Jacob didn't know the first thing about magic. Or vampires, come to think of it. Knowing that all this supernatural stuff had been happening on his own planet was almost beyond his ability to believe. And he was the host to a parasitic alien.
He knew that everyone was afraid of Willow, because she was apparently unstable, and if she died the universe would go with her. That, Jacob understood. It made sense, as much as any of this did.
Willow had quite clearly been on the verge of doing something when she'd come into the lab - whether she'd been on the brink of death or just about to unleash the corrosive blackness that destroyed everything it touched, Jacob couldn't tell.
But the fact was, if all it would take to stop Willow from dying (or from killing someone else) was that she draw too much power, then why had Caelus so imperiously demanded that Willow be given the scythe?
Jacob didn't understand how magic worked, or this Ancient power which seemed, to him, to be more or less the same thing. But he could follow cause and effect - Caelus had given Willow the scythe, and Willow had promptly drawn more power than she could use, and had been knocked unconscious.
Ergo, the power must have come from the scythe.
"What is this?" Jacob asked, raising the scythe gingerly.
"It's a scythe." Caelus said simply, carefully manoeuvring his way around Willow's prone body to continue his work. "And where are Spike and Jolinar? I need them for the next stage."
"It can't just be a scythe. Scythes don't turn into staffs. And they don't knock girls unconscious." Jacob said. Selmak had told him that Caelus never lied. He'd thought that was a good thing. But, apparently, it just meant that Caelus could quite truthfully call a scythe a scythe, when that clearly wasn't all it was.
"Do you know anything about magic?" Caelus enquired.
"No. Not a thing. I'd thought it was a myth until recently." Jacob admitted.
"I believe that the popular culture of this world generally depicts magic users with staffs or wands or other accoutrements of that kind. Is that correct?" Jacob nodded. "Have you ever wondered why?"
"Actually, no." Jacob said. "I can't say I ever devoted a great deal of time thinking about magic, even as a child. When I was young I always played at soldiers."
"Things like staffs, and even scythes, act as focusing instruments. They're purely cosmetic, of course, but many practioners find them helpful in directing their will in a certain direction. It provides focus. As such, someone might pull more power than they can use, because the object will focus that power to greater effect than they would get without it."
Okay, that actually made a little sense. Jacob thought that when given a list of things to count, running a finger down it made it easier to keep track. So, if focusing on something too hard could knock you out, then...
But no. There were loads of things in the room that could have done the job. Admittedly, most of them were test tubes and not nearly as impressive as a gigantic scythe, but still.
On the other hand, Caelus had shown a remarkable attachment to his scythe, to extent that he had literally broken down a door to get to it, and refused to work unless it was in sight. Maybe he'd chosen it instead of something else simply so he could have it in his hands.
Still, Jacob thought it would be for the best if he asked Caelus exactly what the scythe was. If Caelus had to tell the truth, then he couldn't avoid such a direct question.
"It's not just a scythe though, is it? Tell me what it really is." Jacob said with all the force that the General could muster.
Caelus sighed tiredly. "It's a scythe. It has always been a scythe, and it's still a scythe now. Admittedly, I can turn it into a staff, but it's still a scythe. Now, can you stop hassling me with irrelevant questions and go and find Spike and Jolinar? I need them to finish my work, and if I don't finish before Willow wakes up - well, let's just say that would be bad."
"No need." said Spike from the doorway cheerfully. Jolinar and Sam stood behind him. "We're here."
Spike and Sam stood considerably closer together than was strictly necessary. Jacob instantly surmised that something had happened between his daughter and the vampire, and promptly chose to ignore it (much to Selmak's amusement).
"Fantastic." said Caelus drily. "Now give me your blood. And before you ask me why, Major Carter, let me tell you that you wouldn't understand my answer."
Neither Spike nor Jolinar argued, although they all looked at Willow's unconscious body questioningly as the alien and the vampire drew their blood.
"It's a long story." Jacob said in response to their unasked question. "I'll tell you about it later."
