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All Your Base are Belong to Her

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Summary: With Buffy dead, Dawn finds that she has no place to call home, and no one who truly cares about her. Escaping Willow's 'justice', she finds herself in a place with new and interesting people--and technology that is oddly eager to please.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Dawn-Centered(Past Donor)DreamSmithFR15663,1594120635,33621 Jul 1222 Jul 13No

'Quick like a bunny'

Author's Note: Okay, this is a very long chapter, so it's a long haul to the other side, but I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Also, there was some confusion about the story title; sorry about that. It's a semi-obscure geek reference, and I should have provided at least a link. Belatedly, here it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_your_base_are_belong_to_us



Chapter Two: ‘Quick like a Bunny’

In the memory, Dawn was seven years old, and the water park was equal parts frightening and wondrous. She loved the wading pool, where the water was barely knee-deep even on her small form, and three geyser-like fountains threw spray high into the air only to fall back down on the giggling children as droplets, mist and rainbows. On the other hand, the huge main pool, where even the 'shallow' end was just over her head, was absolutely terrifying. Her mother tried and tried to entice her in, promising to support her so that she could at least learn how to dogpaddle.

Dawn would have none of it. Even though there were plenty of kids her own age or younger in there, playing and swimming about, the very idea filled her with dread. With nothing solid beneath her feet, she could slip beneath the surface so easily, never to be seen again. (Somehow, in her mind, she was convinced that she would vanish the instant her head went under, and Joyce never even realize she was gone, much less be able to find her.)

The best thing about the park, though, the part that made up for the lurking menace of the pool, were the water chutes. Half a dozen semi-circular channels zig-zagged their way down the side of a small hill. Each of them, their smooth-polished concrete filled with a foot or so of rushing water, carried shrieking, laughing park-goers to the bottom, where they raised walls of spray as they slid across the shallow pool there. Dawn wanted to go down those chutes from the instant she saw them, all the way from the front of the park as Joyce parked the car. She was bouncing and pleading to go even as they paid for their tickets and made their way inside. The only problem was that pool at the bottom.

Lurking.

Waiting.

Ready to erase her, the instant her head slipped beneath the surface.

It was silly of course, and her mother tried to convince her that she would never let Dawn out of her sight, or allow her to disappear, or forget to look for her even if she went under for a moment. It didn't matter. Dawn didn't believe her, and she wouldn't let Joyce take her on the slide, though she desperately wanted to go.

So Buffy took her.

Her sister was thirteen years old, and just starting the transition from pretty young girl to beautiful young woman. She was taller than Dawn, but tiny in comparison to everyone else, and was in no way physically strong or imposing. None of that was important. She was fierce and smart, fearless and beautiful, and Dawn trusted her sister to keep her safe.

Buffy herself wasn't at all keen to get wet. She had friends there at the park that day, other girls who were far better company than bratty little Dawnie. Even though she was wearing a bathing suit, she‘d spent a lot of time doing her hair and makeup, with the intention of socializing
near the water, not actually getting in and splashing around. It was only when Joyce asked her for the third time, accompanied by that quiet, guilt-inducing stare that all mothers somehow master, that the blonde girl gave a heavy, put-upon sigh and led Dawn to the top of the hill.

She waited patiently while the smaller girl gathered up her courage, and when she was ready, the two of the went sliding down together, Buffy behind her, arms wrapped around her tight. Dawn shrieked all the way down the hill, as the warm, rushing water swept them along the channel so very, very fast, and when they reached the bottom she shrieked again, because the pool was THERE, where it had been waiting, just biding its time. Even though it wasn't that deep, the pool was tricksey, and when they shot from the chute and water sprayed everywhere, her head slipped beneath the surface, even as her feet scrabbled desperately at the slippery bottom--

--And Buffy lifted her, pulling her back up into the air and light, her long, carefully arranged hair now a sodden mass of dripping, golden strands. Dawn, her fears momentarily banished, immediately started bouncing and giggling.

"Let's go again!" she begged her sister. "Please, Buffy? Pleasepleasepleeeeeeeeeease?"

The girl sighed, and looked at where her friends were gathered by the large pool, talking and laughing, and then sighed yet again.

"Okay," she said, reluctantly. "One more time."

Dawn danced with joy, and threw her arms around her big sister and hugged her as hard as she could. They went to the top, and they came down again, and even though her unreasoning terror of the pool was still there, she could ignore it for now. After the second trip, Dawn begged and pleaded for one more, as she did after the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. They ended up going down the chutes twenty-six times, and every time, when they hit the pool and she slipped beneath the surface, those arms were always there, holding her tight, keeping her safe, lifting her back into the sunlit world.

Buffy never let her go.

Not once.

Dawn knew now that those memories were a lie, an elaborate fiction created by some monk’s magic. That didn’t matter, because she chose to not
let it matter. She chose to believe it was, in spite of everything, somehow real.

Because it was true to what had come later. Even after she learned what Dawn really was, Buffy had set aside her own needs, her own hopes and desires, and had done everything she could for her little sister. When the time came, and the lurking, patiently waiting dimensional abyss had yawned wide beneath Dawn’s feet, ready to suck her down into nothingness and oblivion, it had been the same as in her memories of the water park.

Her sister, her fierce, fearless and beautiful sister, had kept her safe.

Buffy had refused to let Dawn go.



* * * * *

There were more of the soldier types in the room below that first one, and the men from up above were hurrying down after her too, their boots ringing on the steel stairway. Dawn’s hands clenched into nervous fists, and her eyes were wide as she looked wildly about.

Okay, okay, you can do this, just don’t panic--There!

A doorway beckoned to her, just visible beyond the three tall men with guns and black berets. An instant of concentration and the world flickered, with Dawn now in the doorway and the men behind her, confused for a crucial few moments. She ducked through as they whirled and caught sight of her, immediately charging along in her wake. There was an uncomfortable ache in her middle as she scanned the next room, which she put down to a very understandable case of nerves. This room was long and narrow, with racks of computer servers all along both sides, thick bundles of cables going up through the ceiling, and two men in normal-looking clothes instead of camouflage staring at her in surprise. Dawn grinned, taking a few steps forward even as she focused her attention on the door that lay just beyond them, and--

"--Ow!"

A sharp, stabbing replaced the dull pain in her belly, along with a cold, sick sensation that began spreading outwards from there. She tried again to shift herself through space, and the pain lanced through her again, stealing her breath away.

Ouch! Why isn’t it working? Why can't I--?! She blinked, even as heavy footsteps from behind her warned of her pursuer's arrival. Oh, wait--I think I see.

That huge concentration of power, what she was visualizing as a deep, crystalline lake, surrounded her still, thrumming silently as it waited to be put to use. What she hadn't seen before was that it wasn't just around her. Some tiny, infinitesimal portion actually lay within her... or at least it lay within the outer edges of Dawn's Key self; the orb of energy that glimmered and glowed in place of her body over on that plane of existence where only mystics and crazy people could see it. That microscopic bit of the lake, those few droplets of crystalline power, were what she'd been drawing upon to make the world flicker, and her body snap from place to place. Unfortunately, that was barely enough to allow even such short hops, and now it was all used up. Unless she could somehow access more of it....

Energy rushed into her almost before she tried reaching for it, pouring in through a metaphysical sluiceway in the Key's matrix that had opened in response to her need. The empty misery at the center of her vanished, washed away by an influx of clean, vibrant force that set every particle of Dawn’s being aglow with power. Her eyes tingled faintly, and the world again took on that precise, glassy clarity, tinged ever-so-slightly with green.

"Surrender!" The shout came practically in her ear, and from the corner of her eye she saw reaching hands--

FlickerSNAP

--The world blinked and changed around her with something that wasn’t exactly a sound or a sensation, and she was on the far side of the room, yanking the door open and slipping through. Pausing long enough to shoot a quick grin back at the soldiers, just starting to lurch into motion after her, she took stock of her new surroundings. There was a short hallway, with a door in front of her and another a few steps off to the left. She hurried to the left one, her heels making a rapidfire clicking on the bare concrete. When she opened the door and peered through it there was a long corridor stretching off to both left and right, so she looked left and....

