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Ship of the Line: New Eden

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Summary: Xander, Buffy and Willow decides to go on a theme, and end up getting so much more than they bargained for.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Games > Sci-Fi(Current Donor)FeynorFR152068,91343347119,52518 Feb 1320 Apr 13No

Chapter Sixteen

Disclaimer:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, 20th Century Fox Television and others.

EVE Online and DUST514 are owned by CCP Games

Stargate SG-1 is owned by MGM Television, Double Secret Productions and Gekko Film Corp.

Betas: Allen Baker, Greywizard and S.D. Cambron. They really helped.



Xander froze on the spot, the barrels of his Heavy Machine Gun still spinning idly.

Forgotten. At least for the moment.

“My... theatrics?” he finally managed to ask, incredulous at the statement.

“Yes, theatrics. We understand why you are pissed off, we really do, but we did not attack you,” Jack almost spelled out the last half of the sentence. “We don’t know who did, but we are going to figure it out.”

Jack took a step forward, arms held outwards and palms forward. “I’ll apologize for the theatrics remark later, but I needed you to listen. Someone is trying to discredit us.” He elaborated, slightly more softly, “All of us. Someone is trying to get us to go at each other’s throats.”

Nobody had moved ever since Jack’s outburst, and the shock was clear on his team’s faces. Hammond and Davis didn’t look any less shocked. It took Xander and Willow some time to gauge the reactions.

Willow reached a conclusion first, raised her weapon towards the sky, and disengaged the charge cycle of her Forge Gun.

Taking the cue, Xander disengaged his own weapon, raising the barrels into the air.

“Buffy, please land,” Xander sent over the communications network they shared. “I think he’s serious. If nothing else, his team’s reactions seem genuine.”

“Buffy is going to land. We’ll be storing the heavy weaponry in the drop ship. Please, do not approach it,” he then said over the PA system built into his suit. “Then we need to talk. We will, however, remain armed and in armor, for the time being.”

“Son, I can’t let you into the base armed like that,” Hammond replied.

“And I have no intention of going inside the base, at least not until we have resolved this issue,” Xander bit back.

“We have a few hours ‘til sunrise, maybe set a few tables out here on the parking lot?”

Jack and Hammond both turned to look at Davis. “Good thinking, Major,” Hammond said, before barking an order into his radio.

 

It barely took them twenty minutes, before not only tables and chairs materialized, but also a tent had been erected.

“Please, have a seat,” Hammond gestured at the chairs around the tables.

“Sorry, General, but we can’t really sit in these suits,” Xander informed Hammond. Instead he just moved a few chairs away from the tables, to make room for Willow and Buffy and then himself, before crouching down on one knee.

“It’s probably redundant for me to tell you that I’m slightly more than just disappointed,” Xander started. “The agreement was that the weapons you received weren’t to be employed on Earth.”

“We had a breach in our security. We didn’t realize that the weapons were missing, until a little over an hour ago, when we were alerted to the events in Sunnydale,” Hammond replied. “The specifics will have to wait, until the initial investigation is underway, at least.”

“How many of the pistols are missing?” Buffy asked. “We don’t have the exact numbers, but I’d say they used three teams in Sunnydale, of eight people each, most were using our weapons.”

“Three teams?” Xander asked over their internal communications.

“I took down eight at my place, in two SUVs, and I think there were about the same number at Giles’ home. I can’t be sure about yours, but one SUV was destroyed, the other escaped. I assume they used the same number there.”

SG-1 had no doubt that the three were talking internally, they were telegraphing most of the conversation through their motions.

“Sorry, we needed to get some numbers worked out,” Buffy finally told the SGC team, as she returned her focus to them. “As I said, it looked like three teams of eight people each, that we saw. And two SUVs on each team.”

“And they all had Scrambler pistols?”

“We’re not entirely sure. Most did, at any rate.”

