He walked inside and saw that Sam apparently had built up for the entire big show. Daniel, Teal'c and the General were sitting around the table in the darkened room while a presentation ran on the screen. "Sir," Sam said in greeting.
"Major," he said. Jack wondered why Sam seemed so formal and a bit distant.
"Jack?" The General gave him a questioning look.
He said, "I am sorry, I had to talk to Lt. Colonel Michaels before he goes back to the Alpha site. Apparently the Tok'ra are very grateful. They've given us one of those huge-ass troop transports and a transport ship from the ships recovered from Revanna. The eggheads are planning to tear the troop transport apart once they get it to Area-51. They think it would teach us a lot, especially about Goa'uld weaponry. The transport ship will fly along when they head back here."
"That's good news. The Pentagon will be pleased -- especially given the current situation. You'll want to follow this, Jack," the General explained.
He looked at Carter, who fidgeted for a moment before starting her presentation. "This was generated, based on our deep space observations after an amateur astronomer alerted us to the presence and approach of this asteroid. He has since been convinced to keep his discovery quiet," she explained, as a blurry picture of some sort of rock appeared on the screen.
"It is 137 kilometers, from end to end on the longest axis. It also seems to be made up mostly of minerals, instead of the usual dirty snowballs that come through the solar system from the Oort cloud. In fact, we were extremely lucky anyone even discovered this thing. It is on a very unusual orbit, making it a rogue. Unfortunately it's a rogue which, our calculations indicate, will intersect with Earth's orbit within two weeks, causing an extinction-level event," Sam explained.
"I've seen this movie... It hits Paris," he said.
Sam gave him a long-suffering look, then said, "Actually, our current calculations have narrowed its impact area to somewhere in the far North of Canada, or possibly Greenland."
"I understand that this is important and everyone should help with this. But why are we told? Are we going to help with an evacuation... Or do something about it?" Daniel asked.
"Well, if this had happened seven or eight years ago, we couldn't have done anything. But that was before the Stargate," Sam explained.
"So let's get rid of that with a little help from our friends? Or wait, we have two ships of our very own now; we can do it ourselves." Jack said.
"Well, we won't have any problem, then. We'll just go the Alpha site, get into the Al'kesh and fly here and... do what exactly?" Daniel asked.
It was Carter who answered. "We'll take a naquadah-enhanced nuclear warhead along and blow it away. This way, no one on Earth will ever know how close we got to being smashed by a rock. I was sure that the Tok'ra would at least lend us a ship after Revanna, so I have calculated the yield and called up Area-52 to fly in the naquadah we'll need to enhance a ten megaton warhead. It looks like it'll be easy."
"Say, when you put it like that, I just know there is going to be some sort of problem," Jack said.
"Really... sir," Carter replied with a daring smile on her lips.
"Major, I will call the president to get release of a nuclear warhead. I am sure we can get everything else we need from NASA. Would you be so kind as to arrange everything?" General Hammond said.
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Oh... I also got orders that no matter if we succeed or not, the Alpha site evacuation plan will come into effect from 0800 tomorrow, just in case. Everyone who isn't essential of the SGC personnel, our families, and the people on the Alpha list will start going through the gate... Major, you might want to prepare your daughter: she is going out as apart of Team 8 on the Alpha list. Meaning that, given briefings and other activities, she'll go out sometime the day after tomorrow," the general explained.
Jack couldn't help smiling at the totally shocked expression on Carter’s face. She hadn't known about the General and his little idea of getting Buffy on the Alpha list, as well as on the family list. That meant she was a high-priority evacuee and would be one of the first ones through the gate every time there was a world-ending level threat. Important as their families were, the SGC and Pentagon would not give them priority over the eventual rebuilders of human society. The maintainers of the Alpha list at the Pentagon included a few old friends of the General’s, and combined with Buffy's abilities and skills, she had easily come onto that other list as an important person.
"Sir, but... I didn't know Buffy was on the list. Isn't she too young to be eligible?" Sam asked.
"No, the list is for the young and able. She is both. Now, Major, you have your orders. Get it in motion, people," the General said and turned towards his office -- probably going to make a lot of phone calls.
"It's really nice, but Buffy shouldn't get preferential treatment because of me," Sam protested.
"No worries, she didn't. The paper-pushers at the Pentagon decided she was a prime candidate all on their own. You just get her here the day after tomorrow... If she is willing to go through the gate again, after what happened the last time," Jack said.
"Oh, she is willing, sir; that will never be an issue," Sam said and headed downstairs.-------------------------------
She waited to tell Buffy about her coming trip until morning the next day, mostly because she had not been able to do much more than go pick her daughter up from school, drive her over to Janet's, and then head back to the SGC, that first day. The formalities in moving around a nuke were astounding even with the world's safety at stake. She felt incredibly driven to make her world safe, but somehow the thought that her quickly growing daughter would be safe at the Alpha site gave her incredible peace of mind. She would do her all to make sure her daughter had a world to return to. And that all the daughters and mothers of Earth would come through this alive.
"Mom, you're doing the quiet thoughtful thing again," Buffy said after finishing her cereal. Her daughter grabbed the banana on her plate and started peeling it.
"Oh, sorry... Buffy, you have a good day in school today, because tomorrow you're going on a trip off-world," she admitted.
Buffy blinked, then smiled widely. "You're letting me go out again, but I thought you said back on Revanna that I was never going off-world again," her daughter said.
"Well, honestly, I may have overreacted. I... ah... Listen, Buffy, there are reasons for this trip too... Oh... I can't lie to you, but I can't tell you the reasons yet, either, because I am not allowed. You'll get to spend a few days at the Alpha site -- our off-world base -- with your granddad and then you'll come back here," she said.
Buffy studied her for a short time, then said, "Okay, I won't ask for now."
"So, what's happening at school today?" Sam asked, while trying and failing to remember her daughter's schedule.
"Loads of AP classes, as usual. Oh, and Tawny is taking me to my Aikido class. Master Ando says that I'll have to train a month and I'll be done," Buffy explained.
