'Unlocking a different kind of Door'
Disclaimer: Jossverse characters are property of Joss, Stargate people are owned by the people who own the Stargate people... or something like that.
A/N: I tend to think that if the story 'verse differs to any great degree from what was shown on the show(s), then that should be described and explained in-story, instead of in an author's note. I will be doing my best to do that, but I can also see why people would like to know at least the broad strokes of the thing ahead of time, so okay:
Set two years after 'The Gift', but it's a different two years, with Buffy staying dead and things moving on from there. It's early days for the Stargate program; shortly after the start of Season Two. Daniel Jackson's wife, Sha're, did not survive her kidnapping by the Goa'uld, and has been dead for nearly a year. Otherwise, everything is pretty much as you know it.
Also, if the title confuses you, just google 'All your base are belong to us' and you'll find the story of the meme.
Super-Special thanks to Diana, who caught several embarrassing mistakes I'd made, and also gave a suggestion that will, a few chapters down the line, create some very interesting situations. Her help made this a better story than it would have been otherwise.
Now has it's own page
at tvTropes. Feel free to edit and/or add to the page there; I want to see what you find worthy of note in the story.
Chapter One: 'Unlocking a different kind of Door'
The space between universes was green, and forever, and Dawn was falling through it with no idea what to do. "You're done with this, Dawn. You're shaming her memory and you're hurting all of us, and you are DONE."
Willow looked so fierce as she said that, so much so that Dawn found herself shivering even before the magic slammed into her. The screams that followed were as much from fear as pain--the binding spells weren't designed to hurt her, but they were digging into the very core of what she was, the place where ordinary humans kept their souls, the place where Dawn kept a glimmering orb of emerald light older than the universe.
"Stop it!" she gasped, too breathless from shock to manage anything louder, even as she folded slowly to her knees. Willow just shook her head, eyes black and pitiless as night, snakelike tendrils of crackling magick pouring from her outstretched hands and slithering into Dawn as they gnawed closer and closer to her center.
Tara knelt beside Dawn, her face pained as she hesitantly extended a hand, only to pull it back at a word from Willow.
"It'll be okay, Dawnie," she whispered. "It'll only hurt for a minute, and then everything will be okay. You just...." She swallowed, and glanced away, unable to meet the girl's eyes. "You just won't have any Key magick, anymore, is all."
Pale with shock, racked by shudders that were threatening to turn into full-scale convulsions, Dawn stared at the mousy blonde with something very close to hate.
"I AM Key magick!" It was hard to breathe, hard to think, and only the violent twitching of her muscles under Willow's assault kept her from swinging a fist at Tara's oh-so-sympathetic face. "You can’t... can’t take it away... from me...."
The young woman winced at the words, turning even further away. The crackling bolts of magick clawing at her core surged, drawing a strangled gasp from Dawn.
"We absolutely can," Willow stated coldly. "Buffy died for you, and we've tried to be patient, because she would have wanted that, but enough is enough." She crossed her wrists, and the magick coiled into a spiral, twisting itself into her even more painfully than before, drawing tears from Dawn's eyes. She could feel the woman's spells tightening inside her, weaving themselves into knotted barriers that would seal away nearly all of what she was, forever.
Dawn couldn't allow that; she WOULDN'T allow that. She was the Key, and she would rather die than be left an empty shell of herself.
Besides, Willow was trying to lock her magick away, and everyone knew that the thing Dawn was best at was opening locks; both the normal sort and also the ones that were less than physical. Her body slumped forward to sprawl, quivering and helpless on the ground even as the green force that was her true self raged and fought against the tightening bonds.
Willow glared, her lips compressing into a grim line, and Tara reeled, half falling. Dawn fought harder, momentarily cheered by the knowledge that the red-haired witch had been forced to suck energy from her lover to reinforce her attack. The Key, of course, was too old and primal a force for even Willow to drain, or else the struggle would have been over before it began.
"No more stealing, Dawn," Willow said, her voice clear and cold. "No more jewelry stores, no more penthouse safes, no more ANY of it." Her face went expressionless, and the empty black pits of her eyes were far more frightening than a certain crazed hellgoddess had ever dreamed of being.
"N-no... no, no, Noooooo!"
Dawn was losing. As ancient and strong as the Key was, it wasn't a weapon.
It wasn't Willow Rosenberg.
She felt herself being pushed, pushed from every direction, crammed into a smaller and smaller space inside herself, and she knew it was over. Any second now, the barriers would lock into place, and everything about her that mattered would be sealed out of reach, forever. Dawn struggled, and fought, but there was no way out, no way through the witch's magick....
Until, suddenly, as she strained in pure, blind desperation, something, somewhere within her, gave way. Not the barriers Willow was building around her; those were still forming, and they were terrifyingly strong. No, this barrier was inside her, a part of her, and it gave way under the stress of her struggles, with the sickening abruptness of a breaking limb.
In the blink of an eye it all went away--Willow's awful, masklike face, Tara's sudden cry of dismay, even the icy pain wracking her own body. It all vanished as she felt herself swept elsewhere.
