Riley sat, waiting as Major Davis handed the confidentiality agreements around the table. Everyone received one except him.
Colonel O'Neill sat up straighter and burst out, “Why are we signing these again? We've already signed forms and more forms when we entered the Stargate Program. And why isn't Captain Finn signing one? Major Davis, I would appreciate you being straight with us.”
Davis paused for a moment, then calmly stated, “I know you have questions, Colonel O'Neill. If you want answers, you're going to have to sign that form. None of you have the clearance for the material from this briefing without signing. I'm sorry, but that wasn't my decision, instead it was the President's. So, if you have a problem, take it up with him.”
Stymied, Jack sat and sulked for a moment. Finally pulling the confidentiality agreement towards him, scanning it briefly. Finding no differences from any of the other forms that he had signed over the years, he scrawled his signature over it. Tossing it onto the pile in front of Davis, he demanded, “OK, it's signed. Now let's have the skinny on this secret weapon. Oh, and how Finn here, fits in with all of this.”
Major Davis took a moment and gathered the various pages in front of him, shuffling and straightening them, before putting them back into his briefcase. Taking a moment to prepare his thoughts, he decided to speak before Colonel O'Neill blew a gasket. “Tell me Colonel, what do you know about the supernatural?”
His question confused Jack. “The supernatural? Like what? Werewolves and the boogeyman?”
“Not exactly. What would you say if I told you there was another world, hidden beneath the surface of our own, where all of the things you know of as fantasy and legend, exists and thrives? Because that world exists. Vampires, demons, werewolves, and succubi, all of the things you told yourself in the light of day, cannot exist, actually do.”
Jack interrupted, “Fer cryin' out loud. That is the biggest piece of horse malarkey I have ever heard of in my life. What are you trying to pull here? None of us were born yesterday.” That Jack was angry was obvious. He badly wanted to reach across the conference table and physically wipe that smirk off of Davis' face.
Seeming to realize this, Major Davis quickly responded, “Please Colonel O'Neill, keep an open mind. Now I knew it was going to be difficult to convince you, so I brought a few things with me.” Opening his case, he took out a set of cases, each containing a DVD and placed them on the table. Taking the DVD out of the first case, he inserted it into the player on the table. Clicking play, he talked while waiting for it to start, “What you are about to see was a prison of sorts in a top-secret base here in the U.S. Various demons and vampires, dubbed HST's, for Hostile Sub-terrestrials, were imprisoned and experimented upon by a scientific staff overseen by the NID.” As the video started, everyone, with the exception of Riley, leaned forward in their seats to watch. They saw video, apparently taken from approximately eye level, showing some odd-looking, four-armed, ape-like creature behind what appeared to be a Plexiglas barrier. Moving in a blur, the creature launched itself at the barrier, which appeared to be electrified, based upon the flash of the discharge as it struck. The creature was thrown back against the far wall of its cell. Looking up, it snarled with far too many needle-like teeth for a mouth that size. Its bilious, green eyes appeared murderous.
They heard a voice, “Hey, this blood is off. Wake up, man! I want some better blood.” The camera's point of view turned with the person wearing it, and the cell opposite came into view. Inside stood a human-sized creature, who stood carefully back from the charged, transparent wall of its prison. It possessed yellow eyes, prominent brow ridges, and sharp canine fangs, but still appeared far more human-like than the first creature. It was holding a bag of red liquid, apparently from which it had been drinking, judging from the red drips on its face. Davis heard Major Carter gasp, as the creature's face changed, the bones shifting under its skin, accompanied by an odd, tearing sound. When the bones finished shifting, its eye color had changed, and its teeth had receded, leaving what appeared to be a man standing before them. A man becoming more and more abusive, as what he was saying was ignored by the camera man. After a few seconds, the view changed as the camera man moved to the next cell, eventually covering more than fifty in all. Each new cell contained a different creature, each weirder and more horrible than the last, as if they were God's mistakes. After another minute, the screen faded to white snow.
“Those were HST's. Any questions?”
