Disclaimer: Not mine, but I bless the people who created the worlds we all enjoy playing in.
General Landry decided to bring in SG-1 on the questioning as well. He thought it might be a little less intimidating, having a mix of genders and backgrounds, rather than just military personnel. An orderly placed a tray with coffee and snack foods on the table, and everyone helped themselves, the pair of visitors waiting until everyone else had gone first before serving themselves. Landry doubted that it was coincidence that they didn't try anything until one of his people had, although they ate voraciously once they were sure that the food was safe.
Their two visitors looked better cleaned up, dressed in scrubs, but not by much. He'd already received Dr. Lam's report on them. Both were underweight and malnourished, with a variety of scars, as well as half-healed wounds that didn't appear to have received attention from anyone with medical training. Wherever they'd come from, they'd been living under unpleasant conditions for a while, was the verdict.
"My name in General Hank Landry," he said with a hint of a smile, trying to put them at ease.
"Xander Harris," the one-eyed man said. He had scanned the room quickly coming in, suggesting to Landry that he was military of some sort.
"Dawn Summers," the woman said, barely audible, a bleak expression in her eyes. Cleaned up, she was pretty, but looked like she might break if you touched her. She also couldn't have been more than twenty years old, if that.
"So, any idea how you ended up in the middle of our base?" he asked mildly, doing his best to project a kindly curiosity.
The two looked at each other, and the girl clutched at her companion's hand. He could see a sort of silent communication between them as they decided whether or not to trust. "It was supposed to take us to a place of safety," Harris finally said, both to Landry and the girl. "To protection," he added.
"Protection from who? Or would it be what?"
Harris turned to him, the corner of his mouth twisting into an expression that could be irony or amusement. "A little of both. They call themselves the Ori."
Landry sat up a little straighter, as did SG-1. "The Ori?"
Harris's one eye narrowed. The report on the injury had been particularly disturbing. "You've heard of them?"
"You could say that," Vala said from her seat next to Dr Jackson. Her hand was shaking on the arm of her chair. It had been less than a weeks since the experiment with the device that had sent her and Jackson to another galaxy, in mind if not in body.
"Crazy-ass preachers with powers and a convert-or-die philosophy?"
"Yeah, that sounds like them," Mitchell said with a nod.
"Shit," Harris leaned back in his chair, closing his eye. Dawn's knuckles, where she was holding his hand, had gone white. "She didn't send us far enough." His tone was as close to despair as Landry had ever heard.
"Could you explain that a little more," Landry asked.
Harris sighed, then straightened again. "I don't suppose you know anything about alternate realities," he said.
"We've had some experience with them."
"And alternate dimensions?"
Landry frowned. "Aren't they basically the same thing?" he asked, wishing that Lieutenant Colonel Carter was still at SGC. He had the feeling that she would have been useful in interpreting whatever explanation was coming.
"Not exactly." Harris pulled his hand from Dawn, and she scooted her chair a little closer in response. "Think of a dimension as a piece of funky graph paper. Each space on it is a reality. Each reality on that piece of paper has basically the same structure. The same planets, the same races. The closer they are together, the more similar they are, although if you go far enough, they stop resembling what you know."
"Okay," Landry said. Sounded like the briefings he'd read on SG-1's experiences with the mirror device.
"That piece of paper is pretty big, but it isn't the only piece of paper out there. Think of existence as... like a pad of paper. A really big one. Each piece of paper is a separate dimension, completely different from any other dimension. Absolutely no resemblance to any other dimension. And also divided into multiple realities."
Harris glanced around the table, and Landry nodded. "Following you so far."
"The Ori... The Ori can open their way into different realities. They're like.." Harris grimaced. "Do you guys have a movie called Independence Day?"
"Will Smith, alien invasion stuff?" Mitchell asked, perking up slightly.
"That's the one. Too damned close," he muttered under his breath. "In that movie, the president makes a comment about the aliens being like a plague of locusts, consuming one world at a time, then moving on to the next. The Ori are like that with realities. They move from reality to reality, feeding on them, using them up and moving on to the next, leaving behind death and destruction. And while a dimension is pretty vast, they're afraid of running out of realities. Or they were."