"That is so great. That makes how many now?" she asked, while trying to remember how many different martial arts Buffy had been trained in and had mastered all the moves of. It was something Tawny and Buffy had come up with a half year ago. Buffy didn't really need to learn all of a martial art to use it, so Buffy usually went to each class for a few weeks to a month, watched all the moves, and then went for the next one. It didn't give her daughter any belts or grades, but it seemed that a bit of training and seeing all the moves of a martial art was enough for Buffy to integrate it practically into her fighting style.
"I knew Karate, Tae-kwon-do, Tai-chi, and Kickboxing from my past and I've added Judo, Jujitsu, the special forces fighting style Tawny knew, and I am working on Aikido," her daughter explained.
She was puzzled for a moment and asked, "Buffy, I don't remember you knowing Tai-chi from before. Are you sure you knew it already?"
"Yeah... I think I forgot to tell you. Sorry. We found out a while back, when Tawny and Master Ando tried to teach me meditation. I used these slow moves to find my center, which Master Ando recognized as Tai-chi. So Tawny took me to a Chinese guy, who knew Tai-chi, and when he tested me, I found out I was actually good at it. Good enough to make him go all googly-eyed and make strange happy noises. He said that it's an ability I should treasure. I am not sure yet," Buffy explained.
"Oh, well that's good," she said, and sighed in her mind. She had missed something again. She hated when that happened.
"By the way, Mom, Chris and the other guys running the AP program for me said you should call them, they needed to talk to you about something. I am pretty sure it isn't my grades. I am averaging an ‘A’ right now in everything but French. I swear that language is my nemesis," Buffy grumbled.
"I'll visit them today after I get you to class. Speaking of class, go get the last bit ready and grab your bag: we're moving out in 8 minutes," she said after checking the clock on the kitchen wall.
A few minutes later as she was buckling up next to her daughter, who had woven her bangs into a braid that fell to the left of her face and was dressed in the same conservative get-up she often used in school -- just a skirt and a tie away from an English schoolgirl's outfit. "You know, you look a bit Harry Potter-ish in that get-up," she commented as she steered the SUV with its locked doors and hidden military-class armor out of the garage.
"Yeah, I am a tie and a robe away from being a Gryffindor," Buffy eagerly commented.
"So, you're a Hermione, now," she said perfectly pronouncing the name from the book series that her daughter currently adored.
"Or a Ginny, but yeah, wouldn't that be neat?” Buffy agreed.
"Sure... Uh, Buffy, I was thinking that maybe Daniel could tutor you in French. If anyone could teach you, it would be him, right?" she suggested.
Buffy gave her a bright smile -- a testament to the changes she had wrought in the originally so school-disaffected girl. "Sure, that would be great. Danny would be perfect. You know, if you didn't have the hots for Jack, then you should totally go for Danny instead," Buffy gushed.
Sam could feel her cheeks burning slightly at her daughter's comment. "Buffy, I don't have the ‘hots’ for the Colonel."
"Yeah, sure, and ‘de Nile’ is just a river in Egypt," her daughter fired back with a teasing smile.
"Well, I don't see you dragging any boys back home, either," Sam retorted.
"Pffft, Mom, like I could. I know I don't stand a chance of having a boyfriend until I can, like, drive, or something. Jack would try to stalk him. Teal'c would probably accidentally show up and be all silent and disapproving. I have no idea what Daniel would do, but I am sure the one arranging it all would be you, and I'd never be able to prove it... Besides, all the boys I see every day are, like, 4 years older than me. I might think some boy is cute, but honestly, I know you wouldn't let me date a high school boy until I was, like, their age," her daughter explained.
Sam said nothing, deciding instead to just smile mysteriously. She knew Buffy would make up her own mind, but being mysterious might actually keep her already good-looking daughter from dating a while longer, which was just fine with her. Of course, she would have to save the Earth in order to prevent her daughter from having to date a Jaffa or some military officer from the Alpha site, but that somehow felt like less of a problem.
They drove onto the grounds of Buffy's school.-------------------------------
"So, I totally wiped the floor with that asshole. I kept him pinned until he cried ‘uncle’. Of course I didn't let him go until Coach came over and told me to, but hey, if you can't pick on geeks, what else is there to do around here?" he told his buddy Andy as they walked down the halls of their High School.
"Yo, Diego, look -- it's your nemesis," Andy said and grinned.
He looked down the hall and saw a tall lady with short hair walking in with the bane of his existence. It was the special kid. That tiny little kid, who had been moved up from Junior way before her time, had nearly cost him all his hard-earned respect.
One day last autumn he was picked to show her a few wrestling moves by his coach. He had felt bad about having to manhandle a kid and a girl, but coach had just told him to put her in simple pin. He had just apologized to the kid -- his mom had at least taught him to be polite to girls, especially little dainty ones like this one -- and grabbed her.
He still remembered the flight she had taken him on. She had grabbed his hand, flipped him over, and in some manner that still puzzled him held him to the mat, even though he weighed twice as much as she did.
He remembered convincing himself it had been a fluke, but when, on his second and third attempts to pin her, she just threw him outside the ring, he had slowly become unable to consider it that anymore. He should have yelled at Coach for not doing it in private. He could still hear the laughter of the rest of his team ringing in his ears. The kid – Buffy, rumor had it her name was -- had thanked him for the training and gone off with one of those adults that seemed to swarm around her unless there was a longer break.
It had been a few days after that when he had decided he couldn't take the mockery of his team any more and went for the kid. He was sure that if he humiliated her most of the talk about him would go away. So one day during lunch hour, he had grabbed her and dragged his unusually unresisting victim into an empty toilet. What had happened in there when they were alone still puzzled him. The kid had just suddenly said, "all right, this will do." She had grabbed his hands and forced his grip open. Then she had just as carefully kept her grip on his hands while she pulled him down to her height.
"Listen, Diego... Yeah, I know your name. I know you're a bully. I am not a victim kind of girl. If you ever touch me again, I will stick you headfirst in a toilet, like you like to do to the other guys in some of my AP courses. If you come after me again after that… well, let's just say it only gets worse," she threatened him, while squeezing his thumbs hard enough to make him want to yell out in pain. Only his pride had stopped him in the end.
