Buffy felt the trickle of sweat roll down her neck as she lay prone, studying the scene below. Her green eyes coolly looked down at the compound that they were supposed to take. There was minimal activity going on, as the three SG teams, backed by almost thirty Free Jaffa, used the compound and the flag inside as a honey-trap to pull her in.
After P3X-4991, Buffy had decided that they would follow every rule that Xander had set up in the past two years. Every rule about avoiding obvious routes. Every rule about assuming the enemy was your superior. Every rule about doing whatever it took to destroy your opponent completely, no matter how patient you had to be.
So Buffy had led her group in slowly and carefully, treating every bush as if poisonous, any clearing as if watched by the enemy, every sound as if it presaged an attack. She and the other Slayers had moved slowly, quietly, and above all, patiently, as they had advanced in a weird kind of spiraling circle towards where the SG teams and Free Jaffa awaited them. There would be no more mistakes.
Not even a tic touched Buffy's face as something with too many legs crawled across her hand. Inwardly, she recoiled, but outwardly, she maintained a calm face. She studied the compound again, then turned her attention to the surrounding countryside. There. She used her enhanced vision to find the two four-strong Jaffa squads that were the back up to the single SG sentry manning the compound gate. Then one by one, Buffy spotted the rest of the Jaffa. With a frown, she began the slow tortuous writhing movements that would move her back to meet back up with her two squads. A half hour later...
Molly kept her voice low as she commented, “Eighty Jaffa? I thought there were only supposed to be thirty?”
Buffy shook her head. “There were. I got the skinny from Sam before the mission even started. It's possible that Jack and Riley recruited more Jaffa...”
Molly looked at her leader. “You don't believe that.” She could tell that Buffy had another idea about what was going on.
Buffy silently looked at her, then the other girls, one by one. Finally, she said, “It's a trap. Just not for us. The SG teams and Free Jaffa have been captured by Jaffa loyal to a Goa'uld.”
Vi interjected, “You can't know that.”
“Yes, I can. I do. All those Jaffa and no SGC personnel? I'm guessing there's at least another couple of hundred Jaffa outside the immediate area, ready to head in as soon as whoever the compound was set up for makes contact. Which is us, by the way.”
Autumn Jones flipped her braid back over her shoulder and asked, “How do you know that, Buffy?” There wasn't a hint of doubt in Autumn's voice, Molly noted. It was more a question driven by genuine curiosity.
“It's what I would do if I had sufficient forces. We know the each of the System Lords have large forces at their disposal. Tens of thousands. The only reason we haven't seen those kinda numbers is because they don't see Earth as a threat, instead using them to check each other. But Jack and the rest of those guys have been too good. So it looks like someone decided to begin the first step of bringing the fight to us.”
It was scary how Buffy took all those disparate facts and put them together, Molly thought, remembering the young woman who had nearly gotten them all killed facing the First back in Sunnydale. Buffy had grown since then. Whether it was what had happened to her when the potentials were empowered, or just a natural maturation process, she didn't know. Not that it mattered. So long as Buffy led them, it didn't matter what forces they faced. Let there be a thousand Jaffa out there and they would destroy them.
Molly could feel the absolute confidence in the other girls. The other Slayers, rather. It was evident in the steadiness of their gaze; in the squareness of their posture; in the serenity of their expressions. Each of them knew that Buffy Summers would lead them to victory over their foes...
Buffy wished at that moment for a handy bathroom to duck into so that she could vomit. She hadn't been this afraid since they'd faced the First. And it was only made worse that the other Slayers looked at her as if she was better than mint chocolate chip ice cream, which was just wrong on so many levels. No one
was better than mint chocolate chip. No one and nothing.
So far, they'd followed the book, adapting for the mission and terrain, and it had paid off. Buffy had sent two groups of two Slayers each on wide arcing scout missions beyond the small mountain range that backed the compound. In a heavily forested ravine, they had found nearly one hundred Jaffa camped out, waiting to be called as reinforcements. They didn't know the symbol of the Goa'uld that ruled them, but had drawn it for Buffy, who was at just as much of a loss as they were.
Buffy had sent another group of two Slayers to check their exit. The Stargate, through which they had come only five hours before, was defended by two hundred more Jaffa backed up by two large dual staff-type weapon platforms. That brought the total up to around four hundred Jaffa, against which Buffy had eleven Slayers including herself.