FlickerSNAP--FlickerSNAP--FlickerSNAP

Three hops took her the entire length of the corridor, past several random people who were wide-eyed and staring, and Dawn couldn't help giggling as the concrete walls seemed to rush past her.

It's like me and Buffy at the waterpark, when I was little, she realized, her smile turning sad, fading, gone. The power continued to pour into her, streaming endlessly through her, carrying Dawn effortlessly along, just as the water had carried them forward, rushing down those channels set in the warm, sunlit hillside. She came to an intersection in the corridor that branched left or right. She chose right, wondering just how big this secret basement or whatever it was could possibly be....

FlickerSNAP


* * * * *

The sounds of the girl and the Airmen giving chase were still audible in the distance; every armed man was on their way to aid in the capture. That being the case, there was little point in the command staff joining in, so they set about coordinating things from Gate control.

"How was she able to do that? Captain?"

Samantha was used to being able to provide answers, but at that moment she didn't have much to offer her superior.

"I'm... not sure, General." She glanced up at him, then looked back at the console before her, fingers dancing across the keyboard as she continued to speak. "What that girl is doing--which appears to be teleporting from one location to another--should be impossible. Barring, of course, a level of technology at least equal to that of the Stargates themselves."

Hammond looked out into the Gate room for a moment, then back at her.

“I didn’t see her using any technology; she just vanished. And even the Goa’uld, with all they can do, still use things that are recognizable as devices.”

“The Nox don’t,” Jack said, without looking up from watching Carter work. Samantha nodded.

“That’s true, sir.” Something occurred to her, even as she finished routing the security feeds from the lower complex into her panel, and brought the results up on the screen. “What if--I wonder if it’s possible that what we saw was an illusion? One of the Nox, or someone with similar abilities, might be able to project an image into the base. Maybe as some sort of distraction.”

Daniel, standing behind them with his arms folded and his head lowered in thought, shook his head minutely.

“I’m sure I smelled her perfume, when she was in here. And she didn’t look like she was executing some elaborate plan.” He raised his head and regarded O’Neill and Hammond. “She looked confused. Scared.” The General started to reply, but Samantha cut him off.

“Sir, I have a visual.”

Everyone looked at the large screen. Even though there wasn’t anything like total coverage of the base, there were several dozen cameras scattered around. They watched as the girl appeared out of nowhere, at one of the corridor junctions, and when she vanished a moment later Samantha managed to pick her up at the next turning, where there was a bit of a surprise waiting....


* * * * *

Dawn had lost track of how many turns she’d made, and was starting to wonder if she was heading back to those first two rooms, the ones with the donut and the loud, bald man. She reached the next turning, where there was a choice of a heavy steel door in front of her, or the continuation of the corridor off to the side--except there were five more people right there, just a few feet away. Only two of them were dressed in the green fatigues and black berets, the other three wore pale blue dress shirts and dark slacks, though there were military patches or ranks or whatever on them.

Those three stood back out of the way as the other two fumbled for the pistols at their belts. Dawn quickly looked back at the door before her. It was solid, like everything else in this place, and she didn’t have time to open it anyway; not when the soldiers were already drawing their guns.

I need to go through some of these. If I can get out of sight for even a few seconds, I can catch my breath and think about what to do, instead of just blipping down the halls in big circles. Okay then--

--Nothing happened. The world didn’t flicker, even though she was concentrating very hard on her need to be on the other side of that door. She tried drawing harder on the lake of power, and the conduit within her obediently widened, letting even more of the energy rush through her, crystalline and potent beyond imagining.

And yet, for some reason she couldn’t make the short hop to the other side of the door. Dawn’s face fell into a Buffy-style pout, though on the inside she was seriously freaking out.

Ack! It feels like it’s out of reach, or something! Like I can’t connect to the place where I want to go!

She didn’t have time to wonder why, she didn’t have time for anything at all.

“Don’t move!” The two soldiers were standing less than ten feet away, pistols now aimed directly at her head. “Raise your hands,” one of them grated, his unblinking eyes locked on hers. “And get on your knees.”

Dawn’s hand was resting lightly on the door’s handle, and she wiggled it experimentally.

Don’t!” The soldier warned, taking a half-step towards her.

The door was locked, which ordinarily would not have been a problem for her. Unfortunately, even if she unlocked it, there was no way she could pull it open and slip through before they stopped her. So, with nothing else coming to mind, she gave the man her most innocent smile.

“Um... I was with the tour group, and I think I made a wrong turn.” Pitching her voice to be as soft, girlish, and harmless-sounding as she could, Dawn gestured vaguely around her. “Please, sir; could you direct me to the nearest ladies’ room?”

The soldier, big meanie that he was, didn’t buy it for a second.

“I say again, raise your hands!”

Darn it, She thought, her inner voice sullen. That works every time when some guard in a museum or art show catches me sneaking around where I shouldn’t.

She looked around. The corridor beyond the soldiers wasn’t a good option; there was a small crowd of plain-clothed technicians, or office workers, or whatever they were, gathering there to watch. If she went that way she’d land right in among them. Without much hope, she tried to make a jump past where they stood, around the corner where she’d be out of sight when she arrived.

Nothing. I can’t do it like that, for some reason. Stupid power.

“I’m going to count to three,” the soldier grated, his voice all low and cranky-sounding. Looking at the gun he held, Dawn swallowed, and raised her hands slowly, her heart pounding painfully in her chest.

“Please, sir, don’t shoot?” She made her eyes all huge and frightened... which wasn’t all that difficult, given the circumstances. “Honestly, I was just looking for the bathroom, and everyone started freaking out for no reason at all....”

The second soldier had a walkie-talkie out, and was speaking into it.

“General Hammond? We have the intruder.”

The long corridor she’d come down a minute before was in front of her as she stood there with her hands raised, and all the soldiers she’d gone past up until now came around the corner, thundering along in one largish group. Seeing that she’d been caught, they slowed to a trot, the frustrated looks on their faces turning to ones of satisfaction. Dawn took a breath, gauging the distance, and waited till the last of them had come around the corner, which was something like a hundred feet away.

“Now,” the one beside her said, keeping his pistol aimed one-handed as he reached for her wrist. “You’re going to come with us, and you’re going to do as you’re--”

FlickerSNAP

She was all the way down the hall, just at the corner. Glancing back, she saw that one man staring at her, mouth still open. All of the twenty or so men in the hallway between them turned to follow his gaze.

Unable to resist a very smug smile, Dawn pitched her voice to carry across the distance between them.

“Never mind, sir, I’ll find it myself! I think it’s back this way! Thanks!”

She looked down the corridor to the right, now conveniently free of armed men, and concentrated on the next intersection she could see.

I need to find another way. Maybe if I take more rights-hand turns?

FlickerSNAP





* * * * *

General Hammond had a radio handset, and was busy chewing out the hapless Airman who’d let the girl slip from his grasp.

Jack straightened up from where he’d been leaning over to watch the monitor, ignoring the chatter as he mentally replayed the scene they had just witnessed.

“Did you see that?” Carter asked, an edge of excitement in her voice.

“See what?” Daniel asked. Jack looked down at where Carter sat and nodded.

“She couldn’t get through it.” Seeing confusion on Hammond and Jackson’s faces, he pointed at the screen. “She stopped at that door. She wanted to go through it, but something stopped her.” The General looked at him, then at Carter.

“Because it’s made of steel? Why would that make a difference?”

The Captain shook her head, even as she worked to reacquire the girl on the security cameras.

“It wouldn’t, sir. I doubt that has anything to do with it. Besides, did you notice? She could have kept going along the same corridor; there were far fewer base personnel there. Instead, she chose to go back the way she came, right through twenty armed Airmen. Why would she do that?”

Jack visualized that particular location; after spending most of a year stationed in the SGC his memory readily provided the image. When he considered the sharp little zig-zag the corridor made at that point--

“Line of sight!” Carter exclaimed, surprising absolutely no one by answering her own question ahead of anyone else. “She must only be able to reach locations she can physically see!”

Hammond, who despite his straightforward manner was plenty bright himself, nodded acknowledgement.

