The 9th Chevron
A BtVS/SG-1 Crossover
Author/Feedback to: Martin A. Nantus (email@example.com)
Summary: Buffy and Dawn vanish, and Willow turns to the SGC for help
Disclaimer 1: All publicly recognizable characters and places from the TV show Stargate SG-1 are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions.
Disclaimer 2: All publicly recognizable characters and places from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
Disclaimer 3: This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Archive: Yes please! Anywhere you want, just let me know where.
Continuity Note: For the Buffyverse, this story takes place between the episodes 'Same Time, Same Place' and 'Help'. In the Stargate SG-1 timeline, it occurs shortly after the episode 'Orpheus' and before 'Revisions'. Some spoilers exist for both shows before and after these points.
Final Note: Huge thanks to my beta readers, my wife Sheryl and my good friend Sara. The story is only as good as it is because of their efforts, but the bad Latin translations are mine alone. On with the story!
"Ha!" Dawn Summers exclaimed as she swung her sword, neatly severing the head from the neck of the vampire in front of her. "Nothing left but the building blocks for future dust-bunnies!" Dawn smiled, pleased that she'd managed to finish off this one by herself. She didn't even expect to find any vampires at all tonight on patrol, otherwise would her sister have actually asked her to come along?
Plus, with Willow's witchy powers and Xander's overprotective self also along with them that night she figured even if they did see any of the evil undead that haunted Sunnydale's night, she wouldn't get near them.
Therefore her mix of surprise and trepidation at them spotting three vampires at the entrance to Xander's construction site at the new High School was perfectly understandable.
Even more so when combined with the sight of the fourth demon that was with them. A sickly green color, with piercing red eyes and sharp teeth. Despite having two human looking arms, it was covered in long spikes like some kind of mutant cactus/fern combination, and floated above the ground of all things. And oh yeah, it seemed to be able to throw lightning from it's hands, as a burst of energy flung the gates open in front of them.
Buffy had directed Xander, Willow and herself to pick one vamp each, and help each other as they finished with their respective opponents. Buffy herself would handle the big floating fiend, and was worried the four of them were out to open the Hellmouth or something else equally annoying.
Dawn looked around for Xander and Willow, trying to see if either of them needed help with their respective vampire dancing partners. She turned her head and couldn't immediately see anyone. But she did hear someone shouting.
"Dawn! Get down!" Buffy Summers, Slayer, yelled at her sister as she threw herself at the teenager. Her sister, former "key" and of late somewhat more mature woman, had left herself open to an attack from behind by the demon Buffy herself was fighting. This forced her to take a defensive posture and save her own sister from harm.
"What do you---OOOFFF!" Dawn exclaimed in an outrush of breath as she fell to the ground. Dropping her sword from her grasp as Buffy landed on top of her and the static sizzle of the lightning-like energy beam the demon was capable of throwing about cut through the air overhead.
Both sisters' hair stood on end due to the static electricity in the air that marked the passage of the bolt above them. "Now you've done it!" Buffy yelled at the monster that remained, "My hairdo is completely ruined!"
"Don't worry Buffy!" Xander shouted from off to her left. "I've got you covered!" With that, he let fly with a bolt from the crossbow he held in front of him. The projectile moved with great speed, and accuracy that Xander himself was rather proud of, towards the head of the demon floating in front of them.
Unfortunately, the bolt found no new home in the demon, as a crackling of energy from around it incinerated the missile before it came in close. And now, it's eyes glowing a deep red, the demon turned towards the sometimes-carpenter, sometimes-demon slayer.
Somehow, Xander didn't think it was to congratulate him on the shot.
"Um, a little help here?" Xander choked out as he pulled the drawstring of the crossbow back in an attempt to reload it quickly.
"I've got it Xander!" Xander, Buffy and Dawn looked towards the sound of Willow's voice. She was using her powers to levitate a loop of copper wire through the air, coiling one end towards the demon, the other in the opposite direction. With a gesture, the redheaded Wicca caused one end of the wire to wrap around the demon's arm, and the other to wrap around the metal anchor bolts of one of the construction trailers.
The floating demon started to emit a long, piercing wail as energy flowed all around him and down the wire into the ground. Sparks flew, and the air filled with the smell of ozone and melting metal. All four of them shielded their eyes against the glare, until the light died down with the sound of a thud as the demon hit the ground.
"Way to go Willow!" Buffy shouted as she helped her sister back onto her feet. "Like I always said, your witch-fu is the best!"
"Thanks." Willow replied blushing slightly. "I figured that if it could generate electricity and float then it probably didn't want to be in contact with the ground."
"I knew I should've paid more attention in science class." Buffy embraced her friend of so many years, feeling her wince as she did so.
"Oh Willow!" Buffy exclaimed apologetically as she backed slightly away. "I'm sorry, I forgot completely about the bandages."
"Its alright Buff. It's not as bad as it was, thanks to you." Willow could still feel part of Buffy's strength, freely given by the slayer to help her heal coursing through her. She was still knitting her skin back together after having a demon try and flay it all off of her, slowly of course, in order to eat it. If that wasn't bad enough, the thought of anyone, especially her, being flayed alive really didn't bring up good feelings.
"Are you sure? I mean, the Gnarl demon did give you a pretty deep wound before..." Buffy started to say, but Willow cut her off by raising her hand.
"No Buffy, it's fine. A little twinge, nothing else."
"Well, I have to say, you didn't have any trouble using the magik here." Buffy smiled at her friend, not letting the uneasiness she was feeling at seeing Willow use her magic so soon after returning from England.
"No, just simple levitation." Willow said. "You know I've been floating pencils for a while, this isn't any different. That's how I got rid of the vamp I was fighting first. I levitated the stake you gave me into him."
"Way to go Wills." Xander piped in. "I figured you'd find a flamboyant way to handle that vamp."
"Which brings up a good point," Dawn interjected. "Just how did you finish your vampire off Xander?"
"Well, I don't like to brag, but I finished him off in a style befitting my own idiom." Xander made his usual grin as he said this, which only caused the three women to stare at him expectantly.
"Ok, ok.." He said defeated. "I was going to shoot him with the crossbow, but he lunged and tackled me too soon. But we landed on the scrap woodpile and while we wrestled around he must've gotten impaled on a piece. My heart was in the right place though."
"And luckily, so was the vampire's." Buffy said laughing, which caused all of them to start giggling. So much so that none of them noticed the big green demon start to stir until it had reared back up with a roar.
Buffy reacted quickly. Not giving time for the demon to become airborne again, she leapt towards its head, swinging her broadsword over her head as she did so.
The demon's head split, and black sticky goo came out of the wound as Buffy connected with all the power of her leap focused at the edge of her blade. The demon fell backwards, but she didn't stop her attack. Landing feet first on its chest, she began to twirl the sword in cris-cross motions over the demon's torso. Making deep cuts with each strike, the demon shuddered briefly and then collapsed entirely, making no more movements.
Buffy jumped down off the chest of the huge beast. "Had to move fast, didn't want it to float off again and start with the lightshow. I couldn't reach anything vital before while it was floating."
"I think you got everything vital it had." Dawn looked at the mess of the creature on the ground. "I wonder what it is? I'll have to look this up at the Demons Reference website."
Xander smiled. "Our little Dawny. Future Watcher."
"I can save you some time in that regard little girl." All four of the Scooby Gang turned to look in the direction of the voice they'd heard. A shape seemed to melt out of the shadows just beyond the security lights.
"This type of demon is called a Zarrk. Well, that's the slang term anyway." The speaker came completely into the light, revealing him as humanoid, but most certainly not human. With the small horns protruding from the sides of his head, the yellow glowing eyes and of course the large fangs, human was definitely not the species of origin for this being.
He took a deep bow, the purple cloak he wore billowed around him, almost like a living thing itself. "Please, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mallot."
Buffy took a step forward to place herself between this new creature and her sister and friends. "Your pet then?" she asked.
"Oh, not a pet as you'd use the term." Mallot smiled, baring his fangs as he did so. "More a test subject. A lab rat if you will."
"An experiment? For what?"
Mallot seemed taken back that Buffy would even ask this question. "Why, to see if you had what it took to compete in the game, of course."
"Game?" Buffy didn't know what game Mallot was speaking of, but if she could keep him talking until she could get a sword slash at his neck, she might not need to find out. She didn't know if that would kill him or not, but it tended to kill most things she fought.
"Yes, you see, I run a private little dimension. I hold games there." Mallot raised his hand and pointed at Buffy. "You Slayer, are to be the guest of honor at the next one. Oh, what am I saying? You're to be the prey."
"Sorry, my taste in games runs more towards Trouble actually." Buffy said launching herself towards Mallot in a great running leap.
Mallot gestured, and the air in front of him seemed to shimmer, almost thicken. Buffy was reminded of the spell Willow cast to slow down Glory, just before she was repelled away from him and landed in the dirt at her sister's feet.
"Buffy!" Dawn helped her sister back up to her feet.
Xander raised his now finally loaded crossbow up to take aim at the creature, but doubted his bolt would reach through the spell "Will, you got anything that can get us a clear shot at this guy?"
"I, I don't..." Willow paused, seeming to her friends to be almost on the verge of one of her patented babble-fests. She knew the counter-spell for the shielding effect Mallot had placed around himself. She was pretty sure she could not only cast that, but then be able to hit him with something offensive shortly afterwards.
But to do so would mean tapping more power. More than just floating some wood or a length of cable would use. 'Could I do that?' She thought. 'Should I do that? I don't trust what would happen if I lose control of it again.'
"Mustn't tarry Slayer," Mallot said leering. "You've got paying customers waiting."
Mallot gestured to a point above them, and a purple colored light began to swirl around in a circle. Within a second, a huge funnel seemed to form out of the energy, which crackled loudly, and made a sound like the roaring of a locomotive.
But worst of all was that it seemed to be pulling everyone, and anything that wasn't tied down, towards it. The body of the Zarrk demon that Buffy had killed was pulled up and into it, to disappear when it reached the apex. All four of the Scoobs began to lose their footing as the pull became worse.
"Everyone grab something!" Buffy yelled and plunged the sword she still carried into the ground up to the hilt. She put a death grip onto the pommel, even as her body floated towards the pull, her feet towards the vortex.
Xander grabbed hold of the cable Willow had attached to the Zarrk's arm, as it was still attached to the anchor bolt of the construction trailer. His crossbow, now forgotten in his haste to grab the cable, flew upwards toward the funnel. Willow grabbed onto his arm, and he helped her get her other hand on the cable as well. But soon both were flapping like flags towards the vortex, just like Buffy was.
Dawn attempted to mimic her sister's action, and drive her sword into the ground. But either she wasn't strong enough, or the point hit a rock beneath the surface. The blade deflected, and spun out of her hand and up into the vortex and out of sight. She started to follow right behind it, drawn by the increasing and irresistible pull from the swirling energy mass.
"Buffy! Help!" Dawn flailed out for her sister's hand, but missed it as she tumbled past her. She grabbed onto Buffy's pants leg, but before Buffy could try and reach down to pull her back, she slipped off and up into the vortex.
Shrieking, Dawn disappeared down the funnel.
"Dawn!" Buffy yelled back over her shoulder, watching as her sister vanished before her eyes. "Don't worry, I'm coming!"
Buffy let go of the sword, and was immediately pulled up into the vortex. As soon as she vanished into the apex with a flash of light, the vortex stopped moving and collapsed in on itself, vanishing from sight.
By that time, Willow and Xander had been pulled almost to the length of the cable into the air. They returned to the ground immediately as gravity reasserted its hold on them without the interference of the vortex force. With a loud thud and a groan, the two friends realized the vortex had closed.
"Wow, that was some ride. Definitely an 'E' ticket." Xander said as he helped Willow up. "Everyone else OK?"
"I'm fine Xander." Willow replied, brushing the dirt off of herself. "Buffy, Dawn, are you guys ok?"
When they didn't get an answer, both Willow and Xander looked around. But what they saw only confirmed what they feared.
They were alone.
Which meant Dawn and Buffy were with the demon Mallot, wherever that might be.
Buffy felt herself seeming to stretch, like she was being pulled through one of those machines that make taffy. She had the sensation of being back at the construction site, and also elsewhere at the same time.
Then it was like she was falling down a long tunnel made of sparkling light, tumbling end over end as she did. Gaining speed, it seemed like she was going to fall forever and ever.
But abruptly it was over in less time than she was sure passed. She fell from another vortex on her back onto a squishy mass. Buffy watched as the vortex above her vanished from sight.
Looking around, she realized what she landed on. The body of the Zarrk demon that she'd slain, still oozing black goo from the various wounds she'd inflicted on it.
"Ew!" Buffy yelped and jumped up off of the body. "That is just a disturbing sensation." Buffy looked around, and saw her sister lying on the ground not far away.
"Dawny!" Buffy ran over to her sister and cradled her in her arms. She was still breathing, which was a very good thing, but she was unconscious, which was not.
"Come on Dawn!" Buffy gently slapped her face. "Don't make me worry any more here. You're scaring me."
Buffy began to stroke her sister's hair. Ostensibly she told herself it was to check for any bumps that might indicate a concussion. But she had to admit it was mostly just to keep reassuring herself that her sister would be OK.
"B-Buffy?" Dawn said as her eyes fluttered open. "What happened? Where are we?"
"I'm not sure Dawn." Buffy looked around taking in the surroundings for the first time since they'd arrived. Wherever it was they'd arrived.
The sky was purple. That was new. The ground seemed to be volcanic rock of some kind, black and glassy in color. Stunted dark gray plants struggled to grow in the soil. Dark foreboding mountains could be seen in the far distance.
"I'm going to go with 'not on earth' for now." Buffy stood up with her sister, making sure she was steady before releasing her shoulders.
"That demon, Mallot, he said he ran a dimension. Could we be there?" Dawn asked.
"An astute observation young lady." Buffy and Dawn both turned to see Mallot, still wearing his purple cloak, standing on a small hill near them. "Welcome to my domain, and to the game of course."
Buffy and Dawn both turned to look up at the creature. "Let my sister go. You only wanted me."
"I am sorry dear Slayer." Mallot answered. "But once you're here the game is started. I'm afraid your sister is just one of your disadvantages now. Or advantage, depending on how you play I suppose."