After that, she had just let go and left. He had kept away from her for months, and the kid did keep a funny schedule, but a few months back he had taken to rebuilding his reputation by harassing a junior... a geek called Anna. He had been preparing one day to blow a spit ball at her, when the kid had somehow slipped up next to him without him noticing and said, "You never seem to learn. Leave other people alone, if you can't be nice. You're scarring all those you hurt for life. You ever actually think about that? Do you have some sort of excuse?"
He remembered turning towards her and firing the spit ball at the kid instead. In the end that had become his fatal mistake. The girl had wiped the combined spit and paper wad off her face and quite simply grabbed his belt. He had tried to move away, free himself, but aside from dropping his pants in the middle of the hall there had been no way. She had dragged him into a stall in the girl's bathroom and, in a stunt he still couldn't imagine being physically possible, up-ended him into the toilet and flushed. His head had been hurt and spinning from the impact, he had been spitting and dripping water, but still the girl's words had gotten through to him. "If you ever haze or harass anyone in my sight again, I will find a way to make your life very difficult. Stop doing it. In the end, you'll feel better and maybe you'll be able to deal with your issues, whatever they are," she had said and promptly left, like nothing had happened. None of the teachers or parents ever knew, but unfortunately for him the incident had escaped out onto the school grapevine and, combined with his earlier defeat months before in wrestling training, it had ruined his reputation and reduced him to a washed-up bully, whom nobody feared.
Still he only watched as the kid and what was probably that little monster's mom passed him. "God, I hate that brat. Why does she get all that special treatment? She doesn't seem that smart when you talk to her," he groused.
"Dude, Diego, my man, I know you don't like her, and sure I am not a fan either. But I have AP Math with her, and she is scary smart. She doesn't show off, in fact it’s almost like she doesn't know it, but when there is a bit of calculus we have to do or something, the solution like comes to her," Andy explained.
"Errgh, I can't take more of this. Let's just get to class," he said and walked the other way.-------------------------------
"See you, Buffy," the mother of his special student said and gave him a polite nod before leaving. It was uncommon for high school teachers to see a student's parents drop off their kid, but given Buffy's situation it wasn't so weird. Buffy was a gifted student and on a fast track program that would graduate her to college within a year. To him, she was a bright and often funny girl, who seemed equally socially adept as she was capable of doing the reading for his class. He knew from her transcripts, her mother, and her behavior that Buffy wasn't big on History of any kind, but thanks to some dedicated coaching from him and a few others they had at least gotten the entire ‘forget the errors of the past, doomed to repeat them’ bit into her head. That seemed to have done the trick, and now she did her reading and often offered her opinion on the subjects at hand, seemingly having a keen eye for the fact that often the reasons for people's behavior throughout history -- illogical or not -- was an effect of their level of education and knowledge, rather than an indication that people today were any better than those who’d gone before.
Given the level of thinking of his advanced placement students that wasn't so weird, but compared to his regular history classes, even with the seniors, it was like comparing night and day. Universities should consider themselves lucky to be able to teach someone like Buffy or his other students -- most of whom had taken their seat while he had been thinking about them.
"So guys, today we're dealing a bit more with the situation of South America during the Cold War. Let's start with the outside influences in the region and look at what they were trying to gain politically, ideologically and, of course, the real reason, economically..." he started explaining.-------------------------------
Anna realized she actually knew very little about the kid who seemed to be in her every class, as well as several other classes that she hadn't been able to get into. "Buffy Anne Summers Carter," she knew that the blond girl was named. She knew that Buffy was smart, kind, unafraid of life and somehow fierce. A tiny but growing kid, who was wise, yet childish when she was allowed to be. Buffy was also both her worst competitor and her protector. Buffy didn't seem to care, but they were tied for grades in almost every class they shared.
The girl also didn't seem to fear letting people know when she -- a tiny slip of a girl, eleven going on twelve -- disapproved of their actions, even when it was bullies picking on someone more their own size. She knew Buffy had prevented several people from doing stuff to her, from performing all the classics of high school harassment, and she suspected Buffy was the reason Alex Wilder, the guy who had pretended to like her then dumped her publicly, had later that day apologized to her like his life depended on it.
She and the other kids in the AP classes were living a life of relative safety, and it had all begun when the tiny girl had appeared, looking a bit lost and afraid in their class. She remembered that day really well.
The girl had come in and stood looking pale and tiny, when Samuels their History teacher had introduced her. "This is Buffy Summers, she'll be joining our class this year. Buffy is quite young and new to this school, so I'd like you all to make an effort to help her feel welcome and survive the high school experience," he had said.
She remembered the kid looking around and smiling -- not in the usual shy friendly manner, but somehow... impossibly... more motherly in her manner. She had a nurturing... or rather protective way about her even back then. Buffy had somehow become more self-assured from one moment to the next as she walked over and sat next to her.
She knew that one day months ago, long after she had gotten on a first-name basis with Buffy, the girl had taken Diego Alvarado, the bully that seemed to have followed her since Junior High School like a curse, and dunked him in the toilet. She had no idea how, but the rumors at the school were adamant on that point, as were the rumors that Buffy was less normal than she appeared. Those rumors were totally wild, all about Buffy being able to lift a teenager and outdo the entire athletics teams. She did know that the girl had a lot of PE on her schedule and in fact, until Buffy was picked up by her mom or sometimes that brunette woman at five, the girl was constantly occupied.
There was one girl at school who seemed to know Buffy better than anyone, aside from her teacher: Cassandra Frasier. However, Cassie clammed up whenever anyone asked about the girl and would only say that Buffy's mom was a very busy Air Force officer and her mom's best friend. Because of that Buffy spent a lot of time at Cassie's house. The few girls Anna had known who also knew Cassie just said that Buffy had a room at Cassie's house. That the girl was there a lot and that she was seriously cool for a kid her age. Cassie seemed to like the girl, but more than that Buffy and Cassie didn't seem to tell anyone.
