what your thought may be, Anubis might not show any mercy at all," Bra'tac said.
"I know," she agreed. The connection was overwhelmed again by static and she pressed the off button.
"Listen, we have to prepare for Deathglider strafing runs at the Stargate. The enemy will try to hurt as many refugees as they can to slow us down," she told Al'rak.
"We have an idea. Teal'c gave us the Deathglider weapon and showed us how the Tau'ri rigged it so that it could be fired by hand. We do not all have Teal’c’s strength, but we do have the weapons, and my Jaffa are willing to use them. We just have to go and get them," he said.
"Great idea, let's go," Buffy agreed.
Sam looked out over the huge crowd of Jaffa warriors and their families, all running in a more or less orderly retreat towards the gate. It was a testament to the hardship and disciplined nature of Jaffa life that everyone seemed to take the relocation in stride. But then again, given what Teal'c had told her about Apophis' history of losing many battles against Ra and having to relocate his home world, maybe the Jaffa of Chulak had no problem with leaving their frigid forested lands. But when she looked at their faces she realized that wasn't really the case. She hoped Daniel had gotten everything explained to Harlan and that the crazy robot didn't do anything too stupid.
Suddenly, there was a series of explosions in the distance before she even heard the buzz of a passing Deathglider. For a moment she wished she had taken the time to bring more men, or even swung by the SGC armory for SAMs of some sort, but there was nothing she could do except watch as a trio of Deathgliders caused death and devastation in the ranks of the fleeing Jaffa. Several of the more level-headed warriors knelt and fired their staff weapons after the attackers, but none of the shots even came close. She even tried firing her rifle, more to do something than actually expecting to cause damage.
There was a flaming explosion in front of her and Sam was thrown on her ass, dirt spraying up all around her. She coughed a bit and got up a bit shaken. The shot had nearly taken out the DHD. Anubis' followers had probably figured out that they didn't control the gate and were now concerned about taking it out.
She watched as another two deathgliders joined the three from earlier as they swung around in a curve, heading in for another attack run from the end of the refugee train towards the gate and herself. She closed her eyes for a moment, considering if she really wanted to see more people roasted alive without her being able to do much about it. She wished she was at home, where they had at least gotten around to building as many F-302s and her F-305s as they could manage with their budget and time constraints. There was a sound of rumbling explosions overhead. Sam looked up in surprise, expecting to maybe see friendly Deathgliders. Instead, she saw a stream of energy bolts being fired from the forest that surrounded the path for the gate. Several streams, actually. One Deathglider after another was picked from the sky.
One survived, though, damaged but still able to maneuver and fly. She watched as it picked up speed and started to dive. Right for her.
"Take cover!" she yelled and tried to push a Jaffa and his wife through the gate when she looked over her shoulder and realized she was about to stand in the path of a hypersonic aircraft. For a moment she could see the Jaffa inside the cockpit looking like he was either screaming or laughing. Then there was only fire.
Sam was thrown against the steps to the Stargate. "I expected this to hurt more," she thought and opened her eyes. There was a huge pile of burning wreckage in a long furrow to her left. There were Jaffa wounded. Sam just checked herself before she tried getting up. "Jonas?" she asked.
"Pretty much in one piece, Colonel," her friend answered, his voice coming from the right side of the gate.
"Phew! Thought I lost you there," a happy-sounding Buffy said, walking over with a huge gun slung in a strap and held in her right hand. It looked insane to see her own daughter standing with a weapon as long as her and brandishing it like it was a paperweight.
"You did that?" she asked.
"Yeah. Couldn’t let you go back on any promises, could I?" Buffy said. Sam smiled back and nodded.
"How are things going?" she asked.
"Bra'tac is covering our escape for as long as he can, before he heads to the hidey hole he and Teal'c set up," Buffy explained.
"You really think Anubis will show mercy?" she asked.
"God, no, and neither do the Jaffa, from what I can see here. But better lose a little now and fight again later than going out in some sort of blaze of glory," Buffy explained.
"Yeah," she agreed.
"So for now, I am this area's anti-aircraft gun. At least until I run out of power for my beauty here. This is nice work, mom," Buffy said.
"Thanks, but it is really just a salvaged Deathglider cannon with a power supply," she said.
"Ever considered hooking one up to one of your small naquadah generators?" Buffy asked, apparently capable of making small talk while she kept her eyes scanning the heavens above.
"Yeah, but that would be too heavy for . . . well, anyone but you," she said.
"Think about it. It would be a really big gun," Buffy said with a bright smile.
"Don't tell me that you have the same thing with weapons as you have for shoes?" she asked.
"God, no, you don't see me having several closets full of weapons that I take out just to try on and put away again, do you?" Buffy replied and lifted her gun as a ship appeared on the horizon.
"Well, I guess not, but then you have always had an unhealthy attraction to the SGC armory," she replied.
"Heh," Buffy said and looked increasingly focused. Sam chose not to say more for the moment. Instead, she went back to helping Jonas get people and wounded to the gate.
"Buffy, we're leaving!" Sam called out. She was out of ammo and the Deathgliders were coming in ever bigger swarms. There were some stragglers left from the fleeing Jaffa, but Sam was afraid with Bra'tac gone they'd be subject to bombardment at any moment.
"Buffy, this is not a waiting game," she said. A huge bolt of orange energy confirmed it. The bottom of a Ha'tak appeared out of the clouds.
"Now!" she commanded, as Buffy looked indecisive, her eyes pained by the sight of the still arriving refugees running for their only chance at survival.
"But . . ." Buffy said looking towards a nearby family.