The memories of a minute ago, or an hour ago, or an eternity ago; they faded into the background, and Dawn wondered what would happen now. The space between universes was green, and forever, and she was falling through it with no idea what to do.
Except... something was different.
Far, far below her (if there had actually been
any such thing as 'below' in this place--she might just as well have called it 'inside up' or 'sidewards through'), there was something new. A line, stretching between two almost invisibly-tiny motes... and more lines joining each of those to several others, and a multitude of lines joining every one of those
. The shimmering web stretched out, into infinity, vast and intricate beyond comprehension, and Dawn was falling towards it (or rising to meet it, or emerging from within it--all of those were equally accurate).
The lines gleamed as she neared, without ever showing a hint of color in themselves, but they reflected her own light perfectly, gradually shining brighter and brighter with pure emerald as she came closer, like razor-thin strands of mirror.
One of the pinpoints was suddenly more prominent than the rest as she fell (or rose, or emerged), and she knew without knowing how
she knew that she would land there. There was a rightness to that particular dot, almost an inevitability, and she did her best to brace herself for whatever was about to happen.
She was pleasantly surprised when the actual impact/transition/arrival was no more traumatic than stepping through a doorway.
Or, to be more accurate, a giant, metallic, ring-shaped... thingy.* * * * *
When he went looking for Daniel, Jack knew exactly where to try first; where the archeologist had been spending far too much time lately--The Junk Room.
Sure, the technical term for it was ‘ExoPlanetary Artifacts Repository’, a series of rooms where they kept items from offworld that didn’t qualify for transfer to Area 51 for study, though still too sensitive to be allowed off-base. Jack, upon hearing the name for the first time, had immediately pointed out that they should be careful about sticking foreign objects in their E.A.R., but no matter how hard he pushed for it, no one else was up for using the obvious name. ‘Junk Room’ was an acceptable compromise, though still hadn’t given up. Setting those thoughts aside for now, he swiped his access card and waited.
When the reinforced door slid aside, he leaned in and looked around. Sure enough, Daniel was there, sitting at one of the tables and scribbling in a notebook as he traced a line of glyphs inscribed on a pale yellow slab of amber. The perimeter of the room was lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, and there were five other tables there besides the one where Daniel was sitting. All of them, the shelves and tables both, were filled to overflowing with objects they’d brought back through the gate. There were tribal masks, swords and spears and bows that ranged from crudely fashioned to exquisitely crafted, items of art, unidentified fossils from creatures that had never trod planet Earth, and many, many more items. It was a treasure trove that scientists from half a dozen different disciplines would have killed to examine... and yet it was, essentially, a useless afterthought. The Stargate program was, after all, tasked with the defense of Earth, and the acquisition of advanced technology to be used toward that end. Everything else, no matter how intriguing it might have been in other circumstances, was of little concern.
Senator Kinsey had made that abundantly clear to them all, during his visit to the SGC, some six weeks ago. Jack made a silent grimace of disgust at the mere thought of the man. They had managed to silence his criticisms for the moment, by basically managing a last-minute save of the entire world with their sabotage of two giant Goa'uld motherships, but that didn’t change the basic equation: even though their operating budget was renewed, it most emphatically did not include funds for anything other than military operations.
None of that had anything to do with his mission of the moment, however. Oh, no, there were far
more important things to deal with now.
“Daniel,” he said from his place in the doorway. “Hey, Daniel?”
The younger man didn’t look up, but he did bob his head slightly in acknowledgement.
“Jack,” he said absently, still scribbling.
Silence then, which stretched and grew as silences do, until Jack sighed and walked fully into the room, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he moved to where the other sat.
“Daniel. Are you perhaps aware of the time?”
Jack helpfully stuck his arm in between Daniel’s face and the notebook, pointing at the watch on his wrist with his other forefinger.
“See this? It says ‘02:00 hours’. Which is military-speak for two in the morning.”
Sitting back in his chair, Daniel blinked owlishly at him, wincing slightly as he became aware of the stiffness in his neck and back.
“Oh. Um, well, I got sort of caught up in these tablets we brought back from P8X-987. Here, let me show you the translation I‘ve been working on.” He set aside the rectangular amber slab he‘d been examining, and began flipping through the pages of his notebook. Jack reached out and gave the tablet a light poke with his finger--the material was some sort of tough resin; soft enough to write on with the proper tools, lighter than stone or clay, and far more durable than paper.
“Feels kind of waxy,” he noted.
Looking at the shelves, Jack noted that there were several hundred of the tablets there.
“You brought back quite a few of these things.”
“Yes,” Daniel allowed absently, scanning a page of densely-written notes before flipping to the next one, and then the next.
“One might even say there’s a buildup
of them,” Jack continued, watching the other hopefully. “Of the waxy things. In here. A wax buildup
in our Exoplanetary Artifacts Repository--”
“Let it go, Jack,” Daniel said, not bothering to look up. The Colonel frowned in disappointment, and sourly looked at the notebook being held up for his inspection.
“This is the relevant section, right here, see?”