"And just what is this game supposed to be?" Dawn asked.
"Ah, that's the fun thing." Mallot seemed to bob up and down in glee. "You see, your sister is a vampire slayer. But she really hasn't killed any vampires and.."
Buffy interrupted Mallot's ranting explanation. "Excuse me? Not killed any vampires? Maybe you haven't been watching me closely."
"Yes, perhaps I mis-spoke." Mallot paused as if searching for the right word. "You've killed no true vampires. Only human bodies possessed by their essence."
"I thought that's what a vampire was."
"To you perhaps. But to us of a more pure heritage, these," Mallot raised his arms, and figures began to move around from behind the hill. "Are true vampires."
The creatures were stocky, moving like great apes as they came around into view. Their faces were covered with thick spikes, and their hands ended in huge sharp claws. The fangs each creature possessed made even the most dentally challenged vamp that Buffy had encountered seem like he had an underbite.
"These are the Vantal, they are the demons that possess the bodies of what you call vampires. They cannot manifest like this in your dimension."
The creatures stood in front of Buffy and Dawn. She counted 30 total of them, all staring at them with their yellow eyes.
"Certain others want to see how you'll handle yourself against these." Mallot looked pleased with himself. "That's what the game is about."
"Us against them, with no weapons?" Buffy asked. "It seems I'm at a disadvantage already."
"Not entirely true." Mallot pointed behind them. "Look."
There on the ground was Dawn's sword and the crossbow Xander had been using. Buffy walked over and picked them up. The crossbow still had 11 bolts with it, only the one Xander had fired was missing.
But if the crossbow was here, where was Xander?
"Where are my other friends?" Buffy asked, handing the crossbow to her sister and hefting the sword herself.
"No one else here but us." Mallot answered. "They weren't brought in. If it's any consolation to you, they aren't here."
Buffy smiled. If Willow wasn't here, then she would surely be working on a way to get Dawn and herself out of wherever they were.
"Now, the rules." Mallot clapped his hands, and the rank of 30 demons came to attention in front of the hill. "Survive. Fairly simple, isn't it? If you two live and all 30 of these demons are killed, you win. If not, well then I figure you know what will happen. A few others and myself will be watching, but not interfering in the game."
"So what, we just mix it up here and now?" Buffy moved into a fighting stance, the sword held in front of her. Dawn loaded the crossbow and aimed at one of the demons in front of them.
"If you want." Mallot pointed towards the distant mountains, "But I thought you might want a head start. I advise you run."
Buffy and Dawn took off running as fast as they could towards the direction Mallot indicated. Buffy knew that might be a trap, but with no other information, it was as good a direction as any other.
Mallot watched until the two girls were just out of sight. "I never said how long a head start it would be. To the hunt!"
The thirty demons howled and began their pursuit.
Willow Rosenberg was one very unhappy Wicca. Her net search had confirmed that the name of the lightning throwing demon was in fact a Zarrk, but had turned up nothing on the creature calling itself Mallot. She was just busying herself anyway, as she already had information, but needed Xander to return with a book from the Magic Box before she could go any further.
'Thank the Goddess Xander insisted we call Giles.' Willow thought. She ran over the conversation she'd had with Buffy's former Watcher, and of late her sort of mentor in the mystic arts.
They'd called Giles in England and informed him of the situation with Buffy and the creature called Mallot. After a series of "Good Lord's" and "Oh Dear's" from Giles, he'd said he'd be off to contact the Coven in Devon about it to see if they had any useful information after he checked his books. An hour later he'd called back:
"Ok Giles, you're on the speaker phone." Willow said as she put the receiver back into its cradle. This way Xander would be able to hear Giles and she wouldn't have to explain everything to him again.
"Um, can you both hear me ok?" Giles' British accent sounded even further away through the small speaker, but was indeed intelligible.
"We can hear you fine G-man." Xander answered. "Do you have any info on what happened to Buffy and Dawn? Because we're coming up zip here."
"Yes, actually, I do have some useful information." Willow and Xander both leaned closer to the phone to hear Giles words.
"The Coven had some more esoteric texts that referred to Mallot as.....um..the 'Great Games-man'. Apparently he takes warriors and puts them in nearly unwinnable situations to see what will happen at the behest of powers that are greater than he is. So he could carry out this amusement for them, they set him up with his own dimension so that the games couldn't be interrupted. Normally, Mallot and those he designates are the only ones that can enter or leave his realm."
"So Buffy and Dawn are stuck there?" Willow seemed panicked. "We can't get them out? But what did you mean by 'normally'?"
"Well, that's the interesting thing." Giles responded, Willow and Xander could hear the sound of shifting paper over the phone as Giles turned pages in a book.
"It seems that at one time a sorceress used a special ritual to obtain access to Mallot's dimension in order to rescue a warrior she was in love with. This was back during the days of the Assyrian Empire of course. The text goes on 'With the ritual that now bears her name, great Elmyria used the Ring of the Gods to breech the walls between realms and rescue her love. After returning, the mighty Chappa'ai was again sealed and buried beneath the shifting sands of time.'"
"Nice." Xander said. "Now just tell me where these shifting sands are, and I'll dig us up one spiffy piece of jewelry. Then we'll go kick some demon keister and rescue Buffy and Dawn."
"It won't be that easy Xander." Willow and Xander could both almost see Giles clean his glasses as he spoke. "It could be any desert, anywhere in the world, and that's only if we interpret the text's reference to sand literally."
"So we're stuck again." Willow thought she was going to start to cry.
"No, not really." Giles spoke up from England.
"How about you give us all the details up front G-man." Xander said annoyed. "Instead of the emotional roller-coaster of the piecemeal approach."
"Um yes, sorry." Giles continued. "But I actually do have something on the whereabouts of the Ring of the Gods. One of the members of the Coven was a Sergeant in the SAS during World War 2. He remembers an artifact being turned over to the United States Army after the hostilities were over. A large ring that matches the drawing in our texts here."
"So the U.S. Government has this thing somewhere next to the Ark of the Covenant?" Xander asked.
"Well, if what our friend here says is true. He also seems convinced that they kept Hitler's brain alive in a jar after the war too."
"Ah, a classic." Xander smirked at Willow, in an attempt to get her to smile, but it didn't work.
"Giles, can you send me everything you have on this artifact?" Willow asked. "I know it's a lot to ask you but if you could hurry the process by maybe scanning and E-mailing them?"
"I already thought of that Willow." Giles said. Willow smiled, remembering that her former teacher was a bit of a technophobe, and probably would spend more time yelling at the computer than using it.
"I've already had the pertinent pages scanned in by our friends here in Devon. You should already have the files in your E-mail." Giles sounded pleased, and Willow was relieved the information was already on the way.
"Thank you Giles."
"You'll need the ritual." Giles continued. "Luckily for you, the book you need is still at the Magic Box."
"Um, Giles," Willow stammered out. "The magic texts at the Magic Box aren't, well, magical much any more." Willow hung her head, remembering how she'd destroyed all the books on Giles' "special shelves" when she took their power in her desire for vengeance for Tara's death.
Xander reached over and put his arm around his oldest, and dearest friend. He could tell that she was thinking over bad memories.
"Ah yes, of course," Giles said, stammering just as much as Willow had. "But this book wasn't with those ones. It was with the older, but still safe for general consumption books on the shop floor. It should be there still Willow. Go ask Anya for the Tome of Elmyria, she should know where it is."
Willow looked at Xander, who was already up and on his feet. "I'm off!" he exclaimed and ran out the door.
"Thank you again Giles." Willow said, feeling some relief now that they might have a chance at getting Buffy and Dawn back. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate that you were able to find all you have so quickly."
"I'm just glad that the texts here reminded me of the Tome at the shop. You should find more detail on Mallot's dimension in there as well as the ritual for opening the portal."
"We still have the matter of this ring." Willow said, standing and beginning to pace. "Its not like we know where it is or even if it exits. And sure, maybe the Government has it but maybe they don't because the one person who remembers seeing it is the same guy who thinks Hitler's brain is floating around in a jar of goo in the same Government lab and that's not really much to go on and....."
"Willow!" Giles yelled over the phone to break her out of the babble fit she was starting to fall into. "I'm sure you'll think of something. If you want, I can catch the next available flight to Sunnydale."
Willow wanted Giles to come over and help. She desperately wanted him to come and make sure she didn't screw up again and try and, oh say, destroy the world again. But she also knew she had to find a way to help Buffy and Dawn herself. Buffy never gave up on her, even while she was trying to kill the Slayer. Willow wasn't, couldn't, give up on Buffy now.
"No Giles," She finally said. "If we can't find this ring, or the Tome has been destroyed at the Magic Box, then we just have to wait and see if Buffy can beat whatever game Mallot has. That's our only other option."
"Yes, I suppose you're right. Do keep me posted?"
"Count on it."
Willow exchanged goodbyes with Giles and then hung up the phone.
That was an hour ago. She'd downloaded the files sent from the Coven and looked at the pictures of the "Ring of the Gods". Not jewelry, that's for sure. Very big, very old, just the sort of thing someone in the Government might take if they could. But how to find it, that was the question. She started thinking about a plan while surfing for more information when Xander finally returned to the Summers house.
"I got it!" Xander yelled while he held up an impressively thick book that it took both his hands to hold.
"Did you have any trouble getting Anya to part with it?" She asked.
"Not really." Xander replied. "She only glared at me a little. I think she's softening."
Willow smiled, glad that at least some mending was being done between the former lovers. Even if one of them was a full fledged demon again.
And idea occurred to Willow. "I wonder if Anya can get into Mallot's dimension? With her demon teleporting thing, maybe she could take us there?"
"I already asked her that while we were looking for this book." Xander flopped down on the couch. "She's apparently in big trouble with D'Hoffryn again for not being creative in the vengeance. Plus, even if she wanted to help, she says Mallot's dimension is open only to those who have a stake in the game."
Willow thumbed through the Tome that Xander brought with him. It told the story of the sorceress and contained the ritual involved in using the Ring of the Gods to open the portal to Mallot's dimension. The book itself was in a form of Sanskrit, but the symbols for the ritual were different. Similar to a demon language that Giles taught her, she could make out most of it.
"It's at times like this I wish the Initiative was still around." Xander said. You need something from the Government, you ask the local Government stooges I always say."
Willow looked at Xander and smiled. "Xander! That's it!"
"It is?" He asked.
Willow ran over to the dining room table and her laptop. "I have to write an E-mail. I just hope they get it soon."
Samantha Finn flopped down onto the bunk she shared with her husband with a resounding thud. She was bone-tired to the core, but that was to be expected considering they just got back from a 15 hour long slog through the jungle after taking out a nest of Quagra demons.
She was looking forward to a little downtime from patrolling with Riley and the rest of their squad. Getting rid of the demons roaming around Central America killing people like her old Peace Corps group did give her a good feeling. Though, she admitted, not as good as spending some time with the man she loved.
Getting up to go out to the camps so-called "field shower facilities", a grandiose name for a wooden stall and a bucket with holes in you had to provide your own water for, she decided to check her E-mail first.
Sam booted up the laptop while checking the connection to the satellite phone that provided her link to the outside world. "Leave it to the Government to think of everything." She thought.
Bringing up her E-mail program, Sam activated the encryption/decryption software that would decode the messages in her box before displaying the text on her screen. Even here deep in the jungle on a mission no one would believe was happening, the Government's paranoia about security still ran deep.
A quick look at the messages revealed quite a bit of spam "Why do they forward this stuff through?" She complained deleting it. But stopped when she noticed a message marked with high importance from Willow Rosenberg.
Sam thought back to that brief visit to Sunnydale the previous year when they'd been on the trail of some demon eggs that were going to be sold on the open market by a shadowy figure known as "the Doctor". The "Doctor" turned out to be a vampire named Spike looking for a little extra cash, and the matter was closed by her husband and the legendary Vampire Slayer herself.
It was during that visit that she had not only met Buffy, the Chosen One, but Willow Rosenberg, one-time witch and computer hacker. Sam was greatly impressed with Willow's efforts in kicking her addiction to magic, especially after seeing what such addiction had done to several shamans who worked with their group of commandoes.
She and Willow had exchanged E-mail addresses, and had corresponded periodically over the intervening time. Sam hadn't gotten an E-mail from Willow in the last few months, and was beginning to wonder what was wrong. She quickly opened the message to find out:
SUBJ: HELP NEEDED!
I'm sorry I haven't written in a while, much personal stuff. But I need a huge favor, and I don't know of anyone else that can help.
Buffy and Dawn have both been pulled into another dimension by a demon named Mallot. The dimension he pulled them into can only be reached by certain rituals and spells, which require a focus of huge power in order to create a portal.
I've been in contact with Buffy's former Watcher (you remember I told you about Giles?) and he says an artifact called "The Ring of the Gods" is about the only thing that can be used to open a portal to a dimension this far off. The demon can come and go as he pleases. Long story.
Please find attached to this message a scan of the "ring" from one of Giles' books. He says it's also referred to occasionally in texts as a "Chappa'ai". He has reason to believe that the Government may have, or know the whereabouts of, this artifact.
If you can do anything to help, please hurry.
Sam pulled up the attachment, and studied the sketch closely. It appeared to be a ring, with symbols inscribed upon it. Reading Willow's note, she expected it to be an actual ring. Like the kind you wear on your finger. But if the human figure in the drawing was to add scale, this "ring" was almost 20 feet in diameter.
"So, what are you looking at?" Sam jumped at hearing the sound of her husband's voice behind her. Sometimes after a mission, he forgot to turn the whole 'stealth' thing off, and one of these days she was going to make him regret that.
"A message from Willow. There's a problem and she needs help." Sam minimized the picture and brought the message up again so Riley could read it.
Riley read the brief message, a look of concern spreading across his face, then pulled the picture back up. "Do you know what this is?" He asked her.
"No, do you?"
"Maybe." Riley rubbed his chin in thought. "You know how it is in black ops. You hear rumors of every other black project. Most of them are just that, stories. Hell, most of the time even your op is just a story."
"So what do I tell Willow?" Sam looked at him with an anxious expression. "That we can't help?"
"No." Riley swung the laptop over so he could use the keyboard. "I'm going to forward this on to someone I know. They owe me a favor, and they know what part Willow and Buffy played in fixing he whole mess with Adam and the Initiative. Maybe they can help."