“Of course. She was only able to appear in here after I opened the blast shield.”

“Yessir,” Carter said, then smiled triumphantly as she again found the girl on a surveillance camera. “She’s in sector Bravo, the North corridor.”

Jack was already bent over an auxiliary console, keying in his command code so that he could access the base security systems.

“All right then. If she can only blink to places she can see, let’s see if we can box her in.”


* * * * *

Dawn was becoming a bit unnerved simply by the sheer size of the place. Her initial thought was that it was hidden under some normal-seeming building in a city somewhere, like the Initiative’s old place in Sunnydale. This, though, seemed much larger than anything that could possibly be hidden under a city street.

Unless I’m going in circles, and seeing the same four hallways over and over and over, which I’m sure I’m not. Well, almost sure.

She passed more doors; normal-seeming ones that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an office building. When she surprised an older man stepping out though one of them she paused long enough to peer past him, and found that it was an office. Since there were no windows in there, and no other way out, that was no help at all, and she hurried on.

FlickerSNAP

FlickerSNAP


She was well ahead of the pack pursuing her now, though she could still hear the stomp of all those combat boots in the distance. Another turning took the corridor left, then another just beyond that let her choose between straight and right.

Wait a second. Maybe I can skip all of this and just--

She tilted her head back, stared at the concrete ceiling, and concentrated hard on being OUT.

Nothing happened, other than that feeling of something being vague and out of reach. The endless, thrumming water of the lake continued to pour through her, but it didn’t seem to be a question of not having enough power.

Grrrr. Looks like I need to keep going. There must be an elevator, or some stairs here, somewhere. Or maybe a big, roomy air vent that I can crawl through?

The boots were getting closer, so she peered down the two hallways, trying to decide which to take, when a shrill klaxon started to blare, making her jump.

“What--?”

A grinding sound from overhead made her look up, and she saw a slab of steel as thick as her arm descending from a slot in the ceiling. With a startled little squeak she hopped forward so that she wouldn’t be blocked... only to see another one coming down at the far end of the corridor.

FlickerSNAP

She was past that one too, just in time as it came down with thump, seating itself into a shallow groove in the floor. Looking back over her shoulder at it, she hurried around the corner that had limited the distance she could go in one blink... and nearly bumped her nose on yet another slab, already all the way down. Looking forward and back, Dawn saw that she was trapped in a short section of corridor, with nothing but a few of the office-type doors to keep her company.

“No! That‘s not fair!” The constant tension, along with all the little shocks along the way, were starting to take their toll, and her voice had a decidedly whining tone. She was a little out of breath, too, and feeling faintly dizzy.

Hey, I’m not supposed to need to be in shape. I’m a classy burglar, yeah, but not a classy cat burglar--no climbing or running or crazy ninja-girl gymnastics for me when I can just walk through every locked door and take what I want.

That explained her rapid breathing; the dizziness, though, was a different matter. She leaned against the wall for a moment, poking mentally at her inner self.

Oh. Okay, there it is. I’m pulling more energy through me than I‘m using up, and it’s starting to make me a little loopy. No problem.

She narrowed the channel through which the power flowed, and her head cleared. Sighing with relief, she combed her fingers through her long hair, repeating the motion over and over in an oft-practiced ritual. As always it served to reassure and calm her, and she looked around again, trying to determine her next move. She examined the barrier that blocked her way forward, and something caught her eye, up near the top of the slab. Still stroking her hair, she stared up at one of the little mirrored bubbles that typically housed security cameras.

You must think you’re soooooo smart, she thought at whoever was watching at the other end. Well, I‘ve got tricks I haven‘t shown you yet. Here, watch this.

Off to the side of the steel barrier there was a small panel, equipped with a little number pad and a slot to swipe a magnetic card. The innards were behind more armor plating, making it a major undertaking for anyone who wanted to try and rewire it raise the slab. Dawn had no need for something as crude as that. Placing her palm on the number pad, she extended a portion of her inner self through the Key’s matrix.

“Dawnie says: ‘Open up’.”

Immediately, without any fuss or bother, the massive steel plate began to rise. It wasn’t even magic, strictly speaking. The Key was older than magic, and more fundamental than any mere spell. Dawn didn’t have access to anything more than a tiny sliver of its true power, which was totally okay, as she had no wish whatsoever to dissolve the walls between universes. Opening things that others would rather she didn’t, on the other hand, was immensely satisfying, and she wished she could have seen the looks on the faces of the people who’d tried to trap her.

Giving her hair a defiant ‘take that‘ flip in the direction of the camera, she strolled through the opening and down the hall.


* * * * *

O’Neill frowned down at the screen, plucking thoughtfully at his lower lip. Hammond now visibly frustrated, looked over at Carter.

“More technology?”

She gave a sort of diagonal, qualified nod.

“More something, sir.” She keyed a diagnostic into her console, and blinked at the results it obediently displayed. “According to this, the seal in the corridor was overridden locally by a code of a level the computer accepted as superseding all other authority... including yours.” The General stared at her, confusion outweighing anger and frustration.

“Captain, there isn’t a level higher than mine.”

She nodded acknowledgement, and turned back to her display.

“It’s actually worse than that. Not only does that code not exist, even if it did it shouldn’t have opened that seal. Not when Colonel O’Neill triggered the closure from Gate Control under a priority alert.”

Daniel spoke up from where he was standing, at the edges of things.

“So she’s a master hacker now, on top of being a commando?” His doubt was clear in his voice. “Funny, I usually picture both of those things as looking a little different that what we‘re seeing here....”

O’Neill chose that moment to break in, before Daniel made his inevitable plea for them to make nice and be friends with whichever enemy was intent on annihilating them this time around.

“Recommend we unseal everything we just sealed, sir,” he said to Hammond. “If she can get through them that easily then its helping her and hurting us. We’re better off pushing her with lots of personnel. If we keep the pressure on, sooner or later she’ll make a mistake.”

The General nodded, apparently having come to the same conclusion.

“Very well, Colonel.”

Jack typed the appropriate commands into his console, finishing up just as Carter abruptly straightened in her chair.

“Sir! She’s working her way towards the elevators, but it looks like--”

“O’Neill.”

The radio sitting at Carter’s elbow did its best to relay that voice accurately, but failed to really convey the resonant baritone. Jack snatched it up.

“Teal’c! Glad you could make it.”

“My apologies for the delay. I have been informed that there is an intruder.”

Even though the other man couldn’t see it, O’Neill nodded, quickly describing the situation for Teal‘c in a few terse sentences. As he finished, Carter waved to get his attention, pointing at a schematic of the base she‘d brought up on a secondary screen. He saw what she meant, and saw on the monitor that the girl had just materialized at a junction. Seeing several Airmen running at her from ahead, and glancing behind to where there were doubtless even more approaching, she chose to slip down a slightly narrower hall, blinking out of the camera’s view as she took her shortcut to the far end.

Jack smiled a grim little smile at Carter, and keyed the radio again.

“Hey, Teal’c? If you could get to junction Gamma-four in the next few seconds, we might finally be able to bag this bunny.”

He caught a glimpse on one of the screens of the big man running down a corridor. Despite his size, the Jaffa was moving faster than most sprinters could have managed, though when he replied his voice showed no signs of effort or strain.

“Fear not, O’Neill. The bunny shall not elude me.”


* * * * *

Dawn was starting to get a sinking feeling, like she’d made a serious mistake. The corridor she’d taken had seemed like a good choice at first. There weren’t any of the soldiers in it, which was a good thing, and it looked different enough than the rest of the place to make her absolutely certain she hadn’t already been that way, which was also of the good. When she got to the end there was only a single large door. Matching the rest of what she’d seen so far in this huge, frustrating place, there wasn’t a sign to say what was behind it, but it was a big, solid door. It had a big, solid lock on it too, which gave her a surge of hope.

Super-strong door, super-secure lock, tucked away off by itself... this could be the way out!

Even though she only vaguely recalled Spike’s stories about his escape from the Initiative complex, she was pretty sure there had been some sort of back exit or escape tunnel involved. It only made sense that the evil agents and scientists would have one of those handy; according to every James Bond movie she’d ever seen the things were practically mandatory when you had an evil lair.