Jack sighed, dropped into a chair, skimmed the paragraph, then glanced up.
“The flu? I’m thinking the people on 987 had a lot worse than that to worry about, since Nirrti wiped out every last one of them, except for Cassandra, with something a lot nastier.”
Daniel nodded impatiently, taking the notes back and indicating another section, further down the page.
“Yes, yes, but this is referring to an event that took place nearly a hundred years before we ever visited their planet. You see, Nirrti had visited there before, and because she’s a ‘god’, she didn’t bother to hide what she was doing.”
At his expectant look, Jack took a wild guess.
“Causing the flu?”
“Yes! This Goa'uld is an expert in Bio-Engineering, and she does not believe in testing her work on animals.” Daniel paused then, and grimaced slightly. “Or, I suppose she does believe in it, and considers humans to be just another kind
Jack went back to idly poking one of the waxy slabs littering the table; forlorn artifacts of a dead civilization.
“Not to be insensitive, Daniel, but this matters to us... why? Those people are gone. There’s nothing more the Goa'uld can do to them.”
“No, not them, but maybe us.” The archeologist leaned back in his chair and regarded the Colonel levelly. “Jack, the symptoms of that flu are similar to a strain that struck Earth in 1918. In fact, the symptoms and profile are effectively identical.”
O’Neill sat up straight, suddenly not bored at all.
“Yes. And the timeframe fits too. Assuming typical supralight speeds, a journey by ship between our two star systems works out to almost exactly the span between this recorded outbreak and the worldwide pandemic that struck Earth in 1918.
Even Jack’s usual unflappable calm was a bit jolted by that
“The Goa'uld dropped a biological weapon on us, and nobody ever knew?
But she didn’t do anything else; didn’t bombard any cities, or land any troops.”
“That outbreak killed something like three percent of the human population, but that still left nearly two billion people. Actually conquering the planet would be an enormous undertaking.”
Jack nodded slowly, seeing the implications of the timing.
“That was a busy decade or two. The first practical cars, the first aircraft, machine-guns, tanks.”
“Widespread industrial development,” Daniel continued for him. “Plus rapid advances in the sciences: chemistry, physics, medicine and metallurgy--even the beginnings of rocketry.”
The Colonel scowled, his fingers tingling with the need to grasp a weapon, though the target he wanted was light-years distant, and the crime was a century past.
“She wanted to knock us back, slow us down.”
Daniel began to slowly stack the amber tablets into a single pile.
“The Goa'uld try to keep human societies in cultural stasis; they suppress technology so that we’re easier to control.”
“But it didn’t work,” Jack protested, almost angrily. “Why bother to do such a half-assed job of it, and never bother to follow up with something bigger?”
“We’re lucky she didn’t
, Jack. If Earth had been hit with what she developed later, and used on the population of 987, then the death toll might have been total.”
Jack looked at the stack of tablets, standing there like a forlorn funeral monument, and shook his head.
“So... the reason we got off with only
fifty million dead--”
“Closer to seventy-five, actually.”
“--Is because that version of the flu is what Nirrti happened to have with her?
Daniel nodded, flipping his notebook closed and fiddling with his pen.
“I think so, yes. She must have been in transit, on her way from where she’d tested the virus on 987. Earth’s Stargate was buried, but since she was passing by in her ship, she paused to check in, saw that we were advancing at a dangerous rate, and hit us with the sample she happened to have on board. I suppose to her way of thinking, even a small setback for our civilization was better than nothing at all.” His lips twisted slightly in distaste. “And... she probably welcomed the chance to test it on another human population; the more data points the better.”
Even though O’Neill’s iron stomach was legendary in the service, he was feeling a little sick just thinking about how close a call it had been. And how vulnerable Earth still was to such an attack.
“Screw laser guns and all of that; we need to bring back some advanced medical tech. Soon.”
“Agreed. I know Doctor Frasier is working on a cure for what was used on 987, but we’ll need some sort of wide-spectrum immunization that we can make in bulk, to use here, and give to any human populations we find who are actively opposing the Goa'uld. Otherwise they could be decimated almost before they even realize what’s happening.”
That was an excellent idea, and Jack resolved to bring it up at the next planning session with General Hammond. In the meantime, there was something he could take care of immediately.
“Nice work. And, more importantly, enough
work. It’s time for a break.”
He pulled Daniel up and out of his chair before the younger man could do more than blink, and with a firm hand on his shoulder he guided him towards the door.
Jack nodded sagely, effortlessly redirecting him back towards the door when he tried to turn back to his work.
“Yes, a break. At this very moment, a junior Airman is on his way into the Mountain with a stack of extra-large pizzas from Gianelli’s. If we hurry, we should be able to make it to the cafeteria before he gets there, otherwise SG-3 is sure to grab every last slice.”
That was a combat-oriented team comprised entirely of Marines, and he had no doubts at all concerning their ability to stage a swift, bloodless and entirely effective retrieval op against one hapless Airman.
Daniel, too, was familiar with that team’s capabilities, and he ceased his vague struggles and came along willingly.