There was some sort of invisible barrier of secrecy about Buffy, too. Anna had been an office aide all year, and Buffy's transcripts were kept under lock and key, while her schedule seemed completely decided by outside consultants rather than the teachers at the high school. She had even found out that Buffy had her very own private PE teacher, an Air Force Captain and teacher from the Air Force Academy, whom a Google search had only told her was a former helicopter pilot in the Gulf War. She knew she was obsessing again, and probably creating mystery where there was none, but when she looked up from their pop-quiz and saw the blond-haired girl stare out the window, looking at the weather outside with her test probably already done at her side, she just knew she had to try to go to the source.-------------------------------
A few hours later Anna saw her chance just as she had hoped. Apparently, there was a small gap in Buffy's schedule every Tuesday at this time. She looked up at the girl who seemed, as always, lost in thought, looking out over the athletics stadium, while waiting for her PE teacher to arrive. She noticed that Buffy hadn't changed her clothes, which meant that she was going off campus as she often did in the afternoons. Anna knew that it was a bit weird to blow off a class in order to ask a little kid about stuff and try to dig up stuff, but she was a curious person and, to her, there was no current greater mystery than Buffy.
"Excuse me, Buffy," she said and sat next to the girl, hoping to avoid looming over the girl and starting off the conversation on the wrong foot.
"Okay... Hi, Anna, what's up?" Buffy asked, immediately looking like she was worried about her.
"Nothing, I'm fine. I just wanted to ask if you... where you're going today?" she asked.
"Oh, I am going off to my Aikido class -- that is, when my teacher gets here to pick me up..." Buffy explained.
"Aikido, is that some martial art?" she asked, knowing the answer, but hoping that she could get Buffy to really talk to her and then maybe get to know her better.
"Yeah... but why do you ask? You're, like, off-the-chart smart, you should know... Well, it's okay if you don't, though," Buffy said.
She had to stop herself from wincing. She knew very well what Aikido was and had hoped that Buffy would be like everyone else and not notice her fishing for knowledge. Unfortunately, unlike the rest of her friends, all from AP of course, Buffy wasn't socially inept and seemed to actually be perceptive about people and their emotions. That was a bit of a problem, because that was even more stuff the girl would be ahead of her on. "I didn't know. So you take Aikido. Aren't you a bit young to be taking Martial Arts?" she asked.
"God, no; anyone should at least know self-defence and, honestly, you could start studying Martial Arts at like six, as long as your training is set up for it," Buffy explained.
"I didn't know. I don't know anything about fighting and stuff like that," she replied.
"Oh, that's okay, most people thankfully don't have to. Me, I like to know stuff about fighting and I am really good at it, too. Why don't you and I talk more about it some other day, though? Tawny... my teacher... is here," Buffy said and got up to greet the older woman who had just walked up to them without her noticing.
The woman seemed to study her intensely. She fought to not look down and away. But she knew when she wasn't wanted and still got up to leave. She thought about what she had just learned as she headed away.
"Anna," Buffy called out to her, as she was barely a few yards away from her.
"Yeah," she replied and turned to look back at the girl, who was zipping her jacket and getting ready to leave.
"Would you like to swing by my house next week? We could study for the Chemistry test next Friday," Buffy offered.
She had not expected the young genius to offer her something like that. In fact, Anna always seemed to have to ask her friends for study dates and stuff like that. "I'd love to," she replied.
"Cool, we'll plan it out when I am back in a few days," Buffy replied, reminding her that the girl often disappeared for a few days, then returned like nothing had changed, and the teachers never seemed to remark on it, either. It also restarted all her thinking about the mystery that everyone around her seemed to ignore.-------------------------------
"What was all that about?" Tawny asked her as she slipped her notebook into her bag.
"That was Anna. She is just being awkward and curious. I think she is trying to understand me. I puzzle her, I think. But I don't mind, she's smart and sweet," she replied.
"Buffy, she's a geek... She would be the poster girl for geekdom, if she had braces or frizzy hair," Tawny replied.
"You just fear that which is smarter than you," she said with a smile.
"Punk," her teacher replied.
"Yeah, yeah, now you're like that. So are we going to Aikido, or what?" she asked.
"Yup," Tawny said, and they left.-------------------------------
The next day started intensely. Her mom seemed to practically be buzzing with energy as she woke her and told her to be ready soon. Buffy didn't mind getting up early, especially if it was for a trip through the Stargate. She hoped she'd see her granddad and Lieutenant Elliot again, because last she’d heard they had both been going to that Alpha site place. She had no idea what it was, but it sounded a lot like an SGC kind of place.
She washed her hair and decided while it dried that she'd soon try a shorter hair style. She loved her long hair, but a girl needed to try different things while she was young, and besides, she was more than a bit tired of running around for nearly a half hour with wet hair every day -- unless she blow-dried it, and that was really hard on the hair over time. Deciding practicality had to win over style that day, she just slipped her hair into a ponytail, while making sure a few strands dropped to the left of her face. She smiled to check her teeth, because while she had both brushed and flossed it was good to know you were fully in the clear from any leftovers of breakfast. "Buffy, we need to go," her mom yelled.
She slipped out of the bathroom and grabbed a jacket in the hall, walking up to her mom as she put it on. "Where's the fire?" she asked.
"No fire, it's just that I am leaving with the others in two hours and I wanted you to be able to go along... Although, if you need more time to dry your hair I can wait," her mom explained.
"No, I'm good," she said.
Her mom gave her an apologetic look and hefted a large green bag. She looked down at it in bewilderment and noticed that Mr. Gordo was sticking out of a zipper. "Mom, why are we hauling so much along?" she asked.
Her mom sighed, but said nothing. It seemed it had more to do with the stuff she couldn't tell her about. "Mom," she insisted. She had a limit on how much secrecy she could tolerate when it dealt with her. Besides, if her mom acted weird, everyone had told her to be careful.
"I can't tell you details, but your stay at the Alpha site might be longer than a few days, or it might be over in a flash. Look, Buffy, I will explain it all once we're at the Alpha site. I promise," her mom said.