"Yes yes, I'm sure you're all dying to chat, but could one of you fetch Colonel O'Neill? I'm nearly done here."
"I'll go." Jacob said, wanting to leave before he got into an argument with Sam about Spike.
"Is Will okay?" Sam asked.
"No." Caelus replied distractedly. "She isn't. If she wakes up, she'll either die, kill everyone in the room and then die, or something worse."
"What's worse than that?" Spike asked warily, moving as far from Willow as he could.
"You don't want to know."
"I do, actually. If I didn't, I wouldn't have asked."
Caelus sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Let me rephrase: I'm not going to tell you."
"Does it matter?" Jolinar asked. "I mean, you've finished now, haven't you? Can't you just inject her, or whatever it is that you're going to do?"
"I can. Unfortunately, I've had to make this with technology so primitive that I can't be sure whether it will work. And if it doesn't, I'd rather have O'Neill around because he might be able to buy a little time before Willow goes critical."
Spike snorted. "You're kidding me. You're betting the fate of the universe on a formula, and you don't even know if it'll work
"That's correct. However, I made it, and I am the best geneticist in the galaxy. If it can be done, I will do it." Caelus said.
"Bah. If the Ancients can give us the best geneticist in the galaxy, couldn't they have just sorted it out themselves?" Spike grumbled.
Caelus didn't answer. Spike was right. There was no reason for the Ancients to send anyone. They could have fixed everything before anyone even realised that there was a problem. Either that, or they could follow their standard policy and not interfere at all.
Caelus was a good politician. It's impossible to run a civilisation spread across the galaxy if you're not. But that didn't mean he liked it. He was a scientist at heart, he disliked the curly thinking and impenetrable motives that the true politicians so adored. He didn't know why they'd sent him, but it had to be to advance the machinations of one of the Ancients or another.
Fortunately, he was prevented from voicing his musings by the appearance of Jolinar, who had found Jack, Daniel and Dawn already on their way to the lab.
Caelus rapidly closed the distance between him and the colonel and injected him in the arm before he could protest. As he soon as he had done so, though, everyone with a weapons drew it. They were prepared for Caelus to try something.
"What did you do?" Jack said, gun pointed unwaveringly at Caelus' head.
"Try healing the pinprick. Go on. Try." Caelus encouraged, completely ignoring the gun.
After a moment, Jack lowered the gun and put a hand over his arm.
"It's not working." Jack said wonderingly. "You did it."
"I did." Caelus said in an incredibly self-satisfied tone. However, Spike wondered if he was the only one who noticed the tension that had suddenly left the Goa'uld.
Caelus carefully bent down to inject Willow too. As soon as he removed the needle, though, Spike reeled backwards. "What the hell is she?"
"Hey! That's my... friend you're talking about!" Daniel said indignantly.
Spike waved him away. "Yeah, we all know you've smooched her, but that ain't Willow. Humans don't smell like that. Nothing smells like that." Spike said, staring at the minute drop of blood that trickled from the puncture in Willow's skin. The blood which overwhelmed his vampiric senses with its overpowering smell.
It actually smelled delicious. Better than Slayer's blood.
Caelus absently drummed his fingers on a table. "I was afraid of that. I think that her Ancient power is turning on her, mutating her. The gene that my formula was engineered to eliminate isn't the same anymore, so I can't remove it."
Daniel turned to him. "You mean you knew this might happen? Why didn't you say anything?" he said in a dangerous voice.
Caelus shrugged. "I knew there was a possibility, yes. But seeing as how I can't do anything about it - not with the technology I have here - I didn't see why I should mention it."
Daniel put his head in his hands. "So we're doomed."
"Yes, you are." Willow stood up.
Or something that looked similar, at least. Her hair was no longer its normal coppery colour - it was several shades darker, and it seemed to darken before their very eyes. And her irises, normally a bright green, looked as though a dark film was covering them. That too was steadily darkening.
Willow raised a hand to wipe everyone in the room off of the face of the planet.