Disclaimer:Buffy the Vampire Slayer
is owned by Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy Productions, 20th Century Fox Television and others.EVE Online
are owned by CCP GamesStargate SG-1
is owned by MGM Television, Double Secret Productions and Gekko Film Corp.The West Wing
is owned by John Wells Productions and Warner Bros. TelevisionBetas:
Allen Baker, Greywizard and S.D. Cambron. Lots of thanks to them, they really help, a lot.Notes:
A little late, a little longer. Real life really can be a fickle little .... umpfh! :(
The West Wing will be a very minor part. They just have some convenient characters I can use.
I've updated this chapter somewhat. I made a few mistakes with the timelines and timezones. I'm working on the next chapter, RL have been a little unkind to me, and I've been derailed rather thoroughly lately, only leaving me time for some of the lighter stuff I've been writing lately.
Also, enjoy the Cover image added to the Prologue.
Jack entered Sam’s laboratory, and wasn’t surprised to find her bent over something, her back towards the entrance.
He knocked on the doorframe, to alert her to his presence. She had, on occasion, mentioned that she didn’t like to be surprised while running her experiments, and while Jack, on occasion, thought it was hilarious to ‘forget’ that, this wasn’t the time for screwing around.
She didn’t react when he knocked, so he repeated the gesture, a little harder this time, still without a reaction. Jack frowned at this lack of response, and entered, what could easily be termed as her lair. When he reached her chair, he finally realized why he hadn’t received any response from her.
She was asleep.
He decided to let her be, and left. She might be sore when she woke up in a few hours, but it had been a long week, and they all needed some rest anyway.
He’d been sitting in his office, leafing through and filling in his backlog of mission reports. He hated paperwork, with a passion rivaled only by his hatred of the Goa’uld, and now whoever it was who had thrown such a magnificent spanner into the works of any progress they had already made with the Capsuleers.
Sadly, the paperwork was a necessity, and as there wasn't anything else he could do at the moment, he might as well get it over with. Though it had only taken him a few hours, it was time he’d have preferred to have spent sleeping.
He closed the last report, and dropped it into his outbox, and looked at the clock by the door. “Damn it,” he muttered to himself, “breakfast is almost over.”
As Jack entered the mess hall, he spotted Sam and Teal’c already seated at their usual table. Not that SGC really had assigned tables in the mess, but for some reason, this one was always clear and clean for them. Sometimes routine and traditions were a beautiful thing.
“Good morning, Captain, Teal’c. Did you sleep well, Captain?” Jack asked, with a slight smirk on his face, as he sat down with his own breakfast.
Sam startled, and looked up from her papers, “Sir?”
“I asked if you slept well,” he repeated the question. “I went to see you earlier.”
As a reflex, she tilted her head to get a kink out of her neck. “Not really, sir,” she apologized. “I’m sorry, did you need me for anything?”
“No. I was just taking a quick tour, and wanted to see what you were working on. It wasn't important.”
Jack looked at the papers she had in front of her. “So, what are you working on now?” he asked.
“It’s these pistols. I’m still trying to figure out how they work. I’m afraid it’s going to be hard, though,” she answered.
“Why?” Jack asked. “You can’t get them open?”
“Something like that, sir,” Sam started. “And from what I learned from the people in Sunnydale, I don’t think we can, or should.”
Jack just looked at her, nodding.
“One of the pistols was apparently destroyed when Buffy... landed her shuttle in the courtyard at the final assault location. They only found metallic dust in a shape resembling the pistol. One witness mentioned it glowing before disintegrating.”
“What disintegrated?” Daniel asked.
Jack looked at their wayward team member in surprise, as he sat down next to Sam.
“Good morning,” Daniel said once he was seated, the others returned the greeting.
“What were you talking about?” Daniel asked.
“The CAR-9’s,” Sam replied, “I’m still trying to figure out how they work. We’ve already received some preliminary report on the ammunition, but the pistols themselves are a mystery.”
“And they are disintegrating?”
“No, just the one that was destroyed in Sunnydale that I know of.”
“Interesting concept, preventing your enemy from learning about your technology,” Teal’c added. “What about the ammunition?”
