Sam, for a woman who had spent the night asleep in an airplane after flying it for several hours, looked surprisingly refreshed. Of course, she still had to change into her dress uniform and freshen up a little, but after her poor night's sleep previously, it was good to feel rested.
This was due in no small part to Sam realizing that she still loved Jack, for all that she knew that it would never work out. She would probably continue to do so for some time, although she was sure she would eventually get over it.
But Sam couldn't dwell on that now, she had an eager (well, probably not really) bunch of Airmen to lecture.
Buffy, to her mild annoyance, was woken by a persistent beeping noise. She was sure that she hadn't set her alarm - Buffy distinctly remembered thinking that she would need some sleep, after - well, just after. Several afters, actually, although she had finally managed to convince herself and Riley that sleep was good.
Eventually, Buffy realised that it was the pager that Walsh had given her that was awakening her so damnably early. Which meant she should probably get over there. Which would mean getting herself out of bed, uncurling herself from around the still slumbering Riley (although what soldier didn't wake up from an alarm? Buffy supposed that, given that he wasn't a Slayer, Riley probably needed more sleep than she did).
About a minute later, Buffy actually managed to muster the willpower to get up, thinking as she did so that she would never manage to survive the strict discipline of a soldier. She could barely cope with the small doses of training she allowed Giles to heap upon her occasionally.
Riley stirred, then woke with a start. However, seeing a half-naked Buffy dressing herself quickly was a pleasant enough awakening that he didn't feel alarmed. "Must you get up?" he asked a little plaintively, hoping that they might be able to spend a little more time together.
Buffy, for a change, was business-like. She might grumble about her duties, but she was never one to shirk them. She ignored the part of her that sounded suspiciously like Giles calling her a hypocrite. "No, the Initiative calls, and I must answer." she said, a little pompously.
Riley got the message though. Having frequently been called away from things he'd rather be doing by some emergency HST hunt, he could sympathize with Buffy, although that didn't mean he liked it.
Not that it mattered in the slightest whether Riley liked the situation or not, because Buffy had already gone. She was afraid that if she stayed any longer, Riley just might tempt her back into bed.
However, Riley didn't see it that way. He saw it as Buffy running out on him without even a goodbye kiss. He sighed, and got dressed slowly, thinking about the night he'd just had and hoping that it wasn't a one off.
Willow too was just awakening, in a blissful state. It took her a moment to realize that she was in Oz's room, a moment longer to realize that Oz was nestled into her shoulder, and yet another moment before she remembered that Oz had left her.
Well, apparently he was back again now. And Willow didn't really know how to take the fact that she'd welcomed him back with open arms. She certainly hadn't planned for it to wind up that way.
Moreover, Willow didn't know what to do. She knew she had to make some kind of a decision, and she knew that, despite the week of leave that Hammond had given her, she would have to make the choice sooner than that, because Willow was fairly certain that if she didn't make a conscious choice, she would end up making one arbitrarily.
So Willow lay there, in Oz's bed, with Oz lying against her, wondering whether or not she had a future with a diminutive werewolf, or if she belonged out amongst the stars.
Sam's lecture went by much as she had expected - so few were interested in theoretical astrophysics, and indeed why would they be when they could be out flying or something? Sam could understand that, she'd been through it herself. Although the motivational speech she had given at the end might awaken some passion from the cadets.
What Sam hadn't expected was for a tiny cadet (although, given that Buffy was several times stronger than she was, and a couple of inches shorter than Cadet Hailey, as her tag proclaimed, Sam was fully aware that height wasn't everything) to point out an error in the complex equation she had written out on the whiteboard, one which had completely passed her by.
The cadet intrigued Sam, and she thought it might just be a good idea to have a little chat with General Kerrigan about her. After all, if the SGC could recruit Willow, who was of an age with Hailey, why not at least check out the background of Hailey too?
"You're sending me out to hunt raccoons
" asked Buffy incredulously, having just heard the first solo assignment Walsh had given her.
"No, our machines are reading a Class 4 HST. Although, admittedly, they have occasionally turned out to be raccoons, it’s true." Walsh answered, holding back a sigh. She handed Buffy a high-tech Taser (of course, it didn't work. What would be the point of sending someone to their death with a functioning weapon?) and equipping her with something similar to the buttonhole camera/heart rate monitor Walsh had secretly installed on Riley's uniform (just so she knew if Buffy died or not.)
Of course, Buffy didn't know that she was being sent to get death. She just thought she was on a routine demon hunt - albeit one that might well be a raccoon. Buffy idly wondered if there were any demonic raccoons. She resolved to ask Giles when she got back. She headed jauntily into the sewers.
