Buffy sat across from General Hammond, Jack O'Neill, Samantha Carter, Janet Frasier, and Riley Finn. Next to her were Vi, Molly, and Dawn. The atmosphere was tense, but she was trying to do her best to defuse things. Not that her best was that good right now.
“Miss Summers, you showed a reckless disregard for the safety of my command's personnel by hiding your abilities. Until you allow us to fully test you, I don't see us coming to any kind of consensus.” General Hammond looked upset, Buffy thought. Well, she could understand that. She wasn't too happy to know that two irresponsible lab techs had caused her girls so much pain.
“I agree completely, General.” Buffy could tell just how astonished those sitting on the other side of the table were. Almost as astonished as the people sitting on her side of the table. Everyone but Dawn, that was. Buffy had shared her plan to deal with the SGC with her, but no one else.
General Hammond frowned. “If you agree, then why are you being resistant to being tested along with the other Slayers?”
Buffy cleared her throat. How to explain in a way that didn't make her sound arrogant? There probably wasn't one, so she plunged right in. “I'm not sure you have a way to test me, General Hammond.”
“Sheesh, Summers, get over yourself.” Jack O'Neill snarked, a hint of a smile on his mouth. Out of everyone involved, he didn't seem to be holding what Buffy'd done against her, since it was something he probably would have done under the same circumstances. At least that's how she interpreted it.
“Please explain, Buffy.” General Hammond rumbled.
It was a good sign that General Ham and Rye was dropping the formality, Buffy thought. “General, there's nothing that you have that can measure my abilities. Well, you could probably use a radar gun to measure my top speed, but that's about it.”
“You're that capable?” Samantha Carter blurted out. She appeared to realize that she'd spoken out of turn, and asked, “General, permission to address the meeting?”
“Permission granted, Major.”
“Buffy, do you know what your physical limits are?” Sam asked, excitement visible in her voice.
Great, I'm a lab rat to her, Buffy thought. Oh well, here goes. “No, I don't. But what I do know is that there's no bar that can hold the amount I can lift. I can jump further than the gym is long. That machine that you use to measure nerve velocity? It won't work.”
“How do you know that?” Sam asked.
“We have one like it back at the school. Along with lots and lots of weights for lifting. At one point, Xander was going to make this huge weight rack slash lifting thing for me, but Giles nixed it. I don't think he wanted to know.”
“Someone's been eating their spinach.” Jack smiled as he joked. The tension level in the room, already dropping, went down further.
“Buffy, what happened?” Riley interjected, curiosity in his voice. He was looking at her in worry. Buffy wasn't sure if it was worry for her, or worry about her. She decided not to give her sister a look just then.
“Sunnydale happened. More precisely, the situation with the First happened.”
“Buffy, what is the First? Major Davis mentioned it during the briefing he gave us, but only in relation to your activating the Slayers, no more.” General Hammond appeared genuinely interested as he asked his question.
“The short answer is it's the oldest evil there is. The long answer is, we really don't know whether it's a former god, or some kind of cosmic personification of one of our baser urges. I got the last one from Willow, by the way. We know it's immaterial. That it has tremendous influence over certain demons. That its avatar can wield surprising power. But we don't really know what it is.”
“So what happened? How did you get the... way you are?” Sam asked, softly.
The entire tone in the room had changed from one of challenge and confrontation to one of exploration as Buffy had opened up. Now she just had to keep things going. “The spell that activated the potentials was... powerful. How powerful, none of us knew going in. If I had known, I'd like to think that I wouldn't have let Willow do what she did. Risk herself that way.”
Sam looked confused. “I'm not sure I understand why this spell was so powerful. I have a hard enough time believing in magic at all.”
Buffy sighed. How to explain color to a blind person? Buffy gave it a try. “Picture this. There are between five hundred and a thousand potential Slayers at any given moment. Agents of the First, Bringers we call them, killed a great many potentials. So when the spell was activated, about two hundred and fifty girls went from potentials to Slayers. Now think about the power to make just one Slayer. It required the power of three amazing powerful... beings to cast that spell. We call them the Shadow Men. They might be shaman, or they might not. Actually, I'm not even one hundred percent sure they're even human. Anyway, now we have two hundred and fifty times that many slayers. The magical power needed was beyond enormous. It was like an H-bomb.” Buffy smiled wearily. “By the way, that's Willow's analogy again. Where was I? Oh yeah, anyway the magical power needed to do this was enormous. But the spell went off without a hitch. Why?”
Sam's eyes gleamed. “Because there was sufficient power that could be tapped.”
