Sam stared over the pile of papers that she had to fill out. The amount of red tape she had to go through, just because their allies and her dad wanted her daughter to visit off-world, was astounding. Worst of all, it wasn't as though she’d actually had oodles of free time to take care of things since they'd made the request.
First there had been that weird TV show that had been made, and then everything had been further slowed down by Teal'c’s predicament of getting stuck in the gate. That had given her a lot of pause at the time, fearing what Buffy would think if something like that happened to her. Buffy swore she was fine, and her psychologist Karen Wilder -- a nice woman who also serviced a lot of other personnel out of the SGC -- said that Buffy gave every indication of being able to handle the events during their recent kidnapping and their upcoming trip. Karen had even said that Buffy would be capable of handling a lot more than just a single trip through the gate. Her little girl seemingly had prepared herself mentally for things like danger and aliens, and had even spent a lot of time trying to understand how the Tok'ra symbiote and their host could get along all the time.
She sighed and picked up the next paper that she had to read or sign. She didn't really want to, but Buffy was psyched about the trip now, while her own enthusiasm had faded along with her fears of another NID kidnapping attempt, which had been allayed by Jack's capture of Simmons and his pet Goa'uld during the Teal'c-stuck-in-the-gate thing. She still, from time to time, thought about her dad's offer, and she certainly wanted to keep her options open, but for now she was no longer planning to move Buffy off Earth.
As she signed the paper she mused that it was astounding to her, when she actually thought about it rationally rather than emotionally, what she had been considering. It had to be the mother in her. Still, she did want to have the general move her off the active roster at some point. Buffy needed her home every day, not every few days, although it wasn't all that bad recently.
There was a knock on her door, and Jack walked in. "Carter, they've moved the schedule up. The Tok'ra want us to come now. Apparently they have some new scheme against the Goa'uld. We are having the mission briefing in 4 hours, and the Tok'ra will fill us in when we get there. You'd better go get Buffy," he said.
"Yes, sir," she half sighed as she rose.
"Listen, you still don't have to bring her along. They say they have several things they want to talk to us about, including a mission of grave importance. SG-17 is coming along to get their ‘Introduction to the Tok'ra’ tour. Poor them," he said.
"Right, sir... Jack, if they try anything with Buffy--," she said.
Jack just gave her a humorless smile. "Me, Teal'c, and all of SG-17 had a little chat earlier. If they so much as mention something you don't like, you just say the word, and we'll get out of there, guns blazing if need be," he said.
"The general is right, sir. You really should take your diplomacy courses more seriously," she replied as she grabbed her jacket and headed for the door.
"Oh, I study the videos very intently, Carter," Jack said as she stopped, remembering something.
"Sir, I am not done with the paperwork to get Buffy cleared for gate travel. Could you...?" she asked, and dared to put a bit of the pout in her voice, as Buffy often did, and stared pleadingly at him.
Jack gave her a startled look. "Of course, Carter," he stammered. She rewarded him with a brilliant smile and left before he figured out what she had just done to him. It was amazing what you could learn about wheedling favors from people by watching an eleven-year-old.
She arrived at the school and quickly went in. She knew that she probably looked strange in her BDUs and glasses, arriving in a SVU like the one she was in, and the looks on the High School kids’ faces were confirming it. Buffy was at the Air Force Academy High most of her time these days. On the advice of the specialists that she paid to keep an eye on Buffy's education, not to mention Karen, she had moved Buffy up to advanced placement in all her courses except French, which seemed to keep eluding her daughter and which remained Buffy's only ‘C’ subject.
She walked into the High School. The halls were filled with students milling about. She glanced at her watch. It was the beginning of the lunch break. She showed her ID to the security guard, who waved her past, recognizing her from their recent security briefing. She walked on by, while trying to recall exactly where her daughter would be coming from and going to next. She didn't have to look long, though -- she just had to look down the hall.
Buffy came towards her with her, riotous curls in a loose ponytail and a large strand falling into her face. She loved how her daughter looked dressed in a practical pair of black pants, a white t-shirt over a half open shirt and a jacket. It was conscious fashion choice for Buffy, she knew that much. Buffy had done it to appear older, although an eleven-year- old about to enter puberty and already growing quickly was still standing out so much that it seemed everyone knew of her daughter. She noticed that Buffy was earning looks and greetings as she progressed down the hall.
"Buffy," she called out.
Buffy looked up from greeting a pair of girls and waved to her. "Mom!" she yelled and ran towards her. Sam saw the little things that the other people didn't when her daughter moved, though. Buffy dashed through the crowd. But what people didn't notice in her passing was the coordination with which she moved. She saw Buffy literally slipping in and out between the crowd of students, only brushing a few while moving almost 15 yards down a crowded high school hallway. She smiled as Buffy stopped next to her and grinned.
"Hey," she said and lifted Buffy into her arms for a few moments. She didn't give a damn about any of the smiles of the people around her or the initial eye roll of Buffy. She did notice the pleasant smell of Buffy's favorite vanilla-scented perfume and her daughter's warm breath into her shoulder.
"Why are you here? Is something up?" Buffy asked, as Sam put her daughter down. She noticed Buffy had probably grown several inches since the day she had first found her in a bed aboard an Al'kesh.
"Well, your granddad called and said if you want to see him, then we have to go today. So we need to check you out of the school, get home for your bags, and then we'll swing by the SGC," she explained.
"Really, today...? But I haven't gotten ready. I wanted to have my hair cut, and I don't have any..." Buffy babbled, but she just quietly put a finger to her daughter's lips.
"I've got clothes for you. They were a gift from Jack," she said and smiled at the memory of the small package he had given her for fun a few days ago.
It had a miniature set of SGC-marked Air Force BDUs. Jack had gotten them made somewhere as a gag after he had heard of Buffy's coming adventure. "That way everyone at least knows where she is from and who she belongs to," he had said. She had been of two minds, at the time, considering it a strange gift, on the one hand, but on the other hand finding it a sweet and funny gesture.
"Jack got me clothes; I guess I literally am gonna go commando-style, huh?” Buffy commented.
She laughed and nodded, "Good guess." They headed for the school offices.
"Oh, god, I was right? Really?" Buffy looked up at her.
"Yeah, he got you a pair of the right size SGC BDUs with all the accessories," she said.