“That may actually be some good news, as we only have twenty of them unaccounted for.” Davis replied.

“One of the SUVs got away, though. Do you have something I can write on?”

Hammond pushed his notepad towards Buffy, saying, “You can use mine.”

It took her a few minutes, since the gloves of the heavy armor were not designed for easy use with something as small as a pencil, but she did manage to write down the three license plates she had recorded. “They were driving standard black or dark SUVs, Chevrolet, if I understand it right.”

“Nice, you just described more than ninety percent of all government SUVs,” Jack snorted.

Hammond looked at the paper, and rewrote the plate numbers and descriptions, returning it to Buffy. “Did I get that right?”

“You did. I’m sorry, but these,” she held up a hand, “are not designed for writing. The first plate number was the one that got away, the other two I destroyed at the scene. I didn’t see the SUVs or plates from the fourth scene of attack. But I’m pretty sure I managed to flatten most of the attackers there.”

“Flatten?” Samantha Carter asked. “What did you do?”

“I cut the engines on the shuttle, fifty meters above the attackers’ position.”

Sam winced. She was a pilot, in her training, and opinion, there are some things that you just don’t do in an aircraft.

Hammond managed to hide his own reaction to the statement, while he added the paper to the growing manila folder in front of him

He and looked at Buffy again. “We have a team of investigators who will be arriving here at the base shortly. I’m handing them this information. As we said before, we want this breach uncovered and sealed, as much as you do.”

Hammond turned to Davis. “Major, please have the teams we have in Sunnydale collect all the pistols they can find. I want to know how many are still unaccounted for.”

“Sir,” the major nodded, before heading over to the guard sheds, to make the call.

The general turned back to the trio. “I’m sorry. I should have given that order sooner, please proceed. You mentioned that some of your people had been killed in the attack.”

“It is no secret we stayed in Sunnydale for a while. We made acquaintances, two of those addresses were destroyed tonight, and the Harris family was still inside their house. We haven’t been able to contact them since. The other residence was the Rosenbergs’, who were out of town on business,” Buffy explained. “What have you been able to find out so far? You made it sound like you had people already at the scenes?”

“And what did you mean by ‘all of us were being discredited’?” Xander added his own question.

Jack leaned forward, leveling his gaze at the teens as he explained. “There are things that just don’t add up, from a military standpoint. As devastating as the attacks may have been, there are things we can’t make sense of, yet. Of course, we only have a preliminary timeline, we haven’t had time to get any specifics yet. Please tell us what you have.”

Buffy started by retelling the events, as she had experienced them, remembering to gloss over the part where Willow and Xander had actually been killed.

“That pretty much confirms the timeline we have been estimating,” Jack responded, after a short while. “As you can probably tell, there is a problem with that. The way you told it, Buffy, they were generally competent people, managing to coordinate responses and handling casualties. However, there is a glaring mistake, one we can’t figure out at this time. Why did they attack these addresses sequentially, and not simultaneously?”

The teens looked at each other, or at least at their armored forms.

“He has a good point,” Buffy said internally. “The question is, what do we do? We are so far in over our heads, that I’m afraid that we can’t handle this. Not on our own.”

“I agree,” Xander answered, “Not even the memories we have from our New Eden personalities are providing any real clues here.”

“Do we trust them?” Willow managed to cut to the base problem. “Isn’t that the first thing we have to decide?”

“I’m going for a ‘no,’ with a side order of a benefit of the doubt here,” Xander quipped. “They say they have thirty pistols left. If we can’t trust them, there is no way we can get those back without going to full out war. In other words, let them prove themselves using the remaining weapons, while we relocate to the tower and station. More or less permanently.”

“What about school?” Willow sounded outraged at the prospect of missing out on that.

“We are staying in school, once this is quieted down. If nothing else, we need the diplomas for our own benefit. There is still a lot we’ll need to learn,” Buffy answered her. “However, I’m more concerned about the Hellmouth. We can’t let that remain unguarded.”