Buffy smiled. She'd gotten through. “I can see why you're so valuable here, Sam. Exactly right. There was enormous power ready to be tapped. The power that Willow tapped to cast the spell to activate the potentials turned out to be just a tiny fraction of what's available. The smallest iota of it...”
Jack interrupted. “Okay, now you're getting complicated. Make it simple for us mere soldiers. Where did all that power come from?”
“Human sacrifices, Jack. Tens of thousands of human sacrifices. Not just any human sacrifices, but the most powerful human sacrifice you can have: the sacrifice of a potential life giver. More commonly referred to as a young girl.”
Riley burst out, “That's horrible!” He looked sick at the thought. Sadly, though there was a time she could relate, that had passed a few years ago. Now it just was.
Buffy sighed. “I agree, Riley. But those beings all those years ago had some tough choices to make. Did they allow vampires and demons to run rampant over the Earth, possibly destroying mankind? Or did they take a small number of girls and sacrifice them for the greater good? It's obvious which one they chose. We wouldn't have done any differently.”
“Buffy, I'm not sure I understand even what question to ask. Please continue.” Hammond also looked sad, probably think of the sacrifice of thousands of young woman not much older than his granddaughters.
“The thing is, the Shadow Men, the guys who cast the original spell, I met them. I went through this portal created by this ancient item that dated back to the casting of the first spell. They were still alive and kicking. They tried to cast a spell on me. At the time, I didn't understand why. It was a variant of the spell they'd already cast. To infuse the demonic essence into a Slayer. So they were going to give me a double dose. I've thought about what they did a lot since then. If Willow could cast the spell activating the potentials, then surely the Shadow Men could, with or without the Scythe. But they didn't. The reason I came up with is that they were afraid.”
Buffy stopped for a second. Everyone was silent, riveted by her explanation. She took a long drink of water, moistening her throat, then continued, “They were afraid of the power involved. Of the consequences
of casting such a spell. Because with any spell, there are always consequences. I'll go back to that later. When Willow cast the spell, she opened a floodgate into an ocean. It nearly destroyed her. If there had been a gram of resistance within her or even the tiniest bit less of pure luck, she would have died that day and taken half of California with her...”
“What!” Sam shouted, obviously extremely shocked.
“Buffy, what do you mean? How could this spell have threatened the surrounding area? Was it explosive?” General Hammond sounded both surprised and concerned.
Buffy shook her head. “No, it wouldn't have exploded. It would have escaped from Willow's control, after blowing her out like a candle in a hurricane. The magical energy would have coursed through the area, changing things, powering spells, randomizing events. No demon or evil being could have used it. They would have been burned into ash as soon as they tried. But any white mage would have had unlimited power at their fingertips whether they wanted to or not. Who really knows just what would have happened? I used California as a possibility, but it could have affected the entire world. If it had gone world wide, imagine tens of thousands with the ability to do almost anything. Imagine the chaos, the destruction.”
Sam looked stunned, but obviously still thinking as she asked, “You said something about consequences. What did you mean?”
Buffy looked momentarily pensive, then smiled faintly. “Every spell has consequences. The more powerful the spell, the more... intense the consequences. Want to raise someone from the dead? Someone else is going to die, possibly sooner, possibly later, but they'll die.” Buffy felt rather than saw Dawn's horrified reaction as she understood what Buffy had said. “Kill someone with magic and the stain on your soul may never leave. Heal someone with magic... every act has consequences. The earliest practitioners of magic knew this. That's why they always used magic for unselfish ends, from blessing fields to be fruitful to protecting the innocent. What the spell that Willow cast did...”
Buffy wanted to stop. She'd never allowed herself to truly think about the horrific consequences of the spell that had been cast. What it had done to her and the others. Now she had to explain it to a group of virtual strangers.
“Overtly, the spell activated all of the potentials, wherever they were at. The thing is, Willow needed to use two foci to do the spell. The first was an object we call the Scythe. It was made for the Slayer by a powerful group of Earth mages a long time ago. It was only after Willow started casting that she realized that she needed another focus. That the Scythe wouldn't be enough. She needed a Slayer.”
“No big, right? There were two of us there, after all. Me and Faith. But Willow didn't really trust Faith, not deep down, so she used me. She knew me, you see, more intimately than she knew anyone else alive. She had brought me back from the dead, creating a connection that will probably never die. She'd sacrificed her lover, Tara, to do so, even if she hadn't known at the time.” Buffy ignored Vi and Molly's gasps from beside her as they finally understood. “So she pulled an ocean of Slayer magic through me and used it to activate the potentials. But there was so much more left over and still more was emerging.”