Buffy wished she had brought Dawn now. But she had made the decision to leave her back at the house to keep an eye on Eve, who had class. Eve had wanted to come along so badly, but Buffy had been adamant. Now she wished she had both of them. Dawn for her language skills and Eve for her Slayer abilities. Thirteen years old or not, Eve would have jumped in to slaughter these Jaffa as eagerly as any Slayer. And in the coming battle, every Slayer would count.
“So what's the plan, Buffy?” Amber Scarletti asked, her pale gray, wolf-like gaze looking up at Buffy as she squatted across from where Buffy stood. The strongest of the Slayers other than Buffy, Amber was incredibly dangerous with any weapon, but preferred a longsword. Which brought Buffy back to the other problem they had.
They were nearly unarmed. If they had their XM-29's, Buffy would have called for a frontal assault, trusting in firepower to take down the Jaffa. Those crazy grenade launchers were the bomb. Literally. But all they had were those goddamned, fake P-90's, the ones that shot red dots that mildly stunned you. That is, if you weren't a Slayer. Buffy just shook her head, then sighed. It was supposed to be a training exercise on a 'safe' planet, after all.
Of course they all had their swords and knives. You don't part Slayers from edged weapons, not and keep all your limbs. But to use those, they had to get to point blank range against a foe who had energy weapons. And while Slayers made difficult targets, the energy blast of a staff weapon could kill even a Slayer depending upon where it hit. So they would have to be be very, very careful. Aware that the girls were waiting her answer, Buffy made her decision.
“We're going to turn the 'honey trap' around on them. What we're going to do is this...”
Jack cursed silently as he lay on the ground, tied hand and foot. From where he lay, he could see Teal'c and Riley. Sam lay right across from him, her eyes on his face. While neither was gagged, they had learned the folly of talking when the Jaffa had mercilessly beaten everyone
for anyone talking. Two rounds of that had been enough even for Jack, especially with it being a pointless exercise.
Within a few hours, the Slayers were going to waltz in here using their toy guns and get slaughtered. By the time they figured out what was going on, they would be lucky to have anyone left alive. Even Buffy, as amazing as her physical abilities were, was no match for almost four hundred experienced Jaffa, led by a First Prime. Morrigan's First Prime to be exact. Why they were suddenly upping the ante against Earth, Jack didn't know. But they had struck in a place where the SGC was vulnerable, since they didn't even know the Goa'uld even knew about PXX-5473.
Experimentally, Jack tested his bonds for perhaps the twentieth time. Nothing. He had been tied up by an expert. They weren't getting loose by any conventional means. And it was just a matter of time until Buffy and her girls were dead out on the parade ground...
Graham tensed and relaxed his muscles, just as he had been doing for the past four hours. His bonds had loosened infinitesimally, but still, it was better than nothing. At this rate, he would be loose sometime next week. What a disaster, he thought.
It had happened early this morning. Secure in the idea that Buffy and the Slayers wouldn't be delivered to PXX-5473 until noon, both the Jaffa and the SG teams had been relaxed as they went about the finishing touches of their trap. A trap which had been turned on them when a seemingly endless horde of Jaffa had erupted from the dense forest behind them. Graham now knew they numbered about four hundred thanks to boastful comments made by Tal'karn,
Despite the surprise and lack of any effective weapons, they had tried. It had cost them ten Free Jaffa and two members of SG teams. Lt. McDaniels had been killed trying to taken down a Jaffa one-on-one, while Captain Franklins had been killed as an example against further resistance. The rest of them had been zatted, tied up, and tossed into the tent. Another member of SG-12, Lt. Rogers, had been taken out and tortured. When the Jaffa had brought his limp body back, Graham had feared the worst, but he appeared to be alive, since they had taken the time to tie him back up. It had been about an hour later that SG-1 had been tossed in with them.
Now it was just a matter of time until Buffy led her girls into a slaughter. As good as Buffy and the others were, they were essentially unarmed against Jaffa who would not hesitate to kill them. The thought of Buffy being killed by those cold-eyed, hard-faced Jaffa made Graham feel ill. At that moment, he wished he had acted. He wished he had told her how he felt. There was every chance that they would all be dead by this time tomorrow...