“Buffy has a point there. Let me ask them something,” Xander told them, before turning his external communications back on.

“Jack, General, we still have business and obligations in Sunnydale. Is there any way NORAD can cover for us while we fly in and out of the atmosphere, using our pods?”

“What is in it for us?” Jack asked in return.

Xander sighed, it was a negotiation, whether he liked it or not.

“You clearly have the better intelligence network, and investigative capabilities, giving you a better chance of getting to the bottom of this. We’ll leave that to you, but we’ll keep in contact, and expect regular updates.” Xander paused for effect, and to take a deep breath, before continuing.

“In return, you get to keep the thirty pistols you have left, in addition to any you manage to retrieve from Sunnydale, with the same clause as before, and the expectation that you provide better security. We’ll even deliver a new batch of ammunition, by the end of the week. Not a lot, though. At least not in the beginning.”

“So we get to do all the work?” Hammond asked.

“You get to keep the weapons,” Buffy shot back quickly. She smiled, though they couldn’t see it. “And we’ll refrain from bombing anything that we might think is connected. For now.”

Jack was taken aback by the venom in her voice, but Xander spoke before he could answer her. “We moderated ourselves with Kinsey. This is different - they attacked us directly. They are going down, whoever they are.”

“We want them this time. We want to know who they are, and who is backing them, then we want to teach them a lesson,” Buffy added.

“What kind of lesson, if I may ask,” Hammons didn’t like the sound of this.

“For starters, spacewalking.”

“Without a suit, I take it,” Jack had to ask. “It’s that a little...tacky?”

“No. With a suit, and a button to break the seals on them, and a gentle push towards Earth.”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you have them, if you are going to kill them. While we have capital punishment, we never release prisoners to be executed.” Hammond stated, after digesting the information.

“Then you have to find a way. As we said, we want the criminals who attacked us. If we can’t kill them, we’ll park them on a pleasant holiday planet, like Io, with just a week of oxygen and food at a time. We’ll add a dead man's switch, in that case.

“But Senator Kinsey is still in a coma,” Samantha spoke up, for the first time.

“So he couldn’t have ordered the attack? Is that what you are telling us?” Willow replied.

“It’s not impossible, just somewhat unlikely.”

“I’ll grant you that,” Xander replied after thinking for a few moments.

“There is one other thing to consider, though,” Willow broke in. “They attacked the only four addresses in Sunnydale that meant anything to us, meaning they must have known who we are here. I’m just saying that is another aspect you might add to the investigation. I doubt they just drove around until they spotted us. As you said, their execution of the attack does not suggest heavy thinking. And we’d probably have noticed, had we been followed.”

Hammond was busy taking notes when Davis joined the table.

“Sir, the AFOSI team is here, requesting to speak to you right away.”

Hammond looked at the three armored forms. “Would it be permissible for us to take care of this investigation, and arrange a meeting here in two days? I’m not saying we don’t want you in on this, but it might be best if we get the investigation started first.”

They started talking briefly, internally, before reaching an agreement. They rose from their kneeling positions, with Xander turning to Hammond. “Can we agree on a briefing tomorrow evening, Tuesday at 9 P.M. here? That’ll give you a day and a half. And we can land, unseen after sunset.”

“What about Wednesday, 9 P.M. instead? We need to sleep as well.” Hammond replied, a faint smile showing.

Xander nodded his acceptance a few moments later, after having discussed the change with the girls. “We can do that. Do you have a phone number we can reach you on, should something come up?”

“Certainly. How about you? How do we get a hold of you?” Hammond replied, while writing down the number and confirmation code for the switchboard.

“Sadly, we have nothing you can use at the moment, but we’ll look into it. Our plan is to retire to space, since we have a few things we need to take care of, anyway,” Xander replied, as he took the paper with the number from Hammond.

They said their goodnights, and left the SGC team to deal with the OSI investigators.

