All characters portrayed in the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Stargate”, “Stargate: SG-1”, “Stargate: Atlantis” and “Angel” are the exclusive property of their creators and are used here without their approval. No infringement is intended by the following work. The story in the following work is the exclusive property of the author indicated in the byline above and this work may not be posted, reproduced or edited without the express approval of the author as named above. No direct commercial gain may come from any reproduction of this work.Summary:
Continuation of "Going Home Through A Starry Mirror." Her past has found her. Both sides have learned that Earth's Former Greatest Champion of the modern age is not as dead as she was presumed to be. Buffy Carter, however, has other concerns than her past. The Replicators have become a threat to the Milky Way galaxy: a threat led by a Replicator who looks and acts entirely like her adoptive mother.Author's Notes:
Set after season 7 of Buffy and during the equivalent of the 8th season of Stargate. A continuation of 'Going Home through a Starry Mirror' set in the period between the two major arcs I had in mind originally. If you haven't read the previous story, this is going to make no sense whatsoever. This is the one where the Scoobies get to meet the Going Home universe, and Buffy gets to deal with her old life amongst a mess of other things. I've set this against the backdrop of the 8th season of Stargate SG-1, albeit transformed as it has been by Buffy's presence and the events of 'Going Home through a Starry Mirror'.Chapter 1: In the unfathomable depth that existed between universes, two forces of great power and good faced each other. It was their first meeting in a while. "The dark forces of your universe are attempting to intrude on mine. Why is that?" one asked.
"They are beyond my direct control, and so when they learned through their magic that the one I gave you still lives, they have begun an attempt to claim her. They seek to submerge her in their darkness and make her their creature, believing that the strength of her destiny will allow them to destroy her legacy," the other replied.
"How could they know, unless you permitted them to gain the knowledge? You are being deceitful. Why do you seek to reclaim what you gave up?" the first one replied, uncommon anger in its tone.
The other showed its intent and pleaded, "I need to do this for my plans to work."
"You cannot have her back," the first one said angrily.
"What about free will?" the second asked.
"I bow to it more than you do, but I will protect my champions. I will be watching you, and them. Step out of line or intervene directly and you will discover that, while I do not have magic as you understand it, I have no need to miss it; my retribution for any betrayal would be both swift and brutal. I will not return her to you - she is in danger in your universe," the first one said.
"You love her like she was your own," the second one said in surprise.
"She is one of my champions: of course I love her. I love the good within me. I am a mother after all," the first one replied.
"I am not allowing this so I can to go back on our deal. I have other reasons. I will not interfere with your intentions for her, but please, I need this to happen for the sake of my plans," the second one pleaded.
"Show me your plans," the first one asked and the second one did.
"I will not stop this, even if it is risky. Other things are in motion within me. But I feel I owe you for letting me have her in the first place, so I will allow it. Be careful though, many things are happening in me now, and your champions will get swept up in them when they come for her," the first one said.
And the second one nodded in understanding. In the gossamer web of light between universes, a few tunnels started to form.
Agent Barret wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. He cursed his lack of planning before heading to Israel in the middle of summer, wearing clothes better suited for an air conditioned building in DC than a crowded plaza in Jerusalem. Still, he and his Israeli friend - a so-called guide, supposedly from the civilian ministry of the interior, but with strict, and quite military, mannerisms - were looking around. "Are you sure they're here?" he asked.
"Of course I am sure, friend: we have kept an eye on your precious girls during their entire visit as requested. We've even managed to keep it a secret from the more unsavory parts of our population, which given one of them is quite renowned in certain circles, is quite an achievement - especially if you take into account our guest's seeming complete disregard for secrecy," Ehud, his liaison, said.
"Uh-huh, she is not one to blend in with the background, unless she really needs to. Ehud, does your country have to be so hot?" Malcolm asked.
"Ah, Agent Barret, you should have come for them last week when they were at the beach most of the time; that was hot!" Ehud said with a smile.
Finally, Malcolm spotted the pair he had been looking for. One was a tall red haired girl with her hair pulled back in a pony tail. The other was tiny athletic girl, with stark white blond hair in two braids that fell almost to the middle of her back. He also noted several 'operatives', for a lack of a better term, keeping an eye on the pair of eighteen year olds. They were coming out of a church looking relaxed and chatting happily. The blond was showing the red head something on her digital camera's screen. To most people, they would appear to be ordinary tourists, but they were both far from it.
The tall one was Cassandra Frasier, an adopted human from another planet who had grown up on Earth after her people had been murdered by an alien parasite, and she had been turned into a living bomb aimed at Earth. The SGC had saved her and adopted her. The other was Buffy Anne Summers Carter - the reason Malcolm had come - another girl who was adopted, but from another universe entirely, and who had grown up on Earth to become one of its primary defenders, even at her early age. She was vacationing incognito, because the disclosure of the Stargate Program had shone a tiny light on her life, which, for all the defenses and secrecy surrounding it, had not withstood the hysteria after the discovery of life on other planets and the war humanity fought against the Goa'uld.
There had been - and in a few places, still were - small wars being fought because of that discovery. Yet a lot of good had come of the discovery, and the attack by Anubis - another parasite - nearly one and a half years ago. To the general population, Buffy remained one of Earth's most guarded and classified secrets, as well as one of a select circle of people it called on in times of crisis. Only the name of the SGC and her code name 'Slayer' had escaped into the public consciousness during the disclosure around the Stargate program.
However, even with all the powerful nations of the world behind the Stargate program, there were downtrodden and dissatisfied people on Earth who might have learned of her existence since then, and who could have plans to use her for leverage. For that reason, now more than ever, Buffy Carter was not allowed to go anywhere without a few agents watching and guarding her. He wondered what would happen if the full disclosure of the history of the Stargate came about, as was planned for the future. People like Buffy Carter would end up celebrities if the full account of their deeds was ever released to the media.
