Chapter Seventeen—Buffy vs Teal'c
Cali and Teal'c squared off outside of Jack's house in the back yard. The area back there was mostly clear of snow because of a couple of large evergreens that screened the backyard from inclement weather. Still, there'd been some snow, but it hadn't deterred either combatant, nor had the scuffed area where Carter and Cali had already sparred. Teal'c had already traded in his stetson for his beanie to keep Apophis' symbol covered. Jack was relieved he wouldn't have to try to cover that up again.
Jack pulled Cali to one side and cautioned her to hold nothing back while sparring with Teal'c. “Be careful, Summers. Murray's extremely good. I mean extremely
good. Got that?” At her excited nod, he continued. “Don't dance around him like you did Major Carter, or he'll murder you. Stay back and try to use your speed. Understand?”
Cali gave him a determined look. Despite the resolve that was contained in her expression, Jack would have felt better if Summers at least came up to Teal'c's shoulder, instead of falling inches short. She just looked so small out there next to him. If Teal'c broke his smack, there were going to be repercussions, he thought darkly.
After making sure they were both ready to go, Jack retired to sit next to Carter and Daniel on the back porch. Jack gave the signal from there. “Bow. Begin.” He watched as the two bowed to each other, then began circling one another. Then Jack stared in disbelief, stunned as he realized for the first time, just how good Cali was.
Teal'c was trained in the ancient martial art of the Jaffa, Lok'nel, one that possessed moves that no Earthly martial art did. That expertise in an advanced fighting style, coupled with his natural strength and speed, made Teal'c pretty much unbeatable. Jack hadn't enjoyed the few sparring sessions the two of them had engaged in, nor had pretty much anyone else. Certainly, none of the soldiers Teal'c had sparred with had ever penetrated his defense. Jack had thought that no one could. Now he learned just how wrong he was.
Apparently, Summers had listened well. As the fight began, Cali darted at Teal'c, dropping into a slide to sweep his feet. When he reacted by moving down low to block her, Jack realized it was a feint. Cali didn't try to sweep, but in a move that would have made any breakdancer proud, spun on her back, then while flipping around to her feet, she kicked Teal'c twice in the face!
Teal'c's face wore an expression that Jack could only describe as astonishment as he stared at his tiny opponent. Then a fierce grin of joy covered his face, and he moved to attack...
Teal'c's smile grew fierce as he attacked Buffy Summers. She had scored a hit upon him just now. It was the first time he'd been hit by any of the Tau'ri during a sparring session since he had come to this planet. That it had been accomplished as much by guile and misdirection as skill, only made him even more determined to test the limits of his opponent.
Teal'c had fought with many of what they called 'martial artists' here on Earth. He'd found a majority of them to be quite able, if lacking a skill level equal to his own. In all his time on Earth, he had never faced someone who blended so many of the Tau'ri fighting arts into one. Not until today. Buffy Summers moved with a gracefulness and economy of motion that told of endless hours training and of tremendous self-discipline.
Grunting as he took a hard hand strike to his ribs, Teal'c was momentarily distracted from his thoughts. Slamming a quick forearm into a hasty block, Teal'c tossed his opponent back. She gathered herself less than three feet away, then paused, her intense gaze showing her absolute focus on the fight. Teal'c could almost see wheels moving in her head as Buffy Summers considered her next attack. An attack that he knew would be both fierce and unexpected as he stared into that ferocious gaze.
Without even knowing exactly how he managed it, Teal'c moved to intercept her newest attack. For a moment, the two of them strained chest to chest and forearm to forearm. Teal'c was startled by the girl's strength. Small as she was, Buffy Summers possessed might equivalent to a strong Tau'ri male. Staring down into her fierce eyes, Teal'c had an odd thought. Was she holding back against him?
He started to toss her back, but she was already moving back even before he began, making him overbalance slightly at the lack of resistance. Three perfectly placed kicks struck him in the thigh, hip, and ribs in a space of under a second. His return kick only caught the girl a glancing blow, the force wasted against a retreating opponent. Teal'c almost chuckled at his earlier whimsy. The girl was attacking as fiercely as she was able. Were she possessed of equivalent strength and size to him, Teal'c would be vanquished. But as it was, she only delayed the moment when he would defeat her.
Then he saw his chance. She moved away too slowly and he avoided the kick she snapped at this head as she tried to maintain their distance. Placing huge hands upon her shoulders, Teal'c grappled with his much smaller opponent. She would be unable to break his grip and he would force her to submit...
Jack wished for a video camera as he watched the fight. Both opponents moved with incredible speed and skill. Cali was faster, while Teal'c was, perhaps, more skilled. And stronger. “Don't forget stronger, Jack,” he told himself, worried despite how well things had gone so far. Both fighters were continuing to speed up and the force behind their strikes and kicks was increasing.