However, when she put her hand on the locking mechanism (another card swipe and number pad arrangement) and demanded that it open for her, she didn’t get the fresh air and sunlight she’d hoped to find. Instead, after lots of clicks and whirrs indicating the locks were disengaging, she pushed it open and found what looked like... a locker room.

Um.... What?


* * * * *

There was a camera covering that corridor. There was obviously a camera covering that corridor, and it showed the door closing behind the oddly dressed girl.

“I was hoping it would take her longer to open that one,” O’Neill said quietly. Carter wasn’t as calm.

“I don’t get how she’s doing that! That system is all hardwired, there isn’t even any software to manipulate!”

Jack cocked one eyebrow at her.

“Carter?” They’d worked alongside one another long enough for her to recognize that one word as a gentle call to stay calm. With a faint grimace she complied, though she still couldn’t seem to get past what they’d just witnessed.

“Sorry, sir. It’s just... I mean what she’s doing doesn’t make any sense. Even allowing for the teleportation, opening two different styles of locks; incredibly sophisticated and secure locks, just by touching them--! It’s almost like she’s throwing out the rules whenever she wants.”

Daniel stepped up behind her, and put a hand on her shoulder in a show of support.

“There are always rules for anything that happens, Sam,” he said. “You know that better than any of us. Give it some time. You’ll figure it out.” Nodding at the image on the screen, he went on. “Or we can just ask our guest. I only hope Teal’c doesn’t hurt her.” The big man ran into frame, with several panting Airmen close behind. As he used his card and entered the number string to open it, General Hammond spoke.

“I’m more concerned about her hurting him, Doctor Jackson. That is the absolute last place I’d want to confront a hostile.”

Even though O’Neill was thinking the exact same thing, he did what a leader was expected to do, and showed nothing but confidence as he spoke into the radio he held.

“Okay, Teal’c; she can blip around, but only to places she’s looking at. She can’t get out of there if she can’t see out, copy?”

“Understood.”

On the screen they watched the Jaffa ease the heavy door open a crack, then move it just wide enough to slip through, followed by six Airmen. When it swung closed a moment later, there was no sign of the girl blinking in and out as she escaped. Jack looked at the others, still doing his best to project calm certainty.

“He’ll be fine. Whatever she tries to hit him with, he’ll be fine.”

Hammond looked much less confident.

“What makes you so sure of that, Colonel?”

Jack opened his mouth, only to have Daniel and Carter answer, in unintentional unison:

“Because he’s Teal’c.”


* * * * *

The lockers were oversized, and held more than just the universal camouflage outfits. There were army helmets in some of them, and very bulky vests and jackets, even some knee and leg pieces that looked like militarized football gear. A clicking sound from the door behind her made her jump, and she hurried past several rows of the lockers, her eyes moving quickly from one side to the other, watching for anyone who might be lurking there. Her breathing, and her racing heart, which had both been gradually slowing, had shot back to full-blown panic levels. Several agonizing moments passed before she found another heavy door at the opposite end of the room, though this one lacked the elaborate locking system. From behind her she heard several people enter, and she grabbed so frantically at the handle on her door that she nearly broke two nails, wincing sharply at the unexpected pain.

Okay, that hurt. And I don’t care what the other thief-girls say; I don’t hit people with these hands, or pick locks either, so I can totally have long, sexy nails if I want.

Completely random and unbidden, the thought fluttered through her mind and was gone, because when she pushed through the door she found herself surrounded by weapons. Not weapons aimed at her, just weapons, sitting there unattended. Racks and racks and yet more racks of rifles, of pistols, of huge, complicated things that she assumed were machine guns and rocket launchers....

Eeep!

“Remain here,” came a deep, resonant voice from the other room. “Do not leave this spot, or allow the door to be opened, no matter what occurs. I will deal with the intruder.”

Dawn felt her stomach drop into her feet, and she pushed the door shut. Ignoring the guns for the moment, she looked around for the next door; the one that led out of the room.

There wasn’t one.

She turned around, and around again, eyes darting about, but the room wasn’t that big. Any door, corridor, or air vent would have been easily visible from where she was standing, and there was nothing. Nothing except guns, and more guns, and cases of what looked like grenades, and several odd staff-shaped things... and some little bent metal gadgets that she could only assume were guns. There were also enough bullets to wage a small war, rockets for the rocket launchers, gas masks, knives, and a few more guns lying half-disassembled on some kind of work table. She was well and truly trapped. She couldn’t ‘unlock’ a solid wall or floor, and she couldn’t Snap herself somewhere she couldn’t see.

Dawn had been breathing fast before, now she was close to hyperventilating.

They’re not giving up. I’m just trying to get Out; why won’t they give up and let me go?

Of course the answer was obvious, if she allowed herself to think it: this was the Initiative, not a bunch of mall cops. She couldn’t expect them to stop chasing her, like those clowns who’d half-heartedly come after her when she snatched a cute necklace from the suddenly unlocked case in the store.

There was a sound from behind her, and she whirled to face the solitary door, her swirling hair half-blinding her for a moment. The panel opened, and a huge shape eased into view.

Oh god--it’s one of those cyberdemonbio... somethings. Like the one Buffy fought; Adam.

This one was easily as big as what Xander had described, although it had no visible machine parts. There was a gold symbol embedded in its forehead, though, and it moved with disconcerting smoothness for something so large. When those dark eyes locked on hers, she felt very small, and very helpless, and there was no one at all to save her this time.

Buffy!

Buffy was dead. Buffy had already given her everything she could give.

Spike! Faith!

Neither of them were here; they were both universes away. All of her powerful protectors were out of reach, and Dawn had never been very good at protecting herself. She’d run away from Sunnydale soon after Buffy’s death, and she’d run away from danger or trouble whenever it had found her afterwards. It had worked very well for her, too, until Willow had finally managed to track her down.

“You must surrender,” the huge, dark man-demon informed her, his voice level even though his eyes burned with quiet intensity. “We know the limits of your power, and you cannot escape from this place.”

The energy of the lake was still pouring through her in a steady stream, shading the world in glassy green, and she frantically tried to do the Snap thing through the wall to her left, the one to her right, the one behind her, even the ceiling and the floor. All it did was make her feel queasy and ill. Backing away, she threw quick looks at the guns and other weapons all around her. They might be loaded, she might manage to grab one up and aim it at him and pull the trigger and hit him--

“Do not make the attempt,” he said, noting the direction of her gaze. Her eyes met his. “I will not hesitate to injure you, if I must.” He moved the rest of the way into the room, and stood there for a moment, looming, his face grim. “You are obviously Goa’uld, and though I do not understand how you are hiding your symbiote from my senses, it is foolish to pretend otherwise--”

Almost too late, she saw that he was stealthily easing the door closed behind him, which would trap her in a medium-sized room with nowhere to run or hide. Instinctively she focused on the narrow slit of the other room still visible through the gap and--

FlickerSNAP

She was back in the locker room, just beyond the nearly closed door, and dashing down the middle aisle as quickly as her feet would carry her. Ducking around the last row of lockers, she--

--She skidded to a stop, staring at the six men drawn up in front of the armored door, all of them staring directly at her.

Oh no.…

From behind her there came a click, as the door to the gun room was closed, then a screechy-scraping sound as something very heavy was pulled across the floor. She knew without looking that the other door was now blocked too.

She was trapped.


* * * * *

After blocking the door to the Armory, Teal’c moved forward with extreme care. Although he was far larger than the young-seeming woman, and she appeared to be unarmed, caution was advised. A Goa’uld-possessed human had several times the strength of a normal individual, and there was always the possibility of small, powerful weapons concealed upon their person.

He found the woman near the door, staring at the Tau’ri warriors blocking the way. Hearing his approach, she whirled, both hands moving to rake her long hair back from her face. Once again he was struck by the sight of her eyes, which were shining faintly with a steady emerald light. It was very similar to what he was accustomed to see in the eyes of the Goa’uld, though their eyes shone gold, and usually only in brief flares. He wondered if the change in color and duration was due to whatever technology she was employing to shift herself from place to place.