As he stepped into view, he noticed just how well trained Samantha Carter's daughter was: she spotted him immediately, and her expression for a moment turned upset, before it was covered behind a friendly smile. Buffy said something to her friend as he approached. Cassandra Frasier glanced in his direction and rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry," he started saying.
"Well, unless it's your fault, I am not going to be blaming ya," Buffy interrupted. "So what's up?" she asked.
"Can we talk at the airfield? You've been recalled to active duty. They want you at the SGC as soon as possible; things have happened," he said.
"There's been nothing in the news," Cassandra said.
"And hopefully it stays that way. However, I was told it wasn't anything local," he replied. His agency was tasked with keeping the amount of Stargate news to a minimum. People got nervous when they were told about how big the galaxy was. He was sure they'd be hiding under their beds if they knew what the world faced on a weekly basis.
"Okay, let's move this tea party elsewhere. Hey, Mossad guy - yeah I know you - you were the one ogling us on the beach last week," Buffy called out to his guide, reminding Malcolm once more that aside from Samantha Carter, Buffy was also close to General O'Neill - one of the best officers in the US Air Force, but also one of the most offensive people in the world.
Ehud walked up looking like he was about to claim he had no idea what she was talking about. "Tell your buddies - our four man and a car or two tail - we're leaving, and they're off teenager watch. I'm sure that should make them happy," Buffy said.
"I, of course, have no idea what you're referring to, but if I had, I am sure I would thank you for your courtesy in not trying to make their jobs difficult," Ehud said, and gestured towards a car that had appeared almost if by magic.
Buffy looked at the Airfield and sensed the cloaked transport as soon as they got close to it. "This is a rush job, Agent Barret, especially if they've sent a transport. But before I go anywhere with anyone, I have to call the Mountain and get verification - procedure you know," she said, and took out her cell, readying herself to duck, grab Cassie and run if the Agent did anything. The Trust was still out there, and a report she had seen said that the rogue agency had gotten its corrupt mitts on some Nish'ta. Buffy had been preemptively immunized against the substance a long time ago, along with most of the active gate travelers, but she had no idea if the procedure had been implemented in the NID.
"Of course," Agent Barret replied.
Buffy pressed the Mountain speed dial, calling Central Control rather than her mom for once.
"This is the Galaxy Express Delivery service. Who is this?" a droning voice asked. Buffy chuckled at the latest automated response, probably Jack's idea if she was guessing right.
Buffy switched to Goa'uld and said her recognition phrase. "This is the Second Daughter."
There was a few seconds pause then Walter picked up. "SGC Control. Buffy is that you?"
"Hey Walter, I am standing on an airfield in Israel. Have I been recalled for duty?" she asked.
"Yes, Rya'c came here to see you. General O'Neill says it's urgent that you get back here," he said.
"Tell him I'm on my way," she said, and hung up after saying goodbye, thoughts racing through her head. Teal'c was on temporary leave from the SGC leading the Jaffa in the rebellion against the System Lords, who were lead by Baal. Teal'c was actually doing okay, especially with the help of the Tok'ra and Earth on his side. Rya'c coming to see her alone could only mean a world of bad things.
"Let's go," she told Agent Barret. He nodded and walked towards the Tel'tak, which quickly decloaked in front of them.
Buffy turned towards Cassie who had been walking quietly behind them as they approached the transport ship. "I'm sorry, but I have to go. You could just stay here and enjoy the last few days," she offered.
"Nah. Besides, I have to go home and prepare: some of us non-geniuses have their SATs this year, and I want to do well. Unlike some people, I am not a shoe-in for the college of my choice yet," Cassie replied.
"Hey, I'm not a shoe-in for anything. I am doing my thing and taking a few classes at the Air Force Academy when I can find the time, which, given the state of things, is not as often as I'd like," she admitted. That was getting to be a sore point: Buffy felt at an impasse - she had gotten as far as she could in the SGC without joining the military, but she only had time for a little bit of an College education, which, to her own amazement, was actually looking like an enticing option. She knew she was missing the parties and socializing that a period of college could bring. She had contemplated bringing it up with Jack and her mom, because, after Teal'c had taken a leave from SG-1 a few months ago to focus on the war against Goa'uld, she had joined the SGC as a civilian consultant. No-one had brought up procedure or regulations, even though she was often under the command of her mom - a clear breach of the rules. Jack had mostly been running her life since then, at least in the professional sense. She wondered if her mom or Jack would object to her taking a few years off to go to college and only come to help out when they really needed her.
"So, you thinking about college Miss Frasier?" Agent Barret asked unobtrusively. Buffy nearly smacked him on the head. Cassie was a friend, and he was using the chance to add to her file - get a few more notes for their profile on her. Buffy nodded to the pilot in charge of the Tel'tak. He must have known her somehow, because suddenly he went from gaping to blushing, and then looking away while fighting to stay professional. Buffy wondered if the weirdness ever got to Jack. She knew her mom tolerated it, but she wondered how the oh-so-legendary General O'Neill dealt with it. She resolved to ask Johnathan about it when she got near a computer and he got back from wherever the exercise with his squad had taken him. He was, after all, mostly Jack too, so he'd know. Jack himself would never tell her. Buffy listened as Cassie blushingly revealed that she wanted to follow in Janet's footsteps studying medicine and later join the Stargate program.
"And you Buffy?" Malcolm asked. Buffy actually knew the young agent well; he had courted her mom for a while last year, and they had gone out for a couple of dinners. It hadn't come to anything yet though.
"That's the rub isn't it? I don't know if I want to change anything," she said truthfully. The transport ship was, in the mean time, already speeding towards space for a quick jaunt into orbit, and then back across the pond to Cheyenne Mountain.