Jack watched as Teal'c managed to grapple with Cali, placing his huge hands on her shoulders and starting to pull her towards him. Cali immediately seemed to realize what a mistake she'd made. Jack was astonished by how she got out of Teal'c's hold. In order to break his hold, Cali placed her hands on Teal'c's arms and literally used them as an anchoring point so that she could do a complete mid-air flip. The rotation of her body broke Teal'c's hold on her and she ducked away from him, avoiding a mule kick. Then she counterattacked!
Cali dropped to her right side, bracing herself on her hands, and kicked out at Teal'c with her left leg. Jack knew from experience just how strong the legs of an experienced martial artist were, capable of blows much more powerful than any upper body strike. Buffy's kick just slipped in past Teal'c's block, striking him squarely on the hip bone and sending him reeling back. With cat-like grace, the big man retained his footing, his face smiling more ferociously than before. Disturbingly, Cali's face wore a similar expression as she came back to her feet...
Buffy was feeling a sense of exhilaration as she stood lightly on her toes in a Shizentai stance, staring into her opponent's eyes. She was ready to attack or respond to her opponent's attack. Then Murray moved forward. Buffy ducked just under Murray's strike, while partially blocking his follow up kick with the sole of her foot using a nami ashi block. The main force of the blow was spent and barely hurt. Both of them would be beaten and bruised when this was over, she thought. Which brought out another thought for Buffy to contemplate.
Murray had the oddest hand-to-hand style she'd ever encountered. It was extremely effective, but relied primarily on superior strength to prevail. Buffy doubted Murray ran into many people as strong as he was. Not only was he incredibly strong, but he was incredibly durable as well. Buffy had hit him several times quite a bit harder than she'd hit a certain jarhead, and she'd had little effect on him. It was as if he was all gristle and bone. Or possibly not human.
Buffy almost took a spinning backhand as she was distracted by the odd thought that had popped into her head. Trying a flawless series of Sanbon Zuki, followed by a Mae-ren geri, Buffy managed to get one out of four of her attacks through Murray's defense. Throughout her attacks, Buffy further pondered her odd thought. Murray was incredibly strong. So far, she'd managed to get him off-balance a few times, only to have him recover far faster than a human could have. He'd recovered faster not because of unusually fast reflexes, although he was quick, but rather because of his sheer strength.
Murray was strong enough to spin his entire massive body on one foot before he twisted literally in mid-air, while simultaneously kicking out at Buffy. He'd missed the kick, which was of the good, since she knew that she couldn't have kept up appearances if she'd gotten hit by that particular move. It must be unique to the martial art he practiced. It was another piece of evidence that made Buff suspect he wasn't human, since no human being of Teal'c's size and build could have pulled it off. It required a strength at least three times that of a human being in Buffy's estimation. And when it came to knowing how strong you had to be to perform certain moves, Buffy was somewhat of an expert, having fought a surfeit of powerful vampires and demons since being called as the Slayer.
Combine that strength with a toughness that matched most vampires, and Murray was quite a handful. Still, Buffy didn't doubt that she could take him. She was only using a small fraction of her strength, possibly that of a strong man, possibly a little more. She was just trying not to use too much strength, not wanting to be outed. Moreover, Buffy wasn't moving nearly as fast as she was capable of. And therein lay the biggest difference between them. Moving only slightly faster than a human should be able to, Buffy still had tremendous speed in reserve, while Murray was pushing himself much closer to his limits, at least she thought he was.
Not that it mattered. Buffy could no more speed up further than she could pick up Murray over her head. Not if she wanted to remain incognito. So she had the choice of losing the fight or coming out of the closet. As much as she wanted to let go, as much as the Slayer demanded she let go, Buffy couldn't. So with fierce self-discipline, Buffy prepared herself to lose. At least she had an idea how to lose in a way that shouldn't arouse suspicions...
Cali's expression didn't falter even when she took a kick to her own hip that staggered her and made Jack wince sympathetically. He'd been black and blue for two weeks after taking a similar blow from Teal'c once. With pride, Jack thought again just how tough his smack was. Still, he was wondering if he should call the fight. Especially when Cali landed an elbow strike to Teal'c's ribs that they probably heard three blocks over.
That did it. Jack got up to call the fight before something worse happened. Of course, per the law of Murphy, that's exactly when something of that nature did happen. Cali had just gotten in another combo on Teal'c, hitting him with both a knife strike to the sternum and a spin kick to his left quadricep. In return, Cali had taken a shot to her ribs.
Again, Jack winced at the impact, but Cali appeared undeterred. Then Teal'c launched a palm strike at her, which Cali attempted to slap away and then possibly wrap Teal'c up just as she'd done Carter.