“Stay back!” Her hands dropped to her sides, as slender and delicate as the rest of her, and apparently empty. He stared at him, eyes shimmering, then looked past his shoulder and vanished.

Teal’c whirled smoothly, in perfect balance, ready for the attack... only to see the Goa’uld duck between the furthest rows of lockers. Moving forward as swiftly and silently as possible, he again reached out with all his senses, trying to find the sullen glow of her Naquadah-laced blood in his mind. Once again, he found nothing. That lack, in his opinion, was in some ways more troubling than this other new ability. If the System Lords and their agents could conceal themselves in this manner, then any number of spies or assassins could be present on any world they visited.

A faint sound reached his ears, and he rounded the lockers to find her tugging ineffectually at the storage cabinet he had shifted to block the Armory. He lunged, even as she turned her head, caught sight of him in mid-movement, and vanished again, her shriek of fear oddly disjointed as it was abruptly cut off only to be completed at a point some twenty feet to his left.

“Leave me alone!”

Her hair was in her face again as she spun about and dashed out of sight among the lockers, and the sound of her footwear was clearly audible, allowing him to track her movements effortlessly, and move to intercept. It was altogether odd that this Goa’uld would seek to penetrate an enemy stronghold while attired in such an impractical fashion. Granted, they were arrogance personified, and he had certainly seen that arrogance cross over into outright stupidity on many occasions....

He reached the end of the row at exactly the moment he’d calculated, reaching out as she tried to cross to the opposite side of the aisle. She squeaked, eyes wide as she vanished, only to emerge in the same instant down at the end near the Tau’ri. Those men, acting on their own initiative, detailed two of their number to remain at the door, while the remaining four spread out, advancing on the woman. She came to a halt, backed away, whirled to find Teal’c approaching, and vanished again.

Teal’c took a moment to wish he could make use of a Zat’nik’tel, of which there were several in the adjoining room. Unfortunately, he agreed with O’Neill that such a weapon could conceivably trigger the detonation of any explosives carried by the intruder. No matter; given the size of the room, she would not be able to avoid capture much longer.


* * * * *

Dawn knew there was no way she could keep away from them much longer. The big one was scary quick, and now there were four of the soldiers chasing her too and she couldn’t move that thing in front of the one door and there were still two soldiers in front of the other door and the power rushing through her was infinite but Dawn herself wasn’t infinite at all and she couldn’t catch her breath and her head was spinning from having to transport herself almost as fast as she could manage, over and over and over--

“There is no escape,” the huge one told her, still maddeningly calm even as he rounded the lockers and came at her in a smooth rush. “Surrender, or else--”

“Stop saying that!” Dawn screamed back at him, flickering to the far side of the room to stay out of reach, then having to do it again to evade two more sets of reaching hands. “I’m not going--” FlickerSNAP “--to just let you--” FlickerSNAP “--cut me up!”

She tried to blink to the other side of the big door, and failed. Desperate, and with absolutely nothing else she could try, Dawn drew harder on the crystalline lake, gulping down as much power as she could handle. She tried to pass beyond the door again, failed again.

More power doesn’t help, and I don’t know what else to try.

She caught a hint of motion from the corner of her eye, and turned to find the big man leaping at her, crossing a startling amount of distance in the process.

FlickerSNAP

She was in the center aisle again, whipping her head from side to side, trying to watch every direction at once. Two of the Soldiers were behind her, and she didn’t dare look at them because he was coming at her again, moving like an untiring machine.

Dawn wanted to scream, but felt like she was more likely to burst into tears any second now.

Come on, work!

Nothing, she still couldn’t get through the door.

“Aaaaaaaaaah!” She shrieked at the top of her lungs, giving voice to her fear and frustration both.

A blink, a flicker, and she was two seconds ahead of the big man, at the far end of the row.

“I hate this!”

She tried again. Even just one foot on the other side of the door and she would be fine. Even one inch.

Nothing. The walls of the room were an absolute barrier. She could not go somewhere she could not see.

“I hate all of this, and I hate all of you!”

A single man in camouflage approached, arms spread wide. She started to shift to the far side of the room, stopped when she saw two of the others already most of the way there, anticipating her. She settled on going only half the distance, though that would leave her practically within arm‘s reach of them--

FlickerSNAP

“And most of all, I hate your big, stupid, Donut--!”


* * * * *

The flicker of green light that marked the Goa’uld’s shifts came again, significantly brighter than previously, and she was gone. Teal’c came to a halt, as did the four soldiers, all in a loose ring, facing one another. They all paused, heads turning, seeking to locate her. Teal’c’s eyes narrowed, and he cocked his head to listen.

Nothing. No sounds of her feet, nor of her body in motion, nor of her strained breathing. Also, (thankfully), no trace of her piercing shrieks of rage, which had been impressively loud and high pitched, verging on being physically painful.

Even as the Tau’ri spread out to search among the rows of lockers, he was certain they would find nothing. She had eluded them.


* * * * *

“O’Neill.”

Jack felt a surge of relief at the sound of Teal’c’s voice, and keyed his radio in response.

“Hey, we were getting a little worried. How’d it go, do you have her?”

“I do not.”

He frowned, glancing at the others, then back down at the display screen, which still showed the outer door of the Armory. They’d all been staring at that image the entire time, waiting for Teal’c’s report while wishing that there was even one camera mounted inside those rooms.

“Ahh, come again?” he asked cautiously.

“The intruder has vanished. Your assessment of her power and its limitations seems to have been in error.”

Jack scowled down at the screen, carefully not looking at Carter. It wasn’t her fault. Hell, he’d come to the same conclusion about the line-of-sight thing, and given what they’d seen it made perfect--

He looked up, blinked, and stopped in mid-thought. There, out in the Gate Room, at the top of the ramp by the ring itself, stood the girl. She was looking around nervously, as if she expected armed men to jump at her from thin air at any moment. Unfortunately that wasn’t likely to happen, since every last member of their security teams were currently out searching the rest of the complex. Jack mentally kicked himself for a couple of seconds, but he knew it was a completely understandable mistake to have made. The room had been secure, the intruder fled. There had been no reason to think guards were needed, even though, strictly speaking, security should have been present while the alert remained in effect.

“Colonel?” Hammond followed his gaze, and when he saw the girl there his expression hardened. The others looked too, and Daniel’s brows lowered slightly.

“Well, the eyes are different.” He spoke quietly, as if to keep the girl from realizing she was being watched. She knew, though; Jack saw her glance at them, the eerie green shimmer of her eyes looking like the eyeshine certain animals reflected back when caught in car headlights or a flashlight beam.

He also saw that she was deeply shaken. When she used her fingers to comb that tangled mane of hair back from her face, there was a visible tremor in her hands. When she kept repeating the motion, her head bowed, he could see the way she was panting for breath. From behind him, he heard the General key the base intercom.

“This is Hammond: Response teams to the Gate Room, immediately!”

Carter shook her head slowly.

“That won’t do any good, sir. If she can transfer herself anywhere, without any limitations like line-of-sight....”

Jack looked at her, then back to their uninvited guest, and gave a little shrug.

“Here, let me try this.” A tap at the console, and he leaned towards the audio pickup.

“Hey. You.” His voice boomed through the Gate Room, and the girl’s head snapped up, the shimmering eyes meeting his own. “Yeah, you, with the hair. Stop. That thing with the blinking and the blipping around--just stop it. Or else... we will order you to stop. Again.”

She stared at him blankly for around five seconds, then shook her head and closed her eyes. With her fists at her temples, fingers clenched in her hair, she went very still, as if concentrating.

It surprised none of them when she vanished from view, though the flash of emerald light was quite a bit brighter than what they’d seen before. Right on the heels of that the doors to the room slid open, and the SF’s (short for ‘Security Forces’, the Air Force version of MP’s) charged in, to find the room empty.

“Well, that’s it,” Carter said, looking and sounding as dispirited as he’d ever seen her. “If she can do that, there’s no way we can catch her.”

Jack smiled tightly at her.

“Actually, Captain, I think we can.” He nodded to the Gate room. “She came back here, instead of landing somewhere outside the Mountain. I think we were pretty close before--she can only go places she can see... or that she’s already seen.”