Tal'karn squatted in the cover of another of the flimsy dwellings of the Tau'ri, waiting for his prey. When he had discovered from the weak Tau'ri warrior that the odd compound was designed as a training mission for a group of young Tau'ri warriors, he had nearly crowed. There wouldn't be any true resistance. The fools hadn't even planned to use real weapons, instead allowing themselves to be unarmed. They weren't doing the younglings any favors by going so soft on them.
Not that softness would be a problem, Tal'karn thought with grim satisfaction. When the young Tau'ri warriors attacked with fake weapons, they would face his Jaffa. His armed Jaffa. They would be slaughtered, since it was doubtful that there would be anything to learn from them. After that, they wouild await a better-armed rescue mission, that could also be captured. Then he would take his captives and return to Lord Morrigan, where every bit of information would be extracted from them about the Tau'ri's defenses. It would be the beginning of the end for the Tau'ri and their alliance with the Sholva and traitorous Tok'ra.
“First Prime, there is someone emerging from the forest.” One of the sentries reported, before hurrying off at a run. Tal'karn focused the clever Tau'ri seeing device at the edge of the forest. There, emerging from the forest cover, came two young women. Girls, even. Both were extremely attractive, dressed in garments that showed their long, slim legs, and toned stomachs. Neither were armed.
Tal'karn might have taken them for natives except he knew the planet was uninhabited. So they had to be Tau'ri. Not that it mattered. It would be just a moment and then they would walk over a group of his Jaffa, four-strong, who waited, hidden in pits in the ground. Tal'karn watched, then cursed, as the girls veered off at a tangent to his Jaffa, apparently attracted by a large group of flowers. They were almost there, when his Jaffa, apparently unable to wait any longer, erupted from cover, to race towards them.
Tal'karn watched as the two girls shrieked in fear and turned tail, heading into the forest. They certainly could run, he thought in amusement. He made a decision to allow his troops some recreation time after they killed the Tau'ri troops. Possibly there were other Tau'ri women where these came from. With a grim smile, he decided it would be better for these two if there were...
Autumn raced next to Stephanie, heading towards the trap they'd set. She jiggled a bit uncomfortably since she was not wearing a bra and the half t-shirt she wore gave zero support. But it had done the trick. The four Jaffa behind her, worried that she and Stephanie were going to get away, had jumped out of their holes and started chasing them. Too bad, she thought. They had really hoped to get at least a dozen this time around.
Autumn glanced over at her companion. Stephanie, at sixteen, was one of the younger members of the teams that had come with Buffy. With her long blonde hair and violet eyes, she was probably the most beautiful girl that Autumn had ever seen. Coincidentally, she was also one the nastiest fighters out of all of the new Slayers. Autumn had gone down hard when she'd fought the speedy blonde. Stephanie had beaten Amber, who was the strongest Slayer short of Buffy. Hell, a couple of months before they'd come here, she had even gone one-on-one against Faith
and finished with a draw. The only reason Stephanie wasn't leading one of the teams was because she didn't have the drive to lead that someone like Molly or Vi had. Or even Eve, Autumn thought in amusement.
But she made great bait. Like Autumn, she wore only a cut off t-shirt and the shortest shorts they could make out of the fatigues they all had started with. Stephanie gave Autumn a sidelong glance of shared amusement, and slowed down so as to not leave the Jaffa behind. That wouldn't do at all, Autumn thought in anticipation...
Buffy watched from her perch in a tree, as the four Jaffa raced along the trail after the two girls. After a couple of minutes, Autumn and Stephanie arrived below her, stopping and grabbing their sides as if out of breath. The Jaffa arrrived a moment later. With shouts of “Kree!” they surrounded the two girls, threatening them with their staff weapons. Totally phallic, Buffy thought in distaste, as they started to herd the two girls back the way they came. She gave the signal and dropped out of the tree on top of her prey.
Buffy hammered a hard blow against the skull of her Jaffa, driving him to his knees. She kicked him just hard enough to draw a grunt of pain then forced him onto his face, drawing his arms up behind his shoulders. With a quick nod to Autumn, she indicated the girl to take over for her. Autumn raced up and gave her a quick hip bump before grabbing the now straining Jaffa warrior.