"Alright, but I am warning you. This is very weird, and you've all told me to be careful when it gets weird," she said.
"True, but it'll make sense soon, I promise," her mom said as they left the driveway and headed for the SGC.-------------------------------
Buffy found the SGC in a state of weird much like her mom. Everyone seemed insanely busy, and she was sure she saw more civilians there in one room they passed than she had thought were usually on the entire base. They quickly changed, and she was soon back in her adventure suit, as she had taken to thinking of it. She liked the gift from Jack a lot, and so she had insisted on going through the gate in her mini-BDUs, as everyone else had dubbed them.
Jack was looking very serious when she slipped into the gate room. The gate was dialing while a group of technicians and soldiers were moving a huge silver tube on wheels up onto the ramp to the gate. Daniel and Teal'c were standing in the background, looking on the entire circus with a bit of detachment. She wandered over to them, because Jack looked really busy and focused. "Hey, you two, how are things here?" she asked.
"Busy, Buffy," Teal'c said. He had kept calling her Buffy, especially after the quiet and dignified ceremony he and she had held just after he had come back from Revanna. Her mom had been too busy to attend, and it hadn't been a big production, either. Teal'c had said something in the Jaffa language and given her a cup to drink after putting a drop of his blood in there. It had burned in her mouth and on the way down. Then he had asked her if she accepted him as a protector and she had said yes. It had all seemed very stoic and simple, but she guessed that fit Teal'c’s character very well. He wasn't one for big shows.
"I see. So, Daniel, has mom asked you to tutor me in French yet?" she asked.
"No, she hasn't, but she's been really busy. I'd love to, of course," he answered.
"You're so cool," she said and hugged him. She just knew that if she had been like ten or fifteen years older, she'd totally put the moves on Daniel. She shook her head. That thought had brought up all sorts of really freaky pictures in her mind. That had all featured some very smitten-looking fellows. She wondered what it had meant, but the feeling it had evoked was new to her.
"So, you're coming with us today?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, mom insisted. I didn't even have time to dry my hair," she explained, then asked, "What's really going on here?"
Teal'c and Daniel looked at each other. Then Teal'c said, "Your world is in danger from a rock that might hit it and destroy all life on it. You're going to safety so that your mother does not have to fear your death, should we fail to stop it. Have no fear, Buffy, we will not fail. We have not, and we will not."
Her mind reeled for a moment. It was easy to forget that the Earth was just a place in the universe and could be destroyed. Thankfully, her mom and other geniuses like her were there to help watch out for it and protect it. Buffy also understood why they wanted her off Earth. The Alpha site was probably some sort of secret hideout or base, where the SGC stashed all their off-world operations and now her. Or…she thought back on those civilians, and realized this was all apart of a bigger plan. They were making sure that something of Earth would survive, if her mom and the others failed.
"Will you guys be in danger?" she asked the two guys who seemed willing to actually give her answers.
"Less than everyone on Earth. Should we fail, our orders are to go to the Alpha site, where O'Neill will then assume command," Teal'c explained.
"He's a good choice," she agreed. Behind her the gate opened. She turned and they all followed the silver device through the gate.-------------------------------
She ended up spending nearly a week at the dreary base. It was all tents, metallic sheds and a bit of stuff. It was also filled with Jaffa and Tok'ra glaring at each other. As much as she had wanted to watch the Jaffa train, neither the Jaffa nor the Tok'ra had been big fans of that. Her granddad had hung around all the time and the Jaffa didn't seem to like him much, while the Tok'ra seemed unable to do anything without at least talking to him, or rather Selmak. The Tok'ra were also gushing with praise for her, which was rather flattering, if a bit much.
The only fun thing had been the nature around the base. The trees looked normal enough, but the flowers were really pretty and the animals seemed to be friendly, small mammals -- at least the ones she saw by day. The ones she heard before going to sleep at night were definitely predators, but she never got to see them.
Her mom left almost five hours after they’d arrived there, flying off in some transport ship that Selmak taught her was called a Tel'tak. That was another thing. Selmak suddenly seemed to constantly be lecturing her, and she heard him suggest to several other Tok'ra that he wanted to teach her their language so that she'd understand them even better. She didn't mind that much, because it was the same language the Jaffa used, and she was finding the stoic warrior people more and more interesting.
People had kept coming through the gate all week, and the tent camp grew even larger. They also brought through a shit-load of stuff, and there didn't seem to be too much of a break between the gate closing and opening again, even during the night. Then after a week, all the adults -- including Jacob, who was more or less the one taking care of her -- seemed really tense, before the gate opened again and Jack stepped through, telling everyone the danger was over and they could go back home.
She was actually on the first team back to Earth and was able to greet her mom as she returned from Patterson, where they had parked the Tel'tak. She even made it to her study date with Anna, who was none the wiser about a lot of stuff, when she really thought about it. Buffy had spent every hour since their study date thinking about it. The world had no idea who had saved them, and how many times the SGC had saved their planet in the past. She wondered if they'd thank them for it in the end. She knew she would always be thankful. It felt good being home.-------------------------------
Months passed since her visit to the Alpha site. She passed her exams, even in French, which Daniel had been able to tutor her in until then. The Goa'uld that had screwed with the Tok'ra and sent the giant naquadah stone to Earth had not been stopped yet, but at least his gift of a naquadah asteroid had been really popular, and Earth's tel'tak was, according to her mom, freighting down several tons of ore a week form the asteroid now safely in far orbit around Earth.
She hadn't seen her granddad since her time at the Alpha site, either, but then again, the Tok'ra were busy finding a way to deal with Anubis, their new enemy, and his highly advanced technology. Still, life went on, even if her summer seemed to consist only of nature hikes, visits to the pool with Cassie, or letting Anna drag her off to cultural stuff that she insisted Buffy needed more of.
She had just spent the afternoon out with Anna at a renaissance fair, in costume and everything. She swore she'd never go to another one of those anytime soon, though. Everyone had kept treating her like some tiny, breakable piece of glass, especially Anna's otherwise cool parents. It seemed that her being smart and ahead of her class made her unable to do any of the cool stuff at the fair. She would make sure to tell her mom that she really wanted a sword or something as a present this Christmas… or even better, a punching bag of her very own, that would be great. It wouldn't take up too much space in the basement compared to her mom's experiments and tools.