Riley ignored the burst of conversation as everyone in the room started talking at once. He studied Major Davis's face intently, as he had been the entire time the video had been running, trying to figure out his angle. Riley knew that the only reason he could be here, was to help Davis in his quest to bring General Hammond and SG-1 up to speed on the wonderful world of HST's, slayers, and the supernatural. Everything he wanted to keep hidden. Everything he had sworn to keep hidden. Standing up suddenly, he slammed his hand down onto the table top. Hard. Wham! Into the sudden silence, he injected, “I won't be a part of this. The Initiative was supposed to be buried, Major. That came from the top brass! Now here you are resurrecting it. How dare you! This briefing needs to cease immediately. If not, you can accept my resignation!”
Before Davis could speak, General Hammond said in a calm, controlled tone, “Hold on son, you're dangerously close to insubordination. Please moderate your tone and sit down.” Hammond met Riley's angry gaze, seeming to lend him a measure of his calm. Waiting until Riley sat back down, and holding his hand up to stop Davis speaking, he continued, “Now take a deep breath and tell me what's bothering you.”
Riley did exactly that, breathed deeply in and out, while counting to ten. Ignoring the curious, focused eyes of SG-1, and the speculative, probing eyes of Davis, he addressed General Hammond, “Sir, the events that took place while the Initiative was operating were to be held in strictest confidence. No one
was to find out about it or them. I received the personal assurance of General Lemming, from the Military Intelligence Oversight Committee. Now here is Major Davis bringing it up, obviously for one purpose.”
Hammond looked from one man to the other, from Riley's angry eyes to Major Davis's speculative ones. He didn't like where this was heading. He hated it when people lied and broke their oaths. He knew that Davis was here on the authority of the President, so he was prepared to grant him a certain amount of leeway. But Presidential authority did not make this situation smell any better. Looking Riley in the eye, he asked, “What purpose is that, Captain Finn?”
Riley paused, knowing he was skating perilously close to revealing the truth himself, before stating, “If I tell you what he is trying to do, I will be fulfilling it myself. I do not want to do that. I can only request that you put a stop to this meeting. It will do no one any good to dredge up these events. Upon my oath as an officer in the United States Marine Corp, I am telling you this: No good will come of this.”
“I would like to stop this briefing, son, but the Major is here on the authority of the President. If I stopped this briefing now, with no more to go on than what you've given me, I would be handing in my letter of resignation tomorrow, most likely at the President's request. Isn't there anything else you can tell me that would give me some leverage?”
Both men turned as Davis loudly cleared his throat. Once he had their attention, he said quietly, “General Hammond, I believe I can belay Captain Finn's fears if you will let me speak.” Waiting for Hammond's nod, he continued, “Captain, you're operating under a misapprehension. You believe that the NID do not know about Buffy Summers and the other... girls.” At Riley's sharp nod, he began to speak again, “You're wrong about that. At 9:47 pm, August 14th, 2003, Robin Wood was killed and Xander Harris was shot while trying to prevent an NID team from kidnapping Eve Matthews, a twelve-year-old girl from Almsburg, Pennsylvania. Her family was killed as well. Three days later, the eight-man NID team was dead, and the girl was staying with Miss Summers. The same thing happened again nine days later, when another young girl, Cherie McGowen, was abducted. This time a young woman named Faith Lehane was shot. Again the girl was rescued, and the NID agents were terminated. However, that was not the end. Two days later, four key officials in the NID hierarchy died under mysterious circumstances, and Senator Kinsey, the NID's most prominent political supporter, decided to grope an underage, male Senate page publicly, despite being the soul of discretion when it came to his more disgusting habits. He was photographed doing so, and forced to resign his seat. The NID has made no further moves against them, mostly because they fear the consequences. Of course you and I know the response could have been far worse if a certain young redhead had gone ballistic. As does the President. Four days later, the President signed an executive order barring the NID from having any further dealings in the supernatural world, especially with them. All NID agents, except a handful of rogues, are honoring that order. The NID is doing so partly because its obligation to obey the President, and partly because they are too scared to make another move. ”
Riley head spun. Xander and Faith shot? Another man dead? All consequences of trying to protect slayers from those who would use them. It was exactly what he had been afraid of. When he had first come across Buffy, all those years ago, and realized what she could do, he had struggled with his oath to protect and serve his nation, versus her right to privacy and to live her life. If he had followed his duty, he would have reported her to men who would have used her in whatever way they felt best served the interests of the United States. What she did was important, possibly too important, for any nation, even his own, to control. He still wasn't sure if it was Buffy, the person, or Buffy, the slayer, that had most influenced his decision. It was his deepest shame, and ultimately doomed their relationship. The individual citizen could not always be more important than the interests of the nation. There could be no absolutes. But at the same time, the nation could not remain great if it put itself above the rights of its lowliest citizen, except in the most dire circumstances, and only after searching all possible alternatives. Riley loved his country, but had faced the harsh reality that he could not trust the honor of those in charge. Too many politicians traded their souls in back rooms for more and greater influence, in the quest for power. So he had sworn an oath to himself to remain silent about Buffy, to protect her to the greatest extent possible.
