Image courtesy of Chrysanne
. Thanks so much, dear. :)
“What the hell is all this?” Buffy asked, staring at the paperwork with glazed eyes. They were all words, numbers and fancy titles that meant nothing to her. She could tell by the bored expression on Leah’s face and the confused one on Vi’s that she was not alone in her thoughts.
“You’re clear,” Doctor Beckett explained, dropping a finger onto the top row of statistics. “There’s no sign of entropic cascade failure and you haven’t begun to show any other signs of—“
“Okay, so the laws of physics aren’t against us,” Buffy said in a hurried tone, looking up at the physician. “What does this mean for us?”
“You’re perfectly healthy,” the doctor assured them. “All three of you have recovered from your injuries, rather quickly, might I add. Especially after a go-round with the Wraith. If you were on active duty in Atlantis, I’d have no choice but to clear you.”
“Then clear us,” Buffy said quietly. “You’ve been treating us all like refugees since the moment you found us.”
“Point well taken,” Doctor Beckett replied. “However, that isn’t up to me.”
“Then who decides our fate?” Leah asked in a sharp voice, turning her dark eyes to the doctor. He seemed to shift uncomfortably under the harsh scrutiny and cleared his throat.
“Doctor Weir would be the one,” he finally said. “I could arrange a meeting with her if you’d like.”
“We’d like,” Vi said. She glanced at the other two. “We’d like this, right?”
“Beats the hell out of confinement,” Buffy jibed.
“I’m with you,” Leah sighed, folding her arms under her chest. “At least figure out where we’re going from here.”
Buffy took a deep breath and turned to the doctor. “Tell Doctor Weir to expect us.”
Doctor Beckett nodded, looking over the three of them. “I’ll put in the request, but it’ll be up to you to do the work.”
“What can we expect from her?” Vi asked. Buffy shot her a relieved look. Vi was the one smart enough to ask all the tough questions she didn’t want to spring on her other slayers.
“To be honest, I’m not sure. All refugees in the past are offered sanctuary and relocated on the planet. As for you three…”
“We’re not farmers,” Leah said edgily. “Not like the Athosians.”
“As I said, that will be up to Doctor Weir to decide.” Carson paused a moment, taking in the looks on their faces. “We don’t move everyone out of the city,” he added. “Ronon and Teyla are examples of that.”
Buffy frowned slightly, her brow creasing as she thought back to her conversation with Teyla. She was native to this galaxy and she was on base. From what little she’d been able to pick up with amplified hearing, Teyla was something of a fighter. Maybe it was something they could do, since Slayer strength easily kicked Wraith ass. But she also knew that the Wraith weren’t the only enemy in this part of the world.
She held her tongue, though. Leah was smart enough to not say anything, but continue glowering at the physician. Vi, however, kept firing off questions. “What do they do?”
“They’re on Colonel Sheppard’s team,” Carson replied kindly. “Best to leave that question to him. He’s the one that assigns teams.” He backtracked a bit at the look in Leah’s eye. “I would also advise staying away from the science team.”
“Why?” Leah asked slowly. Buffy understood; she’d love nothing more than to taunt and tease the hundreds of scientists that Atlantis surely staffed, knowing that figuring out a slayer was as complicated as locating pirate treasure on the bottom of the Atlantic.
“Aside from the questions about the speedy healing, I suspect needles would be involved.”
“Isn’t that more your deal?” Buffy asked dryly.
“I’d like to consider myself more humanitarian than that,” Doctor Beckett assured her. “Besides, I’d like my tests to be voluntary. Nothing like waking up from a dead sleep with a roomful of scientists hovering above you with their scanners.”
“Sounds to me like someone has already been through this sort of experience,” Buffy said slowly.
Doctor Beckett shrugged and turned away, but Buffy’s suspicions had been confirmed. Someone was silencing him from saying anything and Buffy assumed his superiors had their own fair share of closet skeletons.
“So?” Leah asked quietly, turning to her. “What now?”