She walked inside, finding the front door unlocked, which proved that her mom had actually made it home in good time from that new civilization she and Daniel had been visiting. "Mom," she called out.
"In the living room," her mom said. Something about her tone of voice was off, though.
She walked into the living room after dropping her bag below the coat rack and hanging away her jacket. "Mom?" she asked in confusion, when she noticed that her mom looked very distraught.
"Buffy," her mom said, and opened her arms, signaling her need for a hug. Buffy quickly scooted over and sat carefully in her mom's arms.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Daniel saved a lot of people... Oh, god, Buffy, how do I say this so that it makes sense, when I don't want it to? Buffy, Daniel is dying. He's got radiation poisoning. We've tried everything, but we can't do anything." Her mom started crying while desperately clinging to her. Buffy thought about the always thoughtful, sweet guy who had been a gentle guide for them all throughout her mom's time at the SGC and her time on this dimension's Earth. He seemed like such a constant. She couldn't help crying as well.
They sat there for a while. They stopped crying soon, though. Not because they weren't sad, but because they could do nothing else. After a while she asked, "Can I see him?"
"Are you sure you want to do that?" her mom asked, a bit surprised.
"I have to. I want to say goodbye, while I can," she admitted. It was for her own benefit, but she felt she needed to go pay her respects when there was still someone to be respectful to – locally, anyway.
"Go get your coat, I'll call ahead and tell everyone we're coming," her mom said and loosened her hug, letting her slip away. Buffy went into the hallway and realized she no longer cared what she had done during the day or that she found parts of her summer vacation boring.-------------------------------
The mood in the infirmary where Daniel lay was somber, to say the least. In fact, after going through the outer security and passing the NORAD command the mood of the entire base had seemed off. Somehow and for some reason unknown to her, everyone at the SGC seemed quite focused on SG-1’s wellbeing – in this case, the wellbeing of Daniel.
Buffy walked into the room with her visitor’s badge dangling from a pocket and noticed all the dire faces on the nurses swarming around in the room. The only thing she saw that seemed out of the ordinary was that Daniel's hands were bandaged. She heard her mom whisper to Teal'c, who stood outside the door looking down the corridor, lost in thought, probably. "Where is Jack?" her mom whispered.
"He was very upset with the allegations leveled against Daniel Jackson, so he has gone back to the planet to complain," she heard Teal'c tell her mom.
"Why have you brought Buffy?" he continued, sounding perplexed.
"She wanted to pay her respects. Daniel has been very important to her," her mom told Teal'c.
She took a breath and walked up to Daniel, who was staring at the ceiling. For a moment, she felt at a loss. "Buffy," she heard, and looked up to find Daniel looking at her.
"Hey," she said, not really able to say much else at that moment.
"Why did you come?" he asked, looking at her with pity in his eyes. That was just like Daniel, to think about others first.
"To see you, doofus," she said, almost smiling, then felt sad knowing that it would be the last time she could kid around with Daniel... Somehow she felt that while she had seen death before, this was the first time she actually got to be with someone actively dying and whom she cared about.
"I didn't mean that... Daniel, I am really sorry," she said.
"Sorry about what? It was a stupid question," he said.
"Not about that. I'm sorry you'll..." she couldn't say it at first. "Die," she finally choked out.
"I am going to miss you so much," she added, but found the words hollow. There was no way she could express her love for Daniel in words. So, she did as she tried to do with her mom every day, she tried to show it.
"Buffy, I..." Daniel started to say but not before she landed in his arms and hugged him. She planted a chaste kiss on his cheek before sliding back to stand next to him.
"I... Thank you," he said, but a bitterness she had never before seen stayed in his eyes.
She looked at him funny but couldn't understand what Daniel had to be bitter about in his life. He had done great things. He had opened the Stargate, he had allowed Earth's defenders to understand countless cultures and open relations with all of them. He had done and helped do hundreds of great and small deeds. He had done good or tried to do good in all of them. He had nothing to be bitter about. Because if anyone would, he would be going to Heaven.
"Daniel, you did good. You've always done good. There is nothing to fear from death if you did good. Death can be a gift," she whispered and felt again like she was in contact with that vastness that was her older self.
Daniel stared at her, then smiled, if still a bit tightly. "You sound so sure," he said.
"I am... I just am," she said, not really sure herself why she was. She realized that she had been crying for a while.
"Buffy, I am glad I got to know you before..." Daniel said.
"Me too... I think I'd never really have learned French if you hadn't been there," she said and sniffled.
"I bet... But, Buffy, don't be sad. I... I guess I have seen and done more than most and defied death for too long. Maybe a rest would do me good," he said, trying to console her.
"Daniel, I know. I understand... Daniel, don't be afraid for us: we will go on, but we will miss you deeply," she said.
He looked at her for a while, then said, "I know. I..."
"Are you guys okay?" her mom stepped up and asked.
"I guess," she said, and Daniel nodded.
"We should let Daniel rest for a while," her mom suggested, clearly not really able to take seeing her friend lying there slowly dying from radiation poisoning. Buffy’s concern immediately shifted a bit. She loved Daniel as a friend, but seeing her mom in pain was like a switch was thrown in her mind. A will unknown to her until that moment welled up in her and all her qualms and personal feelings seemed to fade. Her mother needed her, all her feelings were secondary. She could deal with Daniel's death on her own.
"Sure, mom, why don't we go to your lab?" she said. She nodded to Teal'c in passing and sensed he was also having great trouble with seeing his friend dying. It was getting clear. Daniel was a core part of the impromptu family that was SG-1, and no one had really prepared themselves to lose a member of that family.
As they walked through the halls and corridors of the SGC she decided to speak up, hoping it wasn't like poking a raw wound, "Mom, I want to tell you something, and I think you won't like it much, but I want you to understand," she said.
Her mom pushed her blond tresses back in a move she'd have told a guy would make him bald too soon, before her mom replied, "It's about Daniel, right?"