After the fall of the Initiative, gathering those others who had survived Sunnydale together, he had made his case to them about keeping Buffy under wraps. All had agreed, each of them taking an oath to maintain their silence. To never talk about Buffy or the Initiative, except to other members of their select brotherhood. Graham had been the first person to swear the oath, looking straight into Riley's eyes as he spoke, his words and tone conveying the depths of his belief in the rightness of what they did that day.
Riley had still worried about any one of a dozen different organization within the U.S. government trying to use Buffy or Faith. That worry had slowly receded as time passed and nothing happened. After the activation of all of the potential slayers, he had again wondered if there was anything to worry about. When his unit was disbanded, he decided that the government had come to the conclusion that the supernatural was better ignored and left to others, more qualified, to deal with. Riley could see that most legitimate agencies of the U.S. Government had followed that viewpoint. However, certain black op groups would not give up trying to recruit a slayer, willing or unwilling, just because of the fate of the Initiative or even an Executive Order.
Riley had no doubt that if the NID had succeeded in kidnapping either of the girls, within a year or two, they would have a perfect brain-washed assassin, capable of taking out anyone, anywhere, anytime. The idea of girls, whose lives were already short and deadly, being used by ruthless men in their power games, made him furious. So furious he wanted to kill someone. Someone responsible. Someone like Kinsey. But he didn't. Because there would always be another ruthless, power-hungry individual willing to take whatever shortcut to power he or she could find. At least Kinsey was receiving his just deserts. The fate of the man was almost as bad as death, and in his own eyes, probably worse. After being caught publicly groping the young Senate page, he had to face the accusations of dozens of young men who came forward about being abused by him. The scandal had destroyed his political career, and the resulting lawsuits had destroyed his personal fortune, leaving him powerless and broke. Even now, he languished in jail, awaiting trial on charges of child abuse and rape. Something would stick, and Kinsey would go away for a very long time. And prison was not a happy place for a child molester. Many of those languishing there had children of their own, and took a dim view of someone abusing them. Riley grimly contemplated his fate.
His dark musings were interrupted, as Jack burst out, “You're telling us that there was some kind of mysterious conspiracy that caused Kinsey's downfall? That it wasn't his own boneheadedness? What is going on here?”
Davis caught Riley's eyes and with a lifted eyebrow, asked permission to continue. He slowly nodded his assent, knowing there was no reason to try to keep a lid on things with the NID already involved. The cat was truly out of the bag.
“I will get to that soon, Colonel O'Neill, but for now, would like to continue where I left off. The secret lab was run indirectly by the NID, using a black ops outfit called the Initiative as a cover. Their agenda was to seek a scientific and/or military solution to the HST problem. Initiative patrol teams hunted and captured HST's, who were then studied by the scientific teams. Ultimately their attempt to harness the supernatural failed. The Initiative, both its military and civilian branches, took one hundred percent casualties, sixty percent of them fatal. They had created a Frankenstein monster, codenamed Adam, an amalgamation of human, demon, and technology, which got loose, and was very nearly able to bring about an apocalypse. Adam was stopped by a group of civilians, most of them young, who had been battling the supernatural since high school. Yes, Colonel O'Neill?” Davis was trying to be patient with Jack, knowing that everyone here, even General Hammond, took many of their cues from the outspoken and opinionated Colonel. He influence was felt throughout the SGC. If he could get O'Neill on his side, the others, even Samantha Carter with her science-based skepticism, would be easier to convince. If he had to put up with a few rude questions and interruptions to do so, he could live with that.