"No, you don't have the luxury of dying in some grand gesture either. You still have things to do. Through the gate, now!" she commanded again. Buffy looked at her with utter despair in her eyes, but did as she was told and ran for the gate. Sam backed in as well. Jonas had gone ahead. Only one or two Jaffa were left, and there could only be moments before the gate closed.
They were surrounded by the blue swirls of the wormhole before they emerged underground at Harlan's. Sam heard the robot give his normal greeting, but she didn't have time for much except saying, "Quickly, someone dial Earth."
Daniel nodded and started dialing. Buffy was talking to Al'rak in Goa'uld for a while before the gate opened. "See you soon," her daughter said.
"Sorry to dump these people and run, but we need to get back to Earth and report in. We'll come help with the resettlement and everything soon," she promised.
Buffy was thanked profusely by several Jaffa, but she also seemed to be in a hurry to get back to Earth.
As they arrived at the SGC Sam leaned over and asked, "Why the hurry to get back here? Didn't you want to help get things settled?"
"I would love to, but Al'rak and that Harlan fellow have to handle it. I have a bad feeling that Chulak will only be the start," Buffy said.
"Welcome back," Teal'c said in his deep voice as they walked down the gangway. Jack was not far behind the Jaffa, coming in from the corridor outside.
"Good to see you again," Sam said with both Daniel and Jonas echoing the sentiment. Jack nodded.
"I am so tired," Buffy complained.
"Ah-ah-ah, there is paper work to do before any rest. But first, everyone over to Fraiser's. I am sure you're looking forward to yet another examination," Jack said.
"Oh, yeah. Say, don't we get an overdose of X-rays or something from all the pictures they snap of us?" Buffy asked.
"Actually, the scanner is not an X-ray. I know because I studied the manual of its operation. I am considering getting field medic training," Jonas said.
"Good idea. I’ve had a couple of courses and a butt-load of on-the-job training, but maybe I should get a bit more formal instruction," Buffy said as she left with Jonas, talking about the advantages of a medic on a field team.
"So?" Jack asked.
"Not a total disaster, sir, unless you're a landowner on Chulak. We had to take the Rebellion off Chulak, but I don't know if it will be enough," she admitted.
"I am sorry," she told Teal'c.
"It was a wise decision. One day, we will return to our land and own it as free men," he replied.
"She is getting to be very good at all of this," Daniel said.
"Buffy even talked Bra'tac into not throwing his life away," she said.
"Good for her," Jack said, and after a moment or two, "and him too, of course."
"I shall try and make contact with him soon. Where is he?" Teal'c asked.
"He's with your fleet. Al'rak is leading the refugees from Chulak. Buffy said something about you'd all meet up at your hidey hole," she said.
"Ah," Teal'c replied and walked away looking not pleased, but at least not angry.
"Me thinks he's got a secret," Jack said.
"You'd be right, sir, but that is the prerogative of foreign powers. It's up to us to decide if we want to try and find out what it is," she said.
"Jack, the Jaffa are probably not trying to hide it from us. It probably just hasn't occurred to them to tell us yet. With Jaffa, you often just have to ask," Daniel said.
"Nah, not now, on both counts. You should both get some rest. Hammond and I want to address what threat Anubis might represent to us as soon as you two have been checked out and caught at least a few minutes of sleep. By the way, Carter, your dad has brought us a few bits of good news," Jack said.
"What news?" she asked.
"Tartarus is an asteroid belt. Oh, and the Tok'ra know the location of a library of the Ancients," Jack said.
"Really, maybe we could use it to find Atlantis," Daniel suggested.
"Gee, Daniel that hadn't occurred to me," Jack said.
Buffy lay on her office cot and slept fitfully.
"Here we are again, full-on sense and surround-sound dreaming. Hello, prophecy!" Buffy thought and looked around. She was standing in what looked like an abandoned version of the SGC with the Stargate open.
"I don't work that way," the Universe -- looking like Tara again -- told her.
"That'd be nice," Buffy said and faced it.
"You're at a crossroads. You have a duty. But there is great danger. I am sorry for that, but you have to do something soon. It will be hard, but I promise it will make sense and be meaningful," the Universe explained, smiling one of those shy smiles that Buffy had always found endearing in Tara.
"So we're back to cryptic?" she asked.
"Go through the gate and let your abilities show you a glimpse of the future.” Buffy blinked, and the Tara copy disappeared. She walked to the gate and stepped through it.
She saw a fleet so large she had never believed it possible. She saw it hovering over the Earth. She saw their brave defense and then she saw her destiny.
Buffy woke with a gasp and looked at the time. It was nearly midnight. She checked her hair in her mirror, correcting a few details, before she got up and headed out.
General Hammond wanted to be at home with his wife. He wanted to be relaxing in a chair with a good biography or sleeping in his actual bed. But with SG-1 and Jack off looking into a library of the Ancients with Jacob as a guide, the Jaffa Rebellion in a rout, and now Anubis dialing in every few minutes blocking their access to the Stargate network, he was not going to get any rest soon. He knew he could be heading for the worst battles of his career. He had already given out the first orders of that battle. The entire US and Russian military apparatus was on high alert. The Prometheus was getting prepped for another battle. Their meager but still existent space-going fleet was ready to launch at a few minutes’ notice. Yet, as he stood in his office overlooking the darkened gate room with the blue light of the wormhole hidden behind their iris and watched by both his solders and his scientists, he could only think about how he still couldn't get himself to expect it all to be enough.
"Sir," a young girl's voice said. He turned around in the darkened room. In front of him stood Buffy Summers. She said, "I have a plan to destroy Anubis when he comes."