The problem with that idea was that Teal'c wasn't Carter. He was more than twice Carter's size and five times as strong. And faster as well. Instead of his arm moving to the left, torquing his off-balance body around that way, he was actually able to pivot to his right with Buffy as she tried to move around him and drive her backwards. Straight into, and then through, the wooden fence that bordered Jack's back yard.
Both went sprawling with Teal'c on top of Cali, hiding her from view, to the sound of splintering boards. Jack, already on his feet, ran to where they'd fallen. Teal'c was already getting up, but Cali lay still, her eyes partially closed. Jack dropped to his knees next to her, ignoring the faint twinge he felt.
“Summers! Are you all right? How many fingers am I holding up?” Jack held up two fingers.
For a couple of seconds she didn't respond and his worry sharpened. Then, finally, she opened her eyes fully and said, “Two, sir. Did anyone get the license number of that truck?”
Jack was relieved she was joking. That probably meant she wasn't badly hurt. Jack carefully searched her face. His heart was beating ridiculously fast and his guts churned with worry. Carefully, Jack checked the pulse in Cali's throat. It was strong and steady, as well as being remarkably slow considering the physical exertion she'd just experienced. Still, he wasn't convinced Cali was all right. When she tried to sit up, Jack wouldn't let her. “Carter, call 911. I think we should get an ambulance...”
Cali surged up, sitting despite Jack's interference. “NO! Sir, I mean. I'm fine. See? All my fingers and toes work.” With that, she demonstrated that her fingers worked, although Jack had to take her at her word on the toes thing.
“Are you sure, Summers? Let me see your pupils.” Jack checked her pupils which looked fine. He'd seen more than enough concussions to recognize the signs of one if he saw it, Daniel being a prime example. At least Cali wasn't concussed.
“I'm fine, sir. Really I am. Please don't be worried about me.”
“Buffy Summers, I am sorry to have injured you. In the heat of battle, I did not notice the fence being so near. It was not my inten...”
Cali grinned up at the huge man. “Don't worry, Murray. I'm fine. Besides, it was fun. It's not often I can go all out against someone. You're really good.”
Teal'c smiled broadly, his dark eyes gleaming. “As are you, Buffy Summers. You are truly a worthy opponent. Thank you for the opportunity to test myself against you.”
Shaking his head at the madness of certain individuals, Jack dragged everyone back into the house...
Buffy looked over at Major Carter as they headed back to the Zoo. She had really enjoyed the BBQ at the Colonel's house, especially the sparring. It wasn't until today that Buffy realized just how much she missed killing vampires and demons. The Slayer in her could only be sublimated so long with calisthenics and other exercise. Even the sparring she engaged in with the UA club simply didn't provide the burst of adrenaline that Buffy needed on at least a semi-regular basis. Buffy had noticed that she was a little more on edge lately. Now at least she knew why. I really need to find some vampires to kill, Buffy thought moodily. But that was unlikely to happen while she was confined to base. But during summer break, she was going to go Rambo on every vampire she ran into, even if she had to go up to Denver to find some.
“Thanks again, ma'am, for the ride back. I know it is out of your way...”
Major Carter interrupted her, “Don't worry about it, Cali. I'm going into the Mountain after I drop you off. Yes, I know it's in the opposite direction, but trust me, it's still less than twenty miles from here to the Mountain.”
“Ma'am, do you often go to work on a Sunday evening?” Buffy figured that Major Carter was pretty dedicated if she did that. Or maybe just really liked what she was doing.
The Major smiled in a way that lit up her whole face. “Only when I'm running an experiment. I'm a physicist and I'm constantly doing some kind of experiment there. It's one of the reasons I enjoy being posted there so much.”
“Cali, I would like to ask you about something. I don't want to offend or embarrass you, but I have to admit I'm concerned.”
Uh oh, Buffy thought, that didn't sound good. She wondered what was going on. Had she slipped worse than she thought she had? Hiding her grimace behind a stoic countenance, Buffy replied, “Of course, ma'am.”
Major Carter glanced at her, then carefully asked, “How long have you been bulimic, Cali?”
Buffy gaped at the Major in astonishment. Whatever she'd expected to be asked, it wasn't that. “What... huh... umm... I am not bulimic, ma'am.”
Major Carter gave her a severe stare. Sheesh, Buffy thought, that's as scary as Colonel O'Neill's, maybe even scarier. Then the Major's eyes softened. “Cali, having a problem is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone needs help on occasion. I noticed how long you were in the kitchen those two times. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you went into the bathroom and threw up, didn't you?”
Buffy finally got control of herself. Shaking her head in an emphatic no, Buffy stated, “No, ma'am, I did not. I know that it appears that I ate a huge meal, and I guess I did. But in my defense, everything was amazing. I burn so many calories every day that I tend to eat a lot. I doubt I ate any more in that meal than I usually do all day on any normal day.”