“I’m all for pizza, and Gianelli’s is great, but--Jack, that’s a forty minute drive from here. And it takes a good ten or fifteen minutes to get through the security checkpoints and all the way down to the sublevels. Aren’t they going to be pretty much stone cold by the time they get here?”
Jack smiled as they exited the E.A.R., habit making him pause and look back long enough to ensure that the security door had closed itself behind them before continuing on.
“That’s the beauty of it. There are four security checkpoints those pizzas will have to go through to get down here. I figure that many x-ray scans will be as good as throwing them into a microwave.”
Daniel’s eyes narrowed as he considered that.
“I don’t think it actually works that way....”
“You’ll see. Now come on, we have to swing by and get Carter out of her lab on the way.” They reached a lift, and he pushed the down button. “I swear, going by how hard it is to get you super-brain types out of this place, you‘d think you don‘t have homes.”
“No, my apartment does in fact exist, and I like it a lot, it‘s just that they won‘t let me take my work home with me.”
O’Neill cocked his head and regarded him curiously.
“Oh? You mean the yellow slabs things back there?”
“Among other things, yes. I mean, it’s not like they’re dangerous technology, they’re just cultural artifacts. Totally harmless, unless you’re worried about overturning every major anthropological theory overnight.” His sigh was equal parts frustration and resignation, and when the lift arrived, they both stepped inside.
“So all of that stuff is stuck on-base?”
“For now. I keep trying to make them see--”
“Stuck here,” O’Neill said, unable to keep from giving it another go. “Lodged, one might say. Foreign objects, lodged firmly in our E.A.R.--”
He trailed off at the baleful look he received from the other man, and the elevator doors slid closed.* * * * *
“--Not a violation of some military code or something, ordering an Airman to go get us pizza?” Daniel was saying as he and Colonel O’Neill walked into Samantha’s lab. The older man shook his head.
“Nope. It would be, if I’d ordered
him to go get them, sure, but this was me asking for a favor from someone who was off-duty at the time. There would have been zero negative consequences if he’d said no, and I made sure he knew that. However, since he said ‘yes’, there will be positive consequences in the form of me putting him in touch with someone who can help him find parts for that sweet ‘68 Mustang he’s working on.”
The two of them made their way to where she was standing. O’Neill glanced at the array of electronics she had painstakingly assembled there, then raised his eyes to meet hers.
She nodded back at him, blinking tiredly.
“Good morning, sir. Daniel.”
The archaeologist smiled at her, as always looking absurdly young for someone with three doctorates and an impressive number of academic publications.
“Hey, Sam,” he said. “Jack’s got some pizzas on the way, and he insists we come along and help eat them.”
“Yes,” O’Neill told her firmly. “I do insist. There is nothing happening at the moment that can’t wait.” He must have seen something in her expression, because he paused then, and his eyes narrowed slightly. “There’s nothing happening at the moment, right Captain? Or is there something?”
“I’m not quite sure, sir.” She gestured to the largest of several screens that were displaying her data. “This is real-time telemetry from the Stargate. I’ve been assisting the team that’s developing the next update for the operating system we use in place of a Dial Home Device. As you know, we’ve improved a lot from were we were a year ago, in terms of matching the level of performance of an actual DHD.”
O’Neill nodded in agreement.
“Yes, most definitely not
a fan of the old ‘launched from a catapult’ effect we were dealing with for a while there.”
“Well, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, especially in terms of power management for wormhole connections at longer ranges, so I set up a datalink between the Gate room and the lab so I could track energy levels during Gate operations.” At his blank look she elaborated. “So I can establish a baseline on power use, plotted against distance and duration. We know the technology involved is extremely tolerant of variations in the energy supply, but there does seem to be a correlation between how ‘clean’ the power is and the energy-to-mass costs involved in transporting objects through to the other side.”
Daniel was waiting patiently for her to get to the point, O’Neill a little less so.
She touched a button, and one of the graphical displays grew to fill the screen.
“And... there’s something happening.” Her finger traced the relevant line on the graph, which went from a barely perceptible blip at the earliest timestamp to a shallow but steepening curve upwards in the more recent ones. “This started about twenty minutes ago. A power surge, very subtle, and not like anything I’ve ever seen in the Gate before.”
O’Neill’s gaze sharpened.
“Somebody dialing in?” That wasn’t a huge cause for concern, given that the control room was manned even when operations were suspended overnight, and it required only moments to close the iris and render the Gate impassable.
“I don’t think so, sir. There is
a surge, but it’s not even showing on the normal status displays. An analogy would be that we’re looking at something with enormous voltage but virtually no amperage. I’m not even sure something like this can wake the Gate out of idle mode.”
He regarded her steadily, considering.
“But it’s still increasing?”
She keyed in a command on her console, and watched as the telemetry link updated the graph.
“Yes sir, it is. And the rate of increase is accelerating also; not quite exponentially, but not far from it.”