*****

Half an hour later, they had returned to the tower, and once again parked the Nyx inside the shield.

The trio entered the lounge, finding three adults waiting for them, and asking questions right away. Buffy took the lead and quickly relayed the events so far, and managed to cut off the torrent of additional questions, by firmly stating that the three of them had barely slept for the better part of four days, and they intended to do just that, before taking care of any more business.

Jenny had not been happy, with not being able to return home, but they managed to convince her to stay, by pointing out there was no way they could ensure her safety on Earth, now that she had been seen with Giles.

Finally, they all managed to find their beds, blissfully sleeping, with no alarm clocks pending.

*****

Buffy entered the lounge, to find Giles sitting in one of the chairs in silence.

“Good morning, Giles,” she said, still tired.

“Good morning, Buffy. How was your sleep?” Giles replied.

“Nice, and long, for a change. What time is it?”

“Almost two in the afternoon.”

“And the others, they are all still sleeping?”

“I can’t be sure, but I think so, I haven’t seen any of them yet.”

“Just how long have you been up?”

“Only for about an hour. ”

Buffy went to the dispenser and ordered something to eat. On her way back to the table, she suddenly realized that they had forgotten to show Giles and the others how to operate the machine.

“I’m so sorry, Giles. Are you hungry?”

“I’m starving, to be honest.”

Buffy thought for a moment. “What time is in England?”

“Almost nine in the evening, why?”

Buffy winced. “Then that idea is out.”

“What idea?”

“I assume you, Jenny and my mother would prefer some normal food.”

“Indeed, I think we would. But why England?”

“I was thinking that we might use Willow’s idea, and sell a unit of gold - a 0.01 m³ ingot really - and use the money for some needed items. But I’d prefer not to do it in the USA, considering the trouble we’ve had there lately.”

“I have the money, but how are we going to get there?”

“By shuttle, if you’re up for it. We’ll find a spot near the east coast then, far away from our homes, so you should be able to get the shopping done with a minimum of trouble.”

“Do you have something to write on?” Giles asked.

“Heh, no, I don’t,” she said after having looked around, herself, realizing what Giles was suggesting. “I have an idea,” she said as she went to the dispenser and got some more fruits, and started to arrange them on the main table.

“I’m ready now,” she said, smiling

As they left the lounge, Buffy was heard asking Giles, “Where do you want to go?”

 

Willow entered the lounge, finding no one else there, but the brightly colored fruits, arranged on the table, drew her attention.

Gone shopping. Buffy.” they spelled out.

She snorted, because there were so many things they took for granted back home, that just didn’t have an equally low tech equivalent here.

She grabbed one of the fruits and bit into it, savoring the rich taste, so fondly remembered by her alter ego. She grabbed a few more, before walking to the sofas.

Willow had barely had time to sit down, before the lounge doors opened again, letting both Joyce and Jenny in.

“I’d say good morning, but at this time, that’s probably not really the appropriate thing to say,” Willow greeted the two adults.

“Are you the only one who’s up yet?” Joyce asked

Willow pointed at the table, “I’m sure Buffy is up as well.”

“When did she...?”

“I’m afraid don’t know, I just got up a few minutes ago myself. But if I know her right, she left as soon as she realized we have no coffee on board. Please, grab a fruit while we wait, but I suggest you avoid the pink and purple striped ones, they are very bitter. Definitely an acquired taste, if I recall.”

They sat there for quite a while, enjoying the fruits, while commenting on their taste and texture.

“I see you all started without us,” Buffy quipped from the lounge entrance. “All, except it seems, Xander,” she observed.

“I’ll go get him,” Willow announced, before jumping over the sofa, and running for the quarters.

Buffy and Giles walked over to the now cleared main table, and set down their groceries. Giles looked at the two women, “We might need a hand, there are a few more bags.”