Buffy paused for a moment, remembering. “There was so much magic that I spontaneously healed a wound that should have killed me. There was so much power that I could have brought the potentials who had just died back to life. And Willow was dying. She had ridden the wind and was reaping the whirlwind. I had to make a decision. If Willow died, who knows what might have happened. Everything I said earlier, but there was also a huge dimensional doorway open nearby. The Hellmouth. Would the magic have torn the barriers separating this reality from that one completely open? Maybe. We'll never know.”
“There's no point in dwelling on might have beens. I chose to act. I embraced the power. I took it in. And finally, I ended the spell. But what got back up from the ground in the Hellmouth wasn't me. I wasn't the same person that had gone down with that wound. I could feel them all. Every newly activated Slayer. I was giddy. I was drunk on the sensations of all those lives I was touching, the thoughts I was reading. Worse, I was physically changed as well. I had undergone what the Shadow Men had intended, times one hundred. Or maybe one thousand. I was stronger than could be believed. Faster. More deadly. If I had been alone down there, I could have eventually killed every Turok Han. Hunted them to extinction, even though there were millions of them. They were as nothing to me. Fortunately, I didn't have to. Spike sacrificed himself, a vampire who had voluntarily chosen to get his soul back, a champion. He destroyed the Turok Han and closed the Hellmouth.”
General Hammond cleared his throat. “Buffy, this sounds like a very difficult situation. I can understand your feelings...”
“I'm not done, General Hammond. Consequences, remember? The Slayers are tied to me. Tied directly. I can feel them all. They are mine. I own them, body and soul. They would do anything for me. Right, ladies?”
Buffy gazed across the table with empty eyes. “Consequences. When you power up this many Slayers, and eliminate the demonic threat to mankind, what else is left? Another threat. We are currently at war with the Powers That Be, those beings who guard the balance between good and evil. They aren't gods, per se, but they are more powerful than any other entity we've ever encountered. Than mankind has every encountered. Bar one.”
Sam whispered, “The Ascended Ones.”
Buffy laughed a bitter laugh. “Exactly. The Ascended. I read about them in the mission reports that Willow hacked into. The thing is, I was going to turn you down. I didn't trust the American Government, let alone the American Military. Finding out about them changed my mind. We hoped to figure out a way to contact them. To gain their help.”
In a sour tone, Jack said, “They're not going to help. They're not much good for anything in my opinion.”
General Hammond asked, “Why are the 'Powers That Be' opposing you?”
Buffy shrugged. “They didn't really say. What they did do was send us an ultimatum about changing the spell. About taking away the power of the Slayers.”
Hammond looked puzzled. “But surely they understand that Willow could die if she tried to affect the spell. Plus the spell could escape her grasp and cause untold dam...”
“It isn't Willow they're asking to change the spell, is it?”
Buffy looked at Sam. It made sense that she had figured it out. Sam was the smart one, after all. “No, it isn't. They want me to change the spell.”
Jack exploded. “Then change the damn spell. The last thing we need is to add another all-powerful enemy to the other all-powerful enemies we already have...”
“No.” The very abruptness of Buffy's reply raised the tension level. She forced herself to relax. “I wouldn't even if I thought I could. And I don't think I can. The consequences...”
“Would be what?”
Buffy met Sam's eyes. They were completely non-judgmental, but they were ready to weigh and evaluate data. Data about Buffy. “I don't know. If I did, I might be prepared to at least try. Maybe. The Slayers are still the only thing between mankind and the demons out there.”
“Which are mostly gone.” Jack's eyes were the opposite of Sam's. He challenged Buffy to justify subjecting them to another threat.
“I'm afraid.” That simple declaration stunned the room. Buffy could even feel the eyes of her Slayers, wide in surprise. The members of the SGC were openly shocked.
“What they want me to do... It would take a god or something close to it to cast that spell. Even the Powers won't try. They're afraid to try. It could destroy even them. What if something worse happens? I could destroy the world. I could...”
“Turn us all into a bunch of Buffy-worshippers.” Dawn's tone was wry and slightly ironic as she made her pronouncement. Her eyes, though, were thoughtful and filled with tenderness. “You're afraid it will cause something like what has already happened but worse. Right?”
Buffy nodded unhappily. “I'm not sure if I can stand something like that happening. I love my girls. Every single one of them. But I sometimes feel as if I should be punished for what I did to them. Now that there are more potentials being called...”
“It's confirmed?” Dawn appeared surprised.
“Not officially. But I know. I can feel them. Here.” Buffy touched her head. “I can feel them inside of me. More important, I know they can feel me. They were already starting to converge here. I sent them to the school.”
“Shit, Buffy. Ooops, sorry,” Dawn said, looking around the room contritely.