That was, at the very least, cause for concern, even taking into account the oddly passive nature of the energy itself. The Colonel obviously agreed, leaning in to key a sequence of his own into her terminal. She recognized it as a code that triggered an alert that was audible everywhere in the base except
the Gate Room itself, and as the klaxon began sounding she shot him a questioning look. He shrugged even as he gestured for the two of them to follow him.
“Looks like something’s trying to sneak in. I’d rather not scare it off before we see what it is.”* * * * *
Second Lieutenant Dave Siefring had mixed feelings about his current assignment. Not the Stargate program itself; that
was amazing beyond words, and he was acutely aware of how lucky he was to be a part of it. No, what bothered him, albeit in a very minor way, was the fact that he was standing watch in the middle of the night, when Gate operations were suspended. Other than himself, and two Airmen providing security, this entire section of the underground complex was deserted, and would be for another four hours.
It seemed likely that someday soon offworld operations would grow to the point where the control room would be fully staffed round the clock, but that day was still in the future. For now, all he had to keep him company were the telemetry readouts for the Gate, all of which displayed a mind-numbing lack of activity, and the two silent Airmen, who displayed an equally mind-numbing lack of activity.
The Lieutenant yawned, and with a dogged determination checked the visual feeds from the Gate room itself. Everything looked quiet; the room lighting dimmed to minimal levels, and the metallic ring sitting in Idle mode, patiently awaiting the next command from the humans who had finally mastered its secrets.
Satisfied that all was well, Siefring returned to the textbook that lay open on the console before him. He was studying for his single-engine pilot’s certification, a goal that had become even more attractive thanks to certain rumors that had recently reached his ears. Word was, a series of rugged light aircraft were on the drawing board, specifically intended to be easily disassembled and reassembled, to facilitate transporting them through the Stargate. Lieutenant Siefring had always wanted to fly--that was why he’d chosen the Air Force in the first place. Now, though, he had the chance to, just maybe, be one of the first men to fly in the skies of alien worlds. It was even possible, if he was very lucky, that he would be the
first man to do so.
He grinned down at the book as he flipped to the next page, glancing up to check the monitors again before--
The grin faded, replaced by a slow furrowing of his brow. There was something happening with the Gate. In normal lighting it might have been difficult to make it out, but in the dimness the faint aurora surrounding the ring was impossible to miss. It grew in strength as he watched in fascination, the color slowly shifting from a pale, silvery-white to a brilliant emerald hue, as pure and intense as laser light.
His gaze shifted for a moment to the window that looked out on the room, currently showing only the featureless grey of armor plate--given that weapons fire from the other side of a wormhole had impacted that window more than once, it was kept closed unless there was a reason to do otherwise. He found that he was entirely fine with that--whatever that light was, it would be up to the ranking officers to decide how to deal with it. He was reaching for the master alarm button when the screens flared suddenly--a flash of green that came and went in an instant, leaving the Gate room dark once more.
The Lieutenant paused, wondering if the situation had ended before he’d managed to inform his superiors--that wouldn’t look good on his performance review, and he desperately needed a flawless record if he ever hoped to fly beneath alien stars....
The decision of whether or not to push the button was taken from him a moment later as the alarm klaxon began to sound. He hastily closed the textbook and put it aside, well aware that his superiors were on their way. He was so busy worrying about how he would explain his (admittedly very brief) delay in sounding an alert that he missed the movement on the monitor. Unseen by everyone, the white-clad figure of a girl stood at the top of the ramp and peered about in obvious confusion.* * * * *
While she was happy enough to be back in the real world, and not that surreal between
place she’d somehow slipped into during her escape from Willow, Dawn was less than impressed with her current surroundings. It was dim, it was chilly, and the air was decidedly stale. The light seemed to be coming from just a few very small sources, and the room itself was a drab, brutally-ugly assemblage of concrete and steel. There was, of course, the huge ring that loomed over her as she stood at the top of the sloping pedestal-like arrangement, but that just made her wonder if she had stumbled into some cult’s secret lair. Looks like they worship some kind of Donut god
, she mused, looking up at the lavishly inscribed object. Oh well, could be worse. Anything’s better than big ol’ snakemonsters and psycho frat-guys getting all... Ooooh!
There was something else in the room with her, something that filled the space to overflowing, and she’d somehow missed seeing it until her eyes started to tingle, and seemed to shift focus in some odd, sideways fashion. The world changed, as she found the trick of looking at it in the new way. The closest thing she could think of to compare it to was being submerged in the purest, clearest water imaginable. Water so pure that it didn’t blur or obscure her surroundings even a tiny bit--if anything it was all clearer and sharper than before... and also faintly tinged in green.
She regarded the room curiously, trying to decipher just what it was she was seeing. It’s.... It’s like the lines
, she realized suddenly; the mirror lines she’d seen in the between place. And this, like those, seemed to have no color of its own, just a pureness and clarity that were almost painful. And, also like that infinite web she’d glimpsed, this seemed able, even eager
, somehow, to take on the emerald hue of her own inner self. She carefully raised one hand, experimentally trying to push
it into the same sidewards-through place she was seeing. She was rewarded with a wash of green light trailing after her hand, visible even in the normal spectrum and faintly illuminating the walls nearest her before slowly fading back to crystalline invisibility.