Buffy was amazed at the effect their battle against Anubis, and the Goa'uld in general, had on the old mountain base that had once been the home of NORAD. Now it was the center of the 'Homeworld Defense Treaty Organization'. The Stargate program, and a lot of the management of Earth's slowly growing space force, was based there. The actual air groups and troops were mostly elsewhere, with several space ports and production facilities under construction on every continent to avoid the entire thing getting destroyed in one incident. As they flew towards the Mountain, as it was now named in popular culture, it was clear how much had changed. Several F-305s were on aerial patrol. The fence and security perimeter had vastly expanded, as had most of the nearby above ground bases. The Mountain itself had expanded, and all sorts of new high-tech improvements such as a force field generated by a cannibalized system from one of Anubis' crashed Ha'tak's had been brought in. Overall, the base had an new and intense feel to it these days. The place was sprawling with new SG teams speaking many more languages, and most of it was under the command of Jack O'Neill.
The Tel'tak glided to a stop over one of the local ring platforms. Buffy got out atop the platform. "Agent Barret, you're in charge of getting Cassie home safely," she said, and looked towards Cassie. "I'll call you soon," she said.
"Good luck with whatever you're gonna go and do," Cassie said, as the rings arrived and took Buffy away in a flash of light.
Buffy arrived in one of the sealed reception areas within the SGC. An Airman was waiting for her in the security booth behind a bullet resistant slab of glass. "Ah, Miss Carter, good to see you again. I have your security badge out here, but first, please step over here." He gestured her towards the new sensors they had made using Goa'uld technology. No parasites, or other fakers would get in using the rings. The heavy doors leading out of the tiny round room slid open. Outside the Airman rose and handed her the badge. It had the black stripe which indicated that she had access to all areas. She smirked at her title, "Special Consultant." All nice and non-specific, even if some outside snoop got a look on the books, she'd just show up as yet another consultant. She headed for the Gate Control Room, figuring someone near the nerve-center of the base would be able to tell her what was going on.
Xander looked up. "Are you sure?" he asked again. He had been asking variations on that question for a while now.
"Yes, Xander I am sure. The Circle of the Black Thorn are certain. The guy I interrogated claimed theyhad found Buffy. Alive," Angel explained his voice sounding angry. Xander had never liked the broody vampire; even with the prophecy of his potential redemption, they had never gotten along.
"Listen Mr. Undead Irishman, we looked into it back when she disappeared. Giles and Willow tried everything. All the seers said the same: Buffy was dead," he complained.
"We were being played," Giles said. He was in his late fifties, but for Giles it seemed like time was still kind. He didn't do a lot of field work anymore, but with their numbers he didn't need to.
"What do you mean?" Xander asked.
"The Seers never said directly that either Buffy or Irene were dead - only that they were forever beyond us," Giles explained.
"How is that playing us?" Xander asked.
"Simple really: according to what I could get out of Goynes, before I had to... end our conversation, they've found out that Buffy has spent the last five years in an alternate universe, as opposed to just another dimension. They want to grab her, and use her against us," Angel explained.
"That's the part I'm not getting. Why would they think that Buffy would ever work against us?" Xander wondered.
Giles and Angel gave each other a look. "There are ways to corrupt all but the most virtuous, and like all of us here, Buffy was -- I mean is -- no saint. If she were in the hands of the right kind of warlock or demon, they might be able to taint her beyond redemption, even if it is not an easy task or doable overnight," Giles explained.
"Okay, so here's a suggestion: how about we go get her first!" Xander said.
Giles nodded, as did Angel. "There is one thing though. What, if anything, do we tell Dawn?" Angel asked.
"Dawn has to be told everything. Buffy's been away for four years, and I know Dawn bottomed out after losing Buffy on top of everything else, but I had a few of Robin's slayers keep an eye on her, and I know you both arranged something a lot like that too. Dawn would be deliriously happy to have Buffy back," Xander said.
"The list of people that should be told, has to include Faith and Willow," Giles said.
"Faith is not an active Slayer right now. She needed to sort out her head after what happened in London a while back, and that last mission you sent her on, Giles. She still has a lot of conflicting emotions about Buffy as well," Angel explained.
Xander cut in. "I think you're wrong: Faith won't admit it even to herself, but she was only a few steps behind the rest of us in the end on the whole "eternal friends of Buffy" thing. I saw her at the wake - she wasn't gloating like certain other bitches - she was very sad to lose Buffy."
Angel studied him for a while. "Alright then, we include Faith. About Willow: do you really think she'll help given her role the last time?"
"Of course, she'll help, as long as we can make certain that we're not pulling Buffy out of heaven, or anything like that. Oh and we'll have make her understand that we're not trying to put the kibbosh on her project in South America while she's away. She'll be here the moment we mention Buffy being alive," Xander said with certainty in his voice. Giles looked away - he was still not happy about Willow trying to revive the Guardian organization as an independent counterpoint to the Watchers.
"It sounds like we all have people to call,” said Giles. “I was supposed to call Dawn this week anyway, so I'll deal with her. Angel, you should talk to Faith, and Xander, you deal with Willow." Both Xander and Angel nodded their agreement.
Buffy spotted her mom studying the new bigger gate room as she arrived in Jack's conference room. "Hey mom!" she yelled and ran over giving her mom a hug. They hadn't seen each other for weeks. First, it had been the appearance of the disturbing Replicator copy of her mom that her mom had insisted on dealing with at the Beta site, away from her. Buffy had not been told what that had been all about, or even met the Replicator being - not that she minded that at all. Since then, it had been her vacation putting thousands of miles between them.
Sam turned and wrapped her arms around her. "How was Israel?" she asked, after they had both stood there enjoying the hug for a moment.