Buffy chuckled and said, "Cool." Sam looked down at her daughter in surprise.
"Cool? Coming from you, who I know this morning spent nearly twenty minutes deciding what to wear. You know it’s a military uniform, right?" she replied.
"Yeah, I'd be wearing the uniform of the SGC. I think it is cool that you'd let me. I'll make you proud, I promise," Buffy replied.
Sam opened the door to the office and realized how her father must have felt, when she had told him that she wanted to be a pilot and an astronaut. She had not faced the thought before. But one day, Buffy would grow up. One day, all too soon, she'd be old enough to date, to drive, and then to make her own decisions. She sensed that Buffy wanted to follow in her footsteps one day, even though she had never consciously suggested such a thing. She felt a strange mix of equal parts fear and pride.
Nearly one and a half hours later they arrived at the SGC carrying only a small gym bag with the things Buffy had needed, like toiletries and underwear. The rest Jack had arranged, too. They walked into the mountain and went through the security checkpoints with no one seemingly raising an eyebrow at Buffy's presence. Given that she had often visited, that was no longer a wonder.
She watched as Buffy's handprint was scanned into the security system at the third checkpoint. One of the scientists, Molly Hayes from Research, smiled at her while they waited for the computer to verify Buffy’s identity. "Is that your girl?" she asked.
"Yeah," she said.
"I thought I recognized that charmer from your computer's background image. I heard the Tok'ra wanted to see her off-world," Molly chatted, as the screen went green and recognized Buffy, switching to a picture of a pouting Buffy. She remembered how miffed Buffy had been when they had taken that picture, right after they got back from Tollana. It would need updating soon, she realized. Buffy had grown up a bit after that.
"Yeah, something like that. Listen, Molly, we have to go; we'll talk at the next department meeting, alright?" she said as Buffy scooted up to her. Molly waved goodbye as she was next through the scanner.
"So, ready to dive into the deep?" she asked.
"Just point me at the gate, and I'll go right on through," Buffy replied.
"We still have a briefing, and we’ve got to gear up first," she said as they stepped into the elevator together.
"Mom, you think I can get something to eat before we leave? I am kind of hungry," Buffy said.
"You're hungry... Oh, god, honey, I am sorry I forgot. You didn't get your dinner or a snack. I am so stupid, I won't make that mistake again, I promise. Of course we have time for some food. The cafeteria here is always open," she said and continued to berate herself mentally. She often forgot that Buffy, for some as-yet-undetermined reason, had a metabolism like a furnace. She needed almost twice as much food as a usual kid her age. It had taken her and Janet nearly a year to construct a suitable diet for Buffy and get her to follow it. Unfortunately, Buffy had the instincts of a normal pre-teen, and so if left alone didn't exactly eat enough or the right things.
"Mom, it's cool," Buffy replied. Sam just nodded, already remaking the short schedule she had come up with in her head for Buffy's time at the SGC today.
A very hurried two hours later, she was guided into the SGC briefing room. Her mom probably spent a lot of time in here, but to Buffy it was a place she had only seen from afar before. A big table sat in a room next to George's office, above the central command post. A window overlooked the gate room, where the technicians were getting the gate ready for their trip out. At least it looked like something like that.
Her mom had picked her up earlier and moved her along like a whirlwind, going from her school to home and then here to the SGC, where she had been given a quick examination by Janet, while her mom checked some paperwork and got her some food. They had eaten in her mom's lab, while her mom had given her a long list of things she should think about when going through the gate. Last time she hadn't really gotten to enjoy her trip, so she wondered if her mom wanted to suck a bit of the fun out of this one, too.
It seemed like everyone from Jack to her mom was nervous about her going off-world, which she found weird. She was strong, she could and would defend herself. In fact, she had come here from another universe, as her mom had explained several times before. Anyway, she had gotten into her new clothes, which made her look like a midget soldier from the SGC, although she had neither weapons nor much else in her backpack. That was another oversight of Jack's doing, but she had promised her mom that she wouldn't steal again, and so she'd have to go out unarmed again.
She watched as the General, Daniel, Teal'c and Jack walked in. "Now, look at that," Jack said with a smile and gestured towards her.
"That's kind of scary," Daniel remarked as he looked her with her green BDU's, cap with her ponytail out the back and her black backpack. She made a face at Daniel.
"I think it is a good way to tell the snakes that the kid is ‘hands-off’," Jack said. She rolled her eyes. She was sure that neither her granddad or Selmak would do her any harm. An attitude like Jack's -- reasonable or not -- could ruin relationships.
"Well, okay then. Everything in order, Colonel?" George asked.
"Yes, General," Jack answered, suddenly all business.
"Major?" George asked, but then glanced at her. He was probably wondering if she could handle a gate trip. Sometimes adults were such fuddy-duddies. She was sure she could handle things much harder than walking through a wormhole.
"We're all ready," her mom said. She thought about her mom's rank. She had read somewhere it was rare for female officers to get extremely high in the ranks, but she was sure her mom would one day become a general or something like that, just because she was great. Of course, the universe might be more unfair than that in real life, but she had hopes for her mom.
George turned towards her. The portly general really cared about his people and somehow that also extended to her, she could see as much in his eyes as he studied her. Maybe she had been too quick to judge him a cool, distant, military man. He was a man of principles and rules, but there was a passion and an unshakable dedication to duty beneath all that, as well. It was like she recognized something of herself in him. "Are you ready too, Miss Carter?" he said.
She was about to correct him, when she remembered her mom had asked if they could make the change official a few weeks ago. She hadn't minded; she had legally been Buffy Summers Carter for a while, but only just these last weeks had everyone started using the term. She sometimes didn't respond to anyone calling for a Carter, or looked for her mom before realizing they meant her. "Yeah, sir... I was born ready," she said, unable to stop her mouth before her head told her that a smart remark might be out of place.
Fortunately he smiled. Jack barked a short laugh, and said, "Then, SG-1 and offspring, let’s go meet SG-17 and get out of here."