“You've been in contact with these new Slayers, Buffy?” General Hammond asked. He looked concerned, probably about security.
Buffy shook her head. “Not in the way you mean. I touched their minds and sent them to Cleveland.”
Sam blurted, “You can do that?”
Buffy nodded sadly. “Yep. Just one more perk of the Slayer Prime package.” She knew she sounded bitter. It was just so hard dealing with the sheer responsibility of what had happened. The last thing Buffy wanted to do was abuse her power, which she constantly feared.
General Hammond stood up. “Buffy, you've given us a lot to think about. As far as your abilities, why don't you let us figure out something out there...”
Janet looked at her notes, so far so good. Every Slayer appeared to be taking the tests seriously this time and was being honest. And it was incredible. None of them had come close to their potential during the first round of testing. Now... Well, it was nothing short of astonishing.
“So, Janet, who's in the lead?”
Janet looked up and met Buffy's inquisitive green gaze. “Depends on the category. Strength-wise, Amber's the strongest one there. She had a squat that was unbelievable.”
Buffy smiled proudly. “How much?”
“Forty-one hundred kilograms.”
“Err... is that a lot? How much in pounds?”
Janet shook her head. Buffy had far too much in common with Colonel O'Neill. “In pounds, that's a little over nine thousand pounds.”
Buffy whistled silently. “Wow. That's pretty impressive, huh? Blows away what I did during the Initiative testing.”
Janet eyed her narrowly. “Except that I doubt you were any more honest with them than you were with us the first time around.” Buffy looked at her innocently, but Janet wasn't fooled. “Or am I wrong?”
Buffy smiled, then shook her head. “No, you're right. I barely even pushed myself. I was worried about the Initiative at the time. I certainly didn't trust them. Which, since they did try to kill me, I refuse to take any flak over.”
“Take any flak over what?”
Both women turned towards the source of the voice. Graham stood there smiling.
Janet started to open her mouth, but Buffy beat her to it. “Over the fact I dye my hair. If we get marooned on some uncivilized planet, I can't be held accountable for my actions. Plus, if there are any truly superior cultures out there, that might be able to permanently change hair color, I reserve the right to emigrate.”
Graham looked flustered. “Well... ahh... I would have to check with the General. Dr. Frasier, here's the results from the top speed tests as well as the results for the one hundred meter dashes.”
Janet took both sets of data as Buffy eyed them with interest. “Were you curious about something, Buffy?”
“Well, wouldn't those both be the same thing? More or less?”
Graham answered her question. “Actually, the hundred meter dash is encumbered. We have them running while carrying two hundred kilograms of weight. That makes it interesting. Amber actually won that one, even though her top speed unencumbered is the lowest.”
Buffy guessed, “Stephanie was the fastest not loaded down, right?”
Janet wondered how she knew. Well, she thought, the easiest way to find out is to ask. “Buffy, how did you know that? Do you know some of the girls' abilities? Perhaps relative to one another?”
Buffy nodded. “Stephanie is the fastest Slayer. When a lot of us went down to Miami last year, we held some fun contests on the beach, including races, and a few other things. Stephanie was the fastest Slayer there. Well, except for yours truly, but I didn't participate.”
Janet was fascinated. “So, while you haven't done any official testing of the girls' abilities, you have done some unofficially?”
Buffy nodded. “Exactly. Like I know that Amber is the strongest Slayer, with Lillian, who's posted to Paris, coming in second. Of the girls here, Autumn is surprisingly strong especially with her legs. Faith says...” She stopped and her face reddened.
“What does Faith say?” Graham asked, a small grin on his face.
“Never mind. So are we almost done?”
Janet checked her charts. “We only need the vertical leap numbers. And I believe that's Riley with them now. Thanks, Riley.”
Riley smiled. “No problem, ma'am. Are we done?”
Janet waved them off. “Yes, we are. Why don't you take the girls off to the mess hall. Buffy, if you wouldn't mind staying a moment?”
Buffy hung back as the others left. After every else had filed out, Janet met the eyes of the younger woman and stated, “Buffy, I need you to come back tomorrow for your testing.”
Buffy looked surprised. “You mean they figured out a way to test me?”
Janet smiled mysteriously. “Let's just say that Major Carter, when presented with a problem, can be very inventive...
Buffy eyed the mechanism dubiously. “Are you sure it's safe?”
Sam smiled reassuringly. “I promise that it is, Buffy. All you have to do is just get in, I'll press this button, and we'll start the test. The centrifuge provides the equivalent of up to fifty gravities. We'll move upwards slowly and give you time to acclimate. If you are in any distress, all you have to do is release the deadman's switch you'll be holding with your left hand.” The centrifuge that Buffy was going to be using was the most powerful on Earth, created using alien technology, and located in Area 52. It had been the latest effort to effectively measure Buffy's strength in a realistic manner.