Ignoring the flirtatious gesture, Buffy rose to her feet and surveyed her catch. She'd read the reports about the various Jaffa serving the Goa'uld. They ranged from complete fanatics who were convinced they were serving gods to mercenaries who only served the strongest leaders. Neither endeared them to Buffy. They weren't human to her senses. She could also feel the alienness of the thing they carried. It made her want to kill them all. But first, she would find out what she could.
“Do any of you speak English?” Buffy asked pleasantly, her voice calm.
None of the sullen-eyed Jaffa who stared back at her said anything. “Get them to their feet, please,” she commanded, giving the Slayers time to haul the four Jaffa to their feet. None of the Slayers who held the Jaffa showed the same strain that was clear on the faces of the Jaffa as they struggled to get free.
Buffy thought for a moment, then decided what to do. She didn't like torture and wasn't going to do it. However, there were more effective methods to learn information. She walked up to the youngest of the Jaffa and asked again, “Do any of you speak English? I'm not going to be happy if I have to ask again.”
Again, there was response. The Jaffa in front of Buffy wore a look of contempt on his face as he stared down at her petite form all the way up until she punched her fist right through his armor and ripped his heart out of his chest, tossing it over her shoulder. With a disgusted look at the spray of blood, Amber allowed his corpse to topple onto the ground in front of her.
“Do I need to ask again?” Buffy was about to repeat her trick when the other three Jaffa went limp in the grip of her Slayers, who let them fall to the ground. The three Jaffa stayed prostrate to Buffy, muttering something under their breath. Okay, this is weird, she thought. Buffy grabbed one of the Jaffa with the same bloody hand she'd just used to tear out the heart of his companion and hauled him to his feet. He wouldn't rise above his knees and kept his eyes averted from her.
“My lord, I speak the language of the Tau'ri. I did not know they had the protection of one of the Gods. I am sorry if we have offended you. Yo'phel has paid for this with his life. If you wish mine as well, it is yours.”
Okay, she thought, this was definitely of the odd. So she was a Goa'uld, was she? Buffy decided to run with it. “I am angry! How dare you attack that which is mine? Who leads the Jaffa who lie hidden in the encampment?”
The Jaffa's eyes widened at her knowledge. “Tal'karn, my lord. He is First Prime to Morrigan. Morrigan did not know the Tau'ri were yours or I am sure he would not have attacked. It is believed that they are lawless and wish to spread their apostasy against the gods.”
Buffy casually took a step forward, and with one hand, dug her fingers into the chestplate of his armor, crushing it like a tin can. She lifted the wide-eyed Jaffa above her head, using the crushed armor as a handle. She hissed, “Now you know, Jaffa! Are there others besides the two groups, one within the ravine in the mountains, and the other attempting to guard my gate?” At the Jaffa's astonished head shake, Buffy shook him like a terrier shaking a rat. “That is good. Take me to this Tal'karn. I will speak to him and if necessary, issue chastisement to him.” With a final shake, Buffy set the Jaffa on his feet where he obviously wanted to join his companions back on the ground. Sheesh, Buffy thought, I hope that's all the acting I have to do. Buffy wasn't that good an actress and didn't know how long she could carry the show.
Buffy rounded on the rest of the Jaffa. “Get to your feet. I command this. Lead me to Talcum, now!” Was that his name, she wondered absently. Or maybe it was Taquito?
The first Jaffa she had spoken to timorously said, “My lord, he is Tal'k...”
Shit! To cover her mistake, Buffy shouted angrily, “I don't care what his name is. Pick up your companion and lead. Or die here.”
The three Jaffa quickly scrambled to grab the corpse of the Jaffa that Buffy had killed. They gave Buffy the occasional frightened glance as they got the body hefted onto their shoulders. With that, they led off. Buffy quickly gestured for the Slayers to follow. This would be their entrance into the encampment. Even if things went south once they got there, they would be at knife-range to the Jaffa within, which was all that she needed. The mere eighty Jaffa would be no match for her Slayers...