“We go to Weir,” Buffy said. “Get her to break us out of armed military escort and then figure things out from there.”
“What’s to figure out?” Leah asked. “We can’t go back to Earth because we’re already there
. We’re stuck here unless they can figure out a way to get us back to our Earth and even then, it’s probably got a hundred Wraith ships!”
Buffy sighed. She wanted nothing more than to return to their Earth, kick the Wraith out and rebuild. But, chances were, these were humans with actual souls and they wouldn’t allow three girls, no matter how strong, to do that. Instead, she was forced to face life on a military base or a planet. Or both. And neither option was appealing.
“Then we do it here,” she said, looking at both Vi and Leah. Leah was wearing her usual fight face hidden behind lengths of auburn hair. Vi was more cautious, more meticulous, but there was a spark in her eyes. “Whatever they give us, we’ll take. Because we're not going back to our world, which means we're still alive to do some good against 'em here.”
Vi sat back, satisfied, but Leah wore her fight face as she turned back. “And if they say we live in military escort fashion?”
“We do that, too,” Buffy muttered. “It may take us a long time to earn their trust. And until we do…” There was unspoken agreement there – no talk about Slayers until trust was earned on both sides. And both slayers were temperamental and very slow to trust.
That suited them well enough… for now.~
Atlantis hummed at night, with all of its musical sounds and brilliant lights, reflecting a perfect glow on the ocean below. Buffy stood outside of her quarters, leaning on an exterior rail, looking at the lights of the city. While seriously lacking in nightlife, it made up for it with an aesthetic beauty that nearly took her breath away. If she thought about the city and nothing else, it almost made her fond of it.
And then she remembered and the thoughts brought a bitter taste to her mouth.
It was best not to forget these things. She was a prisoner here, not a guest. At least until they figured out what to do with them.
For a moment, Buffy was afraid. She was scared that they would be stripped of human rights and lose their identity on a planet that they were far inferior to. She was afraid that they would be forced to face the humanity so horribly ripped away from them on that Wraith ship, making the choice to leave their friends behind to die and not go down with the ship. They were forced to survive in an alternate version of a reality that she knew nothing about, where the slayer could only growl mercilessly inside. It wasn't fair, but these things never were.
Losing the slayer would be the toughest pill to swallow, even if it was only for a day.~
Morning had come too early.
Leah awoke with one open eye and stared at the sun streaming through the narrow window. She normally slept with a blindfold and complete darkness, so it was a bit of a surprise as she sat up, clutching the sheets to herself.
For a moment, she fought to remember where she was. And then she saw the small, industrial-sized room, with its perfect single bed, its perfect washroom sink, the perfect shower, the stack of neatly-pressed shirts and pants on the chair and she just wanted to pinch herself awake from the nightmare.
Only, this was no nightmare. This was reality now.
Gone was their way of life, the heavy training schedules, the long hours at the cemetary and planning for the next apocalypse. In its place was a rigid structure of duty and order that meant sharp uniforms and salutes and Leah really couldn't understand her place in this.
They should have been left to die on that ship, die knowing they had done their part in securing one planet from culling by the hive. Instead, they were left knowing that there were thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of these demons still out there, day after day, killing, torturing and culling. For someone that had the mantra of 'save the world,' it meant a difficult choice. They couldn't go back and the only way to move forward was through the humanitarian Atlantis command staff.
Staring at the sunlight, Leah could only hope that her leader had made the right one.~
“Technically, they’re healthy,” Doctor Beckett said, lying three files down on the table in front of Doctor Weir. “They’re recovering from their injuries and Rodney’s concerns about this entropic cascade failure have proved unfounded. Internal scans have shown nothing out of the ordinary. They’re in no immediate danger.”
“Mmm, thanks, Carson.” Elizabeth turned away from the files, glancing back at her monitor.
When he didn’t immediately leave her office, she glanced back up at him. “Is there anything else?”
“They’ve requested to meet with you, regarding their status,” Carson responded. “I told them that I would pass this request along.”