"Until?" Landry prompted when Harris fell silent.
"Sorry. I'm just trying to figure out how to explain this. Our reality is a bit of a crossroads. Walls between dimensions are weaker there. More options of crossover, if you know how. It makes things a little... strange."
"Strange, how?" Jackson asked, speaking up for the first time.
"What do you know about the supernatural?" Harris asked.
Mitchell laughed. "Like vampires and werewolves and stuff? Just what's in horror and romance novels." He glanced around the table at the looks he was getting. "What? I never said I read them myself."
"Romance novels?" Harris grimaced. "Now that's just wrong. Well, our world has them. Plus demons and ghosts and witches and mages and all sorts of things that go bump in the night. They bleed in from other realities. Not that many people notice."
There were varying expressions of disbelief around the room. "I would think it would be difficult not to notice," Mitchell said.
"Nah. People have a finely honed sense of denial. They would just come up with logical explanations that let them sleep at night. Still, it wouldn't be possible without the Slayer."
Landry could almost here the capital; that was a title of some significance, it seemed. "Slayer."
"One girl in all the world...." Harris shook his head. "I'm not the bookish type, so bear with me. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of years ago, magic flowed more freely in our world, in large part because demons had come though a tear in the dimensions to make their homes. Finally, Shamans and Witches banded together, along with armies, to drive them out. But before they left, the demons killed a number of humans and imbued them with a touch of demon blood, creating the first vampires. Petty revenge. Then they fled, and their portal was sealed up behind them, leaving the vampires behind to wreak havoc in their name."
Landry couldn't stop from shaking his head. "That sounds like the plot of a bad b-movie."
"I suppose if you don't live in it, it could. But believe me, it's far too real, at least for us."
"So what happened?"
"With the closing of the portals, magic started to fade. It wouldn't go away completely, but it was much more limited. The Shamans bonded together and used their magic to take a single remaining demon and transfer it's essence into a young woman. She was the first Slayer. Faster, stronger, and able to track the half-blood demons. And when she died, the essence of what made her a Slayer moved on to the next girl."
"Why girls?" Mitchell asked, outrage in his voice.
"Higher pain threshold, greater emotional stability; who knows. It is the way it is. One girl becomes the Slayer. She fights, she eventually dies, next girl called. And so it has been since before recorded history. The surviving Shamans..."
"The spell wasn't exactly a walk in the park. More than half of them died. And the survivors worked with the Slayers, eventually figuring out how to tell what girls might be called, and training them before the essence moved on to them, so that they would last a little longer."
"My sister was a Slayer," Dawn said, looking up for the first time, haunted eyes meeting Landry's briefly before dropping again.
Harris squeezed her hand again before continuing. "She was something else," he agreed with a sad smile. "She fought for more than a decade before falling, not at the hands of what she was born to fight, but at the hands of the Ori."
Landry let them lapse into silence, the grief obvious on their faces, while he went over what Harris had said. Vala beat him to his next question. "You implied that something changed things for the Ori when they came to your world."
"The Ori have been moving from reality to reality, but hadn't seen anything that might let them reach other dimensions. Don't even know if they were aware that other dimensions even existed. In our reality, they saw that it was possible, and that those dimensions were full of power they hadn't experienced before. Fortunately, creating new portals is very difficult, and the few that already existed were quickly closed from the other side when their inhabitants saw which way the wind was blowing."
Harris glanced at the girl, who was now trembling slightly. "When the ancient peoples drove the high demons out of our world, they pooled their magic to create key that could be used to open and close portals. The ones who created the first Slayer were the survivors of that first spell," he added. "The Ori found out about the Key and started hunting for it."
"And you have that key," Vala said, her eyes brightening.
Harris glanced at Dawn. "It's me," she finally said, so softly that Landry could barely hear her.
"Huh?" someone said. Landry wasn't sure who.