Her mom bumped against her and smiled as they went down the stairs. She ended up walking next to Teal'c. "Are you sure this is what you want, Buffy Summers?" he asked as he descended the stairs with her.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Stepping through the Stargate could bring you into danger. Why do you choose to do it?" he asked. She had sometimes sensed that Teal'c was more worried about her than he actually let on. Apparently he had suggested to her mom that she could go and train with his master, someone called Bra'tac, after he had heard of her other idea. Thankfully, her mom had backed away from both ideas. She didn't much like being kidnapped, but she didn't exactly like the idea of moving permanently off Earth.
"Honestly... Teal'c, I can do things. I've somehow been born with or given the abilities I have, and I can do things. I guess I feel that if I can do something I should... Well, and to be honest, granddad being there or not... I really like having adventures," she admitted and smiled.
"I see. My son Rya'c is on Chu'lak. One day I hope he will choose the path of a warrior. But I cannot imagine that your mother would wish that life for you," he said.
"No, of course not. Deep down, you want to protect your son too, right? But I think it's worse for a mom. As a mom you simply cannot let your kid get into danger. It's like an entire instinct-thing, and it's all good. But for me, girl or not, with or without mom, Teal'c, I will one day soon be a warrior. I was born to be," she said and wondered where that understanding and those words had come from. She hated it when it happened. She could be in the middle of a conversation. Then she'd shift and it was as if there were a lot more of her in her head. It was there to tell her what the answers were and what her future would inevitably be.
Teal'c had given her a look, but by then they had entered the gate-room and she found herself in front of the Stargate once again. It was in the middle of the dialling sequence. Suddenly, while Jack talked to the other soldiers, the wormhole opened with a roar. She couldn't help thinking it looked a little like a toilet flushing and chuckled a little.
"What is it?" her mom asked, alerted by the noise.
"I just thought the vortex looked a little like a toilet flushing," she whispered, while Jack made some sort of sarcastic comment about the Tok'ra to some young lieutenant.
"SG-1, SG-17, you have a go," the general said over the speakers.
"Alright, let's get this camping trip on the road," Jack said and walked up the ramp. Her mom offered her hand but she didn't take it. She was feeling a little hyper and was raring to go. She felt like being a little naughty, so she ran up the ramp and jumped into the wormhole.
For a moment it was like she was in tunnel of light going through space, as if on a fast roller-coaster. Then there was a flash and she flew out the other end of the Stargate. Buffy rolled and easily landed on her feet, coming to a stop after sliding a few feet in the sandy ground just past the Stargate. "What a ride!" she yelled, just as a shocked Jack and her mom came through the gate looking like they had just been surprised.
"Damn it, Buffy," her mom said, clearly not happy.
"What?" she asked, but couldn't help the knowing smile on her lips. Daniel and Teal'c followed, and then came the other SG team. She felt rather than heard someone approach and turned.
Jacob and another guy, a sandy-haired Tok'ra, emerged from the forest coming towards them. "Welcome to Revanna," Jacob said.
"Granddad!" she yelled and ran up to him.
"Kiddo," he said and lifted her up into a hug.
She whispered, "And hello to you as well, Selmak."
"Hello, little one," Selmak replied from Jacob's lips before returning control to Jacob again.
"Hi, Dad," her mom said.
"Hey, Jacob," Jack said and glanced at the Tok'ra at Jacob's side. She looked him over, but saw nothing too impressive or strange.
"Ah, this is Aldwin. He'll conduct SG-17's tour of our facilities," Jacob said and started leading them through the forest.
As they walked she wondered why the Tok'ra hadn't moved their gate into hiding inside their base like they had done on Earth. She would have.
She noticed as they walked that they were split into little groups. Daniel, Jack and Teal'c were talking about what it could be the Tok'ra had planned. Aldwin was already telling the other SG team about the planet and how it was off the usual Goa'uld shipping lanes and not apart of the Stargate Network known to the System Lords. And her mom was talking to her granddad. It was about her. She edged close enough to hear, but far enough away to have them not notice. It was useful to be able to sense as she could.
"Why do you keep trying to get Buffy here? Every time I ask, you won't say," her mom complained.
"Because I've been trying to keep secrets from the others. They think Buffy is here because I want to see her, and because maybe some of the parallel Earth things we found on the Brotherhood of Thoth's mothership are hers. They don't think of Gate travel as a big thing. Tok'ra, Goa'uld, and even the Jaffa do it regularly. To the others it is commonplace," her dad explained.
"Dad, what's going on?" her mom asked in a tone that held something more like confusion than the earlier veiled anger.
"Sam, did you ever read the others’ reports on what happened on that ship?" her granddad asked her mom.
"Yes, I skimmed the parts I was involved in," her mom admitted.
"Well, then maybe you missed the part where we found another survivor like Buffy. She was confined to a sarcophagus. The changes they had tried to make were constantly killing her. We took her along, but shifted her to a stasis container to avoid any damage from being in the sarcophagus. For months, our scientists tried curing her, reversing the damage done, but there was nothing we could do. Not even the DNA resequencers could help without a sample of her original DNA. We considered a symbiote, but it was clear the damage would be too much for it and both would die, although it would take longer. Aria, an ancient one among the Tok'ra, close to dying of old age, volunteered, offering it as her last good deed, so that the girl might live for a few months rather than a few weeks. Her previous host Mila had just passed, and so we woke the girl. Her name is Irene, by the way, and we told her about the option. After a great deal of talking she agreed. That was around the time I returned with knowledge of Buffy," her granddad explained as they started the walk up a hill. Apparently the Tok'ra had opted to build their base a good distance from the gate, too.
"You told them about the solution we tried? I am sure I could get her back to that planet and into one of the Ancient's DNA resequencers," her mom said.
"We already went there. It turned out the gate address was hidden in the Brotherhood's databases. It didn't work for her... at all, in fact. Buffy must be different from her somehow," her granddad said.
She was getting a bit shocked by all this. Buffy didn't understand the science mentioned specifically, but she had a good enough general science understanding to get what they were talking about. There were certainly benefits to being the genetic offspring of a Carter.
"Just after we tried Buffy's cure. I sat down with Irene and talked to her. She had avoided revealing much of anything about herself, so in the hope that she might be able to help us understand Buffy better, I told her about Buffy being here. Sam... I've seen many people react to someone's name before. From the look on Irene's face I could just tell. She knows her. She knows a lot about her. I tried to get her to tell me more, but she started insisting that she wouldn't tell me anything. She told me, she would only talk to Buffy," he explained.