Elizabeth gave him a slight smile as her eyes drifted to the shelf of various knickknacks she’d acquired while in the Pegasus galaxy. “I suppose it is time,” she said slowly. “Maybe later this morning, once I have a chance to talk this over with Colonel Sheppard.”
Carson returned her smile, his with a bit more hope. “I only ask that you consider this fairly, Elizabeth,” he finally said. “For whatever reason, they have asked to remain in Atlantis.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, Carson.”
This time, he took the hint and backed out of her office, allowing the dawn light to flood the deck plating. She watched as he left her office, only to turn back to her screen. Stargate Command wouldn’t have a solid report back to them for a few days yet, until Daedalus returned. Until then, this was up to her.~
The city itself was a sea of light. Buffy squinted as she walked into the sun-drenched corridors. The Lieutenant Colonel stood next to her, gesturing down the hallway. She was quickly flanked by gun-toting marines and fell into step between them. She didn’t want to give them a reason to get the crap kicked out of them. Any more sleepless nights and she was going to be really
From another adjoining corridor, she saw Vi. Red hair hung lank in her eyes and she briefly brushed her hair aside to give Buffy a tired smile. Buffy returned it with a curt nod and the group began moving forward again.
“Did you get any sleep?” Vi whispered to her once they were out of earshot of the other marines.
“No,” Buffy hissed back. She looked down at the cords in her hands tightening with the effort of keeping her hands locked together.
Vi’s gaze was sympathetic as she moved away from her. It was obvious by the lines around her eyes that she hadn’t slept much either. Buffy briefly wondered about Leah, until she heard a loud voice yelling down the corridor and realized she didn’t have to worry about her at all.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Oh,” Vi whimpered, stopping.
Buffy looked up and resisted the urge to groan. Leah was flanked by two marines and they were starting to get touchy.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Vi murmured, pushing forward towards Colonel Sheppard, who was shaking his head. Buffy said nothing from behind them.
“Let go of me!” Leah was sounding angry now and Vi moved forward, just as her marine escorts did. A loud scream pierced the corridors and Buffy finally sighed and moved forward, only to run into a man-shaped wall.
Buffy was only vaguely aware that Leah was still yelling, even as Vi petitioned to the marine guards and Sheppard was telling Leah to calm down. The attempt was immediately shot down as Leah broke the hold on her and both marines were soon flat on their back.
Buffy felt her gaze draw upwards to see a caveman leering down at her. As she tried to step around him, he was quick to put himself in her way. She was about to shove him aside when Colonel Sheppard shouted out, “All right, that’s enough!”
Leah got onto her knees, breathing heavily. Glaring at the man, Buffy shoved his outstretched arm aside and ran over to where Vi was helping Leah to her feet. Once she was propped between them, Buffy turned towards the Colonel. “You should have listened to her,” she said quietly. “This could have been avoided.” Her eyes looked unsympathetically at the two marines getting slowly to their feet.
Leah grunted between them, the look in her dark eyes nearly feral as she glared at the two marines. “I don’t like it when they touch me,” she spat out.
“It’s alright, Leah,” Vi said in her soothing tone.
Buffy released Leah and let Vi walk her away. She turned uncertainly towards the others. “Where are we going?”
“Lower conference room.” He sounded concerned, taking a tentative step forward. “Are you—“
“We’ll meet you there,” Buffy said quickly, turning on her heel and hurrying away.
Sheppard shook his head and eyed the other marines hobbling about, muttering about psychotic women. “And they say trust has to be earned,” he groused, knowing full well that Elizabeth wanted to give the women the benefit of the doubt. In his mind, reacting to provoked violence with violence was only a strike against them. ~
Once seated in the conference room, a tray of drinks and a basket of sweet breads was brought to them. Buffy was halfway through devouring a muffin when Doctor Weir appeared. Colonel Sheppard was right behind her, along with the rest of the senior staff. She swallowed the bit of muffin in her mouth and it turned into dust in her throat. She reached for her glass and drank it, all trying to ease the sudden nervousness. It bugged her that after all these years, she still
had military issues.