Riley typed a few sentences onto Willow's note and forwarded it on. "Don't send anything back to Willow." He said. "If they can help, they'll be in touch with her directly. If they can't..." Riley just let the sentence hang in the air.
Sam put her hand on his shoulder. She knew he had feelings for the blonde Slayer, even if she knew his feelings for her were greater. Hopefully his friend could help.
Colonel Jack O'Neill walked towards the SGC conference room with a lilt in his step. The next planet SG-1 was supposed to survey, P3X-929, seemed to be completely devoid of human habitation, had no signs of Goa'uld presence, and most importantly the climate and conditions of a Caribbean island.
He therefore fully intended to ask General Hammond to allow SG-1 to make an in-depth survey of the area surrounding the gate to look for any signs of past habitation. No matter how small. It shouldn't take more than 3 days.
Now he only had to figure out how to hide a volleyball and net on the supply F.R.E.D. they'd be taking with them.
Jack strolled into the conference room to find the rest of his team already assembled around the meeting table.
Daniel Jackson, archeologist and linguist was sitting in his usual place. Pouring over pictures of artifacts found at a site SG-7 had just reported and working on what Jack was sure was his fourth cup of coffee thus far today, and it was only 0830. Hopefully Daniel wouldn't be too wired to go through the entire meeting. Sometimes his friend tended to be a huge pain in the ass during these sorts of things. But Jack had to admit, however begrudgingly, that Daniel was usually right.
Major Samantha Carter, his second in command of SG-1, was going over maps made by the UAV that had been launched through the gate to P3X-929. Jack knew she was already planning out the route that their team should take that would provide the best opportunities for any scientific inquiry. Efficient as always, and that was one of the things he admired about his teammate. His mind started to think of some of the other things he admired about Carter, but he stopped himself before they became too inappropriate.
Teal'c, Jack saw was also already present, making him the last one to arrive again. This also made him by default late to the meeting, even if General Hammond wasn't there yet. Teal'c sat stoically, as usual, at his place along the large conference table. He inclined his head in a nod in greeting as he noted Jack's arrival. Jack was always grateful for the help the former Jaffa had been to the SGC. Both for his knowledge of the Goa'uld and for the friendship that had forged between the four of them.
"Good morning campers!" Jack said cheerfully as he plopped down into his chair near the head of the table. "Everyone ready for our next excursion?"
"As ready as we can be, Sir." Sam answered. "But I don't see why we're going to this planet at all. I don't see any signs of technology within a 3 days hike of the gate. Not exactly a place of interest."
"I agree." Daniel spoke up. "I'd expect there to be a settlement, or at least the ruins of a settlement, within that distance of the gate. There are no signs of any such construction, not even the outlines of foundations."
"Ah, but you're overlooking the most important factor of this mission." Jack said smiling.
"And what is that O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, raising his eyebrow in inquiry.
"That there are no signs of civilization or technology!" Jack said spreading his hands out as if offering the answer to his team. "There's nothing to do except relax on a perfectly pristine beach for 3, maybe 4 days if we can talk Hammond into it. It'd be a nice break, and I think you'd all agree we could use it."
"But Sir," Sam asked, "shouldn't we be looking for signs of the Ancient's lost city? We can't afford to be wasting time with Anubis out there."
"Indeed," agreed Teal'c, "it would seem most foolish to waste time on this planet when Anubis is already working on recovering from his setback on Kelowna."
"Also," Daniel spoke up, "lets not forget that Baal is pressing his advantage against the other System Lords right now as well. And that is kind of our fault."
"Hey, these are all good points." Jack replied. "But lets not forget that we've been putting the hurt on Baal lately, what with breaking up his Jaffa slave labor camp and blowing up that perfectly good battleship and all. Plus, all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy."
Jack could tell that at least Daniel was about to say something in response, but everyone went quiet as General Hammond walked into the conference room. The SGC commander sat in the chair at the head of the conference table, and nodded greetings to each member of SG-1.
"General," the Colonel began, "SG-1 is ready to proceed to P3X-929 as soon as you give the word." O'Neill figured that no one else would contradict the need for the mission if General Hammond told them to go. Then he could actually get some time to relax, and maybe, just maybe, Carter would wear that stomach revealing t-shirt again. After all, it was warm there and all.
"Actually Colonel, I'm assigning the recon on P3X-929 to SG-8." Hammond replied. "An important matter has come through channels to my desk, and I may need SG-1's involvement on it."
Jack looked over at Carter and Daniel, and could see the smiles already breaking out on their faces.
"Good." Jack replied, trying not to sound disappointed. "We were all just saying that there didn't seem to be anything of much interest at P3X-929 and we were wondering if there was anything more important we could do."
Sam and Daniel couldn't resist smiling now. Even Teal'c raised an eyebrow at the quick backpedal in opinion O'Neill had done.
"We've received a request, both through the NID and the Pentagon, to allow access by a Ms. Willow Rosenberg, to what she calls the 'Ring of the Gods'" The General explained.
"You mean the Stargate?" Daniel asked.
"We have heard the Stargate referred to in that manner before." Teal'c said. "Most recently on P3X-744."
Sam nodded in agreement with Teal'c's statement. The people of P3X-744, or Tangrea as they called their world, knew nothing of their world's Stargate except for the myth in which it was referred to by the same name. It also reminded her that she was due to return to the stranded Prometheus in a few weeks.
"This is coming from the NID and Pentagon?" Jack asked. "Those two don't normally play nice together." Jack looked around at his fellow teammates and noticed that Daniel seemed to be lost in thought about something.
"I agree Colonel, it is most unusual." Hammond continued. "But apparently a request has been forwarded to this command to entertain the suggestion of allowing Ms. Rosenberg to utilize the Stargate."
"Utilize the Stargate for what exactly?" Sam asked.
"Well," Hammond began hesitantly. "That's just it. You see, according to what I've been told, Ms Rosenberg is a, well, she's a..."
"She's a witch." Daniel finished the General's sentence almost absently. "A Wiccan to be more exact."
Everyone turned to look at the archeologist.
"That's right." General Hammond said, surprised. "Do you know this young lady Dr. Jackson?"
"No." Daniel replied. "At least I don't think I do. I recognized the name from somewhere though, and when I thought about it the connection to witchcraft came up."
"And you don't know how you know this?" Sam asked. Daniel shook his head in reply.
"DanielJackson, could this be another memory from the time you were ascended?" Teal'c asked.
"I suppose that's possible." Daniel said in response. "I seem to vaguely recall being told about her, but I can't remember by who or when."
"Let me get this straight," Jack said. "An Ascended Being told you about a witch named Willow?"
"I guess so." Daniel said.
"Things must really be boring on those higher planes of existence then." Jack said.
"Irregardless of how Dr. Jackson knows about Ms. Rosenberg," General Hammond continued, "we've been asked to entertain the suggestion of allowing her gate access to perform some kind of ritual."
"What kind of ritual?" Sam asked. "She's not going to dance naked around the gate is she?"
"As interesting a picture as that might be," Jack said before the General could answer, "I'd like to know how this person has the clout required to even get a request like this to the SGC."
General Hammond produced a set of file folders, each marked with a 'Top Secret' stamp and handed one to each member of SG-1.
"Apparently, Ms. Rosenberg was one of the people instrumental to the successful resolution of a project that went horribly wrong." General Hammond explained. "These files explain the details of a project called 'Initiative', the goal of which was to..." General Hammed paused as he found the relevant portion of the file. "Contain and exploit for military use the capabilities of Hostile Sub-Terrestrials or HSTs."
"Sub-Terrestrials?" Jack asked. "You mean like CHUDs?"
Teal'c looked at Jack quizzically. "Chuds?"
"It's a bad movie." Jack replied. "Zombies that live underground and eat people, it's a classic."
"I believe I shall stay with Star Wars O'Neill." Teal'c answered. This drew a smile from all the members of SG-1, and General Hammond as well.
"It does seem to indicate that members of the science staff thought the HSTs were, well, demons." Daniel said, looking over the files.
"Demons?" Sam asked, smirking. "There's no such thing."
Daniel turned to the portion of the file he was reading and took out several pictures. He looked at each and then put them down on the table for the others to look at. One showed a creature the size of a gorilla and just as furry with huge fangs and vestigial horns. Another showed something that could only be called a werewolf, as the huge dog-like monster was bipedal. A third picture showed two views of a man. On one side of the photo, he seemed perfectly normal, on the other his face was somehow changed. A large bone ridge had appeared over the eyebrows and forehead, the eyes had changed shape and color, the jaw and teeth had mutated to form fangs.
The fourth picture Dr. Jackson took out of the file showed a squirming mass of tentacles that defied explanation.
"Well," Daniel said, "If they're not demons, they're certainly very close."
"Maybe they're some species of alien." Sam offered as way of explanation.
"Then they are of a species I have never encountered." Teal'c said.
"That's not all." Jack pulled a schematic from the file he was reading. "This look at all familiar Carter?"
Jack handed his second in command the technical diagram he had removed from the folder. It showed some kind of rifle, which used large capacitor storage cells to produce a concentrated electron beam. Something about the shape of the emitter seemed familiar to her.
"My God!" She exclaimed. "This, 'Taser Rifle' as they're calling it, was reverse engineered from a zat-gun!"
Daniel took the schematic and looked it over. "It doesn't look like a zat to me."
"No, not in overall appearance." Sam replied, pointing at the various parts of the weapon. "But if you look here and here, it's the same type of configuration for the beam emitter as a zat uses, and if the energy cells weren't so bulky it would be about the same size as one."
"That's exactly what I was thinking Carter." Jack said. All eyes turned to the Colonel, because everyone in SG-1 knew that he wasn't the most technically literate person on the base.
"Mainly because that's exactly what it says on this part of the design specification." Jack waved the paper in question in explanation.
"So there's a tentative link between the SGC and this Initiative project?" Daniel asked.
"Very tentative." General Hammond said. "Basically, they'd been given access to some of the technology that the SGC has recovered."
"So what exactly did this Willow Rosenberg do that helped the project so much?" Jack asked.
Teal'c seemed to have the pertinent file as regarded the answer to the Colonel's question. "She helped destroy its objective creation." Teal'c said. "It would seem the scientists assigned to this project constructed a creature they could not control. WillowRosenberg was one of the people who defeated it, and helped evacuate the Initiative base."
"Now that we're all a bit more familiar with what went on," General Hammond said, "I think we should bring in Ms. Rosenberg and her friend Mr. Harris to hear their proposal."
"Mr. Harris?" Sam had been leafing through the file that Teal'c had previously read. "Here it is, Xander Harris, he was one of the people that helped with the end of the Initiative. Along with a Buffy Summers and a Rupert Giles."
"Now that name, I do recognize." Daniel said. "I knew a Rupert Giles, he was curator at the British Museum."
Jack took the file from his 2IC and looked it over. "These people are all civilians on top of this mystical mumbo jumbo?" He said, frustration beginning to show. "How did civilians get involved with at top secret project anyway?"
"Why don't we ask them." General Hammond said and then looked over to the Security Police Lieutenant standing near the door. "Lieutenant, please show them in."
Willow didn't know exactly what to expect after sending off her E-mail to Samantha Finn. She didn't even know if the wife of Buffy's ex-boyfriend would be willing, let alone able, to help them.
Her surprise was quite genuine when 3 hours later a knock was heard at the door of the Summers residence. She didn't even notice the time that had passed between her sending of the E-mail and the knock, as she and Xander had been pouring over the instructions for the Ritual of Elmyria.
Xander opened the door to reveal an Air Force major who, once confirming their identities, asked them to gather whatever material they might need for the matter they'd E-mailed about and please come with him.
Willow gathered the Tome of Elmyria and her translation notes. Xander threw some weapons into a bag, complaining that he couldn't take the really big axes.
She asked about bringing Spike, but Xander pointed out that the vampire was still not entirely stable. Plus with not knowing where they were going, they couldn't guarantee they could keep him out of the daylight. She knew he didn't like him, but had to agree with his reasoning.
Saying they were ready, the Major showed them to a blue Air Force staff car, which had taken them to the airport outside Sunnydale. From there, they'd boarded a small Lear-Jet like military transport that took them to Colorado.
Another ride by staff car brought them to the NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain. The major took them through to a set of elevators and down at least ten stories.
They then signed in at a desk, and got on another elevator, which took them down another ten levels. The major showed them to a comfortable waiting room, and told them to sit and relax until someone came for them.
They'd waited there for half an hour, when a Lieutenant came in and asked them to follow him.
He led them down a hallway to a meeting room. Opening the door, he ushered them inside.
"Ms. Rosenberg," the man with the General's rank insignia said standing as the two people entered the room. "Mr. Harris, please come in and take a seat."
Xander and Willow took seats next to each other at the opposite end of the table from the people already seated. Willow looked over at them, all of them seemingly from the military, if their wearing of olive-drab or Air Force blue had anything to do with it.
"Please let me introduce Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson and Teal'c." Said the man in blue as each person either nodded or waved as they were introduced. "I'm General Hammond, I'm in charge of this facility. I've been given to understand we might be able to help you."
Willow took note of the fact no rank was mentioned for two of the individuals that had been introduced. Civilians then, but why were they here? And what was that gold mark on the man they called Teal'c's forehead?
"I hope so General." Xander said, taking his seat. "I'm assuming that if the Air Force took the time and money required to get us here that you folks have the Ring of the Gods."
"That depends," Colonel O'Neill said. "On what you think this 'Ring of the Gods' is, and what you need it for."
"Please," Willow began slowly before Xander could reply to the Colonel. "I know what I'm going to say isn't going so sound, well, sane. But you have to believe me that what I'm telling you is true."
"Please Ms. Rosenberg," General Hammond said. "Tell us what you want to say, we promise not to pass any judgment until you've finished."
"Please, call me Willow." She said. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Willow began to tell her story. She only hoped that she could convince the people present of the seriousness of the situation.
"I know it may not sound logical, but I need the Ring of the Gods to help a friend of mine and her sister. Buffy Summers, she's my best friend, and more importantly to the world, she's the Slayer."
"Slayer?" Daniel asked.