"Beautiful, warm, tense and historic all at once. I have a ton of photos on my camera and Cassie has even more on hers. We visited all the sights, and, well, so did the Mossad guys. But Jack's right about them - they are very professional. Cassie would never have even noticed them if I hadn't pointed them out, and I only knew because you and Jack taught me how to pick up on agents... Well, you, Jack and the Tok'ra," she said, and looked around at the room checking to see if Rya'c was close by.
"If you're looking for Rya'c, he is down getting checked out by Janet. He had a rash and she wanted to make sure it wasn't a problem or a reaction to the tretonin," her mom explained.
"You know what's up?" she asked.
"Yeah, Rya'c wants you to come help with taking Harakesh from Baal," her mom said.
"Why me?" she mused.
"Harakesh is P6X-382," her mom explained.
Buffy remembered the designation, but not much more, except something about deserts. Then it dawned on her. "Harakesh - that's the place with the Reen, those intelligent man-sized mantises living in the wilderness around Lord Yu's shipyard. I was there this summer," she realized.
"Yes, Teal'c thinks you can help him persuade those insects to help his troops get into the shipyard alive. The Rebel fleet is busy helping securing what was Lord Yu's realm, so he says he needs to do it commando style," her mom said.
"Which means call Buffy. I get it. So is the SGC getting involved in this one?" she asked.
"According to Jack, yes. He wants us to go along and Teal'c promised we can get first pick of a few parts, and time to study the shipyard if we help them keep it running," her mom explained.
"We need the tech and they need the ships, but to hold it you need an understanding with those insects," she agreed.
"That's where you come in, Buffy," Jack said walking in. He was wearing a full dress uniform - usually a sign he was either going to, or coming from, a meeting.
"Hi Jack," she said.
"Hi, kiddo," he said and sat down. "So how was the vacation?" he asked.
"Short," she replied. He smiled.
"So all of this doesn't exactly explain why I was rushed back home. I left copious notes on the Reen," she said. She noticed her mom and Jack looking at each other.
"Rya'c got a subspace call just before he came here to set things up for the near future when you were back from vacation. Basically, we were all planning to let you enjoy your vacation, and, if there had been any hurry, just have your mom's team help Teal'c with it all. The call changed that: Teal'c and Bra'tac got captured scouting for a way into the base. Rya'c thinks we only have a tiny window of time before Teal'c and the old guy get shipped off to Baal's personal custody, so it's a rescue op. now," Jack explained.
She got up and headed for the stairs. "Where are you going?" Jack asked.
"To get my gear. I am guessing you're gonna send SG-1 with me, right? ," she said.
She didn't have to look to know that her mom and Jack were probably giving each other looks before her mom called out, "Wait up - we can head down together."
Sam glanced to the horizon trying to figure out where they were going. The gigantic shipyards lay in the opposite direction, past the Stargate. They were all heading for a worn looking mountain range on the horizon. There was a certain amount of vegetation, or at least green, to be seen there on the distant slopes. Even with their desert gear and their arriving in the evening, it was blisteringly hot, and Sam was glad they had come prepared. Their desert gear was getting another outing and they had brought extra food and water if their stay went long.
"So, if I understand you correctly, Buffy,” said Daniel, “they're intelligent, understand but reject technology, and you managed to befriend them after you hunted each other for days. You won some sort of combat against a bigger animal, and shared the food with them. So are they dangerous to us?"
"It depends if they accept you as a part of my pack. I'm not an expert on the Reen, but as I understood it, if you're accepted by the group, they consider you their friend and you're completely safe. If you're not their friend, they consider you a food source. They know about Goa'uld tech, but they don't like it. They wouldn't explain why, but I got the distinct impression that they consciously reject technology," her daughter explained.
"How are we going to convince the Reen that they should help us against the Goa'uld? And wha,t if anything, can they do?" Rya'c asked.
"That's actually the easy part, as long as we can find Teal'c's Jaffa along the way too. You see, Lord Yu was supposed to be the friend of the Reen, but Baal has just been keeping up appearances since Yu died if I've guessed right. I saw a Reen nearly killing one of the Search And Rescue people sent for me the last time, when they found out he had told a lie. They seem able to smell it when we lie. If I can convince them that Baal has been lying, then they should turn to our side, or at least look the other way while we sneak in. I might even get them to like Teal'c as well later on, but he'll probably have to prove himself trustworthy and willing to help the Reen that live here. They don't want much, just that he doesn't poison the water, and maybe that he releases some animals into the wilds for them to hunt. At least that was their deal with Yu. I got the sense that they weren't particular about what kind of animals it is. As for what they can do, well this desert is their playground, and even Lord Yu didn't eradicate the Reen. That's should tell you that he considered it not worth the effort. He probably tried at some point in time, but it sure didn't stick, so my guess is that they must be good for something," Buffy explained.
"Do they know about the Stargate?" Sam asked, wondering how they could miss it, as it stood totally in the open amidst a small rock plateau in the desert.
"Yeah, but I got the impression they didn't like it much. I don't know why," Buffy replied.
"Okay," she said. She noticed what seemed like the ghost of movement near the edge of a dune, but as she looked closer she had to admit it was probably just sand moving in the faint hot wind from the mountains.
"We're being watched," Rya'c said.
"Reen?" Sam asked bringing up her weapon.
"Don't know," Buffy replied and pulled out a pair of zats.
A spray of sand erupted close by and a huge being with a yellow sandy-colored exoskeleton, four arms, and a huge grasshopper-like body landed in front of her. It made a loud rattling noise then bent forwards bringing its mandible covered mouth down level with her daughter's head. "B-buhffyh," it said.
"T'chack, I bring my pack this time. I hope this transgression isn't a problem," Buffy said.
"Nnnnnnnoh, itsss not. Your pack is welcome as long as you do not strain our food and water supply," the alien said, its mandibles working hard to work the syllables of a human language.
"Good - that will not be a problem, T'chack, I have things to tell your pack. I believe you're being deceived by someone who, I admit, is an enemy of ours. I believe that if your pack leader is told, you may help us take control of the lands he currently borrows from your pack, and let us borrow them instead," Buffy said.