“I guess what’s to be decided now is what to do with you.”
Like we’re misbehaving children, Buffy thought bitterly. She slowly raised her hand halfway into the air. “Do we get a say?”
“Perhaps.” Elizabeth turned to her.
Twenty minutes later, it was all Buffy could do not to smack her head into the table.
“We knew we were from an alternate reality,” Vi said, her tone impatient but her posture anything but. “We’re not stupid.”
“At least, we’re not.”
Buffy refrained from rolling her eyes, but sent a pointed glare in Leah’s general direction. The girl had been making snide comments since they had sat down. While she wanted to be the immature one and point figures at the unintelligent parties, Atlantis staff had pegged her as the leader and, as such, she was being forced to act as one. Leah was slouched in her chair, face hidden behind a curtain of wild red hair. Her dark eyes were gleaming with something that said if there were a dozen Wraith on the other side of the door, they’d be ripped apart before they died.
“I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page,” Elizabeth said quickly. She had insisted they call her by her first name.
Vi opened her mouth to speak, but Buffy cut in. “We appreciate it. Go on.” She brushed an imaginary bit of lint off her sleeve before tossing back her hair. Next to her, Leah’s dark grin became more pronounced.
“And now I believe the best course of action would be to offer sanctuary on Atlantis.” At the look exchanged by the three women, Elizabeth continued. “You all have alternative selves living alternative lives on Earth. If you wanted to risk returning to Earth, we could offer you alternative—“
“No,” Buffy cut in before the others had the chance to speak. “We’d be happy to stay on Atlantis.” She looked over at Vi. Vi, despite being a slayer, had a bit of hope left in her eyes. Leah, on the other hand, looked like she could rip the Atlantis command staff apart with her bare hands. It was the best of both worlds. “Right?” she asked pointedly.
“Yes,” Vi replied immediately. “It’d be an honor.”
“Uh-huh.” Leah’s predatory smile wasn’t toned down.
“But,” Buffy cut in as she noticed Elizabeth’s mouth open to reply, “it won’t be as your science or medical experiments. We’re human beings and we have rights. I want to know what you’ll do for us.”
“Well,” Elizabeth said, leaning forward and exchanging a look with Colonel Sheppard. “We’re sort of hoping that you could answer that for yourselves.”
Colonel Sheppard spoke up. “Atlantis is filled with knowledgeable experts in every field from dozens of countries on Earth. Your expertise would be—“
“Martial arts,” Vi spoke up immediately. “Though I’m also somewhat of a science geek.” She paused, looking horrified with that revelation, even as Leah cut her dark eyes over to her. “I spent a lot of time with Andrew,” she explained to the two others.
Buffy shook her head in disbelief. Only Andrew would spread his scientific geekiness to one of her favorite slayers. “We’ve all invested a large amount of time in martial arts,” she spoke up.
“I like weapons,” Leah said with her quiet grin.
Buffy heaved a sigh and shot Leah a dark look. Leah’s grin faded somewhat and she slouched further in her chair. “We’ll be happy to accept whatever you give us.”
Colonel Sheppard turned to the others along his side of the table. “They’re pretty good if they can take out an entire Wraith ship.”
“Pretty good?” Doctor McKay piped in. “They’re better than the entire military presence on Atlantis if they can take out an entire Wraith ship barehanded. But you have to admit, they had a little help.”
Buffy sent a look to Vi, knowing it was her expertise that somehow led to their small victory on the Wraith ship. Not small because it meant thousands less Wraith dead by their anger. But large enough knowing that they had whetted their appetite in what they would soon face. Just by joining up, they were going to be given full access to Atlantis. This also meant joining in the fight against the Wraith.