Buffy frowned. “Deadman's switch? I hope that isn't prophetic.”
Sam briefly considered the formula to calculate the gravity provided by a centrifuge: G = (1.118/1000)*R*S*S, where R was the radius in meters and S was the speed of the centrifuge in revolutions per minute. “Basically, Buffy, the centrifuge needs to spin at about thirty revolutions per minute to give you a feeling of about ten gravities on your body. That's because the arm is ten meters long. If it were longer, it wouldn't need to spin quite so fast. At the max speed of sixty-eight revolutions per minute, you will feel just over fifty G's. To test your strength, we set up a simple push lever for you right hand with a two hundred and fifty kilogram weight attached to it. At fifty G's, it will weigh twelve thousand five hundred kilograms. Ready to get started?”
Buffy shrugged a little uneasily. “Sure.”
“Everything ready, Janet?”
The red-haired doctor nodded. “She's all hooked up. We'll be able to monitor her vitals completely from the control room.”
“Okay, Buffy, just get in over here.” Sam moved out of the way so that Buffy could get into the cockpit. “Let's get you strapped down.” Sam made sure that all of the restraints that Buffy needed were securely fastened. The last thing she wanted was for Buffy to go flying out. Sam gave one last tug, then gave Buffy a thumbs up and headed for the control room.
“Bill, ready to go?”
Dr. William Jennings nodded. “How high are we taking her?”
“As high as she can take. I know you've been briefed, Bill, so you have some idea of her capabilities. Don't worry about how high she is. Janet and I will be monitoring her vitals.”
He nodded. “I have to admit, watching her pick up vehicles the other day was a bit disconcerting.”
Sam sighed. “That was Jack's idea. I prefer a more scientific approach. We'll see how many G's she can take and still fully extend the lever.”
Janet, looking concerned, said, “Sam, if she gets over forty G's, make sure to go up only one G at a time from there on. Maybe I'm a worry wart, but the last thing I want is a repeat of P3X-4991.”
“I will, Janet.”
Sam watched as the centrifuge started. So far, testing Buffy had been a challenge. She had managed to rig a piece of Tok'ra technology to measure Buffy's nerve velocity. She'd needed Anise's help to do the final adjustments and had called upon the Earth's treaty with the Tok'ra for the authority needed, especially since Anise didn't want to do it without knowing what it was for. But Sam finally got the means to test Buffy, and it had been a revelation.
Buffy's conductive nerve velocity had been eleven times as fast as the next fastest Slayer. As unbelievable as that had been, it had been even more unbelievable when Jack had rigged up his 'test'. Personally, Sam didn't see the scientific relevance of seeing if someone could catch bullets with their bare hands, but she had been overruled. Starting with an underpowered .38 caliber special, Buffy had stood just to the side and ten meters down of the bullet path of a weapon being fired to see if she could intercept the projectile short of the target behind her. She had done it over and over, through progressively faster and more powerful weapons. The capper had been when she'd caught the depleted uranium round from a .50 cal Barret sniper rifle. Jack, Riley, and Graham had ooh'd and aah'd over that one. Not just because of the speed it implied, but because of just how strong it had demonstrated Buffy to be. There had been several references to Wonder Woman after that, but Buffy had finally squashed the name-calling by threatening to squash the men doing it.
Sam, for her own part, was just as interested in how Buffy perceived the world as she was in how fast her reactions were. She had asked Buffy if the world around her appeared to be standing still, and had gotten an interesting answer...
Buffy looked at Sam in amusement. “So what you're asking is if everything around is just standing still while I zip around like the Flash. Is that it?”
Sam flushed. “More or less. I'm sorry about the non-scientific nature of my question. I was just...”
Buffy's eyes gleamed with laughter. “Curious. I get it, Sam. You probably are one of the most curious people I know. First my sword, and now me. Don't apologize. It's actually fun to see what limits I have, even though catching bullets is a bit silly. Plus, they were hot!”
“Well, Jack isn't exactly known for his stringent scientific method.”