Jack thought furiously, before saying, “What do you mean by apocalypse, Major? Because when I hear the word, I think of the end of days. And that doesn't seem likely, does it? I mean the world's still here, right?”
“Before I explain, let me show you two more videos.” From the stack of DVDs in front of him, Davis took two. He opened the first and inserted it into the player. The room watched as a scene unfolded in front of them. Dark-clad figures moving through the woods in pursuit of someone. Jack counted at least eight, dressed in the same, camouflaged outfits, indicating some type of military unit, but he couldn't see who they were pursuing. The soldiers appeared to be armed with unfamiliar taser-style weapons.
The scene continued for a few minutes. Finally Davis fast-forwarded to near the end. Suddenly the underbrush ahead of the cameraman came alive as the soldiers rushed forward, attacking someone out of sight. Figures began flying backwards. Some were hurled over twenty feet through the air before hitting the ground. Another figure appeared: small, female, dressed in a puffy blue jacket and a black toboggan cap. Jack watched in amazement as she palm-thrust one of the men, hurling him through the air and out of the fight. Almost faster than he could follow, she grabbed another and used him as a living shield. His body absorbed what appeared to be an electrical blast from one of the taser-type weapons, fired by another soldier. Lifting her spasming and senseless shield, the girl threw him into the weapon wielder, taking them both out. All of the camo-clad figures were down. Bright lights abruptly illuminated the scene, and the camera pulled back, showing two people approaching the girl. One was an older woman with an authoritative air who walked with assurance. The other was Riley Finn. Riley felt the weight of the stares of the room's occupants, before they turned back to the video. The woman spoke, more than a hint of surprise and amazement in her voice, “It took the patrol teams forty-two minutes to track you, and you neutralized them in twenty-eight seconds.”
The girl, who could now be seen clearly in the bright lights, was blonde, gorgeous, and even more petite than she had first appeared to be. Smiling slightly, she replied effacingly, “I was just lucky.”
“I see. Well, still very impressive.” There was almost displeasure in the woman's expression. Saying nothing else, the woman turned and walked away. Riley walked up to the girl.
As the video began to fade, everyone heard her say, “I was just being modest with the whole lucky thing. You got that, right?” Finn's reply was lost as snow filled the screen.
Samantha Carter was stunned. She heard Jack and Daniel hurl questions at Major Davis. She could not get her mind around the scene she had just witnessed. The strength and speed the young woman exhibited was mind-boggling. She had thrown men more than double her mass twenty to thirty feet through
the air. There had to be a reasonable, scientific explanation for what she saw. Perhaps she was some type of alien super-soldier? And what was Captain Finn's involvement with her? Sam came out of her fugue state when Major Davis called for silence, indicating he had one more video to show. As Jack settled down, grumbling under his breath, the screen came alive.
This time the angle was high, as from a security camera mounted on a wall or ceiling. The camera looked down upon a scene that could only be described as hellish. Broken, bloody bodies of people and other “things” littered the landscape of a huge room. More figures could be seen struggling throughout the room, automatic weapons fire casting staccato shadows over the scene. It appeared that the human element was losing ground, as more and more people were torn apart by figures out of nightmares. Suddenly a wedge of people moved into view, led by the same blonde girl from the earlier video. She literally tore her way through the various creatures, killing anything that got in her way. Fighting on one side of the mysterious blonde was a demonic figure, who appeared to be on her side. Fighting on her other side was Riley Finn. Again, Riley felt the weight of eyes as everyone in the room looked at him before turning back to the video. Surviving soldiers and scientists rallied to the girl's side, and she was able to lead them off camera. None of the surviving creatures followed, merely stopping and staring at the direction in which the blonde had gone, seemingly content to survive. Some began to feed on the mutilated remains of humans and other demons. The scene faded into snow.
Davis spoke, “Her name is Buffy Summers. She is The Slayer. By the time this video was recorded, she had already been responsible for preventing six extinction-level events from occurring. She has saved the human race at least six times. She has saved the human race a few time since as well. By the way, Colonel O'Neill, what you asked earlier? That
was what I meant, when I said apocalypse...”