"Do the other Tok'ra know about this?" her mom asked. It was like hearing Jack, all of a sudden; her mom didn't seem to trust the Tok'ra completely, either. There had to be something between SG-1 and the Tok'ra, some reason for the mild dislike that existed.
"No. Selmak has agreed that it's a family matter to me. And Aria is barely able to do much more than just keep Irene alive. Those few times when she talks, Aria has said nothing except insisting that she was right in preserving Irene's life. I wanted Buffy here so she could talk to Irene... and, well, Irene might not have a lot of time. That's why I kept insisting. I've even moved up this meeting so you'd have time to be together with Buffy and Irene, while they talk. Unfortunately, fate has intervened and I won't be able to be there too," her granddad explained.
Buffy felt almost like her head was spinning. There was a girl. From her reality, someone that knew her. Someone who maybe could help her with her amnesia and tell her why she was so different from regular humans, even while her body scientifically seemed normal. There was also someone who was dying, and that made her sad. She couldn't help wondering all sorts of things. What if Irene was her long-lost older sister -- that leggy dark blond she saw from time to time in her dreams? With how annoyed she was in her dreamed memories of that girl, they just had to be sisters.
"So here we are," Jacob said and came to a stop in the middle of a clearing.
She stopped and looked around. For a science-fiction-y race with a supposed secret base, it all looked rather rural. Jacob pressed something on his bracelet, and suddenly black metallic rings shot up from the ground surrounding them, making her nearly jump in shock. There was a bright light and they landed on a bluish-gray corridor. The rings disappeared up into the ceiling.
She looked around. Buffy was surprised at the intense amount of activity that suddenly surrounded her. Nothing on the surface even hinted at this place. Several people looked at her in passing; however, by this point in time she was used to it. Spending all her time at the high school had apparently prepared her for something, at least. "So, Jack, there is someone who would like to meet my daughter and granddaughter. The Council and I want to tell you about our plan, but Ren-Al here will make the initial pitch before I swing by," Jacob said and gestured towards a formal-seeming woman waiting nearby. She gave Jacob a curt nod and quickly walked off.
Jack, Daniel and Teal'c headed after her. "We need to go this way," Jacob explained.
"What are we doing?" she asked, trying to make the adults at least acknowledge that this was getting confusing to her.
Jacob guided them off into a dead-end and bent down slightly to look at her. "Buffy, I've kept pressuring your mom to get you here even though I know you needed stability -- especially after that mess recently. And I am sorry, but because of who you are, of what you might become, I want to improve your life. I know you think you're okay with not remembering your past. But there is a girl here, who is from your Earth. A girl, who knows you. I wanted to give you this chance to talk to her, to know about your past... And I am sorry, because she is also a person and she is... " She stopped her grandfather by putting a finger on his lips.
"Shh, it's okay. Granddad, I promise I can deal with it. And I would like to meet her... Thank you for doing this for me... and mom," she said and smiled up at her mom.
"Then let's go. She is right down this way," her granddad explained.
They left the dead-end tunnel and headed down yet another of the myriad passages of the Tok'ra base. They came to a room, where a girl of maybe 19 was resting in a small bed. She had intense blond hair woven into a braid that lay next to her on the bed. She seemed half asleep.
"I'll go talk to her," her granddad said.
She watched her granddad go in, but she decided against listening in. Her mom looked down at her and asked again, "Are you sure you can handle this? Because you know, it's alright if you want to wait."
"Mom, it is alright. Nothing she says can change how I feel about you and me," she replied.
"I should hope not," her mom said.
Then they both heard a slightly accented English voice nearly yell, "Buffy is here! Now! But I haven't gotten ready. She mustn’t see me like this."
She and her mom looked a bit confusedly at each other. "Irene, she is standing right there," her granddad said and gestured towards her.
The blond woman looked her over and said, "It looks like her, but that can't be Buffy Summers. Buffy Summers is old, she is like, in her mid-twenties."
"Hey, who're you calling old," she bristled then wondered where that anger she felt had come from.
Irene stopped yelling and looked at her oddly. "Sounds a lot like her though," the older girl said to Jacob.
"Listen, what is going on here? I am Buffy Summers. Okay, I got infused with my mom's DNA here, but I am Buffy. I am sure of that," she said and stepped into the room. Her mom followed her in.
She noticed that Jacob walked over and activated some sort of thing in the wall and a shield of some kind shut out the noise from outside. "You can't be Buffy. You look a little like her, but you're way too young and your hair color is off. Buffy colors hers light blond. She isn't light blond," the older girl with the accent insisted.
"Damn it! I. Am. Buffy. Summers," she yelled. She felt the dark anger that she so relished in combat, but tried to keep suppressed otherwise well up into her. To her surprise the older girl jumped back and cast her eyes down to look submissively at the floor. The moment passed and the older girl looked back up.
The blond girl sat back into her bed and said, "Well, maybe you are. Aria says it isn't impossible that the ones who killed me also regenerated Buffy to a younger state, so that she might last even longer as a host... And well, you sure feel like her. Like the Slayer."
Those words hammered through her mind like a white hot knife through butter. "The Slayer... One girl in all the world, born... " a memory passed through her. It felt like both a sad and proud moment, as a chorus of English accented men's voice dictated those words. "Buffy!" Her name echoed again and again in tones of fear, of desperation, and of relief. Then came the flood of images of an older girl, looking like her, fighting -- always fighting, getting older, sadder, bent low by anguish, but always fighting, always saving people. Then came the words of that woman in the desert she had dreamed about weeks ago, "You think you know, who you are? You have no idea." And finally another voice, a feral one, said, "Death is your gift."
"I am the Slayer," she said.
Irene looked up at her and nodded. "You are what?" Sam asked.
"I am the Slayer. I think Irene is right, mom. I had a whole other life. I remember parts of it now. I understand why I always seemed to have so much experience, why nothing really scared me. I am Buffy Summers. I used to be older, but I am not anymore. Whoa, this is weird," she said and felt almost like her head was spinning. Even with the new memories and the ease with which the ones she had kept and the ones she had dreamed over this last year and a half rearranged themselves to make more sense, most of her memories were still missing.