Carter regarded him thoughtfully.

“If that’s the case, then it’s still going to be difficult. She’ll have dozens, or hundreds of places to go.”

“Yeah, but she still needs to go forward, up, and out, if she wants out of this place. That means we can keep the pressure on her.” He looked at the base schematic on the secondary screen, and manipulated the controls to widen the view, then scroll it down. “Did you notice how she didn’t give us a little wave, or smile, or flip her hair at us like before? She’s tired; we’re wearing her down.” Finding what he wanted, he marked the spot on the diagram with his finger while picking up the radio with his other hand.

“Okay, Teal’c? Up and at ‘em, guy. You can still catch her if you hurry.”


* * * * *

Dawn looked around, blowing out a big sigh of relief when she found herself alone in a much smaller space.

It worked, she thought, having trouble believing it. I can go places I can’t see, I just have to have been there, and be able to picture it really clearly as I make the jump.

Like she’d pictured the Donut in her mind’s eye, back there in the locker room, completely by accident. Or the place she was standing now; the little office she’d peeked into as she passed, a million years, or maybe ten minutes ago. Luckily for her it was empty, giving her a little time to think.

Okay then. Just in case-- She pictured her favorite club, back in Los Angeles, with the awesome dance floor and the secluded little nooks where she liked to hang out while charming cute guys into buying her drinks. She willed herself there....

Nope. It’s either out of range or it doesn’t exist in this place. I can still get out of here, it’ll just have to be the hard way. She played with her hair meditatively for a few precious moments, her heartbeat slowly coming back to something reasonable. She felt much more optimistic now that she knew she could move further than her eyes could see at any particular moment.

“I’m sorry about what I said earlier,” she told the air, reaching sidewards-through with one hand to wake the green glow. She stroked the light, watching it swirl intangibly around her fingers. "You're not a stupid power at all. You're a wonderful, amazing power, and I love you soooo much!" She managed a fragile little smile, then turned her attention to what came next.

Taking a deep breath, she pictured the zig-zag corridor where she’d been forced to turn back before. There had to be an elevator or some stairs somewhere in this place, and she hoped it lay somewhere past that spot.

“Ready, Dawnie?” She asked herself, then nodded in answer, as firmly as she could. “Yep! Ready, set... go.

FlickerSNAP


* * * * *

“There!” Carter exclaimed, pointing. The white-clad figure ran through the frame at the quick trot of someone wearing shoes chosen more for looks than speed. O’Neill checked the text at the top of the screen and swore softly to himself. That was the secondary service core she was approaching, not the main one, which she’d nearly reached earlier, before taking a wrong turn into the Armory.

“Teal’c,” he said into his radio. “We guessed wrong. She’s going for the secondary.”

“Acknowledged, O’Neill. I am on my way.”

The screens flipped through several views, showing only base personnel hurrying through corridors, before landing on a view of an open area with three banks of elevators, and a set of heavy doors. The girl had her hand on the security panel, and again, the system inexplicably yielded to her, all three sets of elevator doors sliding open simultaneously. Choosing one, she stepped inside. Hammond watched the screen intently.

“The elevators are all locked out, Captain Carter?”

“Yes sir. We‘re all set.”


* * * * *

Dawn blinked in shock. There were the usual buttons inside the elevator, no big surprise there. What startled her was how many of them there were.

“Twenty-eight?”

They all counted downwards, too, with the highest number at the bottom, and the ‘one’ at the top. That pretty much eliminated the chances of this being two or three levels of basement underneath a sky scraper or something. The bottom button was the one that was illuminated, so apparently she was in the deepest section of the place. Reaching up she jabbed the highest button, which didn’t result in anything at all. With an almost scornful little sound she pressed both hands to the panel.

“Not exactly quick learners, are they?” She willed the device to obey her. “Dawnie says: Do what I tell you. Now!”

She felt the blockage release. Reaching up she pushed the button again. This time the elevator hummed, and obediently started up the shaft.


* * * * *

Carter’s smile was ever-so-slightly predatory, her fingers dancing across her console.

“Unlock this.”

Her finger stabbed down on a final key.


* * * * *

The elevator lurched to a sudden stop, making Dawn stagger and nearly fall. She glared at the control panel, reaching towards it with both hands, and the lights flickered out, leaving only the faint illumination of the emergency lighting up near the ceiling. She pushed buttons, tried to break the system free of locks or blockage, but it was no use. Nothing was locked, it was simply dead, all power gone.

Dawn took a breath, her face clouding, two seconds away from a screaming tantrum aimed at both the machine and whoever was doing this to her. A faint hissing sound stopped her before she could begin, and almost by reflex she reached--

FlickerSNAP



* * * * *

The girl materialized in a flash of green, in exactly the same spot where she’d been two minutes earlier, right in front of the Gate. This time the room was not deserted, and a pair of burly SF’s reacted almost instantly, stabbing from point-blank range with auto-syringes full of tranquilizing agent--

She gasped, vanishing again.

Jack gave the two men a hopeful look through the observation window, and felt himself deflate a bit when they both shook their heads. They’d been fast, just not quite fast enough.

“Slippery little minx, isn’t she?” Daniel commented, looking for all the world like he was pleased.

“Sir,” Carter said, interrupting the maximum-intensity frown he was giving the archeologist. Jack looked at the screen, where the girl was back at the elevators. For a second he almost dared hope she would try one of the other lifts, sitting there with their doors invitingly open, but she went for the stair access instead. For safety reasons those particular electronic locks were standalone, and independently powered. In case of emergency or a base-wide loss of power, it would have been counterproductive for the emergency stairs to be inaccessible. That meant they could only watch as she had her way with the defenseless electronics, and a moment later the door swung open.

A full squad of SF personnel burst in through the far corridor, two of them raising dart guns loaded with powerful tranquilizing loads. They were too late by seconds; the girl had already run into the stairwell. They streamed after her, and before the last of them made it through the doorway, Teal’c arrived in a full sprint, nearly flattening the last of the men as he shouldered his way past.

Looking away from the now motionless image, Carter shook her head.

“Sorry, sir; we don’t have video in the stairwells, and it‘s going to take me some time to get power back to the elevators after crashing the system like that. Any pursuit will have to be on foot.”

Jack winced.

“Ouch.” Counting the thick bands of bedrock that lay between levels, that was well over fifty floors worth of stairs.

Folding his arms, he listened with half an ear as Hammond tried to get someone in the Norad complex far above them to listen as he explained the situation. Given that the situation seemed to involve an alien invader with near-magical abilities, he was having a tough time of it. For the moment, all they could do was wait to see if Teal’c and the others managed to catch her before she reached the upper complex.


* * * * *

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

The heels on Dawn’s ankle boots echoed up a basically endless stairwell, the sound almost lost under the noise of all the men charging along behind her. She had the advantage, obviously, in that she didn’t actually have to climb even a single stair: just ten quick steps and a quarter-turn to the left at each landing took her to the bottom of the next flight, where she could see where to go for her next blink up through the intervening space. Doing that over and over again, as quickly as she could, had already opened up a sizable gap between Dawn and her pursuers.

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

There were just so many landings. The steps themselves were very wide and shallow, apparently made to allow the maximum number of people to climb them at once, while dragging injured people along if necessary. They also made large loops as they corkscrewed their way up through the rock, for reasons she couldn’t begin to guess. That construction forced Dawn to do a lot of actual running, just to cover the distance between each section of stairs

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP

She realized--too late--that she should have been counting how many landings she’d passed, so that she would have some idea of how far she’d come. Guessing that her current total was something like twenty, she stopped for a quick rest. The sound of the men chasing her echoed from below, the stone walls making it hard to tell how far away they actually were. She imagined she could hear their steps beginning to slow as they tired; surely even soldiers couldn’t get up all those steps at a dead run.

As for Dawn herself, her legs were in some limbo between aching fiercely and being so leaden that she couldn’t feel them. She wasn’t quite at the point where she was gasping for air, but she wasn‘t far from it either.

I blame Faith for that. She’s an awful role-model, and it is completely her fault that I grew up thinking that smoking was something all sexy girls do.