The Major eyed her skeptically. “Cali, I won't question your word. But consider what I said. I know firsthand the amount of pressure a cadet is under at the Zoo. It's even more true for women, since we still only make up about ten percent of the cadet population. I know from Colonel O'Neill just how well you did your first semester. I just want you to know that even if your grades drop, you don't have to worry about the Colonel's backing. So you don't have to put so much pressure on yourself.”
Buffy was both touched and irritated that Major Carter took the time to make sure she was okay. Touched that she was concerned and irritated that the Major didn't believe her. Buffy made a final stab at convincing her. “Ma'am, I truly appreciate your concern. I will not say that everything has been easy. I am not just talking about the Scandal. There have been a lot of adjustments that I have had to make in going from a civilian to a member of the Air Force. And the attitude of a lot of the male cadets has not made it any less stressful. But I am fine, ma'am. I understand why you arrived at the conclusions you did, but you need to see me eat at any meal. I am probably one of the only cadets who asks for seconds during breakfast and lunch. I was actually embarrassed about how much I like to eat, but the Colonel has gone a long way towards making me feel more comfortable about my appetite.”
Major Carter gave Buffy a thoughtful look, but didn't appear to think she was lying. It looked like Buffy had managed to allay at least some of her fears. “Okay, Cadet Summers. I'll accept you at your word. But if you ever need to talk to someone about food issues, or anything else, please feel free to call me.” She dug a card out of the her fatigue pocket and handed it to Buffy. “That has my contact information for the Mountain. Just ask for me at the switchboard and they'll patch you through. That particular card has my home phone number on the back. I wrote it on there earlier. So please call any time you need to talk.”
Buffy stared at the card in her hand. The Major's home number was written on the back, just as she'd said. Touched, Buffy softly said, “Yes, ma'am. Thank you, ma'am.”
Buffy was silent the rest of the way back. She had a lot to think about, Major Carter only playing a minor part. No, Buffy's thoughts coalesced around someone else. Pensively, Buffy glanced out the window. Almost there. Back to her thinking, Buffy couldn't worry anymore about what she'd found out. Still, it had been one interesting day. Not only had she finally met the Colonel's friends and coworkers, but one of them turned out to be an alien. Well, almost probably.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Murray wasn't human. Buffy had several clues to go on. First, he was more than three times as strong as any human being Buffy had ever fought before. Not nearly as strong as she was, but still incredibly strong. And not all that good at hiding it, despite how careful he had been to try to avoid hurting her in the initial stages of their fight. At one point, body overextended and off-balance, he'd still swatted her aside effortlessly. Buffy could have taken him down so easily at that point, but unless she wanted to give herself away, she'd had to give the impression of strength normal to a girl her size and weight. So she'd let herself be knocked down, although she had turned it into a roll and a kick.
Second, he was using an odd, if effective, martial art that Buffy had never previously encountered. An art that was obviously designed for someone with superhuman strength. For instance, someone with exceptional, but still human, strength wouldn't have been able to make half those moves work, even if they were substantially bigger than Buffy. Murray, on the other hand, had excelled, even if the fighting style he used wasn't quite as effective as the one that Buffy followed. But then hers had been developed over thousands of years out of every fighting style on Earth. However, she was considering adding a few of Murray's moves to her repertoire, making it that much more effective. Buffy really wished she could see even more of the moves first, though.
Third, was 'Murray' even his name? Not only did he not feel
like a 'Murray', but Buffy had caught enough hesitations in the voices of the others to clue her in. Perhaps an ordinary person wouldn't have noticed those hesitations, but Buffy, with her enhanced hearing, easily did. She might not have been the best Slayer in history at sensing vampires, but Buffy more than made up for it with her keen sense of what was and what was not normal. And 'Murray' was not normal.
Fourth, the Colonel had warned her about him. Colonel O'Neill knew just how good she was, or at least how good she'd allowed him to see her as. He hadn't batted an eye about her sparring with Major Carter. But with Murray, he'd given a very intense warning, like he had expected her to need all of her ability just to avoid a beating. And if Buffy had been anyone other than the Slayer, she'd have been black and blue for the next two weeks. As the Slayer, she was only bruised for one night, about like a light patrol, back in Sunnydale.
Fifth and final clue: Whistler's warning about aliens through the Stargate. They must have brought Murray back with them. Probably because he was a big help, being a badass fighter and super-strong 'n stuff. Buffy wondered if he had any other cool, alien-type powers. Not that he really needed any so long as he could kick ass like that, she thought. Now if she could just figure out how to sense him.
They were finally back at the Zoo. Major Carter pulled up in front of the Visitor's Center so that Buffy could get out. “Thanks again, ma'am, for the ride. I appreciate it.”
Major Carter smiled. “No problem. Remember, if there's anything I can do for you, please give me a call.”
“Yes, ma'am.” With that, the Major pulled away. Buffy began the walk back to her dorm...