"Mom, it's good to be sad now, but don't let it get in the way of you saying goodbye. I never got to say goodbye to my first mom. I think I still regret that. Daniel is going to die. You have to talk to him and tell him what you feel. It makes life after easier... And life goes on. It's hard, but you have to go on, because otherwise what use was his and all the other lives before his?" she explained.
They turned the corner into her mom's lab. Her mom kept walking until she reached a chair and dropped into it, burrowing her face in her hands. "I don't know if I can... You know, we're told not to do that. Keep a professional distance. They don't realize it can't work here. We have a set team. Everyone on the SG teams knows this. Your team is more than just friends and workmates. We're, each and everyone of us, tiny families forged together by adversity. I've never told him…or Jack…or Teal'c…how I really feel. I hoped they knew. But what if they don't understand? What if Daniel doesn't? I... I am just not that good at friends and family. Even you... I sometimes think I should just have quit the SGC and been there for you..." her mom said, becoming more and more distraught.
She walked over and lifted her mom's arms off the table and onto her shoulders. She wished she were bigger, so instead of hugging her mom she lifted her mom's chin with a finger and captured her mom's eyes with hers, putting all her effort into making sure she had her mom's attention. She hoped whatever source of wisdom she had from her past didn't fail her as she said, "Mom, I have never, ever doubted that you loved me from the second you decided way back sometime at Winterhome that you wanted me. I've told myself since that you would've have adopted me, DNA or no DNA. I know that all of you -- Jack, Teal'c, even Daniel -- should have had it out long ago. Talked like more than workmates. You still can. Life goes on, and all you can do is to move beyond your mistakes. Live with them instead of trying to hide behind them. I feel it every time you guys are near each other: you're more than just friends. You just said so, yourself. So go and admit it to them... Start with Daniel."
Her mom looked at her than with teary eyes, then took her into that hug she hadn't herself started earlier. "Buffy, never, ever leave me. I wouldn't know what I would do without you. I love you more than life itself... There, I started... You're right, we have too many feelings that we haven't expressed on our team. I guess I was just afraid, as I have been my entire career, to be considered the overly emotional female. But I guess it’s time to stop." Her mom wiped away a few of her own tears.
"Uhh, I wish the rules were different, sometimes," her mom said without explaining what she meant. But Buffy guessed her mom was hinting at the unresolved emotions between her and Jack. And the fact that a relationship would be against the rules.
Her mom got up, then stopped and looked at her. "Buffy, I want to stay for now... Would you mind staying here? Either in the lab, the observation room to Daniel's room, or the cafeteria, which you should visit anyhow. Don't think I haven't noticed you've been dropping a few pounds again," her mom said.
"Mom, I don't do it on purpose... What would you do if I ran marathons? Then my weight would swing a lot more,” she replied glad her mom's mood lightened a bit, even though it was probably not really for real.
"I'd pity your competitors and worry that you'd still somehow get into trouble. Oh and you'd still be on a medically regulated diet, so go... and eat," her mom said.
Buffy wandered into the observation room overlooking Daniel's final rest, eating her apple. She saw that the room was empty except for her mom, who was talking to a now completely bandaged Daniel. She didn't want to intrude and stayed out in the corridor. Suddenly there was a feeling, a feeling like there was a presence just in front of her. It felt almost exactly like with Orlin. Except older and maybe wiser. "Who are you?" she asked, avoiding her instinct to grab the air where she sensed the presence.
There was a flash of white light and she found herself in an image of the corridor outside the gate room. She could hear her mom and Daniel speaking on the other side. In front of her stood a white-clad, kindly woman. "I am Oma Desala," the woman said.
"I thought I've had it bad," she said before she realized she was being rude.
"Buffy Summers, do you know why the Ascended cannot see what is in your mind?" the woman asked.
"No, I have no clue. I've never really had to deal with this mental stuff too much before. Don't you guys know?" she asked.
"We are not gods, just travelers on the path to enlightenment. A path you too are following, in a way we have not seen before. Your mind, your soul seems to be guiding itself towards something greater," the woman said, then seemed to focus on her for a moment.
There was a flash and they stood for a moment again on that dune she had seen before in her mind. "You are not welcome here," a girl with golden hair and a defiant expression said to Oma, who was looking around in confusion.
The girl walked up to Oma. "Leave now... before it kills you. It will do the same to any other invaders," she said and pointed towards a snarling primitive woman with dark eyes. Oma disappeared, looking shocked.
"Who're you and where are we?" Buffy asked.
"Too early. Sorry, kid, but I promise we'll have a long talk one day. If you'll like it or not, that remains to be seen. You're doing great, though. I envy you a little, but I guess that will also be a moot point later on," the girl said, then put a hand over Buffy’s eyes. She blinked and was back in the corridor without the sense of a presence.
She watched as the hours passed and Daniel got worse. Her mom was replaced by Teal'c, then an off-worlder came with some sort of box and talked to Jack and the General. Jack seemed to be happy he had come. The newcomer came into the observation deck with her. "Excuse me," he said as he noticed her.
She had tried to be as silent and unobtrusive as possible all day and she wasn't sure she was up to talking much with Daniel growing weaker all the time. "Hi, little one, I'm Jonas Quinn," he said and smiled, until some thought he had froze the smile on his face.
"Are you Dr. Jackson's child?" he asked before she could introduce herself.
"No, I'm Buffy Summers Carter," she said. She had considered dropping the Summers a few times but had finally decided a few weeks ago that she couldn't ignore her past and her Summers name was important to her.
"Major Carter's daughter. I am pleased to meet you... Although I am sure the circumstances…," he rambled a bit, apparently trying to backtrack and gloss over the fact that, Daniel's situation aside, he was actually glad to be at the SGC.
"It's okay. I don't think you meant anything bad. Why are you here? I thought I heard someone say you guys were angry with us," she said.
"Ah, yes, well, my government was less than truthful about what really happened during the incident with Daniel Jackson. They will not admit, even to themselves, that he saved our capitol from utter devastation. I came here personally to repay his sacrifice just a little by bringing you a large amount of a rare mineral that your mother thinks could be very important," he explained, then frowned.