Not that Dawn smoked all that much; just when she was out at a club, or having a drink at a bar, or at a party, or after sex, or when she was depressed, or when she was happy....

Faith’s fault, she told herself firmly. Of course there was also the thing where Dawn hated exercise with a passion--the thought of which made her burst into pained, wheezing giggles.

Ha! I’ll only ever have to walk up any flight of stairs once from now on. I mean, wow! I’ll only ever have to walk from my bedroom to the bathroom the first time from now on! I can take being lazy to a whole new level!

No more cabs, no more waiting in lines to get into a club, or the movies, or a concert. The possibilities were mind-boggling. Filled with a fresh determination to get clear of this awful place and start enjoying herself, she took one last peek around the corner to check the flight of stairs immediately below where she stood.

And it was like a horror movie, when someone peeks around the corner and the monster is right there, already reaching out to rip their face off.

The huge demon-man was on the stairs, climbing stealthily, the gold symbol above his eyes catching the light from the glow strips that ran along the outer wall.

Dawn couldn’t hold back the little scream that escaped her, and his hands blurred as they raised a spindly-looking gun of some kind. She flinched back, and something yanked at her head as she--

FlickerSNAP

She reappeared one landing higher; which was the furthest point she’d yet glimpsed. As she ran across the width of the landing, something fell and rattled on the concrete at her feet: a small dart, fallen from where it had tangled in her hair.

Too close. Gotta go faster, gotta keep going till I’m out.

ClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclopClopclop--FlickerSNAP


* * * * *

“--No, Major, I do not want you to send your men down here. What I want you to do is seal up your main access, unplug every power cable connected to it, and leave it that way till we get this under control.”

Jack could tell by the look on the General’s face that it wasn’t going well. This was the third officer he’d spoken to in the last five minutes, and apparently he wasn’t any closer to making the Norad boys understand the situation. That was officially a bad thing, since Carter’s displays were showing yet another door opening, at the top of the emergency stairs.

The graphic showed a whole series of them; slabs of armor a foot thick, then a short, wide hallway maybe ten feet in length, then another slab, then another space, and so on. The whole arrangement was meant to absorb the blast wave from a megaton-scale nuclear blast. In Jack’s opinion it was all a bit overkill; if something were powerful enough to make it through more than two thousand feet of granite, it probably wouldn’t be slowed down very much by a few extra tons of steel.

“There it goes, sir,” Carter said, and they watched the last of the door icons turn red. “I’d hoped they would delay her long enough for Teal’c to catch her, but she’s through the last of them, and heading into the upper complex. If the General can’t get them to disconnect the power, she’ll be able open everything they have, and walk right out of the Mountain.”

“Unless they kill her first,” Daniel said softly, staring at the icons. “I somehow get the impression that they’re not clear on the ‘no shooting’ thing.”

“--No, to my knowledge she is not armed,” Hammond snapped into the phone. “But there is a strong possibility that she is carrying an extremely powerful explosive device.... What?!” His voice sharpened, and he went on with even more urgency than before. “No, no! That man is one of ours, do not interfere with--!”


* * * * *

Dawn was staggering from weariness, even as she felt a surge of energy rush through her. She’d been absolutely sure the cyberdemonbioperson would catch up to her while she was opening up those five stupid slab doors that had been waiting for her when she finally got to the top of those four billion stairs. He hadn’t, though; it looked like her mad dash up from the depths had given her enough of a lead to stay ahead of him. Doing her Key trick in reverse had closed each of them behind her, which would hopefully slow him down a little more. And now she was hurrying through yet more hallways, of a visibly different design than any she‘d seen so far. These looked as if they’d been built to a different plan, or at a different time than the maze down below. The corridors were shorter, the rooms furnished better, the lighting brighter.

There were more people, too, with fewer of the soldier-types mixed in. When she encountered the first bunch of them, she slowed to a walk, smiling brightly and trying to breathe normally. Two men and a woman glanced at her, all of them carrying manila folders and cups of coffee. Dawn’s attempt at blending failed, though, since her clothes and hair didn’t fit in with the military style at all.

“Miss, could I see your I.D.?”

Dawn tried the little-girl-lost routine again, more from habit than any real hope it would work.

“Sir, I’m sorry, I was with the tour group, and one minute they were there and the next minute they were gone... please don’t be mad?” Upping the wattage of her smile a little, she did everything but flutter her eyelashes at him. The woman, who’d already been eyeing Dawn’s short dress and wild mane with faint contempt, visibly rolled her eyes at that. Both of the men, however, made sympathetic noises (while also eyeing her short skirt, and trying not to be too obvious about it).

“Don’t worry, that happens, sometimes,” The younger of the two said, smiling gently. “You really shouldn’t be wandering around, though; this is a secure area. The tour groups are restricted to the green and blue sections only.”

She froze in place, staring at him in stunned amazement.

“Holy. Shit. You mean there really are tours?”

All three of them regarded her with slowly darkening expressions as they processed that, and she squeezed her eyes shut for a second.

Faith’s fault, she repeated to herself.

“You there! Raise your hands and remain where you are!”

Dawn’s eyes shot open.

Not again!

Five of the now-familiar soldiers were standing at the end of the corridor, weapons in hand. The three she’d been talking to stepped quickly back, and when she glanced at them she saw the demon man with the gold insignia step through the door just beyond. He still had the dart gun, and he raised it slightly, trying to find a clear shot at her past the three office types.

Dawn spun back to face the soldiers, eyes wide and pleading.

“Help me! He’s a DemonRobotMonster and he’s trying to kill me! Please, help!”

FlickerSNAP

She was behind them, and these new ones were startled for a long couple of seconds at the sight of a girl disappearing. Then, once they got over that, there was still the matter of the very large man in plain green coveralls aiming a gun straight at them....

She hurried away, hoping the shouts and muffled impacts she heard meant she was finally rid of him.


* * * * *

Teal’c did his best to limit the injuries he inflicted upon the Tau’ri warriors, aided by their reluctance to use their firearms. Obviously General Hammond had been only partially successful in his efforts to inform those in the upper facility of the situation. Throwing the last of them down to lie groaning on the ground, he cast about, searching for the dart weapon which had been torn from his hands early in the encounter. Locating it, he discovered that the device, which was of relatively fragile construction, had been damaged, and was now useless. Tossing it aside, he threw himself into a run after the Goa’uld woman.


* * * * *

Dawn could smell fresher air now, she was sure of it. Another short corridor, a turning, and a wide space with rough walls and ceiling that looked like they’d been chipped directly from the stone. There were three ways she could go, but one of them was wider, so she chose that and flickered past two groups of administrative types.

FlickerSNAP

Another hallway, this one looking almost like a real office building, with doors along either side and a large, bright space at the far end. Half a dozen of the soldiers were blocking her way, looking straight at her with guns ready. That wasn’t even an annoyance, so long as she could see past them.

FlickerSNAP

The shouts from behind told her that one of them had turned and caught sight of her. She ignored them, taking a second instead to scan the much larger space before her.

It was a security area, a checkpoint, and a large and very well-equipped one, too. There were the usual white plastic arches that would beep an alert when you tried to carry metal through, and the chunky boxes with conveyer belts running through their innards that scanned packages and purses. Each end of the room had its own set of both, to handle both incoming and outgoing traffic, with a large security desk in the very center, where serious soldiers sat and practiced looking serious as they surveyed the proceedings. The entire place was divided into thirds by two walls of square panels that extended from floor to ceiling, each square measuring roughly three feet on a side. The clear walls had wide openings in them for people to pass through, with sliding sections that could close to isolate troublemakers from the other areas. On the far side of the space was another tunnel, this one the largest she’d seen yet, with some sort of huge, gleaming object at the other end that was too far away for her to see clearly.

More shouts from came from behind her along with the squawk of a radio and a man’s voice yelling over the commotion.

“No! No, he’s one of ours! Let him through!”

She spun around, one hand coming up in automatic reflex to keep her hair from her face. The huge, bald, man-demon was there, running through the suddenly deferential soldiers, straight at her. The soldier in charge of the group, the one who’d shouted, was listening intently to the radio in his hand. As Dawn took a few quick steps back in reaction to the charging cyberdemon, the man looked up from his radio, eyes wide, and shouted past her.