"Yes." Willow answered. "She's the chosen one, the one girl in all the world who.."
"Can stand against the vampires, the demons and the darkness." Daniel finished.
"You have got to stop finishing other people's sentences." Jack said, looking over at the archeologist. "I don't suppose you can tell us where that came from?"
"No, not really." Daniel said. "It's just that I seem to remember bits and pieces about Ms. Rosen-, sorry, Willow and her friends. I just can't remember from where." Daniel seemed lost in thought for a moment, then he turned to face Willow again. "We haven't met before, have we?"
"Not that I can recall Dr. Jackson." Willow answered. "I'm sure I'd have remembered it if I did."
"I don't mean to break into the conversation." Xander spoke up, "But Buffy and her sister Dawn have been taken somewhere, and only that Ring doodad can get us there."
"Taken where?" Sam asked. "Another planet?"
"No," Xander said. "They weren't taken by aliens, we're not crazy. They were taken by a demon to another dimension."
"Of course you're not crazy." Jack said.
"Please." Willow said. "It's true. Buffy and Dawn were taken to another dimension by a demon named Mallot. Our research found reference to an artifact called the Ring of the Gods, also it's called a Chappa'ai in some of these texts. A friend found reference to a specific rite, the ritual of Elmyria, that can use the Ring as a foci to open a portal to this demon's dimension."
Every member of the SGC in the room looked surprised when Willow referred to the gate as a Chappa'ai. Not many people knew the Goa'uld word for the Stargate. Jack looked at General Hammond, his expression clearly indicating that they should at least try to find out what these two people knew about the gate and the SGC. For all he knew, this was all part of some elaborate attempt by Senator Kinsey to discredit the entire program.
"All right." General Hammond said. "Lets assume that I can give you access to this Chappa'ai device. What do you intend to do."
Willow reached into the shoulder bag she had with her and pulled out the Tome of Elmyria. "I can use this to get the Ring to open the portal. The Ritual of Elmyria should allow us to make a breech between our dimension and Mallot's."
"Then we pop through and get our buds, come back and we're out of your hair." Xander said. "So to speak," noting the bald general.
"What do you mean by should?" Sam asked.
"Well, alternate dimensions don't stay in one place. Its kinda random in how the location fits together, sort of like hitting a scampering puppy with a thrown bumblebee." Willow explained. "But I'm really sure I can do this."
"Because you're a witch?" Jack asked.
"Yes, I am." Willow answered.
"If I throw a bucket of water on you, you aren't going to melt are you?" Jack asked.
"Jack," Daniel said before Willow could respond. "Remember that conversation we had a long time ago about respecting other people's belief systems?"
Jack nodded and leaned back in his chair. He smiled at Willow apologetically and said "Sorry."
"May I see that book?" Daniel asked.
Willow slid the book across the table to the archeologist. Daniel pushed his glasses up on his nose and began to leaf through the pages. He stopped at an illustration, and held it up to the others.
The picture showed the figure of a man standing at the base of a large circular device. Everyone in the SGC could recognize that device and the symbols on it by sight. The illustration was a very accurate depiction of the Stargate in the room beneath them.
"OK," Jack O'Neill began. "You're right, you wouldn't be here if we didn't have the Ring of the Gods, but we call it the Stargate."
Willow and Xander both sat up straight in their chairs and smiled. Willow thought it was more than they could hope for, if the Ring, Stargate, was here and they could use it! 'I've got a chance now!' She thought.
"However," General Hammond said. "We use the Stargate to travel to other planets, not dimensions. The furthest off we've been is to another galaxy."
"And even then it took ten times the normal power draw for the gate to take us there." Major Carter added. "I can't even conceive of how much power would be required to open another dimension. And that's if the Stargate is even theoretically able to do so."
"Do not forget MajorCarter," Teal'c said. "We have recovered several artifacts of the Ancients which indicate they possessed an interest in other dimensions. Perhaps they designed the Stargate to open paths to them as well."
Sam thought for a moment, remembering the machine they brought back from P9X-931 that made them all see huge insects that existed in a parallel dimension. "You might be right Teal'c," she said. "Plus, the Ancients themselves seem to dwell in some other dimension."
"I can kind of vouch for that." Daniel said, going back to leafing through the Tome of Elmyria.
"But it still will require an enormous amount of energy to do this." Sam pointed out. "How do you intend to generate it?"
"I'll generate it." Willow said. "By doing the ritual. My magic will make the Ring, your Stargate, form the dimensional portal we need."
"Your magic?" Jack asked. "Look, you should obviously know by now I don't believe that there's such a thing as magic. And I don't know what you've been reading about the Stargate in that book of yours, but without a set of coordinates, the gate can't take you anywhere. You've already said that you don't know exactly where you're going, so you can't possibly have any coordinates for the gate to lock onto..."
Daniel was vaguely aware of Jack ranting about magic not being real, and his objections to Willow doing the ritual with the Stargate. He however, was very engrossed with the book Willow had brought with her.
It seemed to be the history of this sorceress named Elmyria, written out in Sanskrit. The story was of mythic proportion, and fit several other quest rescue tales he'd read in other cultures. Though he admitted the woman saving the man angle in this one was unique for a story of that time period.
Then he turned to the pages that contained the Ritual themselves and his breath caught in his throat. Unlike the rest of the book, this part wasn't written in Sanskrit. It was written in the same language the Ancients used, only an even older dialect than he'd ever seen before.
As with the stone tablet that referred to the Ancients lost city, Daniel found he could almost instinctively read the text. But what intrigued him more was that some of these symbols had additional meanings.
"...so there's no reason we should let you even try this so-called spell on the gate!" Jack finished.
"I think we should let her try the Ritual." Daniel said looking up from the book.
"Or sure, we could let her try the Ritual." Jack said, then turned to look at Daniel. "Daniel, why are we letting her try this Ritual on the gate?"
Daniel placed the book containing the ritual on the table so everyone could see the passages in the Ancient's text. "The text is in a very old dialect of the Ancient's," he said. "Also, some of these characters aren't just words, they have a mathematical equivalent."
"So this is some kind of equation?" Sam asked.
"Essentially yes," he replied. "Can you read this?" he asked Willow.
"Darn tootin I can!" Willow said enthusiastically.
"Colonel," General Hammond said. "Unless you can give me any reason to the contrary, I'm inclined to at least let Ms. Rosenberg attempt this. Especially if it might lead to the discovery of new gate capabilities."
Jack O'Neill sat for a moment with his hand over his mouth in thought. He was never one to believe in magic or any other sort of mumbo jumbo. He couldn't even stand to watch the David Copperfield specials when they were on TV. Perhaps that was why he and Daniel occasionally clashed over the meaning mythology had on some of the cultures they'd encountered.
But, he had to admit Willow did seem to believe she could actually do what she said she could. Her friend Xander also seem convinced she could as well. Of course, they could both be crazy.
"You're not going to dance around the gate naked are you?" He asked Willow.
"Not unless you've got some kind of regulation requiring it." Willow said smiling.
Jack turned to his 2IC, "Carter?"
"No sir," she replied. "I don't believe there is such a regulation."
Jack sighed loudly at the joke Carter made at his expense. But it did bring a smile to his face. And quite frankly, the vision of the Major prancing around the gate room in much less than standard uniform.
"No Carter," he said rubbing his eyes. "I meant, do you have any objections to this ritual of Elvira?"
"Elmyria." Willow and Daniel said almost simultaneously.
"Whatever." Jack said dismissively.
"I think we should at least let her try." Sam said.
"I also believe WillowRosenberg should be allowed to attempt this." Teal'c said. "If she can show the Stargate to be capable of what she believes, it could be an important strategic advantage."
"All right then," Jack turned to General Hammond. "Let's let her try."
"Very well then," General Hammond said, standing up from the table. "Ms. Rosenberg, you have a go."
It seemed to Buffy like they'd been running forever. As soon as they were out of sight of Mallot and the Vantal, she and Dawn heard a blood-curdling cry that they knew had to be the Vantal starting their pursuit.
Things deteriorated rapidly after that.
The first Vantal found them, still running, about 2 minutes later. It was alone, but amazingly fast. It leapt from behind and landed in front of the two running women. This placed the Vantal too close for Buffy's comfort to Dawn. Expecting the Vantal to come from behind, she'd held back and allowed Dawn to take the lead as they moved.
This now put Dawn as the closest target for the Vantal to attack.
Dawn stopped as quickly as she could. She started to raise the crossbow up to fire it, but the Vantal was far too fast. Before she could even attempt to roughly aim the weapon, the demon threw itself at her, slashing with its claws in an effort to open her throat.
To avoid the attack, or possibly just because she'd slipped, Dawn fell backwards onto the ground, and the Vantal ended up lunging over her, towards Buffy. The Slayer didn't even stop the momentum of her run, but brought the sword she carried up and thrust it forward into the demon's head.
The point of the blade caught the Vantal right in the forehead. A spray of greenish fluid that passed for the creature's blood spewed out briefly, and the monster twitched slightly and was still. Buffy pulled the blade out of the Vantal's skull and let the body fall to the ground.
"I guess they're not a tough as Mallot would like us to believe." Dawn commented as she got up from the ground and dusted herself off.
"That seemed too easy though, didn't it?" Buffy asked. She'd expected that the huge creatures would be more difficult to kill than an average vampire if they were the demon that animated the corpses.
But this one went down without a whimper after being stabbed in the head. 'All the way through the head, true,' Buffy thought. 'But that wouldn't kill a regular vampire, so...'
As if to confirm her train of thought, the Vantal leaped back up from where it lay and lunged at her. Buffy rolled backwards, catching the demon in the stomach with her foot to flip it over her and stun it by having it land hard on it's back.
'Stupid! I should've severed the head just to be sure!' Buffy's inner voice chastised her as she flipped herself up to a standing position. By that time, the demon had regained it's footing and was attempting a lunge again.
Buffy countered by sweeping the sword in an arc in front of her. She managed to catch the Vantal in the throat, but while the deep gash left a river of the greenish ichor that passed for the monster's blood streaming down the front of the creature, it did not kill it, though it staggered in place.
Seeing she hadn't severed the head, Buffy swung the sword back through the same arc, but in the opposite direction. Holding it with both hands like a baseball bat, and putting all her Slayer strength into the blow, the head of the Vantal demon severed neatly from the neck.
As she'd seen countless times before, the body of the demon decomposed into dust like any other vampire she'd slain. The only difference being that the Vantal seemed to disintegrate into something thicker than dust, almost like potting soil.
"Ok, we know that much now," Buffy ran some of the material that used to be her opponent through her fingers. "These guys are tough, but die just like any other vampire."
"So we know how to kill them." Dawn said. "Stake through the heart, fire, and as you demonstrated, decapitation." She looked up into the purple sky above them. "Do you think we could try waiting for daylight?"
Buffy turned as she heard howling from over the hill. Perhaps the other Vantal could sense that this one had been killed, and were homing in on them.
"We don't know that this isn't the daytime here." Buffy said as she began to run again, pulling her sister with her. "Besides, the rules regarding sunlight and vampires might not be in effect here."
"At least we're not as bad off weapon wise now." Dawn said with some difficulty as they started to gain speed again. "I've got two stakes and some Holy Water with me."
"I've got Mr. Pointy and another stake as well." Buffy mentioned as she glanced back over her shoulder. She could see three more of the Vantal creatures cresting the hill in the distance. They had a good head start on them however, and should be able to keep it if Dawn didn't collapse.
"Buffy!" Dawn came to a halt and yelled for her sister as two of the Vantal appeared in front of them. They seemed to leap right out of the ground and advance on them.
Buffy came to a stop and brought her sword up in a defensive stance, waiting to see which one of the demons would make the first move. Dawn decided not to wait, and made the move by shooting at the Vantal to their left with the crossbow and managed to catch it dead center in the heart.
As with the demon Buffy had previously decapitated, this one also disintegrated into a thick dust. His companion wasn't deterred however, and leapt at the Slayer.
Buffy was caught slightly off guard. She quite frankly hadn't expected her sister to recover as fast as she did. Let alone to fire as quickly and accurately as she had, Buffy was actually quite proud of her sister right then.
But, she expected to be attacked by the demon Dawn had just eliminated, and so had to shift her balance towards the remaining Vantal.
And this moment of being off balance was all the Vantal needed to sense.
Roaring and leaping it swiped at Buffy with its talons. The first swipe missed, but the second cut several deep gouges into the Slayer's side. Buffy yelped in pain as the demon landed on its feet and turned to face its now wounded opponent.
Buffy took her hand away from the wound the Vantal had inflicted and it came away sticky and wet with her own blood. Not that she needed to see her hand to know for sure, she could tell she had a deep wound. Not only because she could feel it, but because the satisfied look on the Vantal's face confirmed it.
Glancing to her side, she saw her sister was desperately trying to get the crossbow pulled back and reloaded. She couldn't give the demon time to either press its advantage on her or leap at Dawn. So, she did what no one in her situation would do.
She attacked the Vantal head on.
The look of surprise on the demon's face as she leap-kicked it in the midsection was almost worth the pain tearing up her side from her wound the leap caused. The Vantal was obviously not counting on what it considered a crippling blow not keeping Buffy from attacking.
That she had just done so threw the creature into a state of momentary shock. Buffy pressed the advantage of that by throwing a series of punches to the creature's face. But while these were effective in stunning the demon and hurting it further, the spikes on the monster's face were tearing up her hands.
Deciding to finish it, she brought the sword up over her head in a stroke she meant to decapitate the Vantal with. But the initial shock of the furious onslaught the Slayer made had passed, and the demon struck back with equal furor.
The Vantal caught Buffy across the face with a backhanded fist. The strength of the blow sent the Slayer flying backwards through the air. Buffy saw spots in front of her vision as she came to rest on her side and skidded a bit across the volcanic earth.
The demon began to advance on Buffy, but stopped and howled when a crossbow bolt that Dawn fired hit him in the side. She'd tried to get to the heart, but at that angle had to take what she could get.
Buffy threw herself forward and brought herself off the ground while bringing her sword forward to stab deep into the Vantal's stomach. She withdrew the sword and the creature fell to its knees holding the deep gut wound the Slayer had just inflicted on it.