Daniel leaned over to Sam and said, "those diplomacy classes sure haven't been wasted."
She nodded and waited for a little while as her daughter negotiated. "I think us being surrounded also helps with the caution," Sam replied, as she noticed twenty or so Reen erupting from the sand. They were carrying primitive weapons and spears, as well as very simple leather and chitin based clothes and armor. Daniel and Jonas looked around and realized what had arrived almost silently.
"Mom, the Reen say they want us to come to their village," Buffy said.
"We still have to find Teal'c's Jaffa," she said.
"That won't be a problem. I've asked T'chack, and he says they know where the Rebels are hiding. They haven't attacked them yet because they have meat for a while yet," Buffy said.
Sam shuddered at the thought of these insects eating Jaffa.
"I know, it isn't exactly a pretty mental picture," Buffy commented. "I had to kick ass for days and kill this giant bug thing, which was really like something out of Starship Troopers and was attacking a pack of Reen before they would even look at me as anything but food."
"So what now then?" Daniel asked.
"We follow them, and talk to these boys' mommies, who, by the way, are in charge, get the Reen to sneak us into the shipyards, rescue Bra'tac, assassinate the Goa'uld in charge and see how it goes from there. In the end, it will be just another couple of days in the service of the SGC," Buffy said. They all grinned. "But, just in case the Reen get hungry, we should pick up the pace. Actually, Teal'c and Bra'tac could be undergoing torture, so we should run," Buffy continued.
A few days later, in their Scottish fortress, a group that hadn't been gathered for nearly two years stood in a large hallway studying each other in silence. Xander noted the differences in his friends since the last time he had seen them. Faith had put on a few pounds, and no longer looked like a strung-out addict, which probably meant she was doing good for once. Of course, given the horrors she had seen and fought beneath London, it was to be expected. Faith still dressed sexy, but age had at least mellowed her style a little. Dawn was looking like the graduate student she was. He had seen the reports on her grades, and those on her boyfriend. Buffy would have been proud to see her sister getting ready to work on her Ph.d at 24. Willow was looking almost like she had back before they lost Buffy: her hair was longer, and her outlook was happier than at the wake, but then he wasn't too surprised. He, Giles and Willow still met every few months to update each other on the progress of the Council in their unrelenting war against the demons; even with the icy tone between Giles and Willow, that much hadn't changed these last few years.
"So we're certain that she isn't in heaven, and that we're not about to make another mistake?" Willow asked.
"Well, after we called you here, we made an attempt to pull her here using magic. However, it seems that we can't even scry very well into that universe, and pulling her back just like that is apparently impossible too. We'll have to send people to her and have them bring her back through a portal," Giles explained.
Xander nodded at Willow's questioning glance. Her relationship with Giles wasn't exactly trusting. "We nearly blew up our latest portal keystone to create a faint contact with that universe, but it did gain us one thing: we got a reading on her soul. Buffy's alive and healthy living in that universe."
"Universe? Don't you mean dimension?" Dawn asked.
"No, she's in a parallel universe, not just some other dimension. The Coven insists that this distinction was probably the reason why we didn't find her back when we thought she died," he said. He noticed both Faith and Dawn looking unhappy, as they probably thought back on the dark times those two had gone through personally after losing Buffy, albeit for vastly different reasons. Not even five years had been enough time to fully get them all out of the shadow of losing a friend as central to their lives as Buffy; at least not when they were reminded of her.
"Okay, so what is the plan here? A bunch of us head in through one of them portals close to where Buffy is, say 'hi B,' and herd her back into the portal?" Faith suggested.
"I'm not sure it will be that simple, Faith,” said Giles. Buffy has been in that universe for five years. She was brought there as a prisoner of people who were killing Slayers. We don't know anything about the Earth on that end. While she is still alive and well, physically, we can only hope her imprisonment hasn't been to her detriment mentally. We should treat this as a rescue mission, and be prepared for both a fight and possibly having to carry Buffy back against her will."
Xander didn't like the idea, but after five years of running the Slayers almost on his own, he had seen too much shit to not agree, at least a little, with Giles. That was the part of the standard kidnapping equation for the Council: Buffy could have gone native.
"So we bring a butt load of Slayers along with Red over there, and kick butt all the way in and out," Faith said.
"Something like that. We'll bring a couple of Slayers, and I expect you'll all want to go," Giles said.
Xander knew he was supposed to be adult and say no - to offer to stay, just in case - but this was the rescue mission for Buffy. Discovering that their negligence had left her stranded in another universe for nearly five years had created a certain amount of guilt on his part, and he wanted to go along. All around the room heads nodded; they all knew they weren't irreplaceable, and most of them had already trained their replacements. Xander wondered about Willow, but realized she had probably not sat idle in her mansion down in Rio.
"Spike should be here," Dawn mumbled.
Angel leaned over and whispered something to her. Dawn looked at him, then mutely looked back at them. Xander refrained from commenting on Spike: he barely tolerated Angel's presence. Spike wasn't really on his list of people he wanted along. Fortunately, neither of the vampires could come.
"Our research told us one other thing: we can't bring Angel or Spike. Any sunlight would fry them, because it is a regular universe, and not a demon dimension. Given its generally low overall levels of magic, it would be a harsh environment for any demonic or magical being," Giles said. Angel looked stricken for a moment but didn't protest. Xander knew Giles and Angel had discussed this alone earlier.
"Okay, so who are the Slayers we're bringing?" Faith asked.
"You and Satsu," Giles replied.
"G-man, you know the last time the Slayers went up against those metal headed fucks, they blew us to bits, and B took a platoon into that fight," Faith complained.