“Surprise. Anyway, back to your question. No, the world isn't standing still. It's more a kind of perception of the world around me. Most of the time, I see the world exactly like a normal Slayer or three or four times as fast as someone with good reflexes. Things are moving slow, but nothing crazy. But when I perceive a need, it's like I switch into overdrive. Then, things do tend to drag. It seems to take forever for someone to say something. And I talk so fast, I sound odd. Not Mickey Mouse odd, but still, odd. I know because Dawn thought it would be funny to tape me.” Buffy smiled briefly at the memory, then frowned. “Speeding up is nothing like Hollywood's versions though, with the Matrix or Superman. One of the things that suck the most about having really fast reflexes is that I can't watch TV or movies any longer. I see movies as an endless stream of pictures, which gives me a headache. I could watch TV when I was just a Slayer, but I had to kinda relax my eyes to do it. Now, not so much. TV shows are more like a single dot bouncing around on the screen. Does all that make sense?”
Sam nodded. “It does, actually. I think the way you perceive reality is a kind of protective thinking, designed to help maintain your sanity and keep you on an even keel psychologically.”
Buffy giggled. “Oh, I can't wait to tell Xander about this! All the times he implied I was crazy...”
The next test had been one that Sam had arranged for Buffy. They'd tested to see just how far Buffy could jump using the same criteria as the other Slayers. Sam had conducted this test in the sandy area of Area 52. She'd measured out a course using a laser range finder. It hadn't been as scientifically rigorous as she would have liked, but the distance had been accurate to within roughly a meter. Sam hadn't known what to expect, but fortunately for her sanity, Buffy hadn't been able to jump eleven times as far as Stephanie. However, she had posted distances of roughly seven times as far as the younger Slayer. That had been nothing short of amazing. As had the blast of sand thrown up by her landing.
Jack had called her the Incredible Hulk which had led to a brief argument among Jack, Finn, and Miller as to which Hulk they were talking about, with Miller and Finn espousing the Gray Hulk, while Jack said definitely the classic Hulk. Sam, Janet, and Buffy had listened to the discussion with increasing disbelief. Sam had shook her head and wondered how Jack could call her and Daniel nerds. Buffy had seemed more annoyed that she was being compared to a giant green monster than anything else.
Jack had done the next test. It had been a simple one. He had Buffy walk around and try to lift stuff. Starting with a Humvee and going up from there. Buffy had easily lifted the front end of that vehicle and then that of a large truck. She had strained to lift the front end of a Bradley fighting vehicle, which in total weighed in at just over thirty tons, but had finally gotten it lifted over her head. The M-1 tank that Jack had tried her on had defeated her, but she had gotten it roughly twelve inches off the ground before dropping it with a resounding thud that had cracked concrete and a complaint about now needing another manicure.
The other thing that Jack had included in his test had been just how much armor Buffy could penetrate. That had been an odd test...
“Summers, since we have you out here, we might as well test you to see if you can throw a punch. That is, if it won't injure you?” Jack looked torn between glee and concern as he asked that last question.
Buffy shook her head. “I can punch pretty much anything I've come across and not break anything. Well, not anything on me, that is. I can't say the same for what I'm punching. Maybe it's part of the magic, but I don't seem to break bones anymore. And no, I don't want to know what the breaking point of my bones is, thank you very much.”
This last was aimed at Sam, who opened her mouth to ask. She shut it with a smile and made a zipping gesture with her right hand. She watched in silence for the rest of the experiment.
Again, Jack went unscientific, although not as much as his lifting test. He raided the range where they tested the different weapons they brought back from various off-world missions for metal plates of varying thicknesses. Then he mounted them securely to see if Buffy could punch through them. The results were eye-opening to say the least. While banks were in little danger of Buffy breaking into their heavy steel vaults, she had with some effort punched through thicknesses of steel exceeding three inches. Any thicker than that and she just couldn't penetrate it with a single blow. Still when Jack gave her unlimited time, she was able to hammer her way through even the heavy layer of armor protecting the front of that same M-1 tank from earlier.
It was insanely noisy as they stood there watching. Buffy was like something out of a comic book as she repeatedly slammed her hand into the heavy armor. Eventually, she used both fists, pistoning them into the armor in a blur, before she finally broke through. Sam discretely requested to one of the airmen that the hole and the area around it be cut off and shipped to her in Cheyenne Mountain. She had her own theory as to how Buffy managed to break the armor and it wasn't through sheer strength. Rather she set up counter vibrations with her alternating blows that crystallized and eventually shattered the metal and its inner composite layers. Maybe banks did have to worry about break ins, Sam thought after seeing that display.
Jack commented, “Well, you always have a future in demolitions, Summers, if we manage to make the world safe for humanity.” He blithely ignored the middle finger salute Buffy threw him...
The last test before this one had been intended to test how fast Buffy could run. Putting her into track shoes and giving her an excellent surface to run on, Buffy had sprinted to a top speed of three hundred and twenty-one kilometers per hour. Jack had positively chortled as he read off the radar gun's reading. Then he'd made Buffy do it three more times. All Buffy's runs had hovered around the three hundred and twenty mark. She was faster than most high end sports cars!