Walsh watched her leave for, if all went according to plan, the last time.
"General Kerrigan, sir, I wondered if I might ask you something." Sam asked the man who had been running the Academy back when she had passed through it.
"Go ahead." Kerrigan said, happy to oblige the woman who had been his star pupil.
"There was a cadet, Cadet Hailey, who corrected an equation in my lecture that I had written wrongly and hadn't even noticed. I'd like to know a bit more about her, sir." Sam replied.
"You want to recruit her for whatever you're doing under Cheyenne Mountain, I assume? Deep Space Radar Telemetry, isn't it?" Kerrigan said wryly.
Sam grimaced briefly, knowing that for anyone who actually knew the people involved the Stargate program, thinking that they were working on Deep Space Radar Telemetry was absurd. Sam was surprised that the Airforce hadn't managed to come up with a better cover story. "Something like that sir, yes."
"Well, if you were to imagine yourself but with an attitude problem, you might just get Jennifer Hailey. She's brilliant - her SAT's were even higher than yours - but she came here for a challenge, and she isn't getting one. She doesn't do the assignments, or writes what she thinks they should be instead. She argues, she gets into fights. And, as of shortly after your lecture, she is no longer our problem." Kerrigan stated matter-of-factly.
"Why? What happened?" Sam queried. She didn't want a person with that much potential to slip away. After all, even though they had recruited Willow at 18, that didn't mean they'd start recruiting everyone at that age, but in a few years Hailey could be a valuable asset.
"She got into a fight with a fellow classmate. Apparently he insulted her height. Hailey broke his nose." Kerrigan answered, a slight hint of amusement colouring his voice. "But I have no choice but to let her go after that.
"I'd like to speak to her, sir." said Sam on the spur of the moment. She wasn't keen on letting Hailey go.
Kerrigan smiled. "I was hoping you might say that."
Oz awoke to find himself next to Willow, who had her eyes closed and her forehead furrowed. Oz could tell that she was thinking, though, and not asleep. He was mildly surprised to see that Willow was still there at all.
Oz swung out of bed to get dressed, saying "Morning." as he did so.
Willow didn't answer for a couple of minutes, and Oz started to wonder whether he had been wrong and Willow was asleep. Then her eyes fluttered open, and she said "Hi there." She was still deep in thought, though, if her expression was anything to go by. "Oz, there's something I wanted to tell you." Willow said with obvious reluctance.Here we go
thought Oz. He had known that this was coming. He pre-empted her declaration by saying. "Actually, there was something that I wanted to say to you, too."
Willow was surprised, and also filled with a mild dread. She suddenly didn't want to know what Oz was about to say. Still, Willow gestured for him to speak, then got up and started getting dressed.
Oz hesitated for a moment as he struggled to find the right words for something he really didn't want to say. "I don't think we're going to work out, Will. I love you, but I don't. Maybe if I'd come back earlier - maybe if I hadn't left at all - then we might've done. But I did, and now that I'm back I can see that you've already gone. So... I think I'm going to leave again. So you don't have to tell me what you were going to say."
"That wasn't what I was going to say." Willow said blankly, what Oz had just said not having sunken in yet. "I was going to say that we shouldn't do this again until after I've decided whether to stay in Sunnydale or go back to the SGC."
Oz blinked. "Oh." he said, because, really, there's nothing else that could be said.
"But if you want to break up with me - again
- then go right ahead." Willow said in calm a voice as she could muster, although she had to admit that the effect was spoiled by her feeling as though, once again, she was falling apart. Oz had to see that, surely? Willow ran out, hoping to find Buffy.
However, Oz's declaration, as unwelcome as it was, made Willow's choice that much easier. She realised that it wasn't a choice between Sunnydale and the SGC, not really. It was a choice between Oz and Daniel. And Willow had only one choice left.
Buffy, at that very moment, was having a whale of a time. Assuming, of course, that whales enjoyed being in small, dark, stinky sewers. Which was unlikely, but who knew what whales liked these days. Still, at least Buffy knew that she was nearing the spot where, just maybe, she might find her journey was wasted and she had only found a raccoon. Would that mean that she was having a raccoon of a time?
However, these inane thoughts passed right out of Buffy's head when she rounded a corner which led into a rather larger, dead end section of sewer. However, it was probably larger than it seemed, because a great deal of it was filled by two demons that were definitely not, on in any way, raccoons. In fact, Buffy thought with mental alarm bells going off, they looked suspiciously like those big green demons that she had seen being operated on in the Initiative.