Harris grimaced slightly. "A few years ago, a demon banished to our dimension tracked down the Key and the group of monks dedicated to protecting it. When they realized that they weren't going to be able to stop her, they hid it in a way that no one would suspect. They used the blood of a Slayer to create a person around the Key, and then used a spell to create a place for her in this world, before Glorificus caught up with them and tortured them all to death, trying to find the Key." He smiled at Dawn reassuringly. "A place as the sister that the Slayer would protect, memories that would convince the people around her that she'd always existed. We figured it out pretty quickly, but we didn't care. Whatever she had been, she was now our Dawnie. Of course we would protect her."
He looked up again, and a grim smile crossed his face. "Glorificus learned just how good we were at that. She didn't survive it."
"But now the Ori want her so that she can open the way for them," Vala said, sounding a tiny bit disappointed. Perhaps because this Key wasn't something that could be stolen, Landry thought, perhaps a little ungenerously.
"Right. They turned their attention in full on our world, taking it in record time. We ran. We would have fought, but we couldn't risk them getting their hands on Dawn. So, we hid, but the Ori followed us, every step of the way. We lost a lot of good people, until there were only four of us left. Me, Dawn, Faith, and Willow."
"What happened to the other two?" Landry asked softly.
"My Willow was an uber-wicca," Harris said with soft pride. "Strongest witch still living. She hid us as long as possible until she could work out the spell that sent us here. 'A reality where we would find help and protection and hope' was the criteria build into it. Faith was the last Slayer. She was buying time for Willow to do the spell, then close the portal and..." He flinched. "And make sure that she couldn't be forced to reopen it," he finally choked out. Both of them had tears on their cheeks.
Landry didn't ask how; he could guess. No greater love, he thought to himself.
He glanced at the members of SG-1. They all had expressions of dismay -- although he still wasn't good at reading Teal'c's expression -- but no doubt. After all, they'd seen and heard stranger.
"We thought that meant we would be far from the Ori. Far enough that they wouldn't find us, not in our lifetimes," Harris said after gathering himself again. "But you said that they're already here."
"Well, we've only had one encounter with the Ori, and not in this galaxy," Landry said, and Harris frowned.
"This galaxy?" he said in a voice that had a touch of disbelief.
Landry made a quick decision. "I'll explain that later. For now, they are far from Earth, and perhaps you can give us the information that will help us stop them before they ever get here. In the meantime, you two look like you could use more than a few good meals and some sleep." He pressed a button, and the door opened. "Take our guests to the diplomatic quarters," he told the orderly. "Get them anything they need."
He waited until they were gone. "Well?"
"It sounds crazy," Jackson finally said. "But after all the things we've seen, I wouldn't dismiss their story out of hand. After all, most people would dismiss us as fakers."
"Any way to prove their story?" Mitchell asked.
"I've sent the sensor readings on their arrival to Colonel Carter," Landry said. "Hopefully she can come up with some sort of confirmation. I'd like to get Dr. Lam to do some more readings on Ms. Summers to see if we can confirm if there is anything different about her. We're also running their names and fingerprints through every database out there. But for now, I think we'll assume that they are telling the truth."
"If they are, I think we should send out an alert to all off-world teams, as well as our allies, about the Ori," Jackson said firmly.
"But they're in a different galaxy," Mitchell protested.
"For now. But it sounds like they aren't going to stay there, and the sooner we find out about any incursions in this galaxy, the more likely we are to be able to do something to stop them."
"Assuming they can be stopped," Vala muttered darkly.
"Hah. We stopped the Goa'uld and the Replicators, we can stop the Ori," Mitchell said confidently. Almost brashly, in Landry's opinion.
"You haven't seen what they can do," Vala shot back. Mitchell waved her off.
Landry dismissed them before it could descend into petty bickering, then leaned back in his chair. Actually, he sided more with Vala. He'd gone over every detail of the report Dr. Jackson had written about their experience, and then had questioned each of them separately at great length. Truth be told, the Ori already worried him, and after today, they worried him even more.