“Close it! Close everything! Seal the Mountain!”

A shrill klaxon immediately began shrieking from overhead, and rows of blinking red lights flared to life along the two divider walls. The door panels set into them slid shut, cutting the room into three isolated sections. The demon, having ignored all of the activity, was nearly on her, and moving very fast.

Dawn stood her ground, waited another half-second, stuck her tongue out at him, and--

FlickerSNAP

She materialized about ten feet further back, just on the other side of the clear divider wall. He didn’t even try to stop, just adjusted his trajectory slightly to continue straight at her, then smashed headlong into the wall.

The whole thing, from floor to ceiling and wall to wall --shook--, and the crashing sound of the impact was like a bomb going off. The thick, bulletproof plastic held, and he took a step back, his fierce eyes locked on hers. He didn’t look hurt, or even especially angry, just frighteningly determined. Feeling uneasy, and unwilling to taunt him further despite the barrier between them, she turned away.

Three of the soldiers had abandoned their central command desk thingy, and were moving towards her, guns drawn. She peered past them, through the second divider wall and the second set of arches, x-ray machines and security guards, and into the passage beyond. The giant shiny thing, which she still couldn‘t make out, was moving.

FlickerSNAP

She was there, as close as she’d dared come, about seventy feet down a concrete-lined tunnel. The slowly shifting mass of gleaming steel resolved itself, and she stared in awe at the biggest door she’d ever seen.

It was a bank’s vault door, basically, only taller and wider than any bank had ever needed. The steel locking rods that held it in place when it was sealed were on her side, and there were a lot of them. It was swinging shut with the slow ponderousness one would expect of such a massive weight, with less than five feet of space left.

Plenty of room, plenty of time.

FlickerSNAP


She landed on the other side, blinked her eyes, frowned, and blinked her eyes again.

She was still facing the inside of the door, watching it swing slowly shut. There was four feet of space remaining before it sealed itself, then three--

Her head whipped around, looking behind her. There was the outside of the door; smooth and featureless. Whirling back, she saw that it was a second door, identical to the first, with just one foot of space remaining, and then--

The door closed with a faint thud that vibrated up through her heels, and twenty-two locking rods as thick as her leg shot home, enmeshing the door with the concrete and stone on either side. An instant later the lights flickered out, and even the little glowing indicators beside the door went dark.

Standing there in utter darkness, Dawn nibbled at her lower lip for a moment.

I think I’m okay... I think. I saw a teeny little piece of the floor outside, just for a half-second. If that’s enough for me to reach it.…


* * * * *

In the Gate Control Room, they watched the video feed from the surface access tunnel. Looking at the featureless, armored face of the outer blast door, set in the wall of the large, main tunnel, they waited to see what would happen.

“That door is designed to withstand a thirty-megaton blast,” Hammond said, staring at the screen with his arms folded. “If anything on this earth can stop her, it’s that.”

Carter, hands resting helplessly in her lap, shook her head slightly.

“Respectfully, sir, I doubt the size or composition of any physical object will have an effect. What it really comes down to is if she was able to get a look at the outer tunnel before it closed.”

They watched, and waited, and--

The girl blinked into view, just to one side of the door. Jack imagined he could hear the General’s teeth grinding.

“That answers that,” he said, both to his superior and in answer to Carter‘s question. Then, staring at the screen in disbelief: “Aw, fer cryin’ out loud; really?!

She was doing a victory dance.

Right there, in front of Cheyenne Mountain’s very own front door, the girl had her arms over her head, twirling in place, her hair swinging and stylish boots pattering. Her ecstatic grin was clearly visible, even on the low-res camera image, and she only stopped dancing when four SF’s ran towards her, shouting. Taking a second to look in both directions, she picked one seemingly at random and vanished.

Carter spoke.

“It’s still over a third of a mile of tunnel before she reaches the surface. It’s possible she’ll be stopped before then.” Judging by her tone, even she didn’t believe that. Still, she gamely adjusted the monitor, sorting through the various camera feeds till she found the girl again--briefly.

She was obviously tired; her weary trot was moving her along at barely more than a walking pace. It was, however, a walking pace where every step was followed by a flicker, each of which moved her another fifty yards down the long, gently curving tunnel. She was never in one spot longer than a second; barely enough time for the Airmen and SF’s in the passage to register her presence, much less do anything about it.

Beside him, Daniel murmured softly.

“Seven-league boots. Standard magical equipment for the hero or heroine in European folklore.”

Jack gave him a sidelong glance.

“Hero? It’s usually considered a bad thing to be rooting for the other team, Daniel.”

The younger man looked up, then gave an unapologetic shrug.

“Sorry. It’s just--She didn’t hurt anyone, Jack.” He did that thing he did when arguing a point where his emotions were engaged; an intent stare that unmistakably conveyed the depth of his conviction. “She blew through this entire base, bottom to top, and didn’t hurt a single person. What Goa’uld does that?”

Jack didn’t have a good answer, but that didn’t keep him from trying out a few.

“No idea. Maybe she didn’t have time. Maybe she forgot to change the batteries in her hand-zapper.”

“She was in the armory! If she wanted a weapon you don’t think she could have found a few?”

Wincing, Jack thought about the cases of fragmentation and incendiary grenades in that room. Given what the girl could do, an armload of those could have inflicted devastating casualties throughout the SGC.

“She’s out, sir,” Carter said, diverting his attention. On the screen they saw her blink into view at the open mouth of the main tunnel. It was still full night outside the Mountain, and by the time the guards stationed at the entrance saw her it was too late, and she was gone. Deftly flipping feeds, Carter managed to show them one last glimpse of her, standing at the vehicle checkpoint, illuminated by the yellow floodlights as she stared out through the tall chain-link fence.

A moment later and there was no one there at all.


* * * * *

She was out.

She was out.

She. Was. Out!


There were stars, and trees, and a road that she followed through the darkness in long, hundred-yard flickers that made everything move past her in stuttering jumps. Once there was a car that sort of surprised her as it came around a bend, headlights reaching for her there in the middle of the road, but she was beyond it and moving on before the driver had a chance to see her.

Two minutes later, she stopped to rest at the edge of a steep drop-off, perching one hip on a guard rail as she caught her breath.

Mountains; no wonder I’m so worn out. It‘s not just that I‘m out of shape; the air’s thinner than I‘m used to. Tilting her head back, she looked at the stars, blazing brightly overhead. Pretty.

And then, with no warning at all, she was crying, her hands and shoulders shaking, leaning forward with her hair spilling past her shoulders.

I made it. I got away from them; first from Willow, and then from all of these other people too. They all tried to lock me away, and I beat them. Not Buffy, and not Spike, and not Faith. Me.

She threw her head back and surged to her feet, turning to look back towards the mountain that loomed blackly against the sky.

“You hear that? I beat you!

She laughed, the tears running wetly down her cheeks till she wiped at them with her fingers, feeling better in that moment than she had in.... Well, than she had since the night on the tower.

Turning back, she looked out over the lower slopes of the mountains that were visible from her vantage point. Out in the distance, miles and miles from where she stood, the lights of a Sunnydale-sized town were visible. Bouncing eagerly, she stared intently at them, trying to find something clear enough to serve as an arrival point. Spotting one that looked promising, she reached out, concentrating....

Hmm. No good, but it doesn’t feel like I can’t do it. It’s more like I can’t quite reach.…

She pulled at the lake, still strong and deep and thrumming all around her. Her eyes tingled a bit more, which wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, and the world around her shaded into a thing of gleaming, emerald glass. She reached again, and this time her mental fingertips brushed against her destination.

Dawn bounced a bouncy dance step or two of triumph, and laughed again.

“Well, Miss witchy-Willow; looks like that whole ‘let’s lock away everything that makes Dawn special’ thing ended up being the biggest fail ever. Wherever this place is, I‘m not just special here. I am awesome!”

She twirled around once, hair flying, clicked her heels together three times, and the roadside flared with brilliant emerald light--

FlickerSNAP


* * * * *
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