"I usually don't get along well with children. You are a good listener," Jonas said.
"Thanks. Well, honestly, right now I think it's also because I don't really feel like talking," she said.
An airman came and got Jonas at that moment. "The General would like to speak with you. Oh... hi, Buffy, my condolences... Are you okay here?" the airman asked.
Apparently a lot of the SGC knew her by now. She finally recognized him as the airman she had borrowed a keycard from, back when Cassie was sick. "I am fine," she said, and saw Jack, who had been Daniel's latest bedside companion, get up and leave. Janet replaced him. It showed that her second guardian was as upset as everyone else about not being able to help Daniel. She promised herself that she would try and alleviate Janet's sorrow later. Cassie would probably like to help, too. Even though Cassie was in the awkward teenage stage that she herself didn't look forward to, the adopted girl still loved Buffy’s mom a lot and would want to take care of her own adopted mom.
A few minutes later there was an alert as someone arrived through the Stargate. Shortly after that, Teal'c, her mom, Jack, General Hammond and her granddad joined Janet in the treatment room. They were going to do something. She debated in her mind going down there, finally deciding she'd rather be at Daniel's side, unless someone thought she was skulking about, afraid to face his death.
She ran down to the room as quick as she could, but a few troops returning from the Stargate room slowed her a bit. When she arrived, her granddad smiled at her, while Selmak said, "Greetings, Buffy. Now I will attempt to heal him, but I will not be able restore him to full health."
Her granddad focused on Daniel, and the healing device he was using – a thing her mom had only told her about – glowed an orange ray at Daniel's stomach. She wondered if Daniel would want to live if not with his full health. The minutes passed, and she noticed the presence of the being that called itself Oma increased, but it seemed to be focused on Daniel. She felt a bit of the presence brush against her again before focusing on Jack. More time passed, everyone still almost holding their breaths. "Jacob, stop please," Jack said out of the blue.
"What... Are you serious?" her granddad asked. Everyone else looked surprised. Janet and her mom looked a bit upset.
"It's what he wants. It's what he would want," Jack said.
She thought that Jack might have had a communication with either Daniel or Oma. She was unsure why, though. No one had really explained Orlin and now Oma fully to him.
"Someone else want to tell me what I should do?" her granddad asked. No one said anything. Everyone thought the same as she did, Daniel wouldn't want any sort of half-life.
"Just let him go," Jack said, sounding almost a bit defeated by it all.
Jacob seemed to slump a bit, and the healing device stopped its glow and hum. It took a few moments, then the EKG flatlined. She felt a sob well forward, when suddenly Daniel's body glowed and the feeling of presence increased a lot. There was a new presence, familiar, friendly and very clearly newborn. The glow increased. A strange, almost angelic looking being appeared over Daniel's bed.
For a moment her perception flickered, and she stood in what looked like the gateroom. Daniel was standing on the ramp talking to Jack. "Hey... Where are you going?" Jack asked.
Daniel looked confused but also excited as he said, "I don't know... Bye, Jack... Bye, Buffy." Jack looked over his shoulder at her, a bit perplexed, but she just shrugged, not really knowing how or why she was there either. Daniel walked up the ramp and went through the gate. She blinked and saw the medical observation room again. Daniel's bandages and bedcover sagged as his body disappeared. Overhead the white glowing thing faded away, as did both presences that Buffy had felt.
"Bye, Daniel," she said and just couldn't help smiling. Whatever had happened, Daniel hadn't really died. Death wasn't like that. Didn't feel that way. She knew. She just knew. Her mom walked over, clearly distraught, and lifted her up into her arms, needing her near again. Buffy hoped it wouldn't take too long until that need faded, with her help. She noticed Teal'c bowing his head in respect, then turning and walking past, followed by first the General, then her granddad, who gave her a thumbs-up, and finally Janet. Jack remained there, looking up at the ceiling before he too left. Her mom let her down. "Buffy, wait for me at the elevator, you should be home in bed by now," her mom said, while wiping away more tears.
"Mom, is it okay if I visit Janet before we go? We can still meet at the elevator," she said.
"Sure," her mom said.
She didn't have to look long for him. Sam had guessed Jack would go to Daniel's office. Outside of her lab it was the coziest of all their offices, and with the loss of Daniel, he -- like her -- would probably still go there to remember, at least once. She found him studying one of Daniel's pictures of Sha're. He cast a glance over his shoulder, seeing her, then looked back down at the picture. "He left us, you know," Jack said.
"What do you mean?" she replied, unsure what to really think about what had happened in the end at Daniel's deathbed.
"He didn't die, as such. He ascended. Apparently that woman from Kheb was still interested in him. He left us," Jack said and sounded a bit bitter.
"Ascension, is that the same as death?" she asked.
"I don't know... Neither did he... Buffy seemed to know something, too," he said.
"Buffy is... she understands death in a way I can't. She accepted Daniel's passing almost immediately. I think that's why," she said.
"You know, I sometimes think our getting her here was almost a rescue mission. Whatever she did back there, she had done enough, seen too much. No one should understand death like that," he said.
"Jack... I didn't come here to talk about Daniel... I came... about us," she said.
"Sam, we can't. I... The SGC... Look, I've thought about this. But either one of us is out of here -- and this place needs us too much -- or I'd have to replace Hammond, then get promoted out of here, and that wouldn't help much, either... But Sam," he turned towards her and looked her right in the eyes. They never touched.
"What you feel... I feel it too. If we could only find a way," he continued. Had she been more girly she'd have kissed him right there or gone more weak in the knees than he had already made her.
"About Buffy, you wouldn't mind?" she said.
"Never, I've always wanted a daughter," he replied.
"Damn, we really, really need to find a way," she said, about to move closer, almost ready to stop giving a damn about the regs.
"Let's stop this," Jack said and turned away. She nodded to herself. She still needed to get her daughter to bed, and it had been an emotional day.
"To be continued," she whispered and left, not hearing any response from Jack.