"Yes, but this time we have some other resources along, such as Willow. Besides, as this is an entirely different universe, we must approach things much more carefully; the rules there could be very different from here, so we'll be solving this with intelligence and stealth, not brute force or, as the case may be, Slayer force," Giles said.
"I am going too," Dawn pointed out. Everyone just nodded. It was long since the time they had tried to keep the girl out, and besides, Xander was sure everyone realized that Dawn could be essential in convincing Buffy to come back, if she had gone native.
"Giles, about the portal: why don't we open two? One to scry, and then one as close to Buffy as we can," Willow suggested.
"We lost our other portal keystone. It is going to take us some time to procure one, and even longer to make one ourselves," Giles explained in a tone that suggested he had the same idea earlier, and been forced to abandon it.
"Oh, right. Well then, let's get ready for our trip. It should take the keystone a day or two to build up the energy for this portal. I'll go put the spell on it now," Willow said, and headed for their portal room. All around the circle of friends, looks were being exchanged, all saying the same thing: What are we going to do with all that spare time?
Xander looked around at the assembled group standing in front of the keystone that was bristling with power. Council watchers and seers were working in the background. The portal room was the place for all magical traffic coming in and out of their headquarters. Faith and Satsu decked out in weapons. Giles dressed like he was going on a safari carrying a large rifle. Dawn looked like she was just dressed for a long hike, as did Willow. Xander himself had opted for his usual field get up, grey military garb with a bit of light bodyarmor, two guns and a backpack full of supplies.
Willow, who had been chanting in Assyrian for a while, clapped her hands together and gestured towards the wall. A blue-green swirling portal slowly opened in front of them and a violent storm-like wind filled the room. Xander noted that nearby one of the seers had slumped from the exhaustion of guiding the portal to their target. "It won't stay open for long - we should all go now. It will be quicker when I have to start the return tripfrom the other side," Willow yelled and walked calmly towards the event horizon.
As a group, they all walked forward, while Angel wished them good luck as they left. Xander was last through the portal. For a moment, they floated in a fiery red tunnel, seemingly going from one big glowing blue ball through absolute darkness to another big blue ball.
They emerged onto warm sand dunes - beautiful white powder that was still slightly warm, even as the stars were glimmering in the dark sky. Xander had travelled around the world twice, and he knew that nights in the desert were icy cold; this place was no exception. He hadn't expected a desert, but then he remembered the pictures of the Egyptian style the people who had kidnapped Buffy had worn. He looked up: there was no moon in the sky, and the stars were all wrong. They definitely weren't on Earth.
"We should have brought more varied sets of clothes; we're gonna freeze tonight, and get sunburned tomorrow," Willow said as she got up and rubbed her arms for warmth as the air seemed to rapidly cool.
"Can't you just wriggle your fingers and make some fire?" Satsu asked. The Japanese girl looked as cold as Dawn, Faith and Willow.
Willow looked around. "I should probably not even try to do magic, unless we're really pressed. The ambient magic levels, and the connections to the other dimensions, are really weak here. Unless I use energy from living mystical beings like you, Faith and Dawn, I can't do anything fancy. You can be pretty certain that no one else can do a lot of magic either though, so its both a curse and a blessing," Willow explained.
"Red, you can still get us home right?" Faith asked.
Willow nodded. "The spell I cast on the other side included a return portal, just in case. I can open it without any serious effort. I won't need any help from here for that."
"Ever the girl scout," Faith commented, and carefully made her way up the dune to look out over the landscape.
"We'd better follow her example," Giles said, and took out a set of binoculars, now looking even more like he was on a safari; Xander hoped they weren't. He wasn't too hooked on them getting attacked by some random lion, and he had not brought a large enough caliber weapon to take out an elephant, or whatever served in that role on this world.
They all climbed up the dune to get a view of the landscape. They were practically in the middle of nowhere. They were surrounded by dunes, and in the distance, there was a mountain range.
"Look, I think there is a road of some kind over there,” said Dawn. “It leads to a stone plateau, and a ruin of some sort over there.”
“It also leads somewhere more interesting though," Faith said, and pointed toward the horizon in the direction Dawn was facing. Xander turned and saw the first clear sign of civilization on this new world: a distant halo of light from what looked like a smaller set of mountains in the desert. It looked like one huge structure, or a small city.
"Do we have any way of knowing where Buffy is?" he asked, thinking that he didn't want to go all the way to that distant place, if she was much closer.
"Sure. Dawn, please," Willow motioned Dawn closer. The tall brunette walked over to the smaller red headed witch giving her a questioning glance. "Dawn is Buffy's sister. That connection should be strong enough to let me trace her without using more than ambient magic," Willow explained, and held Dawn's hand. They stood there for a while, Willow in deep concentration, Dawn remaining as inscrutable as she had been since her arrival in Scotland. Xander made a mental note to talk to the girl and find out what she was thinking so hard about.
"Strange," Willow said and opened her eyes. "Even here on the same world, this close to her, with Dawn to connect through, I can barely sense Buffy. It's like the familiarity is gone. I think she's over there somewhere, but I can't tell you much more than the direction though," Willow said and gestured towards the light on the horizon.
"This is amazing, T'chack. Thank you," Buffy told the sandy yellow insect with the currently purple eyes. Sam had discovered that the Reen's eyes changed with their moods, although it all still looked more than a bit random to her so far. She was amazed at the rapport between Buffy and the insects, but put it down to their shared hunter natures. It had gone better than Buffy had hoped: they had gotten the mantises on their side, but the Reen had done more than just let them pass through the desert. Apparently lying and stealing was as to break with your pack, and your word. That meant you were evil to the Reen, and therefore, the Reen had to get rid of you. In their case, with the Reen believing Buffy when she honestly told them that Lord Yu was dead and Baal's people now ran the shipyards, this meant that several thousand of the yellow or green chitinous insects had appeared like ghosts out of the desert at a days notice, while Rya'c and a Reen guide had fetched Teal's Jaffa force, hidden as it, was behind the mountains. The Reen had then taken them all into a strange cave complex that had taken them safely under the desert, all the way out to the isolated valley where the shipyards lay.