"It's not like I can remember much more than before. But what Irene said is the truth. I used to be an older Buffy," she said.
Irene rose and paced the room. "Alright, things like that happen. Aria, my symbiont, has helped me to understand this universe slightly. She says that whatever they did to Buffy and whatever she was before somehow conspired to let her survive the treatment so many others have died from... Given her history, that is not surprising," Irene explained while pacing.
"Stop, sit down and explain yourself. What is a Slayer? Everything from the beginning, please," Jacob said. Buffy nodded; she also wanted to understand better.
Irene looked them over. "You're taking care of Buffy. You have to promise you'll keep doing that, no matter what I tell you now. Aria says that won't be a problem for either Jacob or Selmak, but I need your word, too," Irene said to her mother.
"I swear. Of course I will keep taking care of Buffy. Nothing short of someone killing me would stop me from doing that," her mom promised. She felt a stab of fear. Her mom dying had happened to her before, she knew that much.
"Alright... Then listen. My universe is governed by slightly different physical laws than yours. This allows people to wield supernatural powers. Also this means that our dimension, our Earth is considered prime demon real estate. Yes, in our universe real actual monsters exist. The list includes -- among myriads of other things -- demons, werewolves, witches, warlocks, and the most numerous plague: the Vampires. Originally the Old Ones, almost god-like demons, ruled our world, making war on each other. However the world had been created for the Humans, and so the very Earth beneath their feet rejected them. The Old Ones either left or were defeated and captured. They didn't give up easily, though. They interbred with the humans, and one of them bit a human and fed him its blood, making him the first vampire. At that time there was a group of very powerful human sorcerers. They captured a strong girl who had already fought the demons. They then reached into the deepest recesses of the demonic darkness and pulled a fragment of the very essence of the demons. They created or reached an entity, which we on our world call the Slayer Essence. They then bonded that fragment to the girl, shoved it into her and created the Slayer, a being of the light but at home in the darkness. The girl went and fought. Seneya, we believe her name was. In the end, however, Seneya died. And when she did, another girl somewhere on Earth was chosen as the next Slayer. It had continued as an unbroken line since then. One girl in the whole world. A chosen warrior until she dies and the next is chosen. In time the men's descendants created a secret organization to guide and protect the Slayer, called the Watchers. The Watchers found the potential Slayers and tried to prepare them for the chance that they would be chosen. It continued like that for thousands of years, building up traditions and flaws," Irene explained. She took a deep breath.
"Now, most of that is from my training, with many of the details only recently discovered at the time when I was taken from my world. The next part is hearsay and what I've been told by my trainers," Irene explained.
Irene continued, "In 1995 or 1996 on our world, a 15-year-old Buffy Summers, a Californian cheerleader, became the next Slayer. Unfortunately, the higher powers this time chose a girl who had not been detected as a Potential. She was untrained and unschooled in much more than maintaining a teenager's social life. The Council of Watchers sent her a Watcher and told him they expected him to return in a few months, when the Slayer had died and passed on her powers to someone more worthy of the honor. They were woefully wrong. Buffy, while chafing at the very thought of being controlled by stuffy Englishmen, which the Watchers were by this point, was also gifted beyond most Slayers before her. Within the first months of her being chosen, she killed a Master Vampire called Lothos. Usually a Slayer only had to defeat one of those in her whole career to be considered a good one, back then."
"Buffy's career would, however, turn out to be much more unusual. Within the next five years she would stop our world from literally ending many times. She would defeat countless demons, vampires including almost all the worst vampires left on our planet. She would drown, get hurt, and build a supportive circle of friends around her. She was unlike any Slayer before her. Every night she had to fight, hunt and kill monsters that wanted to kill people or even end the Earth. Most of the time she was all alone in the night. But this girl, who didn't even want to be a warrior, did it and accepted the costs of it. Then, in her sixth year of tenure, her fifth serving as the guardian of the main portal, the very gates into Hell, she met her second-strongest opponent. A Goddess from another Hell dimension. They fought over possession of an item that could collapse the wall between all the dimensions, destroying everything except the home dimension of the Hell Goddess. Buffy won, but in the process had to sacrifice her life. She died," Irene explained.
"That was how you became the Slayer?" her granddad asked.
"No, that came later. You see, as I said, Buffy had drowned once. That actually stopped her heart long enough to pass on the Slayer baton to another. That one died quickly and it ended up with the next in line, who hasn't died yet, as far as I know," Irene explained.
"Then how?" her mom looked at her.
"Ah, yes. You see, Buffy's friends from before included what is now considered our world's strongest witch. That witch and her circle of friends convinced themselves that, at the moment of dying to close the portal, Buffy's soul was stolen into a hell dimension. So they decided that they'd take it back by resurrecting Buffy. A process that was considered possible only because magic had killed her, and so magic would be allowed to undo the damage. So they tore Buffy's soul out of heaven, where it had really gone, and returned her to Earth. She took a long time to get over it. In fact, her friends have said that, after that, Buffy was never again really the same as she had been. Then the biggest thing Buffy had ever done happened. The act of tearing her from heaven had created an unnatural situation, an imbalance which allowed the First... I guess you'd call him Lucifer... It is the First Evil. The original sin given form and power to further its cause. It allowed the First to try and end our world. The First also, in the process, wanted to remove the Slayer line that had stopped its work for so long. It did so by killing the Watchers and trying to do the same with all the potential Slayers. In the end, however, Buffy came up with yet another world-saving plan. She had her friend make all the potential Slayers -- of which there were more than anyone had expected -- into real Slayers. Buffy then took her army and went into the mouth of hell. There, her army, along with the help of a human soul which sacrificed itself to defeat the evil, beat back the First and ended its plans for opening the gate, by permanently destroying it," Irene took a sip from a cup next to her bed.
Her mom was casting glances at her, but she just tried to take it all in. Irene's words seemed to stir feelings, rather than memories, and they were not all pleasant. Her body remembered pride, and strength, but also pain and the most intense sadness, beyond anything she had ever dreamed.