Ra'tac felt his breathing increase as he moved as quickly as he could back the way they had come. He wasn't sure now much was fear and how much was the effort of carrying Yo'phel's corpse. Never had he seen one of the gods so powerful. Even Morrigan only occasionally performed miracles and never of this nature. To punch a fist completely through the armor and into the body of a Jaffa warrior, tearing out his heart, was something beyond any of the gods of which Ra'tac was experienced. That so fierce a being masqueraded in the guise of a slender young girl only made her more fearsome. Remembering her eyes, he shuddered.
His god, Morrigan, would not thank him for making an enemy of so powerful a god. A god served by strange and deadly servants. Now that Ra'tac could see them close up, they only superficially resembled the young, delicate females whom he and the others had pursued. Their cold, predatory gazes was intimidating, but it was their immense strength, greater than any Jaffa, that truly gave him pause. A girl less than a third his own bulk had easily held him down, helpless to move. His symbiote had reacted with fear to their presence as well. No, Morrigan would truly not thank him for making such a being angry. If he survived the coming hours, he would give thanks in the great Temple...
Buffy had so far played this completely on the fly, without any chance to make plans. However, that would be disastrous if they got the encampment and did not have something in place. So she used something that heretofore she'd avoided. Buffy silently reached out to the minds of the Slayers around her. “Listen,” she commanded, the power of her mind echoing within the others...
Ra'tac felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as 'something' stirred. It was as if a great predator reached out and commanded the attention of all those lesser to itself. He resisted looking back at the god. It would mean his life, of that he was sure. But he did look at the beings walking ahead and next to him. Eerily, their strides matched exactly, not as if they had been trained, but as if they were one being. With creeping horror, Ra'tac saw three different girls all lift a hand simultaneously and absently scratch at their necks...
Tal'karn seethed as he waited for his troops to return. How dare they abandon their duty to stay and use the females? He would punish them upon their return. Then he thought he saw something. With a grunt of surprise, he watched them emerge from the treeline, carrying one of their number. Then his surprise turned to suspicion and alarm as he saw several girls follow them. He noted that his men were prisoners. How could they be so weak as to be taken prisoner by Tau'ri women? With growing unease, Tal'karn noted that the women walked like they owned the world, arrogantly strutting along. Such arrogance was typically the mark of only one kind of being. He fervently hoped that such wasn't the case.
He walked out from where he was hidden by the structures into the middle of the compound. He shouted, “Jaffa, Kree!” Soon he was backed by a solid, armed phalanx of his men, sixty strong, while another fifteen stood to one side, all armed with staff weapons. He should not worry. Even if it was another god, he need not necessarily fear them. Not all gods were equally powerful...
Buffy strode towards the Jaffa standing in the middle of the compound. She clearly saw the gold tattoo on his forehead. So that's Talcum, she decided thoughtfully. He doesn't look that tough. But the large number of glowering troops behind him made up for his lack. With a quick mental command, Autumn and Stephanie peeled off to stand facing the group of twenty Jaffa to their right. If it came down to a fight, Buffy genuinely thought the Slayers would win. But that it would be at the cost of at least half their number was a given. Hopefully, they would be able to bluff the Jaffa.
She came to a stop about ten feet from Talcum, meeting his eyes levelly. She allowed the force inside herself to flex, almost as if she were breathing it in and out. There was almost a flinch from the gathered Jaffa, although Taco was made of sterner stuff. But even his eyes widened. Then she spoke, “I am Summers. How dare you invade my territory and take prisoner those that belong to me?”
Talcum's eyes narrowed. “I am Tal'karn. My god is Morrigan! I am here to battle the Tau'ri. How is it that you claim this territory to be yours, but allow the Sholva and the Tau'ri to use it?”
Buffy narrowed her eyes. Enough of this, she decided. Taking her power deeply into herself, she pushed it into the Slayers around her. A deep golden glow surrounded her. A similar if muted glow began to take over each of her Slayers as Buffy fed them power. When it came time to fight, to kill, they would move as one, faster than any living thing had ever moved before. “I do as I please. I allow them to use it because they, too, are mine. To attack them is to attack me. Do you dare attack me, Tal'karn?”
But she does not have a hand device, Tal'karn told himself. How could she control such power without such a holy item? Wildly, he looked over the other girls. Each of them had the same strange glow around them, albeit more dimly than Summers. Who was this god? She was powerful, that was for sure. Tal'karn had noted the large hole in the chestplate of his Jaffa, which looked like it had been punched with a fist. That Summers' hand was covered in dried blood, yet no insect would come near her, made her divinity near certain. What would Morrigan have him do, Tal'karn wondered. Could he win against someone so obviously powerful? If he gambled and lost, not only would his lord lose these eighty troops, but also the three hundred more that stood at the ready nearby.