Dawn smiled delightedly, and reached out to caress the air with both hands, enchanted and awed by what she was feeling.
Because it was
awesome. She could sense the power of it; the massive weight and precisely ordered potential of it thrumming all around her. If she imagined it to be water, then it was a truly enormous lake of the stuff, vast and deep and pure, and she could feel it waiting
to do... something. It was clearly artificial; there was structure to it that was constantly forming and reforming, holding itself in a very precise arrangement, ready to be called upon to do whatever it was supposed to do.
However.... I think it likes me
, Dawn mused, watching the green light trail behind her slender fingers. Or maybe not ‘likes’, since it doesn’t feel even a little bit alive; maybe more like, it
fits me. And not just in a sorta/kinda, baggy jeans kind of way, nope. This is a pvc and stretch-lace, all over and skin-tight kind of fitting going on, like my very naughtiest clubbing outfit, and it feels really, really nice
Her expression dreamy, Dawn wove her hands through some random gestures in a mocking parody of Willow’s spellcasting, admiring the complex swirl of emerald that formed and faded behind them. Looking up at the ring, she cocked her head to the side and spoke aloud for the first time in this place.
you do, I wonder? And... if I ask very nicely, will you do it for me?
”* * * * *
Jack went up the stairs at a half-run, and was the first into the control room, ignoring the faint twinges in his knees with the ease of long practice. Carter and Daniel weren’t far behind, and the Captain immediately began checking readouts on the master console. The young Lieutenant who’d been standing watch leapt from his chair and snapped a somewhat nervous salute, which Jack impatiently waved away.
“Report,” he said crisply.
“Sir, there was a glow around the Gate, followed a few seconds later by a bright flash. All systems remained nominal throughout; there‘s no apparent damage and there was no Gate activation.”
Carter finished her query of the instruments and looked over her shoulder at him.
“Confirmed, sir. The power influx has stopped, and everything looks normal.”
Daniel made a little waving motion with one hand to get their attention, never looking away from the video feed from the Gate room.
“Well, call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s
The others followed the direction of his gaze, and Jack uttered an angry exclamation.
“What the hell?
A figure stood within the curved bulk of the Stargate, pale garment showing clearly even in the dimness of the chamber. Strange ripples of green light drifted from it, faint and slow-moving, giving the familiar Gate room a sinister look.
Carter touched a control and the image jumped to a closer view.
“It’s a girl
....” Daniel said in a surprised tone, helpfully stating the obvious.
Jack stared at the screen, taking in the details: A girl in her late teens, to all appearances human, with a pale, heart-shaped face and long, long hair in shades of brown. She was undeniably beautiful, which was actually a negative factor in this case, since it increased the likelihood of her being a Goa'uld host. It was his experience that when given a choice the snakes would always
opt for an attractive vessel. With a last glance at the girl, illuminated by the eerie glow of whatever she was doing, her eyes shining and lips parted in an expression of delight, O’Neill turned to regard the Airman. The young man still stood at attention, and he paled at the quiet fury in the Colonel‘s eyes.
“Lieutenant,” he began with deceptive mildness. “Can you explain to me why there is a random, unidentified, glowing
person in our theoretically secure facility?”
“Sir, I--!” He stopped short, swallowed nervously, and started again. “Sir, there was no Gate activation, I swear! And the doors have been sealed since I came on duty at Sixteen-Hundred hours.”
O’Neill’s level stare made it all to clear that he wasn’t buying that, but at that moment General George Hammond entered the room, and the Airman was promptly forgotten.
“Situation?” he said tersely, joining them at the main control station.
“We have an intruder, sir,” Jack said, nodding at the screen. Hammond considered the image for a moment, then turned to Carter.
“Sir, the logs confirm that there has been no activation of the Gate since SG:7 reported in five hours ago.” She brought up the same display she’d shown Jack earlier, and pointed out the relevant bit for the General. “A short time ago I detected an energy buildup in the Gate itself; very powerful, but not compatible with actually triggering an activation. I informed Colonel O’Neill, and he activated the alarm.”
Their superior nodded, then glanced at Daniel to see if he had anything to contribute. The archeologist gave a small shrug, and looked pointedly at the view screen.
“If this is an invasion, it seems a little underwhelming, doesn’t it? We are talking about just one girl.”
Hammond looked thoughtful at that, but clearly wasn’t convinced.
“If it is just a girl. For all we know, she’s really a Goa'uld. Or perhaps something even worse, that we know nothing about.”
Jack, who’d been watching the girl in question via the monitor, felt his stomach tighten as he was reminded of another, even more harmless-looking girl they’d once brought through the Gate.
“What if she’s Cassandra, Mark-Two, sir?” Everyone looked at him, and he looked back grimly. Paranoia could be a bad thing, but it could also save your life. And, well, they knew for a fact that quite a few people out there really did
want them dead. “If someone wants to destroy this place, they might be trying the same thing as before, with Cassie, only with a bigger bomb. Who’s to say she--” He indicated the girl in the Gate room. “--Doesn’t have a whole belly full of that Naquadah fusion-explosive? Or maybe that green stuff she’s playing with is powering up to turn Colorado into a crater?”