Buffy, never afraid of running away - who could be, really? Surely one would be afraid of what one was running away from? - turned to leave, but a portcullis dropped over the entrance, leaving Buffy trapped. Now she was positive that this was a trap.
One of the big green demons, holding an enormous axe in one hand, strode towards Buffy. She tried to shoot it with the Taser Walsh had given her, but wasn't unduly surprised to find that it didn’t work, just fizzled in her hand and gave her a mild shock.
Buffy tossed it aside before stepping in close to the axe-wielding demon - careful to keep it between herself and the second one - so that it couldn't effectively use its axe. Then she pounded on its arm as fast as she could, looking for the nerve cluster that would make it drop the weapon. Buffy quickly found it, sweeping up the weapon before it hit the ground, but didn't get a chance to use it before it kicked her across the room. She had heard something snap when it had kicked her, but Buffy was so full of adrenalin that she didn't notice any pain.
Buffy bounced back up, walked over to the demon and swept aside its flailing arms, then swung the axe diagonally upwards to that it shouldn't have to cut through the demon's rib cage much before ripping through its heart. Unfortunately, the demon seemed to have a longer ribcage than a human, so although the axe's momentum and Buffy's Slayer strength was enough to kill the demon, she wouldn't be getting the axe back out of it any time soon.
However, now that one was down, the second demon, previously hampered by the small room and its comrade, was now free to come at Buffy. And Buffy, now aching from being slammed against a wall and unarmed, wasn't any too keen on the fight. Fortunately, Buffy spied the still-sparking Taser and a pool of water (and suddenly she was glad the fight was in the sewers) and ran at the demon, slamming into it - the demon, in its surprise, didn't offer much resistance - and pushing it back until it reached the pool. Then Buffy kicked the Taser at the demon, who promptly and rather amusingly went into spasms when the Taser hit the water, making bolts of electricity arc through the demon.
The second demon now dead, Buffy checked her chest for signs of injury, but found that the thing that had cracked was only the heartbeat monitor and camera Walsh had given her. She hoped it wasn't too damaged to do what she wanted to do with it.
Walsh had been watching Buffy's escapade on the screens in the Initiative, and was alarmed when both camera and heartbeat had gone. Fortunately, she'd managed to get camera back shortly, although it only showed blackness, with gave credence to the lack of heartbeat.
Then Riley came along, and for a second Walsh felt guilty. But only for a second. "Agent Finn, I'm so sorry, it's Buffy. She went by herself - she brushed off all attempts to convince her to bring a team - and she's dead, Riley. I'm so sorry."
Riley's face was horrific to see.
Then the screen behind Walsh flickered to life, and Buffy's face appeared on it. It seemed as though the camera had slipped behind her jacket, which was why Walsh hadn't been able to see anything, and obviously the heartbeat monitor was malfunctioning.
"They definitely weren't raccoons, Professor. If you want to kill me, you'll have to do better than that." Buffy said in a glacial voice, then crushed the camera.
Riley took one look at Walsh, and Walsh quailed. Then he turned on his heel and left. Walsh shouted after him, but Riley didn't turn around.
Walsh, as she always did when things weren't going as she wanted them to - which was considerably more than she would've liked - went to visit 314. Or Adam, as she had taken to calling him. He was nearly finished now, they could awaken him at any time.
Walsh talked to him as she put the finishing touches on some paperwork, then felt an agonizing pain in her chest. She looked down shortly before she died, to see a bone skewer sticking right through her. At least she died not knowing that it was her own creation, her Frankenstein's monster, which had killed her.
Buffy headed to Riley's room to tell him what had happened, and Riley headed to Buffy's for the same reason. By coincidence or fate, they met half way, and after babbling incoherently at each other decided to go back to Riley's to talk.
However, the only talking they managed was on the way there, because waiting in Riley's room was a thunderous looking Forrest. "Did you kill the Professor?" Forrest asked bluntly.
Riley looked taken aback. "No, of course not. You mean she's dead."
"Yes. There's no trace of the killer. We just thought that you both seemed angry when you stormed out earlier..." Forrest said. He knew Riley better than anyone, and he was sure that he wasn't lying.
So who killed Walsh?
Sam was just about to see Cadet Hailey when she got a text. She was sure that no one would text her now unless it was urgent, so she whisked out her phone. It was from Willow:Walsh tried to kill Buffy. Walsh is now dead, but we don't know who killed her. Or what. Can you get back soon?
"Okay" said Sam to herself "time for a change of plan."