Spinning the sword around in her hand, Buffy plunged it backward through the demon's neck through its spine and out the front of the throat. She then levered it sideways, and with a grinding sound the Vantal's head separated from the body. Both parts silently turned to thickened ash shortly after.
Seeing her foe was defeated, Buffy fell to her knees, clasping her hand to her side where the Vantal had struck her.
"Buffy, let me see that." Dawn took her sister's hand away from the wound to see how bad it was. Buffy's side was marred by four deep marks the Vantal's claws had made. If they were anywhere else, she'd probably demand her sister go get stitches, Slayer healing or not.
"It'll be all right Dawn," Buffy said as much to convince herself as to convince her sister of the truthfulness of the statement. "I've had worse before."
Dawn took her light jacket off and removed her two stakes and the bottle of Holy Water from the pockets before turning the garment into a makeshift pressure bandage for her sister's side.
"We've got to find some way to hide from them now." Dawn commented as she tied the sleeves of the jacket on her sister's good side to keep pressure on the wound. "You can't run or fight with an injury like that."
"I can." Buffy answered truthfully, since she knew she could. "Just not as well as I could before I got it."
The two of them gathered up the weapons they'd dropped during their brief first-aid break. Buffy looked behind her to check on the progress of the Vantal she'd seen approaching from behind.
But they weren't anywhere in sight.
Instead of feeling relieved, she felt even more worried. She knew the Vantal were there, and since they weren't under attack at the moment, they had no reason to leave.
Where had they gone?
She was broken out of her thoughts by her sister yelling. "Buffy! Look at this!"
Buffy walked, painfully, towards the spot her sister was standing. As she approached, she could see what her sister was talking about. A large trench cut across the landscape in front of them. With the near featureless texture of the volcanic earth Mallot's dimension seemed to favor, one could walk right up to it and not notice until they were falling in that it was there at all.
Whether it was the remnant of a long dried up river or the result of some earthquake was a matter for debate. The point was, Buffy now knew how the Vantal got ahead of them without being seen.
"Those demons used this trench." She said to her sister. "They stayed out of sight by moving through here and we never knew about them being there. The ones we ran from were only diversions, herding us towards the trench line and the other Vantal!"
"But now we know about it right?" Dawn asked glancing up and down the seemingly deserted trench. "So they can't catch us in the open now, can they?"
Buffy jumped down into the trench and motioned Dawn to follow her in. "They won't if they can't see us either," she said. "We'll just move along this trench system ourselves and stay out of sight." Buffy could see that the trench made several branching turns ahead. With some luck they could use the trenches to stay out of sight of the demons until they could ambush them the way the Vantal had ambushed them.
"Do you think we can make it?" Dawn asked. "There's still so many of those demons out there."
"There's only twenty-seven left now." Buffy reminded her, smiling a predatory grin that struck fear into the unbeating hearts of the undead. "And even if we don't kill all of them, we just have to wait until Willow and Xander figure a way to get us out of here."
"You think they are?" Dawn asked as they cautiously continued their movement down the trench. "Do you think they can?"
Buffy looked back at her sister and didn't say anything, just nodding and motioning for her to be quiet. She went back to moving in front of Dawn down the trench line, stretching out with her heightened Slayer senses for any movement ahead of them.
She kept to herself the worry not that Willow wouldn't find a way to get them out of Mallot's dimension. But what doing so could do to her friend.
Willow fidgeted as Dr. Fraiser looked into her ears with a medical instrument. "Its standard procedure," the brunette doctor said. "All SG teams have to have a physical before they proceed through the gate."
"But this is wasting time!" Willow insisted forcefully. "I've read that Mallot's dimension doesn't have any temporal distortion between our own, but time is still of the essence here!"
"Temporal distortion?" Sam asked from where she stood beside Janet. "You mean that your friends may have traveled back in time?"
"No," Willow answered. "Some of the dimensions don't experience the flow of time like we do here. A few months might be a thousand years in some of them. But according to the Tome of Elmyria, Mallot's dimension is moving at the same rate as ours."
"Meaning that your friends have been there for about a day?" Sam said.
"Yes," Willow seemed even more agitated as Janet put a pressure cuff around her left arm. "But it's a day with not knowing what's going on!"
Willow didn't want to think about what it would mean if Mallot's dimension was like the one Angel was trapped in. The day that Buffy and Dawn were gone would have translated into decades. They wouldn't have had any chance to help them.
"Ok Willow," Janet said as she removed the cuff from the young girl's arm. "You're all done, I just need to look at the results quickly."
Sam smiled at Willow and then went over to the computer terminal that Janet was using. She gave Janet a look that obviously said, "well?"
The SGC Chief Medical Officer pulled up the results of the blood tests that Willow and Xander had been given. She turned to her friend and smiled.
"Completely normal." She said. "No sign of a Goa'uld infestation, no Naquadah in their blood, nothing abnormal at all. Other than that stomach wound our redheaded friend has, they both appear to be in perfect health."
"And perfectly human," Sam added. She knew the physical was standard procedure for first time gate travel, but she'd hoped that the exam would turn up exactly how Willow thought she could control the gate. She knew that Lya, the Nox that they knew, could cause the gate to open at will, without using a DHD. But neither Willow nor Xander seemed to have anything about them that would explain how they could utilize the gate without activating the dialing program.
"I know what you're doing." Both the women turned to look at Willow, still sitting on the examination table, rolling her sleeve back down. "You're looking for something to show how I'll be able to do what I'm saying I can. You have to trust me, I can do this."
'I think.' She silently added to herself.
Willow pushed her doubting voice down again. She had to do this. The Coven and Giles had faith in her that she could do it and she would.
Janet and Sam regarded the young woman intently for a few moments. "You really can do this, can't you?" Sam asked breaking the silence.
"I think I can, yes." Willow said, then continued more determinedly. "I have to. Buffy has saved me more times than I can count and I can't sit here and not do something to help her now."
"She must really be a special person to engender this kind of loyalty." Janet said as she made final notations on Willow's chart.
"Well, even if she wasn't the Slayer and saved lots of people every day on the Hellmouth, she still would be special." Willow replied.
"Hellmouth?" Janet asked. "What's that?"
"Ok, how do I explain Slayers and the Hellmouth to you two?" Willow took a deep breath, regarded the two women in front of her and began.
"So there are actual vampires?" Jack O'Neill couldn't keep the shocked sound out of his voice as he spoke with Xander. The two of them and Teal'c were talking in the far corner of the SGC med bay while Dr. Fraiser and Major Carter finished with Willow's examination.
They could see that the exam had finished, and the three of them were now discussing something. Jack figured it was probably the same subject he and Teal'c had been discussing with Xander already.
"Yeah," Xander replied to Jack's question. "I didn't believe it at first either. I still remember the first conversation I had with vampires in it. My main surprise; that I was actually having a conversation with vampires in it."
"And your friends BuffySummers and DawnSummers, are warriors charged with destroying these vampire creatures?" Teal'c asked, raising an eyebrow in a skeptic view.
"Dawn isn't charged with it." Xander said in response. "Just Buffy. She's the Slayer. Dawn, Willow and I, we're what Willow likes to call the Scooby gang. We help where we can."
"And what is the story with your friend Willow?" Jack asked.
Xander looked over at the three women talking animatedly together at the other side of the room. He guessed by the looks on their faces Willow had just dropped the vampire bombshell on them.
He turned back to Jack before answering. "Um, I thought you guys had a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy now?"
"What?" Jack questioned in a voice not very devoid of surprise as he'd meant it. Then as the realization of what Xander had meant dawned on him he continued. "Oh, no. Not... I mean, there's nothing wrong with.... That is... The witch thing. She actually can cast spells and such?"
"Oh yeah." Xander said while making an exasperated sigh. "She can cast spells all right. She's had a recent... Well, lets just say a setback, as far as her magic goes. But I'd trust Willow with my life. In fact, I frequently do. When she says she can open this portal and get us to Buffy and Dawn, I'm right there with her."
"And you, XanderHarris," Teal'c began. "Are you a man-witch?"
Xander smiled before replying. "The term, as I've been told, is 'warlock'. And no, I'm not. I'm just a carpenter that does what he can to help out his friends."
"Which can be quite a lot more than you'd expect sometimes." Willow said as the three women approached the men from their side of the room.
She sat down beside her oldest friend and put her arm around him. She'd heard what he'd said about trusting her, which was just what she needed to hear as her own doubt threatened to overwhelm her. 'Leave it to Xander to know what to say, even if he doesn't know he needs to.' She thought.
"They both check out fine Colonel." Janet said, handing the two charts to the SG-1 commander. "I've cleared them both for gate travel, but then this isn't going to be like any other gate trip we've done from here."
"Yeah," Jack looked at the small redhead again for what must have been the thousandth time and still couldn't believe she thought she could do what she said she could. But, if what Xander had said was true, then she probably could.
"I know you still have doubts Colonel." Willow said smiling. "But when you think about it, you guys appearing out of the gate at these planets you go to must seem pretty magical to the inhabitants there."
"That's true sir." Sam said, turning to her CO. "As Arthur C. Clarke once said, 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'"
Jack regarded his executive officer curiously. "Arthur C. Clarke?"
"Yes sir," Sam replied. "He was a science fiction writer who postulated the orbit around the earth our geosynchronous communications satellites orbit in."
"Well," Jack said smiling. "Far be it from me to turn a deaf ear to the fellow who made possible the daily miracles in my life which are ESPN and the Spice channel."
Sam grinned widely at Jack's joke, which truth be told was the effect he was going for. He loved to see Carter smile, though he'd never admit it to anyone else. Something about the way her eyes twinkled when she did made her so adorable.
Luckily, military discipline, and the sudden entrance of Daniel, derailed his train of thought before it sped all the way to 'don't go there' station.
Daniel sped into the medical bay carrying the Tome of Elmyria and Willow's translation notes. He stopped after almost bumping into Janet, since he was looking down at the notes as he walked. It was a habit he had that most of the SGC had learned to deal with by getting out of the doctor's way when he moved through the hallways.
"Sorry." He said to Janet, then took a quick step back when he noticed how close they were standing.
"Daniel?" Jack asked, tearing the archeologist's attention back to the other people in the room. "I take it you're finished with Ms. Rosenberg's book?"
"Oh, yes." Daniel handed the book and notes back to Willow. "You had everything translated correctly, at last as far as I could see."
Willow accepted the materials back from Daniel, who had graciously offered to make sure that she'd translated the text properly. Matters of grammar were very important when dealing with a spell of this magnitude.
"Thank you Dr. Jackson." Willow said as she put the book on her lap. "Now, if I could just see the Stargate for a bit before we start? I kinda need to get the vibe of it before I cast the spell and Xander and I go through."
Jack looked at the two young people in front of him. From what he'd gathered from his conversation with and impressions of both of them, the probability that they could actually pull off what they were talking about was pretty good.
Which of course would mean that two civilians would be going through the gate to who knows where with no means to defend themselves. Plus, two people were on the other side, in a definite hostile situation.
"OK." Jack said after he'd gathered his thoughts. "If you actually manage to pull this off, SG-1 will go through this portal you've opened and bring your friends back. You two stay here."
Willow regarded Colonel O'Neill and made eye contact with him. Putting on her best 'resolve face' she stood up and placed herself firmly in front of the man. She did her best to appear unintimidated by him, even if he was much taller than she was.
"Listen Colonel," she said as forcefully as she could. "Those are my friends, and this is my spell to cast. When, not if, I open this portal, Xander and I will be going through to help them. I will not compromise on this point."
Jack O'Neill couldn't believe that a small wisp of a girl was actually challenging him on a matter regarding the Stargate. He was so flabbergasted by that fact he actually couldn't think of anything to say. Everyone in the room seemed to be balancing on a knife's edge, waiting for him to explode and start yelling at the young lady.
Finally, it was Xander who broke the silence. "You might as well listen to her Colonel," he said, standing up from the exam table. "When she gets that look, she won't budge. She's a non-budger."
Jack regarded the young man, and then glanced over to Sam and the rest of SG-1. He knew they'd back whatever decision he made, but he also knew that if one of them were trapped on a planet somewhere, wouldn't he insist on going back for them? Hadn't he already done so in the past? Hadn't they for him?
Sighing loudly, Jack broke the stalemate with the young witch. "OK," he said relaxing himself visibly. "You two go through the portal. But SG-1 is coming with you." Turning to his teammates, and more specifically Sam Carter, he saw that all of them were satisfied in the decision he made.
Willow smiled and nodded to the Colonel. "Thank you Colonel."
"Please," he said smiling, "call me Jack."
"Now that that's settled." Daniel said, leading the way out of the room. "Let's show you the Ring of the Gods."
Daniel led the way down the hallway as the others followed. He took them from the medical bay to a large reinforced metal door with a huge '28' on it. As he took a security card from his shirt pocket, a klaxon began sounding and red lights started flashing.
"Incoming travelers!" Intoned the voice over the intercom. "Security detail to the Gate Room!"
"Well," Sam said to Willow and Xander. "It seems you get to see the whole show."
Daniel ran his security card through the reader and pushed a sequence on the keypad next to it. The large door opened up onto a scene that neither Willow nor Xander could quite believe.
There it was, the Ring of the Gods, at least as big, if not bigger, as the illustrations in the Tome said it was. The inner circle of the Stargate was filled with what looked like water, shimmering in the light. After watching for a few moments, they saw several men in camouflage fatigues step seemingly out of nowhere through the wavy distortion and walk down the ramp that led into the middle of the device.
After four men had come through the shimmering opening, it dissipated, popping like a soap bubble as the gate disengaged from whatever it was doing, and went dormant again.
Willow could only look on in a sort of slack jawed wonder. Xander summed up both their feelings with one word. "Spadoinkle!"
"This is called a G.D.O." Samantha Carter explained handing a small device with a keypad and straps on it to Xander. "We want you and Willow to have one in case you need to come back to the SGC through the gate at an earlier or later time than the rest of us."
Xander took the small plastic device from the Major, and began strapping it around his forearm. He had to roll up the sleeve of the olive drab military issue jumpsuit he'd been given to do so, and looked around the gate room as he did.
Since the return of what Xander found out was SG-12 through the Stargate, he, Willow and SG-1 had spent the last hour getting outfitted for the trip through the gate to Mallot's dimension.
"So how does this thing work?" He asked her as he rolled the sleeve back down to cover the device.
Sam displayed her own G.D.O. on her left wrist. "The G.D.O. sends a coded radio signal through the wormhole back here to the SGC," she explained. "It will let the control room know that a friendly person is coming through, and they'll open the iris so you can enter."
"And if they don't?" He looked at the iris as he asked, as it currently covered the gate.
"Then you go splat." Sam answered. "The iris sits right on the event horizon of the wormhole the gate makes. There won't be any room for you to reintegrate when you come out on this side."
"OK, so I'm paying lots more attention now than I ever did in school." Xander smiled and looked at Sam's G.D.O. again. "How do I turn it on?"
Sam grinned back at him in response to the goofy look he had on his face. "Just enter the activation code on the keypad and hit send. The code we'll be using for this trip is 8756903. Got that?"
Xander looked from Sam to the gate with it's closed iris and back before answering. "Believe me, it's burned into my mind."
Sam nodded and walked over to where the rest of SG-1 waited, watching Willow prepare for the casting of the Ritual of Elmyria.
"Ready to go Carter?" Jack asked as he handed her an MP-90 machine gun that matched the one he was carrying.
"Yes sir." Sam answered as she attached the weapon by its strap to her gear harness. "I'm confident he can get himself and Willow back though the gate if we need to send them ahead of us."
"That's good." Jack rocked back and forth on his heels, watching Willow as she sat kneeling at the foot of the ramp that led up to the Stargate. She had the large book she'd brought with her open in front of her, and she and Daniel were looking over the pages one last time.
Sam and Jack both turned as Teal'c entered the gate room. He was carrying a shoulder bag that he handed to Jack. "Here are the items you requested O'Neill."
"Thanks Teal'c." Jack took the bag and slung it over his head so the bag rested against his left side on his hip.
"'Items' sir?" Sam asked looking at the bag.
"Just a few things I had Teal'c take out of the armory." Jack said, patting the bag and smiling. "Don't worry, we probably won't even need them."
Sam was about to ask another question of her CO when Daniel came walking over to them. "She's ready when we are." He said taking a spot next to the rest of his teammates.
Xander walked over to Willow and gently touched her shoulder. "You OK to go Wills?" He asked with concern in his voice.
Willow looked up at her childhood friend and put her hand on top of his. "I'm fine Xander." She smiled gently at him and then turned to look at the control room above them. "I'm ready to start General."
"Very well Ms. Rosenberg." General Hammond said over the intercom into the gate room. "What do we need to do up here?"
"Nothing General." She said as she released Xander's hand. "Just open the iris and don't do anything to interfere with what the ritual will do to the gate."
"As you say." General Hammond looked at Sgt. Davis and the technician opened the iris on the Stargate.
Xander watched the metal barrier spin away from its place in front of the gate and smiled again at Willow. Picking up the broadsword he'd brought with him from Buffy's house, he went to stand next to SG-1 and let Willow do what Willow needed to do.
Willow took a deep cleansing breath. Her millionth one since coming into the Gate Room, she was sure. Just the way the folks at the Devon Coven taught her. 'Find your center.' She thought. 'Keep focus and you cannot lose the path.'
Willow lowered her head in one last look at the Tome of Elmyria and the translation notes she'd made. Then brought her head up and began the incantation.
"Validus copiae exaudio placitum mei! Translatum amplus una defluo mei."
With only this little amount of the spell started, a glow seemed to surround Willow, and a light breeze seemed to generate out of nowhere.
"Annuo vulgo mei, licet enim reperio est! Annuo celeritas licet enim volatilis sibimet!"
Small red spheres began to move around Willow. First only two, then those divided into four, the four into sixteen. All of them whirling around her rapidly.
Willow could feel the power surging around her. She could feel the magic beginning to suffuse her as it built up to be used. She could also feel something else. Something she didn't want to feel.
It felt good.
It felt good to be using the magic, this much magic, and channeling it.
"Genero porta hic ut enim agito inter mundis est!" She continued the incantation and moved her hands to make the signs and patterns the book called for.
'Feel it! Feel what its doing! It feels so good!' She pushed the voice in her head down.
"Genero iunctio in irritus! Fero tuli latum colligo inferi abiungo!"
'You don't have to use the power for this!' The voice taunted her. 'You can use it for whatever you want!'
Willow made several more gestures, the light breeze in the Gate Room became a raging wind. Colonel O'Neill had to grab his hat before it blew off his head. Several papers lying around on a table were swept up and scattered about. Anyone who doubted that magic existed had those doubts laid to rest, as a column of light appeared to surround Willow.
It happened so fast that no one could say if it came from somewhere above her and shown down, or if it radiated up from her. But once the column was present, the globes of light swirling around Willow started to move so fast they seemed to be constant lines drawn over the light like paint on a tube. Willow herself seemed to shine.
Xander watched as Willow cast her spell, the awe inspiring effects of the magic weren't lost on him, and as he could tell from the looks of surprise on everyone else's face it wasn't lost on anyone else. But one thing he noticed was his to notice the significance of alone.
Xander unconsciously tightened the grip on his sword as he noticed Willow's hair turning black.
'No!' The voice yelled. 'Don't use it to help others! Keep the power and help yourself!'
Willow concentrated. This was the most important part of the ritual, as she had to expend the power she'd summoned to open the portal to where Buffy was. If she didn't concentrate now, she could open a portal to any one of a multitude of Hell dimensions accidentally.
But the voice! It was so insistent. 'Remember how it felt to use the power for yourself!'
Willow thought to how good it felt when Rack used her own magic to make her feel like the voice wanted her to use the magic to feel again. How she didn't care that Tara had left her or that she was using the magic for things as simple as opening a jar of peanut butter.
She didn't have a care in the world when she was on the magiks. She didn't care that she put Dawn in danger or that she'd failed Buffy by doing so.
Just like she'd do if she gave in now.
'NO!' She yelled to the voice inside her. Drawing the energy she'd created around her she began the final part of the spell.
"Contineo novem itaque eximo impedimentum!"
The energy globes around Willow streaked off from their orbits around her and struck the Stargate. Each one left a small red glow as it contacted the metal of its surface, and then melded into it. The black that had appeared in her hair faded away, and the bright red color returned to her locks.
After the last globe struck, Willow concentrated, and prayed the spell would work. She spoke her final commands to the spell.
"Patefacio! Expositus! Directus!"
For several seconds nothing happened. Everyone stood around looking at each other as the wind that had swept the room died down to nothing more than that normally provided by the ventilation system.
"Well," Jack said looking at Sam. "I guess it didn't work."
"Sir, I.." Sam began, but was cut off by what happened next.
The Stargate began to move.
Slowly, almost as if it was being moved by hand the inner ring of the gate shuddered, and then began to fly around as if the gate was being dialed.
Jack looked up at General Hammond in the control room with a look on his face that clearly said: "Is this an incoming wormhole?"
General Hammond already had that thought himself, and had turned to ask that question to Sgt. Davis. "Is someone dialing the gate?"
"No sir," the Technical Sergeant replied. "The dialing program is running. This wormhole is outgoing."
The control room staff watched the virtual representation of the Stargate on the dialing computer monitor as one chevron after another was locked in place by the gate. After six were locked in place, everyone was expecting the seventh familiar inverted "V" and circle that was Earth's point of origin.
This was not the chevron that locked in place. The gate spun around again.
"Chevron seven locked." Davis said over the intercom. "Not point of origin."
The dialing computer made space on the monitor for an eighth icon. The square was quickly filled with the graphic of the chevron that the gate locked into position with a mechanical clank.
"Chevron eight locked." Came Davis' voice over the speaker. "Not point of origin."
All the members of SG-1 looked at each other. They'd only ever seen eight chevrons locked on the gate before. And while they all knew the gate had nine locks on it, no one had any idea what the last one could possibly have been for.
They all knew they were about to find out.
"Looks like she's going to do it." Daniel said.
"Well," Jack said waving his hand dismissively, "I knew she could."
Sam could only smile at her CO as the final chevron locked into place.
Sergeant Davis looked at the dialing computer, which had added another icon square for the ninth chevron. This time he did see the familiar icon that represented Earth appear in the square.
"Chevron nine, locked." He said, though all those present could clearly see that was the case. "Point of origin established."
With the final chevron locked the gate shuddered in place. Compared to what happened next, those familiar with Stargate operations found it quite anticlimactic.
When the Stargate normally created a wormhole between planets, or even the one time it created one between galaxies, it always did so spectacularly. As if its creators had a flair for the dramatic, the gate would always have a swell of energy wash outwards from it about twenty feet. This outrush, which resembled nothing so much as a huge jet of water, would then collapse back towards the gate and create a stable event horizon.
This time, the horizon just appeared. With a slight whoosh of outrushing air the standing event horizon just appeared in place at the gate. It was as if the normal deactivation cycle of the wormhole disengaging had instead created the wormhole.
Now a shimmering event horizon hovered in the gate. The only way it was different was it's coloring. Where a normal event horizon was silverish blue, this one was a purple, almost pink shade.
"That's it?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
"It was indeed successful." Teal'c answered.
"Sure it was," Jack said. "I just expected something bigger is all."
Willow got to her feet from the kneeling position she'd held unmovingly through the spell casting and the subsequent dialing of the gate. She staggered back a bit and Xander was immediately at her side.
"I'm OK Xander." She said and smiled.
Xander looked at her closely, and was somewhat ashamed of himself to note her hair was all red again and her eyes seemed normal.
Xander nodded and Willow picked up the Tome of Elmyria and started up the ramp to the gate.
"All right people," Jack said moving forward to the ramp. "The lady's done the work she said she could, so lets get moving."
Willow had explained before the ritual that the portal might not be sustainable for very long. Indeed, the Tome of Elmyria didn't make any mention of how long the portal lasted.
Therefore, in the interests of time, it was agreed that if Willow was successful in opening the portal they would dispense with M.A.L.P. recon and just enter the gate.
"You're sure this is going to take us to your friends?" Daniel asked Willow as they all stood at the entrance to the gate.
"As sure as I can be." She said. "Of course, if I'm wrong, this could be a portal directly to Hell."
"Been there," Jack said.
"Done that," Sam finished.
As one, the six of them stepped through the gate. As soon as they'd vanished beyond the event horizon, the gate disengaged and shut down.
General Hammond looked at the now dormant gate, and knew he couldn't send any help to his people, no matter how much he might want to.
Buffy had lost track of how long she and Dawn had been moving through the trench system. As usual, she hadn't worn a watch, and the dimension Mallot had brought them to didn't seem to even have a sun to tell time by. Light just seemed to come from the sky without any direct source.
She did know that however long they'd been here, she and Dawn couldn't last much longer. True, any causal observer would say they'd done far better than could be hoped for. The two of them were still alive, and thus far ten of the Vantal had been eliminated from the 'game'.
That had not been without cost however. In addition to her claw wound to the side, Buffy had been given a deep bite wound to the shoulder by a Vantal that had lunged at them from above the trench. He'd found them more by accident than any direct planning. But he'd leapt onto Buffy and latched on with his teeth. But at least it wasn't in the neck.
The bite to her shoulder was painful, but not as much so as the other shoulder, which she'd had to pop back into its socket after a wrestling match with another Vantal had dislocated it.
Dawn faired much better, mainly because Buffy made sure to keep herself between Dawn and any of the demons that might show up as they moved through the interconnected trench. But she hadn't escaped unscathed either. She sported a large gash down her upper left arm, along with various cuts and abrasions from moving against the volcanic rock. Their supply of impromptu bandages was at a near end, unless Buffy planned on delaying the next Vantal by giving him quite the show, and that created another problem.
Buffy was sure they were tracking them by blood scent now.
She kept moving down the trench line slowly. The battle against the Vantal demons had degenerated into a situation where stealth and striking first was essential to winning in the close quarters provided. Buffy had already swapped out the sword for her favorite stake Mr. Pointy, as it was easier to wield in the confines of the trench.
She heard the sound of the rock crumbling ahead and halted her sister by raising her hand. Dawn immediately brought the crossbow, loaded with one of its six remaining bolts, up to aiming level. Buffy slowly crept up to her side of the corner that marked her side of the bend in the trench.
Reaching out with all her Slayer enhanced senses, she searched for any clue as to where her quarry might be. Then, in a sudden move that Dawn could barely see, she flashed out with Mr. Pointy, bringing it around in an arc, to land in the heart of a Vantal that rounded the corner.
With the slight sighing sound they were used to hearing, the Vantal disintegrated into a thick loam and vanished from sight.
"That's eleven down." Dawn whispered.
Buffy looked cautiously around the corner, and seeing no further threat, beckoned her sister forward to the next length of the ditch.
"Yeah, we broke the ten mark." Buffy replied, flopping down to sit for a moment, as this trench seemed to be clear.
Dawn sat across from and slightly behind her sister against the other side of the trench. "So you think Willow's coming yet?"
"You know how Willow is," Buffy smiled. "Not big on knowing exactly what time it is." Buffy laughed inwardly at the memory of Wesley asking herself and Willow to synchronize watches before breaking into Sunnydale City Hall to steal the Box of Gavrok from Mayor Wilkins. Buffy's onetime Watcher had been most disappointed to see neither girl wore a watch.
Buffy cursed herself again that she hadn't worn one now. The only gage she had on how long they'd been there was how thirsty she was. And Mallot's dimension didn't seem big on rivers or streams.
If they didn't really need it, she would have drank Dawn's vial of Holy Water.
Buffy was about to tell Dawn they needed to get moving, but stopped short when she looked up at the sky.
She couldn't tell how far away it was happening. Mallot's dimension also wasn't big on landmarks. In fact, no matter how much they tried to move towards the mountains they'd seen in the distance, they didn't seem to be getting any closer. It was like that old Battlezone arcade game, you kept driving towards the mountains, but you never got there.
But the clouds were swirling, moving in a rapid circle some distance away. Faster and faster they spun, until Buffy expected to see a funnel cloud appear at the bottom.
Instead, a beam of purplish light streaked down out of the center of the apparent storm, it struck the ground, and with a huge peel of thunder, the ground shook violently.
Then the light seemed to slowly shrink down from the sky and collect in a glow at the ground level. The glow lingered for a few minutes, then vanished.
"What was that?" Dawn asked. She looked over at Buffy, but couldn't believe the expression her sister had on her face.
She was smiling. Ear to ear smiling.
"Don't ask me how I know," she said to her mystified sister. "But I feel it in my bones, that light show was Willow showing up with our ride home."
Buffy and Dawn weren't the only ones to witness the events in the distance. From where he stood on the hill he watched his games play out from, the demon Mallot also saw the swirling clouds and descending beam of light.
Unlike Buffy however, Mallot knew for sure what it was, because he'd seen it before. Oh it had been centuries, no, millennia, since he saw it last, but he knew what it was.
"Visitors." He said out loud to no one. "Unwelcome ones at that. And what do you do when someone shows up at your home unexpectedly?"
Mallot paused and almost laughed. "You sic the dogs on them."
Xander, Willow and SG-1 stepped out of the glowing portal into a land that was scarred of any and all vegetation. Dark volcanic soil stretched out seemingly unendingly in all directions. No landmarks of any kind could be seen, other than a few boulders and some imposing mountains in the far distance.
"Well, the sky's purple," Jack said looking at the horizon. "That's new."
"That trip certainly wasn't like a normal gate trip." Sam said walking to stand next to her CO. "With a wormhole you still have the sense you've traveled, moved from place to place." Sam thought about how it appeared to the person traveling down the wormhole, that they were going through a tunnel. "With this we were in the gate room one moment, and then the next, we were here."
"Indeed MajorCarter, it was unlike any gate travel experience I have ever had." Teal'c observed.
Daniel looked around the area they'd arrived at, and noticed a key detail that seemed to be eluding his teammates.
"Jack." He said, getting the Colonel's attention.
Once he'd turned around and looked in the archeologist's direction, he also knew what the concerned look on Daniel's face meant.
"Sam," Daniel said.
"Carter," Jack said.
"There's no Gate here." The two men said simultaneously.
Samantha Carter looked around from where they were standing back to where they'd arrived; indeed no Stargate was to be found.
"I don't understand sir, there should be a Gate here for the outgoing connection to link to." She looked at Willow for an explanation.
So did everyone else.
Willow looked at the assembled faces in front of her from where she still leaned on Xander for support. At least no one looked like they wanted to kill her.
'Yet.' She amended in her head.
"I didn't expect there would be." She said holding up the Tome of Elmyria. "The book doesn't say there was another Chappa'ai on this side."
"Then how exactly do we get back without a Stargate!" Jack asked with what he was sure was a bit too much anger in his voice.
"The protections around Mallot's dimension are very specific." Willow continued. "They keep people from getting in and interfering, not leaving once they're here. I've already got a connection by the spell to your Stargate, all we have to do is find Buffy and Dawn, and I can reopen the portal to Earth and get us out of here."
Willow was relieved that Colonel O'Neill seemed to accept that.
"How do we do that?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah Will," Xander asked. "I don't see anything around here that would remotely be an information booth."
Willow took her arm away from Xander and sat down on the ground in the lotus position. She managed to do so gracefully; so that no one might suspect she was so tired she was afraid she'd fall over. The Ritual of Elmyria had taken more out of her than she was willing to admit.
"We'll use an astral guide." Willow hoped that such a small use of magic as summoning one of the sprightly lights wouldn't drain her unnecessarily.
'Or bring back that voice.' She thought to herself.
Concentrating, she began the spell. "Aradia, Goddess of the lost, the path is murky, the woods are dense, darkness pervades, I beseech thee, bring the light."
Considering her current state of fatigue, Willow was almost as surprised as Sam was that the small green light appeared. Whirling and spinning about in the air in front of her.
"How did you do that?" She asked Willow as she got up from the ground. "You just created an energy sphere from nothing. That's against the laws of physics!"
"You know what she's going to say Carter," Jack said smirking. "Magic."
"How will this locate your friends?" Teal'c asked.
"We ask it to." Willow answered him. Then, to the guide she said "Take us to Buffy and Dawn."
The light danced up into the air above their heads, as if gauging the wind, or if it were a hunting dog, scenting for a particular spore. Then it suddenly wheeled and took off to the left of where they were all standing.
It went about ten feet, then paused and looped around as if to say, "are you coming?"
Willow looked at Jack and smiled.
"All right people," he said taking the safety off of his MP-90. "Lets follow the bouncing ball."
Buffy had to admit; this wasn't the best idea she'd had thus far.
She didn't have any proof that the lightshow she and Dawn had seen was Willow's doing at all. But the feeling she had in her gut told her that it was. So, in the interest of closing that distance in as quick a time as possible, she and Dawn had left the trench system of the fissures and started a dead run across the bleak landscape.
This had revealed their location to the Vantal, and now what appeared to be the bulk remainder of them were leaping out of other trenches, or just running at full speed from wherever they were in the open at them. They'd been running for about 20 minutes and maintaining a good lead over the Vantal. But she knew that they couldn't maintain that lead, or this pace for much longer.
"Over here!" Buffy yelled and grabbed her sister's arm. Dawn was surprised to see Buffy guiding her towards another trench.
"But we just got out of the trenches!" She yelled as she slid down the side back into another one of the volcanic fissures.
Buffy reached over and took the crossbow from her sister. "I know, but we've got to play defense here for a bit and convince these guys to back off."
Buffy propped herself up on the side of the trench, and took aim with the crossbow. She let fly with a bolt that lodged itself firmly in the chest of one of the approaching demons. It disintegrated into a dust cloud that its companions ran through on their way to reach them.
Buffy was loading another bolt into the crossbow, and was thinking that she might only get one, maybe two more shots off before the Vantal reached the trench.
Then the last thing she could have possibly expected happened.
The Vantal came to a stop. Not because they were afraid of her or the crossbow, but because they were being hit by a hail of machine gun fire, and some kind of weird red energy blasts that seemed to explode when they hit the ground or the Vantal.
Buffy knew that couldn't kill the vampire demons, but it certainly dropped them to the ground and that was a very good thing as far as she was concerned.
She looked behind her to see six people jumping into her trench. Two of them, a man and a woman were firing machine guns at the group of Vantal, another man was shooting with a pistol, and a very large man was shooting the red energy beams from a staff.
She didn't recognize them, but she did know the other two people. Very well in fact, as one would tend to recognize their best friends anywhere.
"Xander! Willow!" She yelled, and embraced both her friends in a hug that brought them very close together. Dawn reached over and joined in the group hug.
Buffy broke the embrace before oxygen started to become an issue. She looked at her friends, and the other people who were currently holding their fire, waiting for the dust to clear.
"Will, olive-drab is so not your color." Buffy said, taking in the fact Willow wore an identical coverall to the one Xander was wearing. "But you are so much a sight for sore eyes right now."
"Yeah, and you brought the Marines." Dawn said, indicating the uniformed people in the trench with them.
"Air Force actually." Jack said as he turned to face Willow and the others. "I take it these are the friends you were looking for?"
"They are Colonel." Willow said smiling happily. "Buffy, Dawn, this is Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter, Teal'c and Dr. Jackson." She said indicating each person as she said their names. "They made it possible for us to get here, and get you two out."
Before anyone could say anything in response to that, Sam spoke up from where she stood at the firing line at the trench. "Sir, you should really see this."
Jack moved back to the top of the trench, and Buffy, Willow, Dawn and Xander followed him. They looked out over the scene of the kill zone they'd effectively cleared, except that wasn't the case.
All the creatures they'd shot were getting back up.
"Well, that's interesting." Daniel said.
"Indeed." Teal'c added. "Even a Jaffa could not recover from the amount of damage we inflicted."
"They're called Vantal." Dawn spoke up. "They're the demons that possess vampire bodies. You have to kill them the same way."
"Which is?" Sam asked.
"Stake to the heart." Buffy said, firing the crossbow again and hitting one of the rising demons. It vanished into a pile of dust shortly thereafter.
"Decapitation is good, but I don't want to mix things up with them again." Buffy said.
Teal'c took his staff weapon and aimed it carefully at one of the Vantal. Firing a shot, the red energy from the weapon caught the creature directly in the throat. The resulting explosion severed the demon's head from its body, causing the Vantal to dissolve into dust.
"Nice shot Teal'c!" Jack said. "But I've got something even better."
"Better sir?" Sam asked.
Jack reached into the bag at his side. "Yep, much better." He said, pulling out a set of grenades.
Sam looked at the grenades the Colonel took out of the bag and noticed the yellow striping on them. "Incendiary grenades sir?"
"Indeed Carter, indeed." Jack took a look over the top of the trench they were in. Most of the Vantal seemed to have regained their footing, but had not yet charged. They must have been waiting for all of them to get back up before making a concentrated push on their position.
"I've seen all my Hammer horror movies." Jack continued. "And fire is always a great way to kill a vampire."
"But how did you know that there would be vampires here?" Xander asked. "There could have been any number of demons or whatever chasing after Buffy and Dawn."
Jack looked a bit stunned, and then turned to Sam for some kind of support. When she could offer him none, he turned back to Xander.
"Well, then it just would've been really cool to see them go off." He said.
Xander turned to Willow. "Will, can't you mojo us out of here?"
"Not from here." She said. "I have to go back to the point we arrived at to activate the spell again."
"OK," Jack said, sparing a glance at the assembled Vantal about one hundred fifty yards away. "Teal'c, you stay here with me, the rest of you head back to the arrival point."
"I'm not going anywhere yet." Buffy said defiantly.
"We came to rescue you," Daniel said. "Let us handle this now."
"No," Buffy said calmly while taking several of the grenades from where Jack had placed them on the ground. "I know what these things can do. I'm the best person to deal with them now, no matter how banged up I might be."
Jack thought for a moment, then turned to the rest of the team assembled near him. "Ok, Teal'c, you go back with the others. Buffy and I will pitch grenades at the creepy critters out there."
"Are you sure O'Neill?" The former Jaffa asked.
"I think you can agree we can't waste any more time on this debate." Jack answered, noticing that the Vantal were about to charge again.
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "As you have said before, you are repeating religious doctrine to the temple singers."
Daniel thought for a moment and then corrected the alien member of SG-1. "Preaching to the choir, Teal'c."
Teal'c inclined his head in acceptance of Daniel's interpretation. "Irregardless, we must secure our exit from this place." Teal'c rose and began to lead the rest of the team from the trench and back the way they came.
Sam looked at Jack briefly. Her expression said she wanted to stay, and Jack could see that in her face.
"Get going Major," he said. "We'll be right behind you shortly."
Sam nodded and exited over the top of the trench after the others. That was when the Vantal decided to begin their next charge.
"Ever use one of these?" Jack asked Buffy, indicating the grenades.
"Nope," she said pulling the pin. "But how hard can it be?"
Buffy took the grenade she'd activated and threw it directly at one of the Vantal. It struck the creature with such force it was thrown off its feet and landed on its back obviously unconscious.
Then the grenade went off. Five of the Vantal burst into flames along with the grenade and were rapidly consumed.
"Just lob them like this." Jack pulled the pin on another of the incendiary devices and tossed it into the midst of the approaching Vantal. They were closing rapidly, but Jack had nowhere near the strength Buffy possessed, so he'd tossed his so it would roll the remaining distance to the creatures.
When they heard the detonation, they were satisfied to hear the howls of more dying Vantal. They settled into a routine of one of them looking over the trench and lobbing a grenade while the other ducked and prepared to throw the next one. In rapid succession the eight grenades that Colonel O'Neill had brought with him were tossed over the trench, and created a huge line of fire in the area in front of them. It also created a keening wail that was the dying Vantal.
After the noise died down, Jack and Buffy looked over the top of the trench. No Vantal were anywhere to be seen. There were just piles and piles of ash drifting in the wind.
"I guess we got them all." Jack said.
"I hope so." Buffy replied looking around for any movement. "I lost count of how many were in this group. There may still be one or two out there."
Teal'c had quickly taken the lead in the run back to the entry point that SG-1 had entered the dimension through. Even without his symbiote, he still possessed many times a human's strength and endurance.
"Hurry," he said to those behind him. "It is just beyond these boulders."
As the group came around, no one noticed the shadow moving above the boulders until it pounced down into the midst of them. One of the Vantal jumped into the middle of Daniel, Dawn, Willow and Xander, scattering them as it hit Xander and sent him flying away from the group.
The demon approached Dawn, perhaps because it recognized her as part of its original quarry. Reaching down, it grabbed the young girl by the throat and lifted her into the air.
Dawn tried to reach one of her stakes, but the creature shook her and the contents of her pockets fell out onto the ground. Baring it's fangs, the creature leaned in closer to bite the now shrieking girl on the neck.
Daniel recovered first. Leaping onto the Vantal's back, he shocked the creature into dropping Dawn so it could deal with him. However once the demon had rid itself of the impediment of the young girl by flinging her away, Daniel's situation did not improve much.
The Vantal readjusted itself, and it and Daniel started to wrestle across the ground. Daniel was no match for the creature's strength, and soon found himself pinned by the monster.
"DanielJackson!" Teal'c yelled, running back towards the group while cursing himself for allowing such a gap between him and the others to have occurred in the first place. Teal'c raised his staff-weapon to fire at the Vantal, but couldn't convince himself he wouldn't hit Daniel if he fired.
The demon raked its claws across Daniel's left shoulder, opening up a deep cut. Daniel screamed in pain and then flailed out with his arms for anything he could use as a weapon. His hand landed on a small glass bottle. Without thinking he smashed the vial into the face of the demon.
The Vantal screamed and lurched away from Daniel as the Holy Water continued to burn his face. The creature's eyes were burned away quickly, as the Holy Water acted like acid on the monster.
Now with a clear shot, Teal'c fired three shots from his staff-weapon, all of which struck the demon in the back.
After it fell to the ground, Willow grabbed one of Dawn's stakes and plunged it into the creature's chest. As with the others, it dissolved into a thick dust.
"What happened?" Sam asked as she came running up from behind the group.
"We got jumped by a Vantal." Dawn explained. "It had me by the throat, but Dr. Jackson attacked it and saved my life."
Sam bent down to look at Daniel's shoulder where he was bleeding.
"Daniel?" She asked. "How do you feel?"
Daniel replied curly. "Ow."
Removing her first aid kit from her equipment vest, Sam began to put a field dressing on Daniel's shoulder.
Just as she was finishing, Buffy and Colonel O'Neill caught up to the group.
"What happened here?" Jack asked.
"One of the creatures attacked us." Teal'c said. "Dr. Jackson was injured."
"It's nothing." Daniel said.
"He saved my life." Dawn told her sister. "He leapt right onto the back of the Vantal and wrestled it to the ground."
"It wasn't that impressive." Daniel explained. "Besides, Willow is the one who finished it off."
Buffy smiled at her friend. "Will, you never stop giving it your all do you."
Willow blushed slightly. "We'd better get to the point of entry so I can get us out of here."
"I think we're all agreed there." Jack said. "Daniel, can you walk ok?"
"Oh!" Dawn said quickly. "I'll help him."
After helping Dr. Jackson to his feet, Dawn steadied the archeologist for the remaining trip to the entry point.
"I think our Dawny is crushing on someone." Xander said.
"Jealous it's not you?" Buffy asked smirking.
"Hey!" Xander answered in mock outrage. "You should be worried about your sister taking up with an older guy."
"Yeah, like she's one to talk." Willow said putting her arm around the Slayer. "One of her boyfriends was two hundred fifty years old."
"Ouch Will." Buffy smiled as they began to follow the others. "Bringing up Angel is a low blow."
Buffy thought for a moment, then looked at Willow. "Willow, why isn't Angel here? I figured he was the guy you'd go to, what with the whole experience with portals and all."
Willow looked at her friend before she answered. "Well, Angel is you know, busy with stuff in LA. Plus, I didn't want to bring Cordielia into things because I know she's had bad experiences with portals in the past. No sense bringing up bad memories. And Wesley works with Angel now and you two never got along well and....."
Buffy laughed and cut off her best friends babble rant. "Didn't think of it, huh?"
Willow blushed again. "No. But we did call Giles."
"Which I thought of." Xander added.
Buffy put her arms around both her friends as they walked. "That," she said, "is why we make a great team."
The remaining few yards to the entry point went by without further interference by any remaining Vantal. If indeed any still remained.
Buffy watched as Willow took out the Tome of Elmirya and turned to the correct part of the book to begin the ritual that would open the door back to their dimension.
As she got ready to start, everyone turned at the sound of growling. It seemed to come from everywhere, and yet nowhere.
"Do you hear that?" Sam asked.
"How could you not?" Jack said.
With a flash of blue light, four large creatures appeared in the distance. Vaguely shaped like a dog, but somewhat reptilian in countenance, the creatures sniffed the air briefly before turning towards the group. The creatures howled like wolves and then fixed the humans with a stare that clearly indicated that they were not wanted here.
Jack studied the creatures and came to one firm conclusion. "My but those teeth are big."
Sam turned to Willow. "Start your spell!" She yelled, then fell down on one knee in a firing position. As she began to fire, Jack, Teal'c and Daniel all joined in with their own weapons to try and stop the creatures charging at them.
Willow began the incantation. "Vestrum negotium fieri, itaque peto illac domus!"
She felt the energy begin to build within her at the first part of the spell. But then she felt dizzy and fell over on her side.
"Willow!" Buffy yelled and pulled her friend up and into her arms. "What's wrong?"
"I'm tired." She said truthfully. "Doing this kind of magic, it's draining. And it hasn't been that long since I cast the spell that brought us here, I really haven't had a chance to recover."
"That why you were leaning on me when we were coming up here?" She asked.
Willow looked slightly ashamed. "Yes. I mean, it's not that I wasn't happy to find you, but I did need some help."
"If you need help, you know I'm right here." Buffy said as she moved to face her friend, and took her hands in hers as she'd done when Willow needed to heal herself. "You don't have to do this alone, you never have."
"Buffy, are you sure?" She asked. "You're already hurt and this will be draining on both of us now."
"Will, if you don't open the portal, we're all dead." Buffy pointed out. "I don't know how much longer Colonel O'Neill and company can hold off those demon dogs."
"OK," Willow took a deep breath and began the incantation again.
"Vestrum negotium fieri, itaque peto illac domus!"
Jack fired continually into the creatures running at him. One had fallen, but only because they'd all concentrated fire on it. The other three kept coming.
"Patefacio antepono illac caminus domus!"
Sam exhausted the clip in the MP-90, and transitioned immediately to her Zat gun. She fired off the blasts as fast as she could, but even after taking three hits instead of disintegrating the monsters kept coming.
"Obestor repeto hinc inceptum!"
Teal'c hit the monster in the mouth with three blasts from his staff weapon. Something must have ruptured inside the monster as it fell to the ground leaking a vile looking black substance. The remaining two continued on.
"Reduco! Revino! Refero!"
As she finished the incantation, white light surrounded her and Buffy. Then, as quickly as it had surrounded them, it streaked off into the sky in a globe. Making contact with the clouds, it returned to the ground as a beam of purple light, which formed into a standing glowing circle of the same color.
Willow smiled at Buffy, the spell worked and the voice hadn't returned. Willow was happy, but she was also sure the only reason the taunting hadn't happened was because Buffy was involved with the spell. Inwardly she wondered what would happen if she used a great amount of magic on her own.
Xander noticed that Buffy and Willow both looked exhausted. He and Dawn helped them both get to their feet.
"Let's go!" Dawn yelled.
"Hold on Dawny!" Xander stopped her from rushing into the portal with Willow in tow. "There's a blockage at the other end. I have to tell them to open the door."
Xander rolled up his sleeve and exposed the G.D.O. and the code keypad so he could enter the number to send the signal to the SGC. Without the iris being open, they'd have a very short trip to Earth indeed.
"What was the number?" He asked out loud to himself. "I've got it! 8675309! No! That's not it! Damn you Tommy Tutone!"
Daniel was completely out of ammunition for his pistol. But they had managed to stop another of the creatures so only one remained. Jack ordered them to start falling back towards the portal Willow opened. If it came to it, Daniel decided he'd use his knife on the remaining monster.
Xander thought for another moment. "8756903! That's it!" Xander entered the number on the keypad and hit the 'send' button. Looking over his shoulder to the others he yelled. "I sent the signal!" Then he jumped through with Buffy. Dawn followed with Willow.
Jack transitioned to his Zat and began firing at the last creature. It kept coming despite several hits from both his and Sam's Zats and Teal'c's staff weapon.
"Get through the portal!" He yelled.
Daniel jumped through first, since he couldn't add anything to the firepower being leveled against the remaining creature. Teal'c followed closely behind.
"Sir!" Sam hesitated at the opening to the portal.
"Go!" Jack yelled and kept firing at the monster. It was close now.
Sam leapt through the portal, and Jack fired a few more blasts as he ran through himself.
But he saw the creature begin to leap as he vanished into the energy field.
Sergeant Walter Davis sounded the klaxon that indicated to the base personnel that the Stargate had been engaged. He knew that the resulting sounds would bring a heavily armed security detail to the Gate Room, as well as General Hammond.
"What do we have Sergeant?" The General asked coming down the stairs from the briefing room located above the control room.
"Incoming wormhole sir." Davis answered. "Seven chevrons are locked and still no wormhole."
Davis and Hammond watched as no wormhole engaged when the eighth chevron locked. Both men released the breath they hadn't realized they were holding when the ninth chevron locked and an eerie purple glow came from behind the iris.
"Receiving a G.D.O. transmission." Davis said looking at the screen in front of him. The computer quickly identified the source of the signal. "It's SG-1 sir."
"Open the iris." General Hammond said to the sergeant.
No sooner did the iris slide to full open than General Hammond noted Xander stepping through supporting a very tired looking blonde woman he didn't recognize. A few seconds later, Willow entered through the gate leaning on a young brunette.
"Looks like they found them." He said to no one in particular.
Daniel Jackson entered through the gate next, followed by Teal'c. Just when everyone had begun to worry, Sam Carter entered the SGC though the portal.
Arriving fashionably late was Colonel O'Neil who came running down the ramp from the gate. "Close the iris!" He yelled. "Close it, close it, close it!"
Sgt. Davis slammed down on the handprint identifier that controlled the iris, and the metal device ratcheted closed over the portal contained in the Stargate. No sooner had the protective cover finished closing than a loud thud was heard.
The portal vanished, and the gate became dormant again.
"What was that Colonel?" General Hammond asked over the loudspeaker.
"A dog sir." Jack replied. "A big freaking dog with huge freaking teeth!"
Xander sat with Dawn as Dr. Fraiser tended to her various cuts and bruises. The SGC medical staff had already looked at and treated Buffy, since her injuries were more serious. She was now sitting up in a bed on the other side of the room talking with Colonel O'Neill.
Dawn wouldn't seem to stop talking about Daniel Jackson saving her from the Vantal. Which wouldn't have been so bad, except it was the sixth time since they'd been back that he'd heard it and Xander had been there when it happened in the first place.
"He was so brave!" Dawn said. "He just jumped onto the Vantal and started pummeling at it to let me go."
"Did he now?" Janet said as she wrapped the gauze bandage around the upper part of Dawn's arm to cover the cut there.
"Oh yeah." Dawn gushed. "He fought it with his bare hands. Of course, Willow killed it, but only after Dr. Jackson softened it up for her. He's really brave and really strong."
Daniel blushed from where he sat on the next exam table. "It, um, wasn't as epic as she makes it out to be." He said looking at the floor. "I was just trying not to get killed."
Janet finished up with Dawn's bandage. "You're all done Dawn," she said smiling to the teenager. "You can go wait with your sister if you'd like."
"I'll just wait here with Dr. Jackson." Dawn replied.
"Ok," Janet said as she turned to Daniel. "Lets have a look at that shoulder shall we?" Janet grabbed the field dressing that Sam had put on over the wound and pulled it and the adhesive tape off in one quick fluid motion.
"YEOWWW!" Daniel shrieked as the tape pulled hair away from his body. "Janet!"
"Come on Daniel," Dr. Fraiser said smiling. "You're a brave strong man, you can take it."
Xander recognized the smile that Dr. Fraiser was giving Daniel. He'd seen it before from both Cordielia and Anya.
He turned to Dawn and whispered. "Come on Dawny, before you get Dr. Jackson killed."
"But," she started to say. Xander cut her off with a raised finger.
"I think we're bothering the good doctor. We'll just go." Xander pulled Dawn away from the exam table and started to walk over to where Buffy was sitting in bed.
Just then Willow and Sam entered the med bay, mid conversation with Major Carter.
"So that's why you have to be extremely careful with a love spell." Willow said to the Major.
"Love spell, Carter?" Jack asked after having his ears perk up by the topic of conversation his 2IC was having with the young witch.
"Just discussing some of the various castings Willow has done, sir." Sam offered by way of explanation. "What were the two of you talking about?"
"We were discussing being caught in time loops and having our minds swapped with other people." Buffy said.
"Turns out, neither one of us likes it at all." Jack added.
"Everyone here ready to go?" General Hammond asked as he entered the medical bay.
Dr. Fraiser finished her improved bandaging of Daniel's shoulder wound and brought Dawn and Buffy's charts over to the General.
"They're both able to travel now sir." She indicated Buffy's chart. "And Buffy seems to be healing faster than a Jaffa anyway."
"Slayer healing." Buffy remarked. "Does it every time."
"Well then," the General began. "I guess the four of you can leave whenever you want. I understand that there's a C-121 waiting to take you back to California."
"Thank you for helping us General." Willow said.
"You're quite welcome." General Hammond said smiling. "And thank you all for signing the confidentiality paperwork."
"Considering what you told us, I figure we had to sign them." Buffy said, remembering everything they'd been told about the Goa'uld and Teal'c's 'resident alien' status by Colonel O'Neill while Buffy was being treated by Dr. Fraiser. He'd explained after all they'd been through, they should be told what really went on at the SGC.
"Oh, before we go I want to give you this." Willow reached into her bag and handed the Tome of Elmyria to Daniel.
"Are you sure?" He said as he accepted the book.
"Yeah," Willow answered. "It can only work with the Stargate, so you might as well keep it here where it is."
"Well, I for one will be glad to get back to our usual digs." Xander said. "Running around with those coveralls on was a bit too much like Soldier Xander from Halloween."
"And did the experience make you really want to join the army Xander?" Buffy asked smiling, remembering the story Spike had made up to try and split them up before Adam made his move at the Initiative.
"Nah," he said smirking. "It's too dangerous. A guy could lose an eye."
"Well, we'd better get going." Buffy said as she got out of the bed she'd been sitting on. "Thanks again for helping out Colonel."
Jack reached out and offered his hand to Buffy. Buffy took it and was impressed that Colonel O'Neill didn't try to tighten his grip when faced with Buffy's strength like a lot of other men tended to do.
"The pleasure was ours." He said. "You just keep an eye on those threats from below, and we'll watch above, ok?"
"Deal." She said.
"One thing though Buffy." Willow said. "Mallot holds the games for other people, not for himself. So who wanted you to play that game against the Vantal?"
"I don't know Wills." Buffy said, then shrugged her shoulders. "But I guess we'll find out eventually."
Mallot looked at the bodies of his watch hounds and sighed. He'd raised them from mere podlings! Now they were gone and he'd have to raise another set.
"So, another escapes your grasp." Said a voice behind him.
Mallot turned to look at the speaker, a tall warrior of the Assyrian Empire.
"She escaped because of interference from outside." Mallot said.
The creature that wore the visage of the warrior shifted to take on the form of a woman in a long flowing robe. "Indeed," she said. "The witch used the ritual I once did to free her friends from your game. How embarrassing to be defeated the same way twice."
"I thought it was never intended to have the Slayer die here."
The woman morphed again, this time into the visage of the Slayer herself.
"Indeed it wasn't." The replica Buffy said. "She needs to be alive for my plan to work. But the experiment proved that the Vantal aren't savage or powerful enough for my purposes."
"Then what will you do, Great First One?" Mallot asked as he bowed in an exaggerated manner.
"There is something else that will serve." The duplicate Slayer said. "And it is far more powerful, and closer, than she could possibly imagine."
The creature that wore Buffy's visage tilted her head back and laughed. Then folded upon itself and vanished from Mallot's dimension in a flash of light.
Mallot shuddered as he watched the creature depart. He never did like dealing with the First Evil.