"That was how I got to be a Slayer. I was living normally in Austria. My mom and I had a good life. I was heading for university. I wanted to study history, you see. My mom was earning her pay as an architect. Then one dark night I woke and felt strong, resolute and completely unable to sleep. That kept happening, night after night, until I went out. I remember it was a Friday. I considered going to a club, but instead I ended up in a hand-to-hand with a vampire. I nearly got killed that night, but I survived. It took time, but slowly I decided to start hunting vampires. Then one night as I was getting my ass handed to me by two vampires at once, this blond woman shows up. She killed those two vampires in five seconds and then proceeded in her heavy American accent to introduce herself. That was the first time I met Buffy Summers," Irene explained.
"What happened then?" her granddad asked.
"Well, she told me about the new Watcher's Council, which in the end was made up of most of the retired or field watchers that had survived, along with Buffy's friends and her Watcher, Rupert Giles," Irene said.
The image of a graying, smiling man in very English clothing appeared before her eyes. She felt instantly like she missed him, as you would a distant parent.
"They were forming the Slayers into this super-efficient group. They felt that for the first time ever did they have a chance to actually defeat the evil that had befallen our planet. I asked to join and spent a lot of time training, until I was shipped back to join the team that was protecting Vienna and much of Austria. I didn't see Buffy again until just before we were kidnapped. Rumor had it she was retired, but there were also other stories that said she had gotten even stronger from her friend's spell and now led a group of the best Slayers in commando raids against demon nests all over the world. I only saw her again in Paris, right before we attacked a mansion filled with... Jaffa, I guess you call them. I remember seeing her going down in a hail of... Zat'ni'katel gunfire. That was right before I got grazed by one of those staff weapons. After that, I don't remember anything until they woke me up here," Irene said and looked at Buffy.
"Is there any way to know if this Buffy is your Buffy?" her granddad asked. She and her mom both gave him an annoyed look.
"It is her. I am sure now. She might be younger and she might have lighter hair, but I recognize the feeling of the Slayer in her. No one has ever felt the same as her. With me and the other Slayers, it is like feeling an attachment, like you're all sisters. I think it’s because we were made at the same time. But with Buffy, it's like you're in the room with a tiger. You know you're strong, but that woman... girl right next to you could take you over her knee and spank you without you being able to stop her for long. I can't explain it. It is just something that's there. Some of the other Slayers -- mostly a faction that is a little too happy with themselves and smug -- think Buffy was arrogant. But they were just too out of touch with their Slayer to feel the truth of it," Irene explained.
"So I am a killer. Just a bigger killer than you," she whispered.
"No, no, no," both her mom and Irene pleaded. Her mom, who had moved behind her so that she rested against her, grabbed her in a hug, and Irene knelt in front of her.
"No, Buffy, you were never a killer. No human being or animal has ever died by your hand. I think if you hadn’t enjoyed the taste of meat and had a Slayer metabolism, then you would probably have been a vegan. I've seen you let demons live another day, because they were no threat to humanity. Your first and truest love was given to a man, a soul captured in the body of a vampire. You're not a killer. You're a warrior, a hero," Irene insisted.
She looked up at her mom, "Listen to her, Buffy," her mom answered her unspoken question.
"I am afraid, I must leave you. Irene, I think it would do you and Buffy good if you talked a bit more, but let's let the initial shock pass," her granddad suggested.
Buffy couldn't help nodding.
"Why don't you and Sam come with me for a while? I am sure your mom would like to hear what we're planning. And I'll be leaving soon, too," her granddad told her.
"Come see me again, Buffy. I could probably tell you a lot more," Irene said.
"I will," she replied, feeling a bit odd all of a sudden. She knew Irene was only trying to help, but what she had been told was not what she had expected. She felt sorry for Irene -- the other Slayer was dying, after all -- but she still needed to get away to think, at least for now.
"I'll see you later," she said
"Yeah, thanks, Buffy," Irene replied sounding a bit dejected
As they left, she heard her granddad whisper to her mom, "I think Irene hoped Buffy's coming would change everything, maybe even save her life."
"You really think so?" her mom replied in an equally low tone. It was strange that people didn't realize that some of her smarts came from being informed through listening.
"Sam, you could see and hear it, too. She might not like that Buffy has been made young again, but she still considered Buffy her superior," her granddad replied.
SG-1 gathered around. She had left Buffy with Major Mansfield of SG-17, because of a significant look from Jack, when she arrived. "The Tok'ra just got intense," Jack said.
"What?" she asked, her head still spinning from the story that other woman from Buffy's reality had told them. Buffy had not so long ago been a grown woman. A hero, a savior in a world apparently filled with the monsters of mythology come alive. She just couldn't imagine how things like that could be possible, even with the variations between realities she had observed from other travellers using the mirror. But then again, given all the facts of Buffy, she might just yet.
"Sam, are you here with us?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, sorry, sir, I just got some rather shocking news," she said, and noticed that Daniel looked just as distant as she probably had looked earlier.
"Major Carter, is Buffy Summers in danger? Should we leave?" Teal'c asked.
"No, it isn't like that," she replied.
"Well, get this. The Tok'ra want to have Daniel go to the first complete gathering of all the Goa'uld System Lords, posing as Lord Yu's personal slave. They want to have him kill them all, using some sort of symbiote-specific poison gas. All the Goa'uld leaders die, and the Tok'ra will then start the process of eliminating all the lesser ones," Jack said.
"Wait a minute, Lord Yu knows what Daniel looks like," she said.
"Yeah, but the Tok'ra got that compound that we received from the Reeyall to work. Your dad will get Daniel close enough to dose Yu with it, and then he'll believe Daniel is his servant until long after the meeting," Jack explained.
"And you're okay with this?" she asked Daniel, considering that it would end up as the wholesale murder of the hosts as well.
He looked her right in the eye and said, "They've been hosts for so long. They've been in the sarcophagus so many times. And well, honestly I guess I am. It has to happen, and this is the best chance we've ever had."
"Really?" Jack said and blinked, then nodded, apparently glad he didn't have to argue with Daniel about this.
"You're sure?" Jack asked Daniel.
"Yes, Jack," Daniel asked apparently not comfortable enough to belabor the entire thing, though.
"Good, then what the hell did they tell you, Carter? You look like they've socked you in the gut," Jack asked.