Despite Morrigan's grandiose plans, Tal'karn knew that he was not prepared to fight another System Lord in a large scale war. The last had hurt them badly. Morrigan had, in fact, heard of the Tau'ri and that their technology, while good enough to quickly bring up to a useful level, was no match for the gods. So he had decided to test them, and if he won easily, invade. However, they could ill afford the loss of so many well-trained troops. Tal'karn needed time to think on this. Time he would not receive from Summers. Already she grew angry and impatient. Tal'karn decided that it was better to leave and live to fight another day.
“Summers, Morrigan does not want a war with you. He respects the sovereignty of your territory. We will withdraw and leave these others to your mercy. May good fortune follow you all your days.”
Kal'nark could not have imagined in the scenario that happened next. There was a sense of relief from his troops. Too much of one. Tal'shon, one of his newest, most green Jaffa, a youth of twenty-three, in his relief that battle was not imminent, lost his grip on his staff weapon. As it fell lazily towards the ground, another Jaffa jumped out of the way, then hell descended directly upon them all.
The Jaffa that jumped aside, bumped one of the servants of Summers, who killed him, cutting off his head with a blade which she produced as if by magic. Then, as one, all of the girls were attacking, moving faster than the eye could follow and killing with eerie grace. Blood seemed to explode in fountains of gore as bodies fell like scythed wheat. Kal'nark struggled to bring up his weapon, but it seemed to move so slowly.
Then, as if by some greater power, Kal'nark's eyes were drawn back to the figure in front of him. He was still trying to move when Summers drew a long, glowing sword from a scabbard across her back and before he could blink, seemingly moved instantaneously to his right, killing seven Jaffa. Even as he opened his mouth to shout, the woman again moved, and several more Jaffa died. The last thing he saw before darkness descended upon him was a slender red-haired girl moving towards him so fast he knew he would never get his weapon up in time...
Buffy had never moved this fast in her life. Not in any of the battles they'd had to drive out the demons, not when fighting the government forces. She moved so fast the figures in front of her appeared to be frozen in time, their only movements from the blows she was striking with the longsword in her hands. Buffy took head after head, aware of the Slayers around her doing the same. Fountains of blood shot into the air from one decapitated body after another. Other limbs and body parts went flying by. Buffy was aware at some level that she was struggling to maintain the feed of power into her girls, that it was doing something
to her. Bodies continued to fall, blood seemingly soaking the world. Then it was over, the last Jaffa dead, and Buffy nearly collapsed, her legs leaden. But a horrible sight arrested her, keeping her on shaking legs.
Two of her girls lay still upon the ground. Autumn and Beth. Autumn, with her wild sexuality that so drew Buffy, and Beth, the quietest and most thoughtful of Vi's team. Staggering, Buffy managed to move to where they lay. Neither was breathing, but that didn't mean anything. Slayers had died before and been revived. So Buffy reached into a well that always seemed endless and once again called upon the strange power she'd received on a warm spring day two years ago in California...
Vi bit her lip to keep from crying. Two of her team lay dead upon the ground. Autumn and Beth. Both had taken staff blasts at nearly point blank range as the last dying remnants of the Jaffa had struck back before perishing. Anguish warred with a maddening feeling of elation within her as she contemplated all of the Jaffa they had slain and the cost of those deaths. Even now, she felt strangely energized, as if she could leap a mile or kill a hundred more Jaffa. Vi knew that Buffy had done it, allowing them to touch the source of her power and destroy their enemies. But now two of Vi's own were down and she needed Buffy more than ever.
Tears blurred her vision as she watched Buffy kneel between the girls, a hand on the chest of each, her head bent as if in supplication. That strange golden glow that Vi found so utterly entrancing again surrounded her. It spoke of life to her. Of purity and everything that was good about slaying. VI took an involuntary step towards it before regaining control of herself. Taking a tight grip upon herself, she stood watching Buffy.