“Doctor Weir – Elizabeth,” Buffy began, “the Wraith took out our Earth. Whether this is our Atlantis’ fault or not, we have a duty to protect your Earth and our alternative selves.” She paused, thinking back on the report of her current-Earth self with four kids, a military husband and a house in the ‘burbs. It was just so not like her. “We just want to help any way we can.”
Elizabeth looked from the earnest honest in Buffy’s face, to the hope flashing on Vi’s, to the dark smile still lurking on Leah’s and finally nodded.
“Just one thing,” Vi cut in. “No more military escorts, especially armed ones.” She looked over at Leah. “We tend to get touchy when men with guns frisk us.”
Elizabeth turned immediately to Colonel Sheppard, who gave a half-shrug and said, “We had it under control.”
“Welcome to Atlantis,” Elizabeth said after an awkward moment. “You’ll have full access to our guest facilities, including our mess hall and gym. I only ask that you be given military escorts around secure areas. Do you agree?”
“Yes,” Buffy nodded. “We agree.”
“And the Wraith?”
Elizabeth paused as she was standing up and looked to the three women seated across from them. Even Leah had lost her pronounced smirk. They were all deadly serious. “When the time comes, we’ll make a decision then,” she finally said.
“I only ask that you give us the chance to fight the monsters that culled our planet,” Buffy finally said between clenched teeth.
“There are more than enough Wraith in this galaxy,” Elizabeth replied. “You’ll get your chance.” ~
Buffy calmly underlined the word ‘Skills’ on a pad of paper and lay her pen against the pad expectantly. “So… skills?”
Leah snorted from where she lay on the floor, tossing up a crumpled page of paper from the last attempt to decipher their skills. “We’re awesome at decision-making.”
“Really,” Vi added from where she sat cross-legged on Buffy’s bed, reading through the file that Doctor Beckett had given them. “Top-notch.”
“Shush,” Buffy pouted, turning back to the paper. “For me, I’m good at—“
“Negotiating,” Vi said, tipping her head slightly. “You’re a good one.”
“Thank you.” Buffy wrote it down.
“Think she was kidding with that bit, Buff,” Leah spoke up.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Vi?”
“I’ve got mad computer skills,” Vi grinned. “Renee taught me some. Andrew taught me others. And, anyway, I was able to disable that Wraith computer, wasn’t I?”
“Didn’t you shoot it?” Leah snarked back. Buffy shushed her and looked back at the pad.
“Computer… skills…” Buffy rested the pen once more. “Leah?”
Vi peered over the edge of the bed. “You don’t have people skills.”
“What did you do before you were called?” Buffy asked, curious.
“I was a mechanic in my dad’s shop,” Leah replied.
“So, good with engines.”
“I dealt with a lot of scumbags,” Leah mumbled. “So, you know, I’m good with people.”
Buffy added it to the list with a question mark. “Vi?”
“I always wanted to be a pilot.” Buffy’s pen stilled as she arched an eyebrow at her. “What?”
“If she wanted to be a pilot, I wanted to be a ballerina.”
This earned Leah another few crumpled pages thrown at her from their other attempts at list-making.
“What do you think this means?” Vi asked, picking up one of the papers inside her file. “ATA gene present?”
“I don’t know,” Buffy said truthfully as she picked up her pen again. “But we’ve got to make this list if we expect to be anything more than test dummies.” The pen trembled in her hand for a moment. “I know this isn’t ideal, but this is how we’ve gotta start. The only way they’re going to let us at the Wraith would be if they let us out on our own. Are you with me?”
“Sure am, chief.”
“You bet,” Leah added on top of Vi’s enthusiastic comment.
“Then let’s continue. Leah, aside from your questionable people skills, what else would you say you’re skilled at?”~A/N
: Four things. One: writer's block blows... it took months to write out this chapter to actually fit the story. And I know there are writers out there who also feel the pain. Two: taking a trip down to the sunshine state revitalizes creativity especially when you're not chained to a desk twelve hours a day. Three, I hate ice storms. And, lastly, props to the Saints for beating my beloved Vikings. Please leave a review if you wish and I thank you for reading!