She looked up at him. "They just told me that when Buffy was stolen from her world, she wasn't a kid. She was a grown woman. The girl we all know... she isn't the real Buffy," she finally voiced it. She was deadly afraid of what that meant. She didn't want to lose her daughter. She didn't want to give up the image she had of her in her mind. But it was already crumbling. Questions plagued her. Would Buffy remember who she had been and erase the girl she loved? Would the SGC want to keep a closer eye on her, when they were told how much of a warrior they were talking about? Did the girl she love really exist?
"What?" Jack asked, a bit confused.
"When the Brotherhood of Thoth stole Buffy, she was in her mid-twenties, not in her early teens. They gave her amnesia, they somehow made her really young... Sir, I'm sorry, this has just... I don't know how to react. You'd think after all this time, after all that happened to me... to us, I'd be able to deal with this," she explained.
"Any chance it's a lie?" Jack asked.
"None whatsoever," she admitted, even if deep down she had hoped.
"I am sure it'll be alright, Sam... Did they just tell you that?" Daniel asked.
"No, there was a lot more. The quick run-down of what Buffy Summers’ life has been like before she came here... Guys, she is us. She was the protector and savior of her world, but her enemies were biblical. We're talking about one girl against a planet overrun by monsters, and with only her strength, skills and wits to save her during a nightly struggle. Honestly, I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like to fight a constant, nightly ground war for over seven years. She had been through so much, and then boom, she gets kidnapped here and turned into a little child. I just don't know how to react to this. Do I try to find a way to restore her? Do we just accept that this is her past and move on? What?" she asked and looked down at her hands. It was rare for her to become so emotional in front of her team. She had always avoided it, afraid she'd lose their respect.
Jack put a hand on her shoulder. "Carter, you take things as they come. Let Buffy decide the pace, and just be there to accept any changes in her. If you want to know what should happen, just let her tell you, when she is ready. None of this takes away any of the time you've already spent with her, and none of this can erase the fact that you're family now. So take this information for what it is worth, let it give you and her perspective, and then that is it," he suggested.
"You really think it is that simple... Jack?" she asked.
"Yeah, I do," he replied.
On either side of her, both Teal'c and Daniel nodded as well. They went back to discussing Daniel's imminent mission.
A few minutes later, just as she was about to go look for Buffy, Teal'c approached her. "Samantha Carter, I have two requests, if you please," he asked, even more formally than usual. It was a tone she thought he reserved for audiences and rituals.
"Go on," she asked.
"I would very much like to hear the stories of your daughter's past exploits for myself. I also ask for permission to perform the ritual of protection on your daughter," he said.
"What ritual?" she asked, a bit surprised.
"It is a formal declaration performed by a Jaffa household. By declaring that I extend my protection to Buffy, I and my household swear to fight for and guard Buffy with our lives. That bond is such that even friends and allies would often join with the guardians to fight in defense of someone for the honor doing so. It is my regard for your daughter that moves me to offer this. Samantha Carter, please accept," he solemnly asked.
"Teal'c, I'll consider the ritual. I have no problems with your hearing about my daughter's exploits. Why don't you come along when Buffy feels ready to actually hear the details? We're gonna be waiting here for news from Daniel anyway," she said.
"I will give you time to consider," he said, and wandered off to find her daughter it seemed.
She decided to try and catch up with Daniel before he left.
She found Daniel talking to her dad. They were going over some details, while her dad packed some sort of crate with clothes and equipment. "Daniel, could I ask you something before you leave?" she asked.
"Sure," Daniel said and looked up from the conversation with her dad.
"Teal'c just offered to take Buffy in under some sort of ritual of protection. What does it mean?" she asked.
Both her dad and Daniel looked surprised for a moment. "Wow, well. It is a declaration by a Jaffa, often made public amongst his allies as well, that a certain person outside his household is considered as important to him as his own offspring and family. In essence, Teal'c just told you that Buffy could at the mere asking for it, since she is a girl, have at least one personal guard from Teal'c's family. Given the state of things between Bra'tac, Teal'c and other Jaffa, that would mean that every Jaffa loyal to Teal'c, Bra'tac even including Rya'c, would feel obliged or at the very least interested in coming and helping Teal'c rescue, protect or even just guard Buffy, if Teal'c calls for it. For example, if something like the kidnapping happened again and they got word, you could be sure a small group of Jaffa would arrive at the SGC demanding to help in the hunt for you. Of course, if they caught anyone they'd deal out Jaffa justice," Daniel explained.
"Yikes," she said.
"It is not something Jaffa offer lightly. Legend has it that the first relationships between those who became the Jaffa and the Goa'uld started as something like the ritual of protection. Still, Sam, after what happened recently I think you should consider it," her dad said.
"It could offer your daughter powerful protection, maybe even a permanent hiding place should your world ever fall and she escape," Selmak explained.
"It sounds like a decent idea," she admitted, thinking that given how her life went, she should just take any blessing and accept it. She said goodbye to Daniel and went in search of her daughter, whose opinion also mattered in all this.
He watched Sam leave and turned towards Daniel. "Daniel, why didn't you tell her that the ritual also means Teal'c is entitled to a say in the approval of all Buffy's suitors and that Buffy is practically adopted by Teal'c's family, meaning she gets to inherit if she's the last survivor?" he asked.
"Because, Jacob, for one, I think Buffy could really use a safe place off-world in case something happens to us. Besides, Buffy's too pretty for her own good. She's not even twelve, yet, but already boys from her Junior High were asking her out on dates. Sam moved Buffy to the High School before that became a problem, though," Daniel explained.
"How underhanded... But you're right, my granddaughter is way too young to date. And I am sure Teal'c will approve someone when they get older," Jacob said with approval.
She found Buffy sitting lost in thought, with Teal'c standing calmly nearby, watching the Tok'ra wandering back and forth. She berated herself for not paying more attention to Buffy after the revelations they had just been presented with. It seemed to have affected her daughter deeply.
"Has Daniel Jackson departed?" Teal'c asked when she walked up to her daughter.
She turned and replied, "Yeah, they left --" she glanced at her watch -- "ten minutes ago."
She turned back towards Buffy. Her daughter was looking at her as if trying to decide something.
She had thought long and hard about what Irene had told her. Buffy knew that it was true. Something deep inside, probably her older self, told her it was. She had actually wished it wasn't in the first few minutes after leaving the now older Slayer. It was so hard to deal with the fact she had lived a whole other life, but she could only remember it as a set of distant images with some emotions attached. It was as if she were looking at a movie when she actually tried to remember. She was seeing herself, but she wasn't that girl... Maybe she shouldn't be.