The glow lasted for several minutes, but seemed like eternity to Vi. Then it faded and one figure stirred. Beth coughed and opened gray eyes. She struggled to sit up and Vi immediately knelt to help her, one arm braced behind her back. Then she glanced over at Autumn, who still lay completely slack and boneless, her dark hair obscuring her face. Vi felt her heart break. Even Buffy's power was not enough...
Seeing Autumn's continued stillness, Buffy screamed, “Nnnoooooooo!” Reaching so deeply into herself that she no longer registered the world around her, Buffy drew upon power. Strange, wild power that had no name, its only providence the life and death of Slayers. Power that both terrified and entranced her. Power that was too much for any person to touch, to wield. With that power, she pierced the veil separating life and death.
In a strange realm of cold, blazing lights, Buffy fought a lonely battle to draw back a lone soul to her mortal clay. Autumn's body was healed. That had been the easiest of all of Buffy's tasks. But somehow, her spirit would not return. Buffy remembered the pain that Autumn had experienced as a child, her molestation and humiliation. How could the world be so cruel to such a beautiful soul? How could Buffy try to bring her back from where she was destined to go, as were all Slayers? Because Buffy never doubted that Autumn headed to join her family in Heaven, somewhere that Buffy still occasionally longed for with all her heart.
Was she ready to let Autumn go? That was the more important question. The girl had told her she loved her. And Buffy thought now that it hadn't just been the spell. The spell wasn't all-powerful, all-encompassing, after all, although sometimes it seemed that way. Autumn may have loved her despite the spell and she had too afraid to try to see what was there, Buffy thought, feeling tears slide down her face in the physical world. The world was receding around her as darkness flickered at the edges of Buffy's eyesight.
She could not hold Autumn to this world when she was ready to move on. With a stifled sob, Buffy let her go, releasing the final strands of her power. She felt its loss like an ache in her bones, like a missing limb, almost eclipsing the loss of Autumn. Sobbing, she knelt there, so close to letting the darkness claim her. But she wanted a final look at Autumn's face before she gave in. Through teary eyes, Buffy looked down at Autumn's face. Then she looked again.
Grabbing Autumn, she pulled the girl into her arms, hurriedly brushing back the mane of dark hair until her face was revealed. Obsidian eyes gazed sleepily back at her while a lazy smile graced ruby lips. “You're alive,” Buffy whispered, unaware of anything else beyond those eyes.
Autumn smiled up at her. “I felt you calling to me. It just took me a while to find my way back. Sorry to... urk!” Her last words were cut off as Buffy pulled her into a crushing hug. Buffy tried to speak, but those dark edges around her vision suddenly grew exponentially, then everything went black...
Jack struggled against his bonds. A few minutes ago there had been shouts and screams, all hell breaking loose. That Buffy had arrived, he had no doubt. Had any of them survived? Jack steeled his heart to the idea of all of those young girls dying. The last thing he could afford was the vulnerability of mourning. Later, when, if, they were released and safe, he would allow himself time to mourn.
Then the tent flap opened. Vi stood there, a short sword in one hand, starting at them. She was covered in blood, from the way she moved none of it hers.
“VI, what's happening? Where's Buffy? Is everyone okay?”
She quickly crossed to where Jack lay. Ignoring his frantic questions, she cut his bonds loose, before moving on to the next person. Jack tried to get to his feet, but his hands and feet were too numb to allow that. Dammit, he wanted to know what was going on...Cheyenne Mountain...
“Please, Corporal Scopes, we need to get inside and see General Hammond. I know he'll want to see us. Can't you call him?” The young woman in front of him pleaded, her two companions flanking her, the youngest wearing a pout that made him want to take her away and keep her safe from the harsh world.
Corporal Ray Scopes looked at the three young women in front of him. Two young women and one pouting girl, he correctly himself silently. Dawn Summers, Winifred Burkle, and Eve Matthews. He had seen two of them before. Dawn had clearance to enter the Mountain as good as any member of her peculiar group, so he could let her in. The girl, Eve, needed permission, which she'd gotten last time from General Hammond, which shouldn't be a problem obtaining again. However, Miss Burkle did not have clearance of any kind and there was no way he was letting her in. Especially since she had given him an odd look a few moments ago when her cheery smile had slipped. A look that made him nearly pee himself...