Buffy turned towards her. Sam smiled at her daughter, with her solid tan and stark blond hair darkened by the fine sands of the tunnels they had just used. "Mom, the Reen are positioning themselves to take out the sentries, and anyone else outside, but T'chack says that the Elders would like us to assault the complex. They don't like to get inside Goa'uld structures," Buffy reported.
"Ok, we're looking for the prison complex,” Sam said, briefing the assembled troops. “We're going in through the lower doors at the back there, SG-1 and Buffy we're in front. We should come up near the waste and water recycling areas, maybe the food storage, if Yu has built his shipyards like one of his typical bases. We'll question, then stun any slaves, but don't expect too many surrendering Jaffa here. Most of Baal's troops had the chance to join the rebellion, when Yu died, and didn't," she told Rya'c and Buffy. They were in charge of the large Jaffa contingent in lieu of Teal'c and Bra'tac.
"Our secondary priority should be to prevent any ships from leaving. They'll probably try to take Teal'c and Bra'tac away at the first sign of trouble. We can't let them get taken away," Buffy said.
"If they haven't gone already," Rya'c said. Sam glanced at the young Jaffa, who had been simmering with impatience since their arrival on Harakesh.
"Then we'll make sure to find out where they're taken, and go get them," Buffy said giving her friend, and semi-adopted brother, a reassuring smile. Rya'c nodded.
"Let's go," Sam said, and checked her weapon for the last time. Behind her, Jonas and Daniel got up and followed suit. A silent Buffy slipped by, blindingly fast as always, while the Jaffa formed up the much larger rear. Sam wasn't worried about discovery: almost as silent as her daughter, and also deadly in every way, thousands of larger than man-sized insects sprang from their hiding places all around the valley, ready to go about their deadly business.
Sam felt proud for a moment when she saw her daughter landing elegantly in the middle of the group of four Jaffa guarding the entrance she had designated as their entry point. Buffy was armed to the teeth, and outnumbered four to one, but still she went about things the humane way. Sam didn't raise her weapon but only watched as Buffy zatted one Jaffa, jumped over another who was charging her, shooting him as she passed overhim, and landed in a roll to avoid a staff blast. She then jumped back up, avoiding another staff blast, shot yet another Jaffa in mid-air, and hammered feet first in to the last one. He staggered back as Buffy landed, rolled to her feet, grabbed the last Jaffa's staff, and, using a smooth martial arts move, threw him hard against the wall knocking him unconscious.
Sam, Daniel and Jonas hung back, covering the door area, while Buffy fired her zat at the Jaffa she had knocked out to make sure he didn't get up too early. Sam had her knife out, and quickly pried a panel off the door controls. She swapped around a couple of crystals, and the metallic door slid open admitting them to the base. The Rebel Jaffa arrived in groups of five, running inside while she and her team waited. Buffy joined the Jaffa heading inside, while the rest of SG-1 waited. Sam knew her daughter felt strongly about both Teal'c and Bra'tac, so it was no surprise to her that Buffy wanted to lead the search for them. Sam took up her radio, seeing as they had gotten in without raising any apparent alarms. "Buffy, we'll go for the hangar we spotted just in case, you're leading the attack on the cells," she said.
"Roger," Buffy replied a few seconds later.
"I think those Reen have a poisonous bite," Daniel said.
"What makes you think so Doctor Jackson?" Jonas asked.
"I just saw one bite a Jaffa guard and he stiffened immediately. I thought most Jaffa guards were protected by their larvae," Daniel said.
"They're quite fascinating. I think we should suggest that the SGC keep in touch with them. They're one of the most interesting non-mammalian species we've met to date," Jonas suggested.
"Guys, rescue Jaffa now, science talk later... And I think you're both on to something," she said, leading her currently over-scientific team inside. She missed having Jack along on her missions, especially without Teal'c to compensate for her two geeky friends.
They ran inside, hearing noises of battle as the base became aware of its predicament. The Reen had said that there were many more slaves than Jaffa, and so Sam had decided not to wait for reinforcements from the SGC before attacking. It looked like it had been a good call. They went up a few levels and make their way down a wide hallway. Sam hoped they were heading for the hangar and that her knowledge of Goa'uld technology and construction, as well as her sense of direction, was not too far off. "Tau'ri! Die!" a clearly Goa'uld voice yelled suddenly. Staff blasts hammered the walls around them.
"Down," she yelled and they backed down the stairs. A large group of Jaffa and slaves walked out of a side corridor, the Jaffa firing on them while the slaves carried what looked like the beaten and bleeding Teal'c and Bra'tac. A Goa'uld walked with them.
"Teal'c, help is coming," Daniel yelled while firing his zat repeatedly into the group. Sam drew her own zat and followed his example. Several Jaffa and slaves dropped. The Goa'uld looked revolted, before activating the shield emitter on his hand device. Amazingly for a Goa'uld, it then proceeded to walk behind the slaves to cover them and his prisoners.
"No way I am letting them get away," Sam thought, and grabbed her boot knife. Following Jack's example from several years back, she got up and threw it at the arrogant Goa'uld's back. However her aim wasn't true, and the knife only sank into the lower right calf of the parasite infested man. He hobbled, and several slaves instantly reached over to support their false god. "Give them all you've got," Sam yelled noticing that the group of slaves carrying Teal'c had been reduced to two.
Two shots hit before the group could close the door to the hangar. Teal'c landed on the floor. Sam got up from her point of cover with her P-90 held ready. She fired several long bursts down the hallway, spraying them around to discourage the clearly enraged Goa'uld and his few remaining Jaffa from going back for her friend. Daniel and Jonas copied her tactics while she changed clips.