She had found a corner where the crystal walls had created an alcove and some Tok'ra had placed a bench. She had ignored Major Mansfield and his team, until Teal'c had arrived and the other soldiers had gone off. All that time she had tried to somehow get a feeling, an intent, from that part of her that so often helped her in the past. It wasn't until she realized that they weren't separate -- that the other Buffy was still her, but that the memories of events were just missing -- that she had been able to form a decision. Her memories of her old life might be fragmented and some parts of her were still missing, but she was Buffy, and that now meant the old Buffy mixed in with her life as the younger new one. It was cool in a way, too. She was willing to bet that the old Buffy loved this chance to redo a great part of her life.
Sam, her mom, came walking up and talked to Teal'c. She looked up at her mom and thought for a moment. This wasn't her original mom, but Sam was her mom now. It was time to just accept her old life and live with the new one built upon that old one. She felt a little proud for deciding that.
"You okay?" her mom bent down and asked.
"Yeah, I think I got some of it all figured out. I'll be fine, mom," she said and meant it.
"How about we go find out where we're sleeping and then find something to eat? her mom suggested.
"Cool, I'm hungry..." she said and got up.
They walked around in the tunnel with Teal'c trailing behind, when her mom asked, "Buffy, Teal'c has asked me to allow him to perform something the Jaffa call the Ritual of Protection. That means he, his family and friends would protect you in case I can't. Would you mind that?"
She thought it over. It might be that there was more to it than that for the Jaffa, but Teal'c would not be conservative about cultural things. He knew she wasn't a Jaffa, and so she didn't mind. Teal'c was one of the nicest and most honorable men she knew, "Sure, I'd like that."
"I am happy to hear it, Buffy Summers. Once we have returned to Earth we will perform the ritual," Teal'c's voice rumbled from behind them.
"Ritual? This doesn't involve blood or feathers or anything weird like that?" she asked.
"We will swear an Oath and drink from a cup in which I will have put a droplet of blood, making you of my blood," Teal'c explained.
From some memory fragment words emerged, and she said, "It's always about the blood."
Her mom was looking at her with tired eyes, but didn't say anything.
The day passed, and so did most of the next day. Buffy spent it with her mom, when the woman wasn't off to visit some Tok'ra named Lantash. And then she, in the company of Teal'c and occasionally her mom, spent her day with Irene, who looked visibly weaker than the day before.
So it was in the late afternoon they sat there talking to Irene, when suddenly the girl seemed to sigh and fall asleep in the middle of telling her about her former friends. "Irene!" she called, but the blond girl didn't react.
Then just as her mom was getting up to call for help, Irene shot back to her feet. "What? Where? Oh... not one of those!" Irene groaned into her hands.
"One of what?" she asked.
"One of the prophetic dreams we get from time to time. It's another Slayer thing," Irene explained.
"Prophecy... How? You can't possibly predict the quantum of the entire universe, so prophecy is impossible," her mom immediately said. She nearly giggled. Her mom had a science thing and a real aversion to supernatural stuff. That was also why her mom and Janet so often talked about her strength and wondered where it all came from. She had no idea, but somehow she felt someone like Orlin or maybe even her older self might have had an idea or two.
"It's rare but it's real. It was only the second one of my life. Most Slayers don't even have this ability," Irene explained.
"There are differences?" her mom asked, obviously interested.
"Of course there were... are. Buffy was one of the psychic Slayers... In fact, Buffy pretty much had access to all Slayer abilities, except the Sense. You see, some of the Slayers can detect demons just by concentrating. But for Slayers like Buffy it didn't work as well and took a lot of effort if it worked at all... but that is not important. Listen. In my dream this place was being bombarded by the Goa'uld. And it's soon, because you were still here, all of you," Irene explained.
"I am telling you, prediction and prophecy--" her mom started explaining in her lecturing voice.
"Mom, I remember. It happened a lot to me. You dreamed, and if you had a really intense one even during the day then you'd better watch out, because for me at least I think it meant that someone somewhere was trying to end the world," she said after a series of strange memory flashes. It felt like her older counterpart had feared these dreams to the point of actually hoping not to dream, from time to time. She hoped she never got back to being that jaded.
"Really?" her mom looked at her.
"Yeah," she said.
"We have to warn the Tok'ra," Teal'c suggested.
"And tell them that the girl at death's door had a dream that this place would be attacked? Their top secret base found out by the Goa'uld. They'd never believe her," Sam said.
"They might. Why don't we just tell them some whooper of a lie? Like uh... Mom could you fake some sort of message from Daniel with a warning?" she suggested.
"No, I don't know how the Tok'ra send and receive signals," her mom replied.
"Damn," she said.
"I am able to help," the voice of Irene's symbiont said.
She looked over the pale girl and asked, "How?"
"I believe what my host says, I too experienced the dream and know her mind well enough to know she is neither lying nor has her disease damaged her brain yet. Call one of my fellow Tok'ra here, and I will explain it," the being said.
Her mom got up and left the room with Teal'c.
"Buffy," Irene's voice said. She turned and looked at the clearly still weak girl. "Buffy, in my dream there was one more thing. You're their hope," Irene explained.
Before she could ask more, a Tok'ra walked inside carrying some sort of hand device. Her mom and Teal'c were standing at the entrance. Her mom waved her over. Apparently they considered it best to stay out of the way for this part.
Still from the corridor she heard Aria, Irene's symbiote argue several times in a language she didn't understand until the Tok'ra guard hauled ass out of there. "It is done," Aria said from within the chamber and sighed deeply. Buffy felt something, something she hadn't noticed was there, fade away. Sadness welled into her mind, but she didn't know why.
Overhead an alarm suddenly blared and a mechanical voice said something in that same strange language that she had just heard.
Jack and Major Mansfield came running up from the resting area they had used as their camp, while Ren-Al approached at a jog from the other end of the tunnel. "What's going on?" Jack asked.
"A Goa'uld fleet has been detected on approach to this world. Our position has been revealed," Ren-Al said.
"The warning was too late," Buffy said with a sigh.