Carter’s suddenly worried expression told him that some or all of those scenarios were at least within the realm of possibility, and Hammond saw it too. Leaning forward to key the microphone, he began issuing orders.
“Response teams one and two to the Gate room, engagement protocol Charlie-Three.”
That protocol specifically prohibited weapons’ fire unless there was absolutely no other option, and Jack approved of the General’s choice. If the girl really was some sort of human bomb, they needed to handle her carefully.
Hammond looked back at the three of them.
“We’ll take her into custody, then transfer her to the same nuclear testing facility we used with Cassandra for examination and questioning.” He turned back to the console and, after a moment’s thought, flipped a switch there. The heavy, armored slab covering the observation window obediently began to retract, and they all looked down into the Gate room. Jack took a second to murmur an aside to Carter and Daniel.
“I know Teal’c has to go pretty deep into that kel-no-reem
thing when he’s getting over being shot and all, but I think somebody should wake him up before he misses all the excitement.”
Carter was busy reconfiguring her power-flow displays, so Daniel reluctantly edged to the side, still looking out into the room as he fumbled for the phone that was tied into various parts of the SGC.
As the lights came up in the Gate room, and the doors opened to disgorge a dozen armed Airmen, the girl suddenly looked up from her glowing hands, her eyes wide with surprise.* * * * *
The truth was, Dawn’s success as a thief relied pretty much entirely on her Key magick; which, after it had been awakened during that whole thing with Glory and the tower, let her unlock basically anything that could
be unlocked. Other thieving skills, such as maintaining a constant watch on her surroundings and being able to react instantly to danger? Well, those could definitely use some improvement. This fact was made clear to her when the lights in the room came up, two wide doors across from her slid open, and a small horde of soldiers ran into the room... and all she could do was stare at them in shock. They came to a stop at the foot of the sloped pedestal-thing that she shared with the Donut, and then all of them aimed guns at her.
Her eyes felt like they were completely round, and panic had her heart going at slightly over three thousand beats a minute. The booming voice that echoed through the room a few seconds later didn’t do much to calm her.
“You have entered this facility without permission, and we will not hesitate to use force if you attack, or resist us in any way.” Her gaze snapped up from the men with the guns (aimed right at
her!) to where one of the dull metal plates had slid aside to reveal a wide window with another room looking onto this one. There were several people in there, and one of them, a bald, older man, was the one with the loud voice that was saying the scary things.
“Remain still, surrender now, and offer no resistance.”
Dawn stared at him, at all of them, completely incapacitated by a flood of raw terror. Oh. My. God. This isn’t a donut cult--this is the
Unlike most of the others, she had actually liked
Riley, and he had told her lots and lots of stories about what that government program had done.
Experiments, on anything that wasn’t a hundred percent human... like her. Procedures that were torture in everything but name; cutting and cutting, just to see what would happen. Grafting different kinds of tissue together, fusing machinery to flesh, implanting control chips in brains....
Two of the soldiers were moving; moving towards her. These two didn’t have guns: one had handcuffs, and the other what she guessed were the kind made to bind together ankles. They’re going to grab me and chain me up and take me somewhere awful and find out I’m not a real human girl and then they’ll cut and cut and cut till I’m not pretty any more then they’ll make me a machine monster with a chip in my head so that I’m not even me.
Incredible as it seemed, she had managed to find a fate even worse than the one that Willow had planned for her.
,” she whispered, barely realizing she was saying it aloud. “Please, no
It wasn’t defiance, she was too scared to manage that. It was a prayer, desperately thrown out into the ether in the hope that something would answer.
Nothing did, not even the looming presence that she still felt thrumming faintly all around her, that nearly limitless potential that seemed poised to do... something
Then the two soldiers reached her, and grabbed at her, and without even meaning to, she pulled away.
away, in that sidewards-through direction she’d just learned how to see.
And in that last instant before the world flickered, her eyes had been on the people watching from behind the glass.* * * * *
The girl vanished.
Right there, right in front of them, with no warning and nothing to mark the event besides a faint, almost subliminal flicker of green light. Everyone in the control room was staring out at the Gate room, stunned, trying to process what they’d just seen.
Daniel, too, was a bit shocked and confused, but his problem was a little different than everyone else’s. After determining that Teal’c was in fact out of his meditation trance and on his way, he’d only just hung up the handset when it happened: the girl vanished from the Gate room.
And reappeared in the Control
Roughly three feet away from him.
“--did she go? Captain Carter?”
“Unclear, sir. Still no activity from the Gate that I can see--”
“--some kind of stealth, or invisibility?”
Everyone else, even the two Airmen who were stationed there for security, was staring out at the Gate, and the crowd of confused men who had been about to capture the intruder. The same intruder who was staring at Daniel with wide eyes, looking just as startled by what had happened as he was. Deciding that the situation called for something more thought out than simply grabbing her, he gave her a small, hopefully reassuring smile.