The group still carrying Bra'tac made their way towards a waiting Tel'tak and quickly got inside it.
"Fuck," Sam cursed as the transport activated its shields and got off the ground.
Buffy and a couple of Jaffa burst into the room from another door,and looked around. Sam saw her daughter wince at the sight of Teal'c's wounds. "Bra'tac?" Buffy yelled.
"They have him," she yelled back.
"Get into that glider," Buffy yelled, and ran as fast as could towards a parked Deathglider standing in the bay. Sam nodded and followed suit.
"Daniel, you're in charge until we get back. Secure things here and try to keep the Reen from eating our Jaffa; I don't think you can stop them from consuming Baal's though, but try," she called out without turning around to see if her friend had heard her. She trusted him to handle things.
Sam got into the navigator's seat just as Buffy, who had beaten her to the glider, was powering it on. "We can't shoot them down. Bra'tac could get killed," she said.
"Bra'tac can't get captured. He'd rather die than suffer what Baal'd do to him, and he knows too much about the Rebellion right now. I'll have to try and bring that ship down as safely as I can," Buffy replied and put the throttle as far forward as it'd go. They hammered out after the Tel'tak that, thankfully, hadn't cloaked yet. Sam looked at the sensor readouts. It became clear why it hadn't cloaked yet: It had a patrol of gliders to protect it.
"Buffy, gliders," she said.
"Hold on to something, this is gonna be a dogfight," Buffy said.
They were about to get underway when there was a strange noise to their left. They turned, and saw a swirling white blue eruption of energy from the ruins on the nearby stone plateau. "What the hell is that?" Faith asked.
"We don't know, we're not from around here either, remember? Does it matter? Buffy is the other way," Dawn replied.
"She is coming this way," Willow said.
"Huh," Xander said.
"I can feel her a bit more clearly now. She's definitely approaching. Maybe she is headed for those ruins," Willow explained.
"I think it might be likely. Given the road there, that place might be of religious significance to whomever kidnapped Buffy. We should hurry though," Giles said.
"Right old man, let's see if you're still in shape," Faith said, and started towards the structure.
Xander felt his breath burn in his lungs as they got to the outskirts of the plateau. The blue light had disappeared a few minutes ago returning the night. Well, not all of it. In the sky above the light halo in the distance, there was some sort of light show too. - sprays of orange lights that streaked hither and fro. He did notice, however, that whatever the sources were, they were in the sky and getting closer.
He also noticed Faith diving for cover behind a stone suddenly. They all prudently decided to follow her example, dropping prone near her. Xander looked around and saw the group: five men in military style uniforms, helmets, rifles and backpacks, outlined by the lights of a small wheeled vehicle. "Ok listen up, General O'Neill wants us to get a status report from SG-1, and for us to hold this gate should it be negative. Holland, I want you to put up a perimeter using the claymores, and remember to put one near the gate in case we have some joker trying that ring trick they warned us about. Let's show the Air Force guys that Marine SG units are what they should have had all along," a gruff voice barked in English, sounding like a soldier from Earth. Xander felt really confused for a moment.
"Major, I think SG-1 and the Jaffa have engaged the enemy," one said, and Xander could see his pointing finger outlined by the light. The guy pointed towards what looked like the sources of the orange bolts in the sky that were now very close. There was an explosion, and then there was one less source leaving only two.
"Get the SAM out!" the commanding voice from before yelled.
"Sir, there is someone out there," another voice added. They all recognized the sound of a gun being chambered.
Xander heard Faith yell: "Shit!" Then she was out from her cover charging whoever had seen her. It took her only a few moments before she reached one of the guys and knocked him on his ass. All around Xander, he saw people he - didn't know who - getting up and following Faith.
There was a loud humming overhead as Xander tried to get his rifle ready. A pillar of light appeared, and several rings descended. He stopped gaping in bewilderment. There was a bolt of light, and two small crystal ball sized silver devices rolled out from the rings, as they ascended back up to a floating thing had appeared out of nothing above them. There was a strange singing noise, then he fell into the darkness no longer conscious.
Sam watched as their weapon's fire blew the last of the deathgliders apart. They saw the Tel'tak in the distance; it had just delivered a group to the ground, and the stargate was open. "They're getting away," Buffy said, her voice nearly coming out like a growl. There was a noise like a fork sliding over a dinner plate as a piece of the Jaffa deathglider impacted the cockpit glass.
"Be careful this isn't a F-305," Sam said.
"Don't I know it, I miss flying a proper ship," Buffy commented as she fired several bolts into the Tel'tak's engines, the first set of bolts eviscerating the shield of the transport ship. The ship, which had been vacating its position above the gate, fell in a soft curve to the ground, and slid into a dune. Buffy maneuvered them through a high speed pass by the gate, firing at figures lingering near the open gate. The figures ran for the gate, and it closed.
"Fuck! There was SG personnel back there," Buffy cursed. Sam looked back to catch a glimpse of the gate, but didn't say anything. They swung around and slowed for a landing near the crashed Tel'tak.
They slid to a stop and as a team, she and Buffy moved towards the airlock. Before they got there, a figure moved in the cockpit. There was a slowly growing noise from the ship. "Hyperdrive overload!" Buffy yelled, and they both turned, dashing for what little cover their glider would give them.
The ensuing explosion was small, but as they got up still, trying to recover their hearing and take toll of the damage, it was clear that the Tel'tak and whatever had been in it was a total loss. "There was a MALP at the gate," Buffy said, loud enough to get through the, hopefully temporary, damage done to her hearing by the explosion.
"Jack must have sent a team through. We have to go and check after we secure the wreck. I will try and get in touch with Daniel back at Shipyard, and tell him we're fine," she said.
"Okay, I'll check you glider, then we should head up to the gate," Buffy replied. Sam nodded. That would be the plan.