They all went to the Shuttle, but Buffy wasn’t there. That was not what Joyce was reacting to, though. “My God, did you buy the whole supermarket?” she asked shocked at the number of bags stowed in there.

“It’s not as bad as it looks. We had to buy some other items, gas stoves, pots and pans, to name a few, needed to cook the food,” Giles explained, “We thought that you’d prefer some ‘normal’ food, though Buffy says the dispensers are very good. Most of the time.”

“But how are you paying for all this?” Jenny asked.

“I had to max out a few of my cards, but Buffy promised that she’d pay me back.”

“With what?” Joyce looked incredulous. Buffy had never been any good at saving money.

“How about with this?” Buffy arrived with a hovering cart, and on it was a long bar of gold.

Jenny and Joyce was staring at it, “Is that...” Joyce stammered.

“Gold?” Buffy teased her mother. “Yes it is, but only a little under two hundred kilos.”

The bar was measuring 1 meter in length, and was a cross section of ten by ten centimeters, for a total volume of 0.01m³, or had it been a liquid, a volume of ten liters.

Giles had been prepared for the shock, but this was the first Jenny and Joyce heard of it, and they both just stared at the fortune in front of them. Joyce was admiring the beauty of the yellow metal, while Jenny was trying hard to do the mathematics in her head.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Giles were busy unloading their purchases onto the cart, managing to stack all but a few of the bags onto it.

Buffy and Giles grabbed the last few and closed the cargo bay hatch after them.

“Mom? Jenny?”

“Buffy,” they both answered.

“If you could handle the cart, please, we kinda have our hands full already,” Buffy asked.

“Sure.” Jenny answered. “Buffy, do you have any idea what that much gold is worth?”

“Giles filled me in. It’s a lot, but 0.01 m³ is the smallest unit size our industrial hardware handles,” Buffy explained, “The idea is that we sell a few of these, to pay for repairs back home. Including a serious upgrade of our security, and somewhere to land our pods, and perhaps even a shuttle.”

A few seconds later, Buffy had a mischievous expression on her face. “Why do you ask, Jenny? Would you like one?” she asked.

Jenny froze, the cart didn’t, and she stumbled, but managed to regain her footing, before she fell flat on her face.

Giles leaned over, “That wasn’t nice, Buffy,” he admonished her.

“Quite funny, but not very nice.”

 

They all entered the lounge, finding Xander standing at the main table, holding the power cord to the coffee machine. “Uhm, Buffy, where did you think this would go?”

“Where’s Willow?”

“She said she needed a shower.” Xander replied, “Now, unless I’m mistaken, these ships don’t really come with a compatible power outlet.”

“I was thinking of just using its filter and carafe, with hot water from the dispenser.”

“Oh, right,” Xander replied, “I didn’t think of that.”

Buffy and Xander had quickly moved all the perishable goods into the dispensers’ refrigeration units, while Giles, Joyce and Jenny had set the table, and handled the coffee and tea.

“Wow, that smells delicious,” Willow exclaimed, as she made her way into the lounge, and then steered directly for the coffee machine.

 

After they had enjoyed what really was a healthy brunch, it was Jenny who broke the silence.

“So, what are your plans now?”

“For today, or in general?” Buffy asked for clarification.

“Both, really.”

“I’m a blank at the moment. The plan was to be home in Sunnydale, relaxing for a few days, and get back up here on the weekend, to explore what we have, especially that station we found,” she started. “The attacks ruined that.”

“If I may say something?” Willow asked.

“Sure, go ahead.”

Willow looked at the people at the table. “The real question is. Do we claim sovereignty here? And how much do we build up the infrastructure? I think that decision really takes precedence over anything else, right now.”

“You sound like you’ve been thinking about it,” Giles remarked. “Why don’t you tell us what you have on your mind, and we’ll go from there?”

“Before we found the station, we could have claimed the sovereignty of the system, but really didn’t need to. But now, I think we won’t be getting the most out of the station if we don’t.” Willow started to explain her ideas. “After considering the attacks made against us, I’m starting to realize a few things. We are Capsuleers, and we’re not in Concord controlled space. Most of our hardware requires us to hold sovereignty, to work properly. But most importantly, we are on our own. We cannot rely on the protection of a single nation on Earth.”

Silence descended over the table.

“I trust you know what you are suggesting, Willow. Am I right?” Giles eventually asked.

“I think I do. By claiming sovereignty, we effectively become rulers of the entire system, Earth included. Though I have no intention of ruling there,” Willow looked at Buffy and Xander, they were looking back at her, slowly nodding. “So, I suggest we’ll start by adding a Territorial Claim Unit, and later an Infrastructure Hub. But where?”

“The station is 42 AU above the system plane. How about we see if we can add the TCU above that,” Buffy suggested.

“I can live with that,” Xander added his own agreement.

“I’m not sure I can.” Joyce broke in, “What on Earth are you three talking about?”

They launched into a brief explanation about the meaning and benefits of a sovereignty, and reassured her that it really didn’t have any impact on anyone on Earth, except for the added protection they could provide from the extraterrestrial threat SG-1 had mentioned.

“Wait, wait, wait.” Jenny broke in. “Extraterrestrial threat?” she asked, incredulous, “What threat?”

“I apologize, you weren’t involved in that,” Giles said. “Maybe we should...” he trailed off, gesturing to the sofas, “And I’ll explain as much as I can.”

They left the Scoobies and Joyce behind. Joyce kept shifting her gaze at Giles, and her daughter, unable to decide what was more important.

“You should go with them, you can add to Giles’ information as well.” Buffy said, helping her mother make the decision.

Meanwhile, the three friends started to plan out the details on how they wanted to proceed.

“The SG-1 team saw this tower, so I think it might be a good idea to set up a tower at another moon, possibly a little further out. And then use this one for the mining and industrial operations,” Xander added.

“I certainly would like my Titan to be at a different tower than the one they know about, preferably a large tower, if we have one,” Willow added. When she saw Buffy raising an eyebrow in question, she clarified, “We are getting a crash course in security. They don’t need to know about the Titan, until it is either coming right at them, or enemies start blowing up. I’d like to keep its existence secret.”

“I get you. We also have to start being very security conscious when we are on the ground. We need to remain at the school, as it is the location of the Hellmouth,” Buffy replied, “and we need some place to land. Are there any abandoned or closed industrial buildings in town?”

“There is the Calax”, Xander answered.

“Calax?” Buffy asked, having never heard of it.

“The CRD, or Calax Research and Development.” Xander answered her, ”They were really big news, a few years ago when they moved to Sunnydale, but they have since moved most of their operation elsewhere. They never said why, but I can hazard a guess that it’s bad for business, when one’s scientists keep getting killed by locals. The last I heard is that they are looking to sell their properties in Sunnydale.”

Willow eyed the gold bar still sitting on the hover cart. “We’ll be needing a few more than that, I’m afraid.”

Buffy looked apprehensive. “How many more do we need?”

Willow smiled briefly. “I joked about it earlier, and then did the calculation. One cubic meter of gold, in today’s prices is worth just about 180 million dollars. That bar is 0.01 m³, so roughly 1.8 million each.”

“How much do we actually have?” Buffy asked.

“Of gold?” Xander asked. ”Not all that much really. Apparently, pure gold is not that useful, it is a part of most of the other alloys and minerals we can mine, though. I think I have two or three m³, that’s all. But for what we are about to do, we only need fifteen to twenty bars.”

“Maybe more, actually,” Willow added. “We need to pay taxes of the income from the sale. If we buy those buildings, we can’t have the IRS snooping around. We have to get someone to do the math for us. But thirty bars would net us 54 million, minus taxes, say fifteen percent, that’s roughly 45 million left...” Willow paused, “And I have no idea what the CRD buildings are worth.”

The three adults joined them back at the table.

“What are you talking about,” Joyce asked.

Buffy responded by bringing them up to speed on their plans, what little of them they actually had.

“Good Lord. You want me to sell thirty of those things? Covertly?” Giles sat down heavily, his mind reeling.

“Does it have to be covert?” Xander asked.

“Yes, it does. If I show up with just one of these, in that form, people will ask questions. A lot of them. That’s not being made any easier by the purity. I’m assuming they are 100% gold.”

“I’d be surprised if you found a single atom not being gold, why?”

“All gold on Earth contains traces. Less than a tenth of a percent usually, but it is there. And with the amount, I am afraid we have to go through the Watchers Council with this. They are the only ones I have any contact with, who could handle something like this. Sadly, because they will want to know where I got it. Magic won’t cut it,” Giles smirked. “Believe me, I tried.”

They all laughed at that briefly, some a little more nervously than others.

“And I think we ought to incorporate the ownership in the UK. You’ll pay a little more in taxes, but it’ll help us get over the problems with questions we don’t want the authorities to ask, as we’ll be covered by the Council.”

“That sounds like a plan. And that gives us eight or nine hours, before anyone is open for business there,” Willow replied, with some finality.

“Agreed, but what about this world domination you were talking about?” Joyce wanted to know.

“Mom, not world domination. Trust me, it’s more trouble than it’s worth,” Buffy replied.

At her mother’s puzzled expression, she tapped her temple. “The alter ego remembers.”

Xander picked up the explanation. “No one on Earth is going to feel the difference, really. The sovereignty we are talking about, really only affects what we can do out here.”

“So, back to what we need for it,” he continued. “We have the TCU we need, a few of them actually. But we need to manufacture the Infrastructure Hub. And we need to figure out the economics. We all have a healthy, bordering on obscene, amount of ISK, but it is not unlimited, and we can’t generate more.”

“There were some buy orders on the station, but they won’t last forever,” Willow said, remembering their exploration of the station.

Xander subconsciously pushed a few buttons embedded in the table, and a holographic screen popped up in front of him. Quickly, Buffy and Willow did the same.

“Ok,” Buffy exclaimed, “This is cool.”

Jenny shared her excitement, and tried to press the same buttons, to no effect. She looked at Buffy, puzzled.

“Oh, sorry, The computer doesn't recognize you.” She pressed a few more buttons on the screens hovering in front of her. “Try again.”

This time, Jenny was greeted with a simpler set of screens, and started to press buttons with glee.

Buffy quickly pressed a few more buttons, giving her mother and Giles the same access.

“Just don’t activate the ship’s self-destruct, please,” Xander quipped.

Jenny froze. “I can do that?” Then she saw the smirk on his face. “Oh, ha, ha, ha. Very funny,” she half laughed, as she returned to the screens, exploring.

“This is odd,” Willow exclaimed. “Take a look at the buy orders for fuel items. Does anything stand out there?”

“They have almost a year run time. And there are a lot of them, too,” Buffy replied, as she browsed through a few more fuel items, seeing more of the same. “But it’s requesting none of the standard fuel blocks, though.”

“Exactly. We have to check something, but could it be the station itself putting those up?”

“Maybe its AI, called ‘Aura’, detected the low fuel situation, and did something on its own to fix the problem?” Xander asked.

“The station certainly did seem to be running, with most systems offline,” Buffy muttered in response.

“Do we have any fuel on the freighter, Xander? I wonder what would happen if we tried to sell some of it to the station?”

“We have some. Enough for a week for three large towers. But we really have to start considering mining more,” he replied. “And won’t that be funny, if it turns out we need something only a water or temperate planet can provide.”

 

“Excuse me,” Jenny suddenly asked, “but why is the computer asking me if I want to learn more about becoming a Capsuleer?”
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