She darted a look at the others, still talking tensely among themselves with their backs to both of them. Looking back at him, she let out a shallow, shuddering little breath before answering softly.
Daniel nodded back at her, hugely encouraged by that single word. Still keeping his voice down, he kept going.
“So... did you misdial your Gate, or touch a sort of mirror thing set in a block of stone, or...?* * * * *
She had no
idea what he was talking about, but he was cute.
Like, insanely, boyishly, bookishly cute, in a way that made her heart trip and stumble as it tried to decide if it was still beating fast because she was scared, or because she’d found a young, dreamy version of Giles, round glasses and all. Um... I think it’s because of the cute, because I’m not scared. Okay, not
as scared. That thing that happened, where I was out there and then I was in here, with only that weird --SNAP-- feeling in between... that was
me! I did that!
She knew what the Donut did, now. It changed the world, or maybe the space where the world was sitting. Only in a small way, or maybe it was big, but happening off on the planes where only magic or energy existed. Either way, it altered things in a very specific way, that somehow meshed perfectly with Dawn’s Keyness. She’d already had the power to unlock doors and windows and any kind of safe or vault.
Now she could unlock distance
She knew she should still be scared; she was still didn’t know where she was or what she was going to do about this new Initiative she’d stumbled upon. She knew that, and she was scared, a little. But, all the same, it was hard to be too worried when that vast lake of crystalline power was there, thrumming silently and pressing so reassuringly close all around her. And that blink, that snap
that had let her move from one place to another, it had been so easy
Also, the guy in front of her seemed kind, and had a nice voice, and was ridiculously cute.
She wondered if she could talk him out of working for the bad guys. After all, Buffy had managed to bring Riley around, and had gotten in some fun dating and even funner sex along the way. Looking at the ‘prettier than Giles ever
was’ person before her, Dawn decided that seducing handsome men away from evil government organizations was a Summers tradition she would be happy to uphold.* * * * *
The girl stared at him for several long seconds, saying nothing but growing visibly calmer all the same, which was more than he’d dare hope. On the other hand, her remarkable blue-green eyes were now regarding him in an odd, speculative way that he found faintly disturbing. Inspecting her in return, he found that a wealth of details besides her eye color were apparent at this range, and he quickly began taking mental notes:
Her clothing looked to be machine-made; the pale cream dress ending at mid-thigh, and showing a great deal of very shapely leg. Her arms were more modestly covered, but glimpses of the girl’s extremely pale skin were visible through the sleeves of pale, tight-fitting lace. She wore dangling earrings of dark gold, as well as lipstick, eyeshadow, and what seemed to be a faint dusting of glitter everywhere else.. Her hair was very long, falling all the way to her tailbone, and it was a spectacular cascade of waves and highlights. There was a lot of pride, and loving, obsessive care wrapped up in that hair, something he saw far more often on Earth than in offworld cultures. In point of fact, this girl’s demeanor and mode of dress very much resembled that of his older niece, Jessica, all dressed up for a date with her boyfriend. She was even wearing black ankle boots, complete with high heels that were around three inches tall.
The sound jolted him out of his contemplation of the girl, and she gave a start as well, whirling to face the others, the movement setting her long hair flying. He looked to where General Hammond and the others had finally noticed what was quietly happening behind them. Samantha was staring at the girl with frank amazement, and Jack was giving him a look that said ‘What are you doing
?’. Daniel shook his head to indicate ‘I have no idea’, and opened his mouth to urge the General to take a moment and try to diffuse the situation. He was too late; the other man was already speaking.
“Young lady, we have no wish to harm you, but you will
surrender yourself for questioning, or we will have no choice but to consider you a hostile!” He didn’t shout, and he didn’t bluster, but the hard, forceful tone of his voice made the girl flinch all the same. Two more Airmen came up the stairs into the room, pistols in hand, and their eyes went instantly to the girl. At Hammond’s gesture, all four of the security officers moved forward, weapons trained, ready to subdue her when they got within arm’s reach.
She looked at them, and even though she tried for an air of bravado, Daniel saw her lick her lips and swallow before speaking.
“Nope, don’t think so,” she said, and he had to give her points for the cocky tone; the strained tension in her voice was barely detectable. Then, having given her reply to Hammond’s ultimatum, her eyes narrowed in concentration for a bare instant and she vanished again.
This time nearly everyone saw both parts of it, the blink out and the blink in, with no interval between the two events, both of them marked by that ephemeral green flicker. The Airmen were the only ones facing the wrong way to see her appear ten feet behind them, standing at the top of the stairs. They whirled at the sound of her giggle, to find her smiling at them.
“Airmen--!” Hammond began, but they didn’t need further orders. They advanced on her again, slightly more quickly this time. The girl, who was looking more confident by the second, gave everyone a little wave, glanced down the stairs, and disappeared. From the room below there came a gleeful cry.
“This is so cool!
The Airmen charged down after her, leaving Jack, Samantha, Hammond and Daniel there to look at one another blankly.
Jack spoke up, deadpan:
happened.”* * * * *