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Summary: Have you ever stood between two mirrors on opposite walls and wondered what all the rest of the you's were thinking? Twisted response to Challenge 4242(Capt. Willow of the PROMETHEUS) AND 7035(SotL).

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Star Trek > Other/General
Stargate > General > General: SG-1
HMaxMariusFR15644,4234218523,9112 Jan 1325 May 13Yes

Dusting the Annoying Bite of Reality

A/N: Somehow, between attempting to keep up with Code Ragnarok and dealing with one of the busiest times of year at work I have managed to pound out a twenty-five page chapter! At this time I only plan to have a total of five chapters for this story so this marks the mid-point. Many thanks again to ReadsaLot for agreeing to beta this. (Maybe if I keep him entertained he'll grace us with more BOLO's in Hell for Code Ragnarok.) Additional Disclaimer: I do not own Star Wars or Babylon 5 they are property of their associated creators and producers.


Dusting the Annoying Bite of Reality


Saturday, November 1st, 1997

“GILES!” Buffy yelled, crashing through the double-swinging entrance to the Sunnydale High School library.

“Dear Lord, Buffy. What has you so agitated?” Giles asked, attempting to shake off the effects of the headache his slayer's loud entrance had redoubled. Well, the pain and the strange memories that seemed to have taken up residence in his head overnight.

“Mom didn't come home last night!”

The door swung open again, somewhat more sedately as Willow and Xander entered. “Yo Buffy, G-Man. What's the what?”

Polishing his glasses he shot the younger man a stern glare. “Joyce apparently never came home last night.”

“Nice. Mrs. S doing the all night partiage.”

“Xaaaander.” Willow whacked his arm. “She was going to a costume party. When she heard what we were going as she went out and got her own... from Ethan's.”

Buffy collapsed into one of the chairs with a solid thump.

“Ooh, butthatdoesn'tmeananythinghappenedtoherlikebadorthelmmmph” Xander clapped a hand over the fount of babble.

“Anything else?” Xander asked.

“Well,” Giles straightened his posture behind the counter, while a strangely expressionless look took up residence on his face. “The last I recall seeing Jenny, I mean Ms. Calendar, was just after we both entered Ethan's shop looking for the bust.”

“Speaking of recall,” Xander raised his hand.

“Well Cordelia was out cold on my sofa when I got home. Not sure how she got there, but I think I remember having something to do with it,” Buffy mentioned.

Xander leaned forward in his chair. “About remembering...”

“Yeah,” Willow bounced in her seat. “The paper this morning is calling last night a mass hallucination caused by a gas leak.”

A piercing whistle brought the focus to Xander. “Am I the only person here who remembers in gruesome detail fifteen years of training to and flying starships?”

Everyone else in the library froze as their mostly suppressed memories stirred.

“Good Lord,” Giles whispered.

~~~***~~~

“Warp-core breach imminent!” Loud bi-tonal sirens and red tracer lights accompanied the announcement.

With a calmness borne from years of training and experience, the Commander marched through the billowing steam and gasses. According to the rooms tells and the screen read-outs, so far there was nothing more threatening than a little carbon dioxide and noble gasses in the mix but she was tracking the point sources and keeping an eye out for anything dangerous.

“Okay people, by the numbers,”the bark of her voice easily carrying over the klaxon, steadying the less experienced crewmen. “Let's work the problems, not make more.”

“Aye, aye, Ma'am,” the engineering crew answered.

Walking over to the main console she tapped the flashing red control, silencing the alarm. “Team one, divert power to maintain warp-core integrity. Team two, back-trace the root cause of the instability. Team three prepare for an emergency core jettison.”

She looked around at the crew staring at her. “MOVE!”

Something exploded behind her, as she ducked a piece of the console pushed against her shoulder.

With a groan, Joyce rolled over, tangling herself in the light blanket she had apparently fallen asleep under.

Whatever it was pushed her shoulder again.

“Mrs. Summers? You need to wake up.”

“Mmmummb mmm m.” The semi-sleeping woman exhaled.

“I'm sorry,” the persistent voice queried. “What was that?”

Joyce drifted closer to wakefulness. “Kobayashi Maru.”

There was another nudge against her shoulder, this one rolling her whole body over on its back. Her eyes opened slowly. As the blurriness subsided she took in the face of the computer science teacher from her daughter's school, still apparently in her own costume from the night before. In the background she could make out the same windows she recalled as her last sight the preceding night.

Dredging her memory, Joyce plucked the woman's name out of the fog. “Ms. Calendar. Are we where I think we are?”

Ms. Calendar nodded before reaching a hand out to help the older woman stand.

Looking around Joyce noticed that most of the others in the lounge were still asleep. “You're Jenny, right?”

Jenny nodded, walking to a panel beside the bar. “How do you like your coffee, Mrs. Summers?”

“Please, call me Joyce. and black,” Joyce answered. “With cream and sugar on the side.”

A quiet whir and a swirl of light in the machine resolved into a small tray with a steaming mug of coffee, a small decanter of cream, a pot of sugar and several of the little red straws one usually found at coffee bars in business break-rooms.

The teacher handed the tray to Joyce, made an order for herself then led the way to a table near the door.

~~~***~~~

In the ship's sickbay, Andrew Wells rolled over, falling off the bed. Looking up from the chair in the CMO's office, DAWN S merely shook her head as the interrupted snores resumed. A few moments later the end of the blanket that had remained on the diagnostic bed slithered down to fall across the prone form.

This was the third time he had rolled off and so long as he was still sleeping, she was not picking him up again. At least the civilian was lying still.

Turning back to her screen she continued to research the effects of the green wave that had rolled through the ship. First were the personality changes she had monitored among the people who were aboard. Then there was the strange way that all of them had fallen asleep almost simultaneously an hour later.

With a puzzled frown, she accessed the records again.

~~~***~~~

“So how did we end up on a real Federation Starship?” Joyce asked quietly.

Jenny leaned her elbows on the table and rested her chin on the back of her folded hands. “What do you remember from last night?”

Joyce pulled her focus from the line of spots that traced the hairline and framed the face of the other woman. “I was at a party, trying to drum up business for the Gallery. Suddenly I felt dizzy and then it was like I was someone else.”

Jenny nodded again. “For all intents and purposes, you were. We all were.”

“How?”

“Magic.” A third voice joined them, the young girl Joyce had seen squealing the night before.

Joyce rolled her eyes and exhaled sharply, then looked at the expressions on both of her companions' faces. Unexpectedly, Jenny Calendar was not looking at the girl as if she were crazy. Instead, she was studying Joyce's own reaction to the statement. A focus that was disturbing her on a visceral level.

The girl's brunette hair tilted to the right as her forehead wrinkled. “Are you Buffy Summers' mom?”

“I am, and you are?”

“Kit Holburn,” the girl answered. “Buffy saved my older brother from a vampire attack last month. He's a senior at Sunnydale High.”

“Vampires,” Joyce hissed, her distaste of the word palpable. She found herself struggling to grasp how the foolishness from Hemery had followed her daughter here.

“...Are real, Joyce.” Jenny's flatly delivered statement wiped out large amounts of Joyce's smug certainty of the non-existence of the undead. “Buffy and her friends fight them.”

Joyce blanched. “B-buffy?”

“I really wish Giles were here right now, he's so much better at this,” Jenny groused. “Your daughter is a mystically enhanced warrior against the dark. She's The Vampire Slayer.”

“Giles?” 'Danger, mother predator' signals were rolling off of Joyce in waves. “What has the librarian got to do with any of this? And what would possess my daughter to choose to be such a thing?”

Jenny closed her eyes and tried to absorb how stupid the Council was to keep the Slayer's parents in the dark. “He's her Watcher. It's his job to help her fight the darkness by researching the things she has to face and training her in how to defeat them. As to your daughter being the Slayer, she had no choice in the matter. No one knows what power chooses each girl, or for what reason, only that it does and the power of the Slayer is with them for as long as they survive.”

Joyce looked up sharply. “Don't you mean live?”

“Joyce, your daughter has been a slayer for about 18 months. She's already outlived the majority of those who have preceded her in this calling.”

Feeling nauseous, Joyce lowered her head into her hands. “Why wouldn't she tell me about this?”

Crossing her arms, Jenny leaned back in her chair. “Most Slayers, I'm given to understand, never tell anyone they are the Slayer. Buffy would have been given the same advice to never tell you...”

In a flash, Joyce remembered the horrid conversation she and her ex-husband had with their daughter the night she was accused of burning down the Hemery gym. “She did. Oh God! And I agreed with Hank to send her into that institution.”

Kit and Jenny both slid closer to her, wrapping their arms around the now sobbing woman. “Shhh, Joyce. It's okay.”

One of her sobs turned into a hiccup, causing Kit to giggle. This elicited a wry grin from the mother in the group, who promptly hiccuped again, causing herself to join the giggles.

“So, *hiccup* magic brought us to this ship?” Joyce scrubbed away the lingering tears.

“Not exactly.” Jenny eased back into her chair. “The technology of this ship is real, however, I believe its creation and the memories we each acquired last night were the result of a spell cast by a chaos mage. In particular, Ethan, the proprietor of the shop where we bought our costumes.”

“That, that...” Joyce sputtered looking for a word she could use around the girl still hugging her. “Weasel!”

Jenny grinned. “Well, if my memory is correct, Rupert gave him his comeuppance. Just before he ended the spell.”

Kit slipped free of Joyce, reaching out to take a sip of her own coffee. “How'd he do that Ms. Calendar?”

“Broke the statue that was the spell's focus,” she stated, matter-of-factly.

A groan from the far side of the room intruded on the quiet.

Glancing toward the noise, Jenny grabbed Joyce's hand. “Joyce, there's a reason I woke you first. If you're like me, you're remembering everything from last night as if you lived a second life. Right?”

Joyce looked around the room, suddenly realizing how right it felt to be where she was. “I think I am... I was an engineer.”

Nodding, Jenny squeezed Joyce's hand. “You and I, we're the ranking officers in the room, both according to the ship and according to those memories we acquired. It's up to us to make sure that we all come out of this in one piece.”

Gesturing toward the wood-grain doors to the lounge, the teacher nodded to the stirring crowd behind her. “Whoever it was that beamed us all up here also established an override lock on the doors. Once the others get wind of that, things could get ugly, unless we can get whoever it is to let us out of here quickly.”

~~~***~~~

Warren Mears awoke to the glorious smell of fried bacon, steaming eggs, hot maple syrup, fresh toast, pancakes, good coffee and numerous other sundry breakfast smells. With a smile he wished he could wake up that way much, much more often.

Suppressing his usual groaning, Warren rolled free of the light blanket that was draped over him. Rising to his hands and knees he cracked his neck before rolling back to a standing position. Still clearing the sleep from his eyes he let his nose lead him to the end of the short line by the bar.

“Good morning Lieutenant!” The chipper young girl behind the counter beamed her smile at him. “What'll you have?”

“Eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, orange juice... I can come back for more?”

“Much as you like!” Kit chirped.

~~~***~~~

Behind the bar, Joyce smiled at the success of 'Operation Mom's Kitchen' in putting everyone into a good mood. She and Jenny leaned over the computer console there. The younger woman had managed to raise a dampening field around the station to prevent being overheard by the others.

“Computer, release the locks on this room's doors.”

“Please state authorization codes for override.”

“Commander Joyce Summers. Starfleet Training Command. Authorization Juliet Whiskey Seven Four Zed Three Eight.”

“Invalid code. Commander Joyce Summers is not a member of the PROMETHEUS crew.”

Jenny rolled her eyes. They had already heard the exact same response when Jenny tried her command codes. “Computer. Please identify current available members of the PROMETHEUS crew.”

“Chief Petty Officer Andrew Wells is currently the only PROMETHEUS crewmember on board.”

Joyce smiled. Finally they were starting to get some success with this cantankerous machine. Tapping the badge on her chest she spoke to the air. “Joyce Summers to Chief Wells.”

After several moments of non-response the two women looked at each other. “Why didn't that work?” Jenny asked.

“Commander Summers' badge does not contain the necessary electronics for communications.”

After several seconds' consideration, the teacher tentatively reached up and tapped her own badge, which chirped in response. “Jenny Calendar to Chief Wells.”

A female voice quickly responded. “Chief Wells is currently asleep. Is this request urgent?”

The two women's eyes widened. “I thought we and the Chief were the only crew,” Joyce stated, puzzled.

“To whom am I speaking?” Jenny asked.

“I am DAWN S. Diagnostic Avatar With Nurturing Skills. I am the PROMETHEUS' Emergency Medical Hologram.”

“I assume then that Mr. Wells is in the Sickbay?”

“That is correct.”

Jenny looked over to Joyce and rolled her eyes. “Is he injured?”

“He is sleeping. On the floor. Again.”

“Again?” Jenny asked.

“I refused to put him back on the diagnostic bed after the third time he rolled off and continued sleeping.”

Joyce snorted and Jenny choked. Despite their best efforts to suppress their mirth, both women soon began laughing.

Taking a deep breath, Jenny stifled her laughter. “DAWN, please have him contact me as soon as he wakes. Calendar out.”

The connection broken, their laughter resumed long enough for Kit to want in on the joke. After waving her back to her own tray of food Joyce turned serious. “Care to tell me why your comm-badge worked and mine didn't?”

Swallowing hard Jenny looked down at Joyce's feet, her right hand rising to caress the near side of her abdomen. “I was in the transporter beam when the spell ended. Since a working comm-badge was patterned, a working comm-badge was reassembled.”

“Oh,” Joyce said. A second later her eyes shot wide open. “OH! Crap! Those spots. They're real aren't they?”

Tears began to leak from the former human's eyes. “I'm a joined Trill. His name is Kalderash, which is funny, because that's the name of the Romany tribe from which I'm descended. I call him Rash and he calls me Petite, or Janna, my Romany name.”

Wracking sobs shook the young woman's shoulders as Joyce pulled her close. “Him?”

“Oh yeah. *hiccup* Definitely.”

~~~***~~~

Making no headway on her research into the strange wave that had washed through the ship, DAWN stepped out to check on her patients. The civilian was still in his self-induced coma. Dawn was uncertain as to why he had entered, much less remained in such an unresponsive state. However, based on the rate of change in his readings she expected to be able to wake him in a couple hours.

Her other case was a different story, being curled around the base of the bio-bed, sucking his thumb and snoring like a squirrel barking. Scanning him with her tricorder, she decided that he'd been there long enough. Besides, the folks in The Fire Pit needed him up and moving.

Shaking him had not worked, nor had loud noises. That left only one option. Walking to the replicator she planted her hands firmly on her hips. “One gallon of water, three degrees centigrade.”

Placing a pair of towels on the unoccupied bed she leaned over the snoring boy. With an evil grin she dumped the pitcher of ice cold water on him.

Once he had peeled himself off of the ceiling, looking very much like a drowned rat he had the utter audacity to ask her: “What'd ya do that for?”

Steeling herself she glared back at him. “I'm a doctor, not an alarm clock!”

~~~***~~~

“Wells Megatron Catherine Zeta Jones Fox Wowser.”

“Access denied.”

Groaning, Andrew slumped against the wall opposite the doors to the PROMETHEUS' crew lounge. Through the windows he could see a growing crowd of angry people staring back at him. Even Joyce was beginning to look cross, and she had been nothing but supportive for the last two hours as he struggled to remember the override code that had tripped so lightly off his tongue the night before.

“Computer, disengage door locks on The Fire Pit.”

“Please state authorization code.”

“Authorization Wells Oerlikon Beta Leta Free Rumba Liner.”

“Access denied.”

A tapping on the glass drew his attention as the really hot Computer Science teacher pointed at the badge on her left breast then at the panel behind him. At least he had figured that out finally. Apparently his own badge was no longer a communicator and she could not call him directly unless he re-opened the channel from the panel. Of course, it had then taken quite a bit to figure out that the computer did not recognize her as Jenny Calendar, but instead as a Commander Janna Kalderash.

“Computer, please open a channel to Ms. Kalderash.”

“Acknowledged.”

“Andrew, I want you to think carefully,” Jenny's voice drifted from the speaker. “Is there anyone else who can open this door?”

Before Andrew could speak, the computer interrupted. “Only the Chief of Security, the Chief of Navigation, or the Captain can override lock commands issued by the Chief Petty Officer.”

“But we don't have a Captain!” Andrew wailed.

Warren Mears slammed the palm of his hand against the door. “You did last night!” Andrew could hear him clearly through the glass.

Andrew sat up. “You're right! Willow! Willow's the Captain!”

Joyce's sagging expression brightened considerably. “Buffy! Willow said Buffy's the Chief of Security!”

Wailing again, Andrew collapsed back against the wall. “But all of our comm-badges turned back into dumb props. How are we supposed to contact them?”

Jenny glanced at Joyce then back through the window to Andrew. “Well, as both Joyce and I are missing and after what happened last night, I think I might know where you can find both Willow and Buffy. Probably Xander and Giles as well.”

With a confident smile she beckoned the upset young man to stand up. “Okay Andrew, I need you to do exactly as I tell you. Don't worry, the computer is keeping a log of this and will prompt you, all you have to do is ask...”

~~~***~~~

“Is this someone's idea of a joke Major?” General Hammond threw the photographs from the folder labeled 'Top Secret – Eyes Only SGC Com. Gen.' on the table.

Major Davis had the good grace to look mildly embarrassed, even though he had asked the same question himself at the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO had been briefed on the Stargate Program as soon as it became clear that the Goa'uld were a threat to come by ship as well as gate. He had no real doubts that they took any XT tasking very seriously. At the query, the director had proceeded to show him a live feed from one of the KH birds that had been tasked to track the object.

“Sir, the ship in question is not from any of the series that have been aired,” the Major pointed out. “While it has similarities of design, it is too far away to resolve any markings. Thus it is unclear as to whether it is what we see it as or if it is a case of what the biologists would call 'parallel evolution'.”

Hammond reached for the antacid bottle in his bottom drawer. “I want independent verification of these images. I have a Goa'uld invasion staring down my throat, my premier team has gone AWOL through the gate... Dammit, the last thing I need is a Star Trek convention in orbit!”

~~~***~~~

It turned out that they all had extensive memories of alternate lives left over from the night before. Everyone except Cordelia, who had wandered in partway through the discussion prattling on about how Buffy, Willow and Xander owed her the deposit on her damaged Party City costume. After an extended and meaningless argument where she pouted about damages and her priorities were questioned, both positions being royally ignored by the opposing parties, the discussion had returned to what each person remembered.

“Guys,” Buffy interrupted. “Interesting as this is... Mom. Missing.”

“Ms. Calendar too.” Giles added, joining Buffy in the book cage and gently removing the battleaxe from her hands before it was used to commit mayhem on a certain cheerleader.

A metallic whine chose that moment to begin building as the fine hairs on their exposed skin started to stand up and dance of their own volition. A flash of white light formed above the center of the heavy wood table around which the other three were gathered. As the light and noise faded, left sitting in the middle of the polished surface was a Starfleet comm-badge. A moment later, it chirped.

“Jenny Calendar to Willow Rosenberg.”

All around the table jaws fell open.

“Jenny Calendar to Willow Rosenberg. Willow? Rupert? Buffy? Are you there?”

“Well? Is someone going to answer the phone?” Cordelia snarked as she leaned back in her seat.

As one, Willow and Xander lunged forward to grab the badge, Willow being slightly faster as her hand closed around the warm metal. Lifting it to her breast, she held it to her shirt where it attached itself. The other two rejoined them at the table, Buffy reaching out to touch the badge and getting her hand slapped by Willow in the process.

Looking around at the others who each nodded to her in turn, she tapped it. “Rosenberg here.”

“Willow!” Jenny's ecstatic voice answered. “Who is there with you and how much do you remember of last night?”

“Giles, Buffy, Xander, and Cordelia.” Willow answered. “WewerejustdiscussingthatandIremember beingastarshipcaptainandGileswasaVulcanandBuffywasmysecuritychiefandXander...

“Willow, breathe!” Jenny, Giles, Buffy and Xander all commanded. Cordelia merely rolled her eyes.

“Do you remember the orders you gave Chief Wells?” Jenny continued.

“Ah, er.” Willow blushed and ducked her head as the memory flooded back into her. “Uh huh.”

“Well, Andrew decided that it would be best to lock everyone in the ship's lounge. Only, he can't remember his override codes to get us out.”

“What do... oh.” Willow glanced over at Buffy. “As far as the ship is concerned, only Andrew, Xander, Buffy and myself are members of the crew and can override his codes. But we can't do that from down here because of the security protocols. We have to actually be aboard and recognized by the ship to do that.”

“That's what Joyce and I figured.”

Buffy leaned forward. “My Mom's up there?”

“Hi Buffy.” Joyce's voice came from the badge. “Nice ship. Of course I'd like to see more than just The Fire Pit.”

Tension drained out of the blonde as she slumped into a seat in relief.

Willow stood. “Buffy and I had better get up there and let everyone out.”

“Not without me,” Xander jumped out of his chair. “You coming Giles?”

“Ah, well...”

“Rupert, if you want another date, you will be outside this door when it opens.”

Giles coughed and resumed polishing his glasses. “Yes, I do believe I am.”

“You're also getting scheduled for a visit with DAWN S for a Retnax sequence.”

Folding his glasses, he placed them in his breast pocket and proceeded to twist his handkerchief into knots.

Cordelia snickered. “Well, I wasn't planning on joining your little expedition, but hey a girl doesn't get to visit the 24th century every day.”

“Early 25th, actually.” Willow commented as they all moved to the open area near the door. “PROMETHEUS, five to transport.”

“Acknowledged.”

~~~***~~~

“Thank GOD!” Andrew threw himself at Willow's feet as soon as the transporter beam released them.

“Dude,” Xander grimaced. “Have some male pride.”

“Is that possible for him?”

“Cordelia!” Giles snapped.

Andrew peeled himself off the floor. “S-sorry Captain.”

“It's okay Andrew.” Willow took a deep breath. When she exhaled, it was like someone else, older, calmer and wiser was standing there instead. “What is the status of my ship, Chief?”

“Y-your s-ship,” Andrew swallowed the rather large frog in his throat then stiffened to a sloppy attention. “Ma'am. The bridge is in the hands of the EHCC-3. DAWN S is active in Sickbay keeping an eye on Jonathan. He went last night as Jacen Solo and was injured by whatever it was that big kid in our group became. Finally, there is a large group of people locked in The Fire Pit who were dressed last night as Starfleet personnel.”

Willow nodded. “Very good Chief.”

Turning, she walked to the replicator on the wall behind the transporter console. “Computer, please produce four comm-badges and assign them to Commander Buffy Summers, Lieutenant Commander Xander Harris, Ambassador Rupert Giles and Civilian Cordelia Chase, respectively.”

A whine and flash from the replicator left the four gold shields on the shelf. Taking the badges, she handed them out to the others. “Attach it to your shirt, tap it and state your name,” Willow instructed Giles and Cordelia as Buffy and Xander fit action to the words.

“Mr. Wells, please accompany Commander Summers and Mr. Giles to The Fire Pit.” She turned to her best female friend. “Buffy, from the sound of things, some of the people there are upset. Stop by an arms locker and get yourself and Giles phasers. Make sure they're locked on stun. Don't try to open the door until I contact you from the bridge. Xander, Cordelia, the two of you are with me.”

~~~***~~~

“Pleaaase.” The whiny voice echoed off the racks of tactical armor, phasers and the other assorted contents of the deck fifteen armory.

Buffy had to fight down the immediate urge to turn her phaser on the young man accompanying them and pull the trigger. “Andrew, think about this for a minute. Would Chief Wells actually trust you with a weapon?”

About to give a flippant reply, Andrew paused and actually considered the question. As he did, his demeanor fell. “Ah, no. He wouldn't. I'm too much of a spaz.”

Surprised, Buffy looked him in the eyes, seeing there someone with the potential to be the person that her memories told her was one of the most trustworthy crewmen on the ship. A man who's self-confidence and pride had already taken a severe beating that day. Reaching out to the rack, she picked up a third phaser, locked its settings to stun and handed it to him.

“I'm issuing this to the Chief, not the boy. Prove to me that Chief Petty Officer Wells is still in there.”

“Aye aye Ma'am.”

~~~***~~~

“So,” Cordelia drawled. “Care to explain why your ship's bridge looks like an apartment?”

Willow ignored Sunnydale High School's queen bitch, instead walking to the replicator station beside the storage locker. “Computer, scan for fit and provide standard duty uniform.”

“Acknowledged.”

Queen C rolled her eyes. “You stopped to change clothes?!”

“You know Cordelia, you are the last person I thought would need to have the importance of appearances explained to them when it comes to leadership.”

Hell froze over as the cheerleader suddenly realized that not only was Willow right, but she didn't have a snarky comeback ready either.

“In order for what we're doing to work, the ship must accept me as the Captain.” Willow picked up the uniform from the replicator shelf and laid it out on the neatly made bed, in the process noting the four gold pips attached to the collar of the shirt. “The first step in testing this was seeing if the computer would allow me access to the Captain's quarters.”

Willow glanced archly at her companion. When Cordelia did not take the hint, she shrugged and began stripping out of her clothes. As she pulled the sweater over her head a strangled 'eep' told her that the other girl had belatedly caught the hint. So the rumor that Queen C never changed in the locker room was true. Smiling, she took her time shaking the sweater out and folding it before slipping out of her skirt.

A glance at Cordelia's embarrassed reflection in the windows brought a smile to her face. “You know, you could be over in Xander's quarters while he changes.”

Cordy huffed and threw herself in one of the room's chairs. “As IF!”

Two different parts of Willow's brain tried to wrap themselves around that statement. The schoolgirl with a crush was worried that the emphatic denial was too strong, on the other hand the Captain was happy that the superficial and unworthy young woman appeared to have no interest in her helmsman.

“Anyway, I need to be in the uniform when I step on the bridge and officially take command for the first time.” Willow zipped the pants, tucked her steel blue turtleneck into the waistband, then sat to slip on her boots.

The door chimed to announce someone requesting entrance.

“Open,” Willow stated as she stomped her left foot into the heel of the tight boot.

“Ladies,” Xander half-bowed. “So are we ready to storm the bridge?”

Cordelia looked over at Xander, then back to Willow before whipping her head back around. Both portions of Willow's brain immediately following her movements with 'oh crap' statements as a predatory gleam stole across the brunette's eyes.

“You know,” Cordy stood and sashayed her way over to Xander and slowly circled him. “I always thought those Star Trek uniforms were dorky.”

Swallowing hard, the young man's eyes attempted to track her movements, even as she disappeared from the corner of his eye. “Uh huh. D-dorky.”

“That was before I saw someone wearing one that actually fit.” She traced her finger across his shoulders as she walked behind him.

Willow swept her jacket off the chair where she had laid it after attaching the comm-badge, slipped it on and marched to the door. “Mr. Harris, we have a date with my ship's bridge,” she growled.

Cordelia followed them out of the room chuckling.

~~~***~~~

Andrew led Buffy and Giles into a turbolift. “Deck Ten, forward.”

Buffy felt a slight pull as the car began sliding sideways. A moment later she felt it pause and then begin moving upward. The sensations were so light that, lacking her slayer senses, she doubted either of her companions could even detect the motion. The moving lights in the corners of the car seemed to be a stronger indicator for them of their direction of motion. Another pause had them shifting to horizontal travel again before the car came to a stop and the doors opened.

Reaching up, she tapped her badge. “Buffy to Willow. We're almost in position.”

“Acknowledged.” Willow sounded a little upset. “We'll be on the bridge shortly. Hold out of sight of the door until I contact you.”

“Understood.”

~~~***~~~

The turbolift door opened, allowing the three of them their first sight of the PROMETHEUS bridge. The four holo-crewmen, identical to the one operating the transporter, all turned to look at them as they stepped onto the deck.

The one in the command chair stood. “Captain on deck!”

Willow smiled. One hurdle down. “Ship's status?”

“Ship is secure Ma'am. Under first contact protocols, shields have been tuned to divert EM detection methods. EMCON is in effect and all communications have been restricted to tight-beam modes. The ship has also been relocated from standard synchronous orbit to high synchronous orbit just inside maximum transporter range.”

“Very good,” Willow looked around the bridge, taking in the status tells on each board as if it was second nature. Of course, for part of her it was, though it felt weird to consider that too deeply.

“Thanks to the strange occurrences last evening I have an unusual request to make.” She turned to the Emergency Command Hologram, squaring her shoulders and launching into the procedures she needed to follow to establish herself in undisputed command of the ship. “I need you to administer and DAWN S to witness the command verification protocols as there are no other impartial or unaffected Starfleet personnel available to do so.”

“I presume this has something to do with why you and your command staff all appear to be between the ages of fifteen and twenty?” The ECH surmised.

Willow nodded. “Partly. Based on quantum signature readings, it is my belief that this is not the actual PROMETHEUS, but instead a perfect replica created by the same means that gave each of us the full memories of our Starfleet counterparts. If this is true, then action must be taken to keep this ship from falling into unscrupulous hands. As the protocols are designed for that purpose, they would naturally be the first logical step in establishing properly recognized command authority within the ship's systems.”

The hologram nodded. “I understand Captain, to do this I must shut down my other facsimiles so as to provide complete focus and indisputable attention for the protocol. It is my understanding that DAWN S currently has a civilian patient ready to be released in her sickbay.”

“Ah, of course.” She tapped her badge. “Rosenberg to Summers.”

“Buffy here.”

“Buffy, please have Andrew proceed to the sickbay and escort Jonathan to your location.”

“Sure thing Wills.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “I think that discipline is going to be a bit lax amongst the crew for a while.”

“I assume then that the same issues you have outlined will apply to all of the personnel currently aboard ship?”

“They do.”

“In that case I will need to secure the computer controls pending completion of the protocol. Once verified, your command authorization will unlock the consoles. You will also be able to vouchsafe any personnel as well.”

Willow nodded. “Understood. As command authority currently rests with you, may I have your permission to address those personnel currently located in The Fire Pit?”

“Certainly Captain,” the holographic crewman at the communications station answered her as he opened the channel.

“This is the Captain speaking. Please be patient, I will have the doors open shortly. While I am getting things sorted out, I would like for all of you to consider the opportunity we are currently presented with. I will be holding a general meeting with everyone within the hour with individual interviews to follow. Rosenberg out.”

Returning to the Captain's chair, the ECH began keying a series of commands onto the screen on the right arm. After an extensive series of keystrokes, red lights lit at the top of all of the bridge stations and the other three holograms faded out. “The warp cores have been placed into safe mode and all control console access has been secured pending completion of command verification protocol. DAWN S will join us as soon as Chief Wells takes charge of her patient.”

Sighing, Willow caught Xander's eye then flicked a look at Cordelia, the 'keep her out of trouble' message coming through loud and clear. “Very good, shall we get started?”

“Perhaps we should adjourn to your ready-room?”

Willow nodded and motioned the hologram to precede her. “Mr. Harris, if you and Miss. Chase would keep an eye on things out here.”

~~~***~~~

Andrew was having a hard time keeping a straight face as his friend almost literally bounced off of the ship's walls in his rush to see everything.

“A real, honest to goodness Starfleet ship!” Jonathan said for the twelfth time.

“I told you that you should have done the Starfleet costume yesterday,” Andrew jibed.

The other young man came to a sudden stop in the corridor. Turning, his brown robe swirled around him. He cocked an eyebrow, concentrated and Andrew found himself floating a foot above the floor.

“Oh, I don't know,” Jonathan grinned. “The costume I picked does seem to have come with its own set of perks.”

With that, Mr. Levinson started off down the corridor again, his best friend drifting along behind him.

“Johno, can you put me down?”

“Sure!”

Jonathan lit out along the hallway, finally pausing at the turbolift doors while Andrew continued to float behind him.

“Johno, will you put me down please?”

“Nope. I need the practice.”

“Even if I can get you a working lightsaber?”

~~~***~~~

Forty minutes, a blood test, a quantum signature scan and a master's thesis defense on Starfleet command protocols, duties and responsibilities later, Willow Rosenberg, Starship Captain, stepped through the doors of her ready-room onto the bridge. Her bearing was firm, her uniform immaculate, her red hair perfectly coiffed in a regulation pony-tail. Only her eyes indicated how wrung out she really was.

Xander walked over and laid a hand on her shoulder. “You okay?”

Willow nodded. “Yeah. Pretty grueling, but the ECH and DAWN are convinced. The PROMETHEUS is officially mine.”

Xander guided her to the Captain's chair where she turned slowly, looking at every station for a moment before allowing her knees to bend and her body to settle into the seat of power. Crossing her right leg over her left knee she tapped the console. “Computer, ship's log; local date November 1st, 1997 AD. Pursuant to Starfleet regulations I, Captain Willow Rosenberg hereby assume command of the Federation Starship PROMETHEUS. For the record, it is my belief that this ship is a mystically constructed duplicate of the actual PROMETHEUS which I believe to still be in the hands of my counterpart in that reality. With no Federation and no Starfleet to report to those of us with the memories of our Federation counterparts are truly on our own. May history prove us worthy of the power we have been granted.”

*Clap* *Clap* *Clap* Cordelia stood, leaning nonchalantly against the railing dividing the upper level of the bridge from the command pit. “Very Picard, Willow.”

“Cordy,” Xander took a step toward the cheerleader.

“No Xander. She's right.” Willow turned in her seat to face the other girl. “In fact, it might be a good idea to keep her around, to keep us grounded to who we really are. However, over a hundred and fifty years of system design has gone into how this ship operates. Certain things will be done a specific way.”

Cordelia nodded, her expression serious.

Willow held her focus on the brunette, finally seeing the acknowledgment there that she was hoping for.

“Computer. Release console lock-out. Authorization Rosenberg Gamma One One Lima Seven Alpha.”

“Console lock-out released.”

“On my authority, recognize the Commander Buffy Summers, Chief of Security and Lieutenant Commander Xander Harris, Chief of Navigation.”

“Acknowledged.”

“ECH, until I have more crew available we're going to be leaning on you rather heavily. If you could redeploy the EHCC-3 mode, the bridge is yours while I deal with our situation below.”

“Aye, aye Captain.” Three holographic crewmen shimmered back into existence at the Ops, Con and Communications stations. “I have the bridge.”

~~~***~~~

“Hey Carlos.” Kit slipped into the seat opposite her friend. “What's got'cha down?”

The twelve year old boy gave her a wan smile. “You heard the Captain's announcement.”

Kit nodded then rested her chin on her hands as she leaned on the table. “Yeah?”

“What do you think is going to be more important,” he pointed to her head then waved his hand to indicated the rest of her. “That we remember ten years of training and experience or that we are still only twelve?”

Rolling her eyes she dropped her hands to the table. “You do know that Willow, Buffy and Xander are all only sixteen themselves.”

“Doesn't matter,” Carlos answered. “Sixteen year olds can be legally emancipated. We can't. Besides, you yourself told me that the blonde lady over there is Buffy's mom. Do you think she'd let them let us stay?”

Kit began to grin. “What if we convinced your Uncle and my Mom to join the crew?”

Carlos thought about that for a moment. “That might work. What about your brother?”

“Easy sell...” The rest of her answer was lost in the commotion that started up when the door slid open.

~~~***~~~

Glancing to either side at her friends, Willow received encouraging nods. “Computer override door locks on The Fire Pit. Authorization Rosenberg Gamma One One Lima Seven Alpha.”

“Authorization accepted.”

Buffy made a beeline for her mom as soon as the door opened. Considering her worry that morning, this was not unexpected. The surprising part to Xander was how quickly Giles moved in reaching Ms. Calendar. He appeared to flow across the room, leaving the young man with an impression of a wave of sand sweeping across the desert to engulf a lonely building.

“Please, don't make me go in there,” Andrew whimpered.

Jonathan grabbed his shoulders and steered him through the door behind Willow and Cordelia, Xander bringing up the rear.

The crowd inside the door separated as the group made its way to the raised section by the windows. Taking her hand, Xander helped Willow step up onto one of the chairs.

“Everyone, if I can have your attention for a moment.” Willow's voice was subtly reinforced by the audio speakers located throughout the room.

The crowd settled, though none of them chose to sit down.

“First off, I want to be absolutely clear, anyone who wants to go home is welcome to do so. We will even provide you with civilian clothes, should you desire. But first, I ask you to hear me out.”

“Yeah, and why should we listen to a kid?” one of the adults yelled.

“According to the rules under which this ship operates, rules which after last night we are all intimately familiar with, I have been recognized as the legitimate command authority. Despite my appearance, I have nearly twenty years of memories as a Starfleet officer, the last five commanding this very vessel.”

Nods around the room answered her statement. When the man looked as if he was going to raise another objection, a younger man grabbed his arm and distracted him.

“As I said, anyone who does not wish to stay can go home. With that said, we have been handed a golden opportunity. We have a fully operational starship and an unexplored universe. As we each know, we are not in the universe of our memories but we have all of the training and skills our counterparts acquired. Whether we stay or go, each of us has knowledge that can and will change this world.

“Those of you who choose to return home I ask to remember the lessons that led to Starfleet General Order One. As of this moment, none of you are Starfleet officers, so I cannot order you to act responsibly. I can only ask that you strongly consider that actions often have unintended consequences.

“Anyone who wishes to stay aboard will be welcome. We will also need to come up with a plan to staff the ship and address some of these same concerns I just mentioned. Each of you has expertise, either in your life before today, or in the memories you acquired last night.

“Anyone who chooses to stay aboard will maintain the ranks of their alter egos pending review in six months. I believe that we have been granted a great opportunity. One I intend to seize with both hands and hang on to for all I'm worth.”

Willow looked out over the room, seeing thoughtful expressions and some nods of assent. “I'll give you a few minutes to think about things. When you have made your decisions I would like those of you who wish to return home to see Lieutenant Commander Harris. If you wish to stay aboard please see Commander Buffy Summers. There is a briefing room just down the corridor where I will be conducting individual interviews with each of you. Once the interviews are completed then we will begin transporting people back home.”

Before climbing down she made eye contact with Buffy's mom. “Joyce, can I see you for a moment?”

The two Summers worked their way through the crowd to her side. Willow took a moment to steal a hug from the older woman.

“Nice speech,” Joyce whispered into her hair before pushing her gently away. “So Captain, what can I do for you?”

“Two things,” Willow smiled. “First, I need somewhere secure to transport the folks who don't want to stay. I was thinking that your gallery would be a good location.”

“Sure thing Willow. I'll be happy to beam down and let folks out, but if Buffy's staying, so am I.”

“I expected no less. I'd like to meet with the two kids first. Can I ask you to act as 'en loco parentis' for them?

~~~***~~~

Willow leaned back in the chair, hands steepled in front of her, looking across the table at the two kids. “So. The two of you present me with a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, you each are obviously Starfleet Officers with time and experience to have attained the rank of Lieutenant. On the other hand, by your own admission, you're both still only twelve years old.”

Kit and Carlos exchanged furtive glances, the girl's seeming a bit insistent while the boy's demeanor gave off more of an 'I told you so' vibe. “Yes Ma'am.”

“As much as I am in desperate need of crew and in spite of my command crew's youth, I cannot in good conscience allow twelve year olds to serve aboard this vessel.”

“But Ma'am,” Kit gave up on convincing Carlos to take the lead. “Starfleet regulations allow families to deploy with most vessels.”

“This is true,” the Captain replied. “However, neither of your families were among those brought aboard last night.”

“What if we got their permission to stay?” Carlos asked after being elbowed by the girl.

“Kit, Carlos,” Joyce leaned towards the two. “I don't think that is going to work. This isn't going to be like a summer camp for them.”

“What if we could convince them to come aboard?” Kit asked. “Like, since we would be crew, they could be aboard as our dependents? We could even train them as crew. I mean, my mom was this close last night to dressing like me. If she hadn't seen those EarthForce pins in the next bin...” she trailed off.

“EarthForce?” Willow leaned forward. “Like Babylon 5?”

Kit nodded. “She went as one of Garibaldi's security forces.”

“What about your parents?” Willow looked at Carlos.

Kit held her breath. Carlos' parents had been a touchy subject for the young man. “They're dead, Ma'am. House fire. I live with my Uncle.”

Willow swallowed hard. Her parents may not be around very much, but at least she still had them. Looking at the young man with some sympathy she continued. “Did he dress up last night?”

“No Ma'am.” Carlos glanced at Joyce. “He had to work last night. He's a cop.”

“Do you think you could convince him?” Mrs. Summers asked.

The boy shrugged. “Maybe.”

Willow stood up. “Okay Lt. Holburn and Lt. Tejos, I'll give you that chance. Joyce, take these two down with you and have them call their guardians. If you feel comfortable with the situation I'll authorize you to bring them aboard for a tour once the no-stays have been sent down.”

“Last thing, if we're seriously considering this, what are your specialties?” Willow focused on Kit first.

Shrugging, the girl smiled. “Ship's Operations Ma'am. I'm qualified for bridge duty and have stood watches as Officer On Deck.”

Willow chuckled. “You know, I don't think Wesley Crusher ever had actual command of the ENTERPRISE. If you convince your Mom, you may be the youngest human in either universe to stand a command watch.”

Seeing some hope Carlos relaxed a bit. “Weapons Systems officer, Ma'am. I'm qualified for tactical station bridge duty and for torpedo systems control but mainly I have served as a phaser systems control officer.”

“So you understand not just the point and shoot aspects but also preventative maintenance, emergency repairs and modification procedures?”

“Yes Ma'am.”

Willow reached out and shook each of their hands. “Don't be too disappointed if your parents say no. I'll see to it that you're issued proper comm-badges so we can stay in touch. If they do say no, then as soon as you're 18 I'd be honored to have you both. Now, if you'll wait outside a moment.”

The two kids left the room. Two seconds after the door closed Willow was in Joyce's arms, absorbing another parental hug.

“I'm glad you decided to stay,” Willow said into Joyce's shoulder. “I'm apparently not quite the tough as nails Captain I need to appear as. God! Poor Carlos. My parents may rarely be there but at least I have them!”

Joyce kissed her on the forehead. “You do know that you and Xander can come to me any time, right?”

Stepping back, she nodded. “Don't force anything, but I want... I need those two on-board.”

“Yes Ma'am, Captain Willow Ma'am,” Joyce laughed and Willow joined her.

Just as Joyce reached the door, the Captain tossed one final question. “You know, in all the hullabaloo, I never got your specialty either.”

“Oh, nothing that terribly important.” Joyce breezed. “Engineering Training Team Lead, Starfleet Training Command. My last ship assignment was the USS NOGURA, so I've some familiarity with the PROMETHEUS' systems.”

The door swished shut behind Buffy's Mom as Willow's smile beamed at the empty room. “Computer, have Lieutenant Commander Harris escort the first of the no-stays to the briefing room.”

“Acknowledged.”

~~~***~~~

Major Davis knocked on the door to Hammond's office in the heart of the SGC. “General, we've just gotten the imagery you requested from the reconnaissance office.”

“So they were able to task the Satellite Reconnaissance 135 bird for us?” Hammond asked.

“Yes sir. You might find the first comments from the camera system operator to be somewhat familiar.”

George glanced down at the transcript accompanying the now familiar images. “'Is this a joke' does seem to be the order of the day, doesn't Major.”

Standing at parade rest before the desk, the Pentagon liaison officer merely nodded.

“So, what do we do Major?”

Davis stiffened. “Sir?”

“Oh, off the record Paul.” Hammond glanced up from the fresh images. “Sit.”

Davis pulled up the chair and sat down. “Sir, we've been tracking the ship since it appeared last night. Other than moving further away from the planet and cloaking itself from radar, it has done nothing that we can detect.”

“Certainly not a Goa'uld tactic,” Hammond pointed out. “Everything we've seen tends to indicate that they're big on the awe-inspiring, not the subtle observation.”

The Major considered that. “True sir, and if this were some kind of Goa'uld reconnaissance mission, why arrive in a manner guaranteed to get our military attention and then do nothing?”

“Major, in the last year I have seen some very strange things. Not the least strange being SG-1's report from P3R-233. What if that really is a Starfleet vessel up there from some alternate dimension?”

Paul considered things based on what he knew of the show. “If that is so, then they would assume us to be a 'pre-warp' culture, in which case the Prime Directive would apply to their actions. They would know nothing of the Stargate or the fact that we're already out there, fighting to defend this planet.”

The General glanced upward at the ceiling, as if he could see all the way through the millions of tons of rock over his head to the stars beyond. “The Academy Lunar Sciences Department still has that ranging laser they use on the ALSEP packages, right?”

“I believe so, Sir.” Davis frowned. “May I inquire as to your thoughts?”

“Major, I need you to requisition a team to convert that laser to carry a communications signal. I don't know how much time the Goa'uld are going to give us but if what Doctor Jackson told us is even half true, then that ship could be our salvation.”

~~~***~~~

Willow slumped in her seat in the main briefing room aft of the Bridge. Seated around the table with her were Buffy, Xander, Joyce, Jenny, Giles and Cordelia. They had spent the last several hours speaking with the twenty-two people who had opted to stay aboard. Surprisingly, that number also included both Kit's Mom and Carlos' Uncle, both of whom had agreed to join the Security Department. Buffy and their kids had already worked out a schedule to get them up to speed on Star Trek technology. Oddly enough, indications were that Carlos' Uncle was going to pick things up quicker, as Kit's Mom would have a lot of B5 tech to unlearn first.

Straightening in her seat, the Captain rapped the table with her knuckles. “First order of business. All of you are officially my command crew. Buffy is Chief of Security, Xander is Chief of Navigation, Ms. Calendar is our Chief Science Officer and Joyce is Chief of Engineering. Giles' official position is Ambassador and will represent us in any negotiations with outside parties. Finally, Cordelia is here to remind us that the world below us is our home. Not the Earth in our alternate universe memories. She has agreed to train on all of our systems and may at some point assume a formal position in the rank structure.”

Willow paused a moment, looking around the table. “The Ship Operations Department currently remains open. As you know, I handled the one-on-one interviews with the people with OPS experience and I would like to nominate a particular person to that position. Although I have the authority to make this decision unilaterally, I would like those of you here to express your opinions on my nominee, Lieutenant Kit Holburn.

“Her alter ego attended Starfleet Academy and has served six years on starships. While she has not held a department head position, she is a bridge rated officer and has command watch experience from her prior postings. My one concern is that she is biologically even younger than myself, Buffy, Xander and Cordelia, being only twelve.”

The others around the table nodded. Part of them flinched at having what they considered a little kid overseeing one of the ship's key departments. The flip side of that consideration was that they were all shoe-horned into far younger bodies than their alter-egos' experiences would indicate, even Joyce, Giles and Jenny.

Joyce cleared her throat. “I realize that this is a dream come true for every person who has opted to remain aboard, but I want to make sure of one thing. In this universe you are still kids and I expect you to take time to be kids when you're not on duty. That will go even more so for Kit and Carlos. Especially Kit if she takes on this role.”

“Hey, holodecks, replicators with hundreds of varieties of unhealthy snack foods, and four hundred years of entertainment we haven't seen yet!” Xander's face took on a maniacal grin. “Twiiinkiiies!”

Buffy smacked him on the back of the head since he was out of Willow's reach.

Giles and Jenny agreed with Joyce's position and the other three nodded in acceptance.

“Computer, please have the ECH, DAWN S, Kit Holburn and her mother join us.”

The two holograms shimmered into existence near the back wall while Kit and her mother came through the door, Kit's mom doing a double-take at yet another of the holographic clones being present.

“Mrs. Holburn.” Willow stood and reached a hand out toward the ladies.

“Please, it's Katherine, or Kate.” She was still wearing her gray Babylon5 security uniform. After she had awakened from the spell induced slumber, Kate had remembered her daughter disappearing in a swirl of white light. As a Mom, she had been far too worried about finding her daughter to bother with changing clothes. She had arrived at Joyce's Gallery almost before Carlos had hung up the phone with his Uncle. Since then, she had been glued to her daughter's side.

“Kate, I want to thank you for volunteering to be part of the PROMETHEUS' crew. I've asked you to be part of this because I have made an important decision, one that is going to have an impact on your family.” Turning, she addressed the younger Holburn. “Lieutenant Kit Holburn, in accordance with Starfleet regulations and in recognition of your service and experience you have been named Department Head for Ship Operations as of this time and date.”

Kit's eyes grew wide as her posture stiffened to attention. “Yes Ma'am.”

Willow's eyes swept the two women and the two holograms. “Take a seat, all of you.” Chairs were pulled out and the four joined those already at the table.

“As I have already explained to those who were here, those currently in this room, with the exception of Kate, are my command crew. This includes DAWN S as Chief Medical Officer and the ECH as ship's first officer. These assignments are both noted in the ship's log. As of this time both holograms have control over the ability to activate and deactivate themselves. As this ship is fully holographically enabled, each of you will be assigned quarters that you may use as you see fit to entertain or relax in your off-duty time. ECH, at some point in the near future we will need to choose an appearance and an identity that distinguishes you from the generic holographic crewmen.”

“Willow,” Xander interrupted. “If I may?”

The Captain nodded.

“I think Jesse would be honored if the ECH were to be patterned on him.”

“It would be inadvisable for me to assume the identity of any specific Starfleet crewmember,” the command hologram answered. “Living or deceased.”

“Okay, how about Jesse at our age? That would keep most things about the bridge crew consistent. And we call you James McNally instead of Jesse. Would that be acceptable?”

The ECH cocked his head a moment, then shimmered as he adopted the requested visual changes, his collar morphing to reflect the three pips of a Starfleet commander. “I believe that this would be acceptable to my programming.”

Xander and Willow both wore watery smiles. It had been a tough nine months since the loss of their friend.

“V-very well,” Willow swallowed a sniffle. “Computer, please show that the ECH has accepted the role of Executive Officer and the identity of Commander James McNally.”

“Acknowledged.”

“Buffy, I want you and Giles to brief your department on that which goes bump in the night down in Sunnydale. I realize you still have to patrol as the Slayer, but I want you to take a team with you. Phasers were rather effective last night and I'm sure you'd appreciate the backup.” Willow shrugged. “I'd send Xander with you but I want him and Kit in holodeck three running training simulations this evening. I don't want to be stuck relying on holographic crewmen to run the ship. No offense to present company.”

“None taken,” James and DAWN answered.

~~~***~~~

Willow sat straight up out of a sound sleep, the lighting in her quarters coming on in the eyesight protecting red that automatically activated during a sleep-cycle alert status. Once the computer detected her in motion it would begin to slowly brighten the lighting.

“Yellow Alert. Captain Rosenberg to the bridge.”

She slapped the clock on her nightstand. “Acknowledged. Who else has been awakened?”

“Commander Buffy Summers and Ambassador Giles have just arrived back on board and are en-route to the bridge.” The computer replied. “Commander Joyce Summers, Commander Kalderash, Lieutenant Commander Harris and Lieutenant Holburn were all asleep and have been alerted.”

Years of experience gained in another life had Willow slipping on her jacket just as the lights in the room reached full brightness. Turning for the door she slapped her badge. “Willow to Joyce; head for Engineering in case I need you there.”

“Will do.”

A quick turbolift ride later found Willow stepping onto her ship's bridge, tension palpable as she took in the sight of Buffy hunched over her console deciphering the readings.

“Report Mr. McNally?” Willow walked over to Buffy's station to glance at the readings herself as the door swooshed open again behind her.

“Our shields are being painted by a low power laser originating from the vicinity of Colorado Springs, Colorado.”

“Why is that town familiar?” Willow asked.

“Air Force Academy, Wills,” Xander answered as he crossed from the lift, slid into the seat at his station and started a quick diagnostic.

“NORAD's near there too. Cheyenne Mountain.” Jenny mentioned as she pulled up the sensor logs for review.

“I thought we were invisible to their sensors?” Kit asked as she verified the ready status of the ship.

“Radar yes, but visible light, no,” Willow answered. “They must have gotten a solid hit on the ship before James put EMCON in effect and then tracked us by telescope.”

“But why a low-power laser?” Kit asked. “They have to know they can't hurt us.”

“To prove they can?” Buffy conjectured. “Maybe they're telling us that they can hurt us if they think they need to.”

Xander shook his head. “No, they would have to know that we would see anything they send coming with more than enough time to dodge or destroy it.”

“So what else might it be?” Willow asked, the adrenaline of the situation doing wonders to wake her people up.

“Willow, there's a strange modulation in the shields where the laser is striking,” Buffy stated. “I'm reinforcing that region.”

“Wait,” Willow spun back to Buffy's station. “Let me see it.”

Willow watched the scroll for a moment. “Jenny? Pull this up on your station.” Turning, she walked to the larger station where the data was now scrolling upward as a string of ones and zeroes on the monitor.

Mumbling a quiet commentary, Jenny's fingers began to fly across the console. “Assuming standard eight bit coding... breaking it down like so. Run through the decryption sequencer and adjusting for doppler effects on frequency modulation...

Willow half-expected the Trill to shout eureka.

“Captain, it's a communications laser,” Jenny turned in her seat to make eye contact with Willow. “They're trying to talk to us.”

“Okay, let's hear what they have to say,” Willow ordered.

Another moment's work was needed and then the bridge speakers crackled to life.

“This is General George Hammond, United States Air Force Stargate Command to Unidentified Spacecraft currently in orbit about this planet. We expect to shortly come under attack from hostile spaceborne forces. We have tracked your presence in Earth orbit for the past day. As you clearly have the ability but have taken no hostile action towards us at this time, we assume you to not be affiliated with said threat. If possible, we request your assistance as we have no space-based capability to defend our planet. If assistance is not possible we offer you fair warning of what is about to occur in the hope that what befalls us can be avoided by your own people.”




A/Endnote: ALSEP stands for Apollo Lunar Science Experiment Package. One was deployed at each Apollo landing site on the moon. Among the experiments in each package was a laser reflector. Facilities on Earth can fire a laser at the reflector and precisely measure the distance from Earth to the Moon. Such measurements continue to be made regularly over forty years after the ALSEPs were deployed.
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