“The report is only preliminary, and I think it’s safe to say that they were right, it’s not something we can produce ourselves. They contain a form of Naquadah I’ve never seen, but we assume it’s used for energy and propellant. The projectile itself is regular Naquadah,” Sam paused for a few seconds, deep in her thoughts. “It does help explain how they pack the destructive power they do. It’s something I really would like to ask the Capsuleers about. Too bad they won’t be back for another thirty-six hours.”
“Projectile?” Daniel asked, “I thought they were plasma weapons.”
“They are. The projectile is superheated to a plasma state. The general idea is in that state you deliver what essentially amounts to the thermal power of a laser, and the kinetic impact of a regular projectile at the same time, although one flying at hypersonic velocities,” Sam explained. “At least, that’s what the technicians have found so far.”
“They test fired the weapons?” Jack asked. No one had told him about that.
“Felger did. Once. I think they are still waiting to tell Hammond about the destruction of most of the firing range, sir,” Sam replied, with a crooked smile.
“We’re assuming they are currently at their tower, right?” Jack asked after a few moments.
“We are, and they haven’t come back, if that’s what you are thinking of. Why?” Sam asked.
“Is there any way of getting a signal to them? We might not need it right now, but I’d rather not have to wait till they knock on our door again, should anything happen.”
“I talked to Bill Lee and his team about that. They might have something in about six hours, sir, but it won’t help us at the moment anyway.”
“Why will it take that long? Can’t we just use the regular transmitters we have?” Daniel wanted to know.
“It’s a question of power. I have no idea if they are listening in on the communications between the deep space probes we have or not, but I doubt it. So, we need something to get their attention, and at the current distance to Jupiter, that will take some power,” Sam explained patiently. “But the real problem is, that by the time they can have a transmitter ready to try, it’ll be another six hours before we can even reach Jupiter. It’s already dropped below the horizon.”
“So our best option is really that they provide some form of communication device?” Daniel asked after having thought over the technical details Sam had just provided.
“It is, and we can only hope that they will also solve the communications delay. A radio signal to Jupiter will take over 40 minutes to get there.”
Daniel leaned back in his chair. He didn’t get a chance to ask any more questions, since the alarms blared throughout the lower levels of the SGC, followed by Chief Master Sgt. Walter Harriman’s announcement.
“Unscheduled Off-world Activation.”
The five people, standing in front of the now collapsed ruins of the Rosenberg residence, were soon joined by the arrival of Joyce, Jenny and Giles, their belongings quickly added to the growing stack of boxes already on their rented pickup truck.
Ira looked at them. “What are your plans now?”
“Dad, we think it’ll be better if we all gather at a safe location. At least, until we can be a little more confident that the situation is under control. We still don’t know who attacked us, even if we are starting to see why,” Willow explained. “And to be honest, it frightens me.”
“Us,” Xander added.
“Besides, it’s only a few hours till sunset. We still have to...” Buffy let the rest of her statement trail off. She turned to look at her two friends. “Let’s drop the two of you off at my place, before the rest of us head for the shuttle.”
They all nodded in agreement, though neither of the Rosenbergs moved.
“Mom, Dad. Please,” Willow all but begged them.
It took the two another ten minutes to make up their mind, having talked quietly about it for most of that time.
“Ok, we’ll come, sweetie,” Willow’s mother finally said.
Willow’s relief was almost palpable, as she walked up to her parents, giving them a long, emotional hug.
Behind his mask, Xander was thinking furiously, gauging the spectacle of emotion shown by his normally slightly shy and reserved friend.
Fifteen minutes later, they dropped off Xander and Willow, who both moved around to the rear of the Summers home, followed by Buffy.
When Ira started to get out of the car as well, Jenny put a hand on his arm. “Don’t. Trust me, you really don’t want to go there right now. They have to change out of the armor.”
Ira looked at her, not quite comprehending at first, but then the penny dropped. “Oh. Right,” he replied, and closed the door again.
They didn’t have to wait long, before they saw two capsules take off, and Buffy walking towards the truck, her arms full of armor, which she stowed away in the pick-up. Before getting in, she went to the Rosenbergs car.
“It’s almost 6 P.M. Maybe we should stop for some pizza before following Willow and Xander,” she suggested.
“That sounds like a good idea.” Jenny replied, “I assume you have a restaurant in mind?”
Buffy nodded, “I know just the place. Just follow me.”
They had managed to get everything stowed on board the shuttle, and return the rental before Buffy went to change out of her own armor, after having explained the general concepts about having to use a pod, or capsule to fly the shuttle. The shuttle itself had been an eye opener for the Rosenbergs. Literally. At almost 60 meters long, and standing about 20 meters tall, it was far more massive than they had thought it would be.
As they docked in the Nyx, they were met by both Xander and Willow.
“What kept you?” Xander asked, though still smiling.
“We thought you might want something to eat,” Joyce answered as she stepped out of the shuttle. “Where do we store everything?”
“Let’s leave it in the shuttle for now,” Willow answered, “At least until we know where we are going next. Please, let’s head to the lounge then. I guess Buffy should be joining us soon.”
Willow quickly wrote a note on the Local channel, telling Buffy to meet them in the lounge.
“Giles, do you have a minute?” Xander said, as he dropped back, falling in step next to the librarian.
“Is something wrong?”
“Yes and no. I was just thinking,” Xander replied. “Willow is not acting like herself. She’s trying, but I’m sure her being shot has affected her far more than we thought.”
“I’d be surprised if it hadn’t,” Giles replied.
“We are idiots for overlooking this,” Xander said, seriously. “When we were attacked, we had no idea that the cloning would work. Everything we knew told us that we have to be in the pod for it to work, but we weren’t.” Xander paused for a moment, before taking a deep breath. “She died, Giles. She was trapped in that basement, knowing with almost complete certainty that she was about to die.”
Giles stopped, and Xander with him.
“What about you, then?”
“I got lucky. If you can call it that,” Xander replied solemnly. “I went to bed, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the medical bay at the station. Unlike her, I didn’t have the psychological strain of expecting to die. She did. She needs help.”
“Can’t her parents do that? I thought her mother was a psychiatrist.”
“She is. But I know Willow well enough to know that she’ll try to hide this. Besides, isn’t there something about doctors being prohibited from treating their own family?”
“What are you two talking about?” Buffy asked, as she walked up to them. The rest of the group had already taken the elevator up to the lounge area.
“Willow,” Xander said, quickly filling her in on his theory about her state of mind.
“Oh my,” Buffy exclaimed, horrified.
“I’ll talk to Jenny and Joyce first, before we break it to the Rosenbergs,” Giles finally said, after the silence became almost deafening.
“When you do, you might want to consider that Ira is a Lawyer, with some expertise in real estate, if I recall. We might use that to our advantage when we have to buy the CRD buildings,” Xander added.
“That’s... convenient,” Buffy remarked, with a slight frown.
Xander snorted. “We seem to get a lot of that lately, don’t we?” He checked the time, and looked at Buffy and Giles. “You wanted to go to London to sell the gold?”
“We still have a few hours before we have to be there,“ Giles answered.
“Good. I’ll suggest that while you two do that, Willow and I’ll go set up some labs, then go mining, to get her mind off things for a while.” Xander said, as he pressed the button, calling the elevator.
“That sounds like a plan,” Buffy replied. Giles nodded, looking unhappy.
“What kept you?” Willow repeated Xander’s jab from earlier, as the three entered the lounge.
“I needed to ask Giles something,” Xander replied, “while we decided to wait for Buffy.”
Xander had no idea if Willow bought the little white lie, as he had never been able to really lie to her before. But if she didn’t, she didn’t make anything of it.
Buffy, Giles and Xander quickly joined the rest of the group. They spent the next five hours filling in the Rosenbergs on everything that had happened over the past week and a half, while they ate first the pizzas, and then various dishes and fruits from New Eden, retrieved from the dispenser unit.
As expected, they had a hard time convincing the Rosenbergs about the more supernatural aspects of Sunnydale’s night life, but being in space, having a beautiful view of Jupiter's largest moon, and Jupiter itself, it was pretty hard to ignore facts for long.
Ira finished the lecture, by stretching and yawning loudly.
“When did you last sleep?” Joyce asked, suddenly slightly concerned.
“Not since midnight, when we were woken up about the fire at our house,” Sheila replied.
“Why don’t you take a nap, while we take care of some business ourselves?” Buffy suggested. “We have some pretty comfortable quarters just through those doors,” she pointed to the entrance to the dorm area.
“Will you all be ok?” Sheila asked, looking at Willow.
“No worries, I’ll be fine,” she answered.
Jenny rose from her own chair, “Before you go, there’s something I’d like to test, if you don’t mind?”
Giles looked at her, “What is it?”
“We talked about genetics earlier, I’d like to test Willows parents, just in case,” she replied, then looking over at the two parents. “It’ll only take a minute or so, if you don’t mind. Or we can do it later.”
Sheila and Ira looked at each other, then shrugged simultaneously. “Why not.”
“Buffy, please, if you’ll activate the computers?”
She called up her own screens, and activated the same limited access she had already given to the others.
Jenny leaned between the Rosenbergs, and pointed at a button on the rim of the table, “Just press that one.”
They did, and were greeted with screens of their own.
“This is remarkable,” Ira exclaimed, as he waved his hand through the holographic projection, then he pressed some of the buttons on the panes on the screen. “Selective tactile feedback?” he asked in wonder. “Do you have any idea what something like this would be worth?”
Buffy looked at her friends, her mouth agape. “No, but I take it that it’s a lot.”
“I’m not a patent lawyer, I just know a few. Most of them would be very interested in something like this.”
“You handle real estate, right?” Xander asked.
“I do,” he replied. Then looked up, “I assume you are referring to the CRD buildings you mentioned earlier.”
“Ira, what’s that?” Sheila asked, pointing to his screen. Then she looked at her own screen, and pressed a few more menu options, but nothing happened.
“I guess that confirms that theory a little more,” Jenny remarked, “It is
“What is?” Ira asked, slightly unnerved.
“The ability to fly these ships, dad. Not everybody can,” Willow explained, then spent a few more minutes explaining the statistics, and use of the genetic marker.
“So you are telling me, that I can fly one of these?” he exclaimed, looking around the room.
“Not yet. Something like this ship takes a lot of training. But you can, eventually, if you like.”
“This is a lot to take in,” Ira said, leaning back in his chair, while Sheila was still pushing buttons on her own screen.
“Mom, I’m sorry, if you had the marker, the computer would have responded to you by now,” Willow said.
“I’ll be damned!” Giles exclaimed. They all looked at him, noticing the screen in front of him.
“I’d say,” Jenny said, shocked, “The odds are...” she trailed off.
“Slim?” Giles tried to help.
“To put it mildly, yes. Either the numbers you’ve been given are way off,” Jenny looked at the three Scoobies, “or something else is going on here.” Jenny frowned, the cogs of her mind whirling frantically, while she walked back and forth along the table.
Everybody just looked at her, waiting, and allowing her to think in peace.
Jenny stopped abruptly, and looked up. “There’s one more thing I’d like to test. If you don’t mind?”
Everybody just nodded. “Do you need anything?” Xander asked.
“No. It’s just a simple detection spell. It doesn't require any ingredients.”
“Spell?” Sheila almost squeaked.
“Don’t worry, it’s harmless,” Jenny reassured them, before she made a few gestures in the air in front of her, while muttering in a strange language.
“Romani?” Giles muttered, frowning. Fortunately, his voice was low enough as to not interrupt Jenny’s spell casting.
Jenny pushed one hand forward, through the design that had started to appear, floating in the air in front of her. It flashed outwards and forwards, encompassing the entire table. She then opened her eyes, and immediately squinted, as if she had been looking at a bright light.
“Willow, please stand besides or behind me, you are practically blinding me. The same with you Buffy, though for a different reason,” Jenny said.
Once Willow had moved, Jenny looked again. “That’s interesting,” she muttered, before removing her hand from the design, ending the spell. “You can all sit down again, if you like.”
“What did you find?” Buffy asked.
“It’s not enough to form a theory, the sample size is too small for that, but it’s enough for a hypothesis, though.” Jenny started. “From the looks of it, everyone here who has tested positive to the activation gene, has some measure of magic potential as well, some less than others though,” Jenny said, looking at Ira. “That may explain why there seems to be so many of us here, who can become capsuleers.”
Jenny looked at Willow. “We really need to start getting you some training. I wasn’t kidding when I said you were blinding me. I’ve never seen that before.”
“M... Me?” Willow stammered.
Jenny just nodded.
“And me?” Buffy asked. “You had me move out of the way as well.”
“You weren’t as bright, just different. I assume that’s the Slayer Spirit though. It was clouding the rest of the table with you there.”
“Oh,” Buffy muttered, not knowing how to take that bit of information.
“But I don’t have any magic potential,” Xander said.
“Except when setting my books on fire by accident?” Giles replied. “Besides, even if you haven't already, you would probably have gotten involved otherwise. I don’t like it, but it does help explain why something so rare, is so common at this table.”
“How many of you have the potential?” Sheila asked.
“All of us, it seems, except you, mom,” Willow replied, sounding slightly sad.
“That figures,” Sheila muttered. “The Sci-Fi ignorant father can fly spaceships, while your Trekkie mother, can’t.”
Xander snorted, “I’ve learned that given half a choice, life tend to serve us the least fair option.”
“We really need to have a look at that station soon, Xander,” Buffy replied. “Fair or not, we have to deal with this. Just because they apparently can become capsuleers, doesn't mean they have to, but we need to know what’s available at the station, before getting any people’s hopes up.”
“I agree, but before we can do that, we need fuel,” Xander said, looking around the table. “We already talked about this, and it looks like the station’s AI is going out of its way to tell us what it needs, through these buy orders.”
“Fuel, minerals. We need it all,” Willow added. “But how? There are only two of us who can really mine, and you are going with Giles, leaving just Xander for that here.”
“You can help me mine rocks as well,” Xander replied, “or better yet, help me haul the ore to the station.”
“What exactly are you planning, Xander?” Giles asked.
“Basically what we’ve already agreed on. Add a few laboratories to the tower, or as it’s called in New Eden, a POS, short for Pilot Owned Structure. Then get some of the fuel to the station, to see what will happen when it receives it.”
“And the mining?”
“We need the minerals, but doing it now is actually just to pass time while you and Buffy head to talk to the Watchers.”
“What about the rest of us then?” Jenny asked, “I hate to just sit around doing nothing?”
“I was actually planning on asking you and Joyce to join us in London,” Giles replied. “But with Ira and Sheila here now, I have no idea how to proceed.”
Ira looked at Buffy, “Just how much information is there on these computers?”
Buffy looked up, then frowned a bit. “I actually don’t know. I just opened access to all but ship’s systems. It should be a complete archive of New Eden history, and most of the data we have, including entertainment archives,” she said as she looked at Ira. “I’m certain the entire Concord charter and legal library is there. It’s a requirement.”
Ira sat up straighter at that bit of, for him, good news. “You need me to go over that?” he asked eagerly.
“I don’t see the harm, though I don’t see a need for it, either. There’s no Concord here.”
“What’s this Concord, you keep mentioning?” Sheila asked.
“The short version is that Concord is the New Eden equivalent of the UN, and Interpol rolled up in one, but with some very powerful ships to back their charter,” Buffy explained.
“And they aren’t here?”
“Not that we know of,” Xander replied this time. “Though, that station poses a problem in that regard. I’ve never seen that design before, and it’s much larger than any other station I’ve ever seen. We won’t know exactly, until it’s fully powered.”
“And we are no closer to figuring out what to do next?” Giles interrupted, while looking at the Rosenbergs, “What are your plans now?”
“Get some sleep. Now that we know Willow is alive and well, I really need to sleep,” Sheila replied.
Ira nodded in agreement. “And even if we should wake up before you get back, there’s plenty to read.”
“Mom, are you up for a trip to London? Giles claims there’s plenty of art to look at,” Buffy asked, as she rose from her chair.
“I’d love that,” Joyce replied happily. “I love this place, but it’s a little dull, if I may say so.”
“Give me a few minutes to get my parents settled,” Willow said, before leading Sheila and Ira through the entrance to the dorm area. The others waited for only a few minutes, before she was back with them.
“Buffy, we are running out of spare quarters back there,” she said as she came back to the lounge. “All the more reason to see if we can move to the station soon.”
“I agree,” Xander and Buffy said at the same time, then chuckled briefly. Buffy gestured for Xander to continue.
“I actually don’t have anything to add, Buffy,” he said, “so if no one else has anything to discuss, I’d say, let’s move out.”
Everybody just shook their heads, and they moved into the elevator.
“Willow, you should see this,” Xander exclaimed excitedly, as he had started scanning the asteroids. “I’ve never seen this much Arkanor in a standard asteroid belt before!”
“It’s everywhere. If we could have brought this much back to New Eden, we’d be settled, for life.” he laughed.
“What about the other minerals then? We can’t work on just that, unless we plan on blowing up everything,” Willow repeated her question.
“Oh, they’re all here. The only one I’m not seeing is Mercoxit, I’m really hoping we’ll find some of that though,” he replied. But here’s something I’ve never seen in New Eden. Ice, mixed with rock. I wonder if this abundance of everything, mixed together like this, will repeat itself when we start harvesting the moons.”
“I wonder what made New Eden that much different from what we have here. Or if it was like this as well, before the first settlers arrived.”
Xander thought about that one, while his lasers were busy carving up the nearest asteroids. “I doubt we’ll ever find out. Then again, New Eden was fictional.”
They had made a slight change of their plans as they boarded their ships. Instead of both of them handling the installation of the three modules they had agreed on, they decided that Xander might as well just start mining and scan the asteroid belt to see what they had available to them, while Willow performed the construction, and added a few defenses to the mix, as much out of habit, as it was out of an expectation that trouble would find them sooner or later, anyway.
“I’m done,” Willow said after some time, “Do you need me to pick up something from you?”
“I have three cans ready for pickup, and a fourth well underway,” Xander replied. “How much did you add?”
“Not much,” she replied, a little too playfully.
“Willow. I know your alter ego had a thing for overkill...” Xander let the sentence hang
“It’s not overkill if it saves your ship, is it?” she defended herself, clearly having fun. This was an old ritual for their New Eden personas.
“How many guns did you add?”
“Only three large autocannon batteries, and a few scramblers,” she came back a few moments later.
“That’s good. It would suck if it didn’t have the power left to run the harvester.”
“Oh. I forgot about those.”
“Yeah, right. Of course, you did,” Xander laughed in response.
“I’m on my way. Where do you want me to put the ore?”
“Just put it in the station hangar. We’ll get it sorted later, there will still be plenty more to haul before we are done here. We still have a few hours before we can expect Buffy and the others to return.”
“I wonder how they are doing.” Willow asked idly.
Buffy was fuming, and had she looked at Giles, she would have known that he was every bit as livid as she felt.
“This is robbery!” She exclaimed loudly, slamming her fist into the old solid oak table.
Travers leaned back in his chair, smiling smugly. “You bring us this much gold, and expect us to just take it off your hands as a favor?” he replied. “We have expenses, too, you know.”
“Forty percent!” Buffy replied, growling. “You are offering forty percent of street value. That’s beyond greedy.”
They had been going at this for the better part of three hours already, starting at ninety-five percent of market value, even including the expenses the Council would have, the profit from that would still provide them most of the next year’s operational expenses. At least that was what Giles had been able to figure out, using his contacts in the Council itself. Travers had gone for forty percent, and while Giles and Buffy had dropped their demand to ninety percent, Travers hadn’t budged at all.
“You know what would solve my problems?” Buffy asked in a saccharine tone.
“Please, tell me,” Travers replied, with a sneer.
“Buffy, please,” Giles was getting to the limit of his tolerance, and having Buffy fuel these self-righteous, fools’ egos was not going to help the progress.
She decided to ignore the caution. “I’ll drop one of these on the Council, and I’ll happily do it for free.”
Travers perked up at that. It was clear to Buffy and Giles that Travers was already expecting to walk away from the table a very rich man. “You will?”
“Calm yourself Travers. She’s planning on dropping it from space,” one of the other Council members interrupted. Mr. Wyndam-Price if she recalled.
It took a few moments, but the look on Travers’ face when he finally managed to connect the dots, was priceless. Almost.
“They... You can do that?” he asked Buffy after having regained his composure.
The answer would be ‘No’, but she wasn’t about to let him know that. “We already did once, and he wasn’t even nearly as annoying as you are.”
“Maybe we should take a break, and meet here in an hour?” the Council member from earlier asked.
“I think that might be for the best,” Giles replied in a low voice Buffy had learned meant, ‘Take cover, or dig your own grave.’
As they left the Council chamber, Giles leaned in, whispering, “I’ll need to make a phone call. I think you should come with me.”
She raised an eyebrