Buffy said in a low, dangerous voice "What is that thing doing here?"
"Why does everyone think I'm a thing? I'm a perfectly normal alien." Caelus said mildly.
"Who wanted to kill us!" Spike replied.
"I'm sorry about that." Caelus answered. He sounded genuinely contrite.
"You can't just apologize for something like that." Buffy said.
Willow interrupted before hostilities progressed any further than they already had. "Look, guys, the Ancients descended him so that he could help us. And to be perfectly honest, we have no idea what's going on and we could do with the help we can get."
"Well, if we need help getting killed, I'm sure we'll turn to him." Buffy snarked.
"I never tried to kill you. In fact, you stabbed me." Caelus responded indignantly.
Buffy looked as though she'd like to respond, but reigned herself in by a supreme effort of will. "Okay. You're here. There's nothing I can do about that. Now, if you're going to help, what do you think we should do?"
"Right now?" Caelus replied. "I'd like to speak to her." he said, pointing at Dawn, who flinched.
"Go ahead." Buffy said.
"Privately." Caelus clarified.
"Not a chance." Buffy scoffed.
"Is she non-sentient, or is there some other reason that she can't make her own decisions? Because surely it is her decision whether I talk to her or not." Caelus said.
"No, it's not her choice! She's a child
Caelus interrupted. "You're all children to me. But if she is capable of making her own decisions, I would allow her to do so. Dawn, may we speak in private?"
Ordinarily, Dawn would've said no. She should've said no - there's absolutely no way she should've allowed herself to be alone in the same room as someone who, during their last meeting, had knocked her unconscious merely because she spoke too much.
But Buffy had put her back to the wall. She'd called her a child, suggested that she was incapable of making her own decisions, showed her up in front of everyone. And besides, judging by Caelus' heavy limp, Dawn suspected that she'd be fine if she kept out of arm's reach. So she nodded cautiously.
"Dawn, you can't-" Buffy began.
Goa'uld generally walked and talked as though they owned the planet on which they stood. Frequently, this was in fact the case.
Up until now, Caelus hadn't been like that. He acted like a normal human being. Now, though, his posture subtly changed. It was impossible to pinpoint any overt difference, but now he looked like the kind of person who, if they gave you an order, you would begin to obey it without thought. And once you had
thought about it, you'd still obey him for fear of incurring his disappointment.
"Look, I am here to help, but so far all you primitives have done has gotten in my way. I want to speak to Dawn. Dawn has agreed to speak to me. And yet you still seek to stop this from happening." Caelus said. "I do not care what happens to this planet. But, if you do not allow me to talk to Dawn, then I will withdraw my offer to help. However, I believe that the reason that the Alterrans descended me is because what is happening on this planet has put the universe in grave danger. Your sister is at the centre of this. Indeed, it may well be her death which causes the end of the universe. Now, can I speak to your sister privately?
" he finished, slipping into the standard Goa'uld voice towards the end.
Buffy fought the impulse to allow Caelus anything he wanted and instead said "Are you threatening my sister?"
"No. I'm not threatening anyone. I'm merely stating what i think will happen, if you prevent me from speaking to Dawn. And no, I will not explain anything to you until after I've spoken to her." Caelus answered in a cold tone.
Buffy blinked. "Fine. Use the kitchen, it's just through there."
"Oh, thank you." said Caelus effusively. Buffy wasn't entirely sure whether he was being sarcastic or not.
After Caelus and Dawn retreated to Giles' kitchen, everyone began talking at once about what Caelus might've meant by talking about the end of the universe, but Spike hissed loudly "Shut up! I'm trying to listen!"
"Hello. I'm Caelus." Caelus said in getting, extending a hand. He promptly withdrew it when Dawn made no effort to shake it.
"I know who you are, we've met before." Dawn replied tersely, crossing her arms.
Caelus cocked his head. "We have? When?"
"Last time you were in Sunnydale. Remember? You knocked me out for talking too much." Dawn answered, wondering when he'd get to the point.
Caelus frowned. "Those monks don't know me at all."
"What monks?" Dawn queried.
"Ah." Caelus exhaled loudly. "Dawn, there's something I need to show you. You almost certainly won't like it, but you need to see it."
"What is it?" Dawn asked warily. She didn't like the sound of it, whatever it was.
"I can't tell you, only show you." Caelus said.
"Fine." said Dawn in exasperation, although not without some anxiety. After all, who wouldn't feel some trepidation at seeing something that they have been warned they won't like seeing?
"I need physical contact to show you."
"Fine." Dawn repeated. Her friends were within earshot anyway, so if Caelus tried anything all she needed to do was scream. In any case, she suspected that they were eavesdropping on everything.
Caelus somewhat tentatively reached out to touch Dawn's hand. He was concerned that he might pass right through her - it took him a not inconsiderable effort to even see her as something vaguely approaching a human form, so he wasn't sure that he'd be able to touch her. Fortunately, he was.
Caelus wasn't strong enough to time travel. He couldn't physically send someone forward or backwards in time. He could, with a gargantuan effort, make someone else an observer for one of his memories, allow them to see it as vividly as they might see the world around them. Even if it wasn't really one of his memories, but one implanted in him. So that's what he did.
Arcturus Boôtis Subrufa was nervous. Her project was nearing completion - soon, Zero Point Modules would be obsolete when Arcturus' machine became capable of drawing energy from this universe, rather than a region of subspace.Dawn marvelled at the thoughts of the Ancient. She was like a passenger in Arcturus' head, privy to her every thought. She knew about ZPMs, a source of colossal energy far more efficient than anything on Earth. And that soon, Arcturus would have a machine that was even more powerful.
But Arcturus wasn't nervous because she was nearing completion. She was nervous because her machine (which the other scientists working under her had jokingly named Project Arcturus) wasn't ready. Yet, according to long-range sensor scans, a fleet of Wraith ships were heading for the planet, and without her machine to power the planetary weapons system, the entire Dorandan race was doomed.Dawn began to wonder why Caelus was showing her this. And also why, at the mention of the Wraith, she had had a sudden image of the Larua that had suddenly come into her hard several hours before. If these Wraith were the Larua, then why had she seen them before now?
However, it would appear that Arcturus had little choice but to organize the evacuation of the planet, keeping with her only as many scientists as she needed to make her machine work. She only hoped that she could evacuate the Dorandans in time - the Wraith were estimated to arrive within an hour.
Everything seemed to be going as planned - while ship after ship carrying the Dorandans left, Arcturus completed her final calculations and made the necessary adjustments to the machine and the weapon.
Then the Wraith arrived, and Arcturus gave the order to turn on her machine for the first time outside of a simulation. Despite the fear that doing so might tear a hole in the fabric of reality, Arcturus couldn't help but feel a frisson of excitement as her machine, her Project, began powering up.
And it worked! Flawlessly! The machine began emitting a golden light - energy readings were off the scales, and they were only operating at half power. Arcturus had just rendered ZPMs obsolete.
But, more importantly, at least right then, the gun was firing bolts of energy that were ripping through the Wraith ships as though they were made of paper. At last, there was a weapon that was capable of ending the threat of the Wraith once and for all!
Of course, Arcturus should've known not to be so hopeful. Things began to go wrong - her machine went into overdrive, producing more and more energy. The weapon automatically siphoned it off to prevent it from going critical, but in doing so it had fire continuously. After destroying the Wraith felt, it fired at the planet. Within minutes the Dorandan home world was a wasteland, and the Wraith hadn't had to do a thing.
But, as worrying as that was, Arcturus was more worried by the exotic particles that were building in the containment field-
Then the field suddenly expanded, enveloping perhaps half a dozen of her scientists. They were dead in seconds from an extreme dose of radiation. They had to get out of here now
Arcturus gathered as many of her remaining scientists around her as she could, and then sought that region of mental calm that allowed her to access the abilities granted to her as a highly evolved Ancient. It was difficult, but eventually she managed it.
Arcturus vanished, along with as many of her scientists as possible, in a flash of red energy. Only to reappear on board a nearby ship that had been kept in reserve in case the scientists had needed to evacuate. Which they did.
But Arcturus hadn't been able to bring all of her scientists with her. Some still remained. Unfortunately, and the decision tore at her and would do for the rest of her life, she couldn't save them. By the time she teleported back, it would be too late. All she would be able to do was die alongside them.
She couldn't save them. She couldn't even save the planet.
But, apparently, one of her scientists could. Save the planet, at least. At least from any more destruction that that which had already been rained down upon it.
Arcturus watcher through the view screen as Vejovis, one the few scientists who still lived, utilized his healing ability to keep death by radiation exposure at bay long enough for him to disconnect her machine. Then he too succumbed.
Arcturus looked solemnly at the devastation she had unwittingly caused. Her life's work was in ruins. She ordered the ship to make the jump to hyperspace, to return to Lantea in disgrace.
~*~Dawn wanted to know why Caelus had shown her that. It didn't seem to have any bearing on current events, and it just seemed so sad. He was right. She didn't want to have seen it.
But apparently Caelus wasn't done yet. Dawn suddenly felt herself dragged forward three years, until once again she was a passenger at the back of Arcturus' mind.
Three years. It had been three years since the disaster at Doranda, mitigated only by the utter destruction of a Wraith fleet.
Arcturus looked morosely at her reflection in her bathroom mirror. Today was the day she presented her idea to High Councillor Moros, in the hope that he might accept her proposal and she might expiate her shame.Dawn wasn't interested in what Arcturus had to say to this Moros. She was infinitely more interested in what she was seeing in the mirror.
If Dawn was about twenty years older, she'd have been a dead ringer for Arcturus. They had the same eyes, the same hair, the same everything. How could that be? Dawn began to think that maybe Caelus had some reasoning behind showing her all of this after all.
"Good day, High Councillor." Arcturus said to Moros, tentatively. She had always been somewhat wary around the intimidating old man.
"Arcturus. I hear that you have something you wish to show me." Moros replied peremptorily.
Arcturus launched into her theory without preamble. "Sir, as you know, we are losing the war with the Wraith. Unless we come up with a way to offset their vast numerical advantage, we will have no choice to retreat back to Avalon.
I believe I may have found a solution.
Project Arcturus was capable of generating vast amounts of energy, but the generation of exotic particles that was a side effect of this led to unforeseen and fatal consequences.
However, calculations indicate that if we were to utilise the energy given off by the machine to generate a portal that opens to numerous other dimensions simultaneously, then the exotic particles would bleed through it, causing no damage to anyone.
If we combined this technology with our ships, it would allow them to travel anywhere instantaneously, be it in this galaxy or elsewhere. We would merely need to calibrate the portal to the necessary coordinates. I need not explain to you the vast military advantage that this would give us." Arcturus finished.
Moros looked at Arcturus for several agonizingly long seconds. Arcturus fought the impulse to shift from foot to foot like a nervous schoolchild.
Finally, Moros said "You are an exceptionally gifted physicist, Arcturus. I have reviewed the data from before your mishap on Doranda, and there is no way that you could've predicted what happened."
Arcturus blinked. Was Moros complimenting her?
"But the fact of the matter is, your Project is incredibly dangerous. What guarantee is there that this variation will not be as big a disaster, if not even more so, than Doranda?" Moros finished.
"With all due respect, sir, I am a teleporter. I know how dimensional physics works. I am confident that there will be no side-effects, not like last time." Arcturus said, defending her theory passionately.
Moros regarded her for several seconds again. Arcturus would have given almost anything to know what he was thinking.
Slowly, Moros nodded. "We are fighting a war, Arcturus. And we are losing. I do not think that we have the luxury to be cautious. You have my permission to carry out this experiment. Find yourself an uninhabited planet, this time."
"Thank you!" Arcturus gushed excitedly.
"Wait and see if this project is successful. Then I will be the one thanking you." Moros said with a wry smile.
Arcturus thought that maybe Moros wasn't so bad after all.
It was a year later, and Arcturus was ready, convinced that the new version of her Project would work without a hitch. Despite her confidence, she had ordered every scientist off of the base save for herself - she wouldn't allow anyone to suffer the same fate that had befallen the scientists previously under her charge.
Arcturus prepared to open a portal using her machine, and to send a probe through it to another uninhabited planet on the other side of the galaxy. If this worked, it could revolutionize the war effort.
It worked! Arcturus activated her machine, opened a portal, watched in wonder as the iridescent green ball of energy sparkled tantalizing in mid-air, so very different from the red energy that Arcturus briefly became when she teleported.
The probe went through, and instantly Arcturus was receiving telemetry indicating that it had arrived precisely where it was supposed to. It had worked!
That was as far as Arcturus was willing to go, for the moment. It was only a test run, after all. So she powered down her machine.
Yet the portal stayed open. Arcturus checked her readings - yes, her machine was off, the portal wasn't drawing any power. It shouldn't be there. And yet it was.
Arcturus could see the region around the portal was fading away, becoming indistinct, blurry.
She swore. This universe was bleeding through the portal, bleeding through to the countless other universes that it opened up to, that the exotic energy particles were being fed into. If Arcturus didn't find a way to stop it, the universe would end.
So Arcturus did the only thing she could. She strengthened the force field around the portal, making it into an impenetrable barrier. And it worked. The portal could only affect reality inside the barrier - inside the bottle, as it were.
Arcturus could never allow that portal to escape the barrier. Doing so could cause the end of the universe - perhaps all universes. It would become her sacred duty to guard it, perhaps for the rest of time.
~*~Dawn jumped forward several thousand years - she wasn't sure how many - and across space as well. She wasn't sure how she knew that, but she did.
A hooded, robed monk stood in front of Arcturus. "The Abomination comes, Abbot. What do we do?"
Arcturus smiled. She had Ascended and Descended many times in the course of the millennia - not even the other Ancients had dared to intervene with her duty. Despite their policy of non-interference, they would not allow the universe to come to an end - especially not because of something created by one of their own. Although Arcturus suspected that this was because they were more concerned with saving themselves than the lower life forms. Even Ascended beings feel selfish sometimes.
But now, at last, a threat had come, threatening to release the portal into the world.
Or, as the portal had come to be known, the Key.
"You must prepare to cast the spell. You must make a place for her, with the Slayer. If she is to be safe anywhere, it is there." Arcturus answered.
The monk nodded, and gathered his brethren to begin the spell that would implant the memory of Dawn Summers into everyone who would have come into contact her, as the Slayer's sister. Records were fabricated, her room was made, memories created.
Soon, a place in the world, a place for Dawn Summers, was created. But there was, as yet, no Dawn Summers to fill it.
Arcturus turned her attention to the Key's bottle, changing its substance, its form. No longer a barrier of pure energy, it instead gained the shape of a young girl.
Thus Dawn Summers came to be.
Author’s note: in real life, Arcturus is a star in the Boôtis constellation. It was described by Ptolemy as subrufa, or slightly red. Thus Boôtis is her clan name, and Subrufa the descriptive name given to her because she teleports in a burst of red energy.
Vejovis is, amongst other things, a Roman god of healing.
Of course, this creation of the Key is pure speculation, but it sounds good.