Sam brought her thoughts back to the present as she checked the reading on the centrifuge: fourteen gravities. Concerned, she checked the camera that was monitoring Buffy. Buffy looked fine. Just in case, using the radio link, Sam asked, “Everything okay, Buffy?” Sam exchanged a brief look with Janet, who also looked concerned.
“I'm good. Can we speed this up? So far this isn't bothering me at all and I'm ready for lunch.”
Sam glanced at the readouts showing Buffy's vitals. She was right. Nothing, from her EKG to her EEG, showed the slightest increase from the stress. She exchanged a look with Janet, who nodded. Sam responded, “I'm going to jump it up a bit faster. Please be ready to release if you need to.”
Sam pushed the centrifuge up to twenty gravities. A human would be dead about now, their heart unable to sustain blood flow to their body. Buffy, however, had the gall to raise her hand and wave. One-handed, she also easily pushed forward the lever with its attached weight, which the gravity put at five thousand kilograms. Slowly, but still faster than how she'd planned, Sam raised the gravity to twenty-five, then thirty, then thirty-five G's. Each time Buffy pushed forward the weight using just her right hand. That last weighed in at eighty-seven hundred and fifty kilograms!
Shaking her head in disbelief, Sam continued the ascent until she hit forty G's, after which she only increased the gravity one G at a time per Janet's request. Finally, the reading stood at fifty G's. Buffy was under the equivalent of fifty times the normal force of gravity and her vitals appeared to be reasonable, even if not normal. She also wasn't able to push the weighted bar up to its full extension, although she did move it at least six inches, before it slammed back into place.
Sam could see the strain on Buffy's face over the monitor and decided to get her out of there. She reduced the gravity much faster than she'd ramped it up, but still slow enough to give Buffy's body some adjustment time. Still, in just a few minutes, Bill was unstrapping Buffy from the harness and helping her out of the chamber, something Sam found ironic. Like there was anyone who needed help any less than Buffy, she thought. Then Sam saw Buffy stagger and nearly fall with Bill catching her.
Rushing out of the control chamber, Sam headed for Buffy. She was beat there by Janet, who asked, “Are you all right, Buffy?”
Eyes closed, Buffy nodded. Finally, after a moment, she opened them. “Whew! Head rush. I was dizzy. I think that thing finally messed up my balance. But I seem to be okay now.”
Sam felt a rush of relief. “I'm glad.”
Janet wasn't taking Buffy at her word, Sam noticed. Instead she was doing a full set up physical checks on Buffy. Finally, however, even Janet was satisfied that Buffy was okay.
Janet said, “You appear to be fine, Buffy. If you have any recurring symptoms, I want to hear about them immediately. Am I clear?”
Buffy nodded. “Sure thing, Doc. Sam, is that the last test? Cause I have to tell you, I'm hungry enough to eat a cow, cooked or uncooked.”
Sam smiled. “We'll break for lunch and grab something. After lunch, I have a few more tests, but they're easy, I promise...”
Sam watched, fascinated as Buffy put the last set of blocks into order correctly. The test that Sam had set up was using blocks of various sizes and seeing if Buffy could distinguish between them using her sense of touch. There had been ten sets of five blocks, each with differing variance in their sizes. Their differentials ranged from a tenth of a millimeter for the largest down to a micrometer for the smallest. And Buffy had just sized them all correctly. She had to have an amazing sense of spatial recognition and touch, Sam thought.
As an additional test for Buffy's sense of touch, Sam had also had another set of blocks machined with lines of various thicknesses cut into the metal. She then blindfolded Buffy and let her try to tell which blocks had the thickest lines on down the the thinnest. Buffy had actually been able to size them correctly, even though the smallest lines had been less than half a micrometer wide and deep. Sam thought her sense of touch was so acute that she could probably navigate with minimal practice blindfolded, with just the information from air currents moving over her hair and skin to guide her. That had been reinforced when Buffy casually mentioned having to fight invisible opponents in the past when she was 'just' a Slayer. Buffy said she'd be a lot better at it now.
Sam's next test was a visual acuity test. Using microscopic writings, she would be able to discover just how small an object Buffy could distinguish with her naked eyes as well as what her actual eyesight was, using a standard chart, but one that started at 20/1 and moved down from there. It turned out that Buffy's eyesight was approximately 20/.025. Her eyes were more like a combination telescope and microscope than anything biological that Sam had ever heard of. It was also amazing how quickly she could move from one to the other, only needing point one seconds for her eyes to adjust from distance to near viewing
The information so fascinated Sam, that she turned over Buffy's hearing tests to Janet, while she rigged a quick UV and IR test using some of the endless components available at Area 52. Buffy's hearing test had gone as planned, revealing that she could hear sounds from two hertz all the way up to eighty-five thousand hertz. Her sensitivity was approximately point oh one decibels, but it extended over almost the entire range of her hearing, which was astonishing.
It also turned out that Buffy could see much farther into the UV and IR spectrums that any human being. Her range was extremely broad. It was just more information that Sam racked up about Buffy Summers. It also made her want to run comparison tests on the other Slayers, who hadn't been tested nearly as rigorously. However, when she tentatively suggested it to Buffy, she didn't appear to think it was a good idea.
“Sam, is there any reason for it other than just pure curiosity?”
Chagrined, Sam admitted, “No, not really. But some of the greatest scientific advances have been made powered by curiosity.”
Buffy smiled gently. “Yes, but those weren't magic powered. So that's really a specious argument, isn't it?”
Sam was a bit surprised by Buffy's question and reasoning. So her response wasn't as convincing as she wished it were. “Okay, you're right. But it would be so much fun to test them all. Just like it was with your sword...” She broke off after seeing Buffy's expression.
Buffy's face had darkened like a thundercloud. “Sam, I'm only going to say this once. Scientific curiosity is one thing, but you need to be careful. My girls aren't freaks or experiments. They're teenage girls with feelings, dreams, and desires. I don't want them to feel that all they are to you or the SGC are lab rats. I've felt that way before because of the Initiative, and that was with my boyfriend working there.”
Pained, Sam tried to explain, “Buffy, I would never do anything to hurt any of these young women. I...”
Buffy shook her head and interrupted. “Sam, I know you wouldn't. You're not Maggie Walsh. But you're only one person. There a great big government out there. One that's going to have a new leader in another three years, no matter what. So we don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to view the Slayers. One thing that I've learned is to never underestimate the lack of gratitude from human beings. The thing is, we're not under any illusions that we can oppose the United States successfully. Most of the reason we beat the demons is because they don't cooperate and most of them are cowards. A lot of them fled back to their own dimensions once they saw the writing on the wall. So we never had to fight all that many. Miami, Bogata, and LA were the big dust ups of the war. After that, it was mostly just mopping up vampires, the biggest cowards of all. That's a far cry from fighting trained troops. We'd lose. Not that it would ever come to that. We'd leave long before any kind of fighting had a chance to occur.”
Sam was unhappy that Buffy felt she had to take those precautions from her own government. But as unhappy as she was, Sam realized that she would have done the same thing in Buffy's shoes. She had
done something similar before. It also made her conscious that the information she had extracted from her various experiments could be used against the petite young woman standing in front of her. Sam made a quick decision. “Buffy, thanks for trusting me with this information. I see your point. I'm going to erase all of the information from the more esoteric tests I performed on your senses. We'll leave the pure physical tests. If anyone gets the information from us, at least they won't know enough to take advantage of your vulnerabilities.”
Buffy looked both surprised and pleased. “Thank you, Sam.”
Struck by a sudden thought, Sam asked, “Have you given any thought to figuring out a defense against that itch plant from P3X-4991? The thought of any of the girls being put through that again is horrifying.”
Buffy actually laughed. Puzzled, Sam asked, “I missed something obvious, didn't I?”
“Not really. I doubt you've had time to read ever report that Janet has generated on us. Plus it's just a theory of hers. However, it is correct.”
Curious, Sam asked, “What is Janet's theory?” Actually, she could have checked with Janet earlier when they were going over Buffy's hearing results.
“That Slayers can't be affected by drugs, poisons, allergens, and other nasty stuff more than once. It's pretty accurate as far as it goes. We can be dosed repeatedly by mystical poisons and drugs, but even those are far less effective the second time. I... had some personal experience with a couple of those. Most drugs work only once, if they work at all. Which makes us great in the field, but less great when a girl needs an operation and we have to go in with her screaming in pain. That part's less fun.”
“So the allergens in those plants...”
“Won't affect any of us again. Once it's over, it's over for good. Janet reran those allergy tests and they didn't affect any of us at all.”
Sam whistled. “That's impressive. Well, we've wrapped things up here. I'd better get you back. You need to start getting ready for your final training mission. Now that Riley and his guys know you and your Slayers full physical abilities, I'm sure they plan to provide you something memorable for you last mission.”
Buffy's eyes widened. “You're kidding!”
Sam shook her head, amused. “Nope. I think they're looking at this as a challenge. And with a week to prepare, I'm sure they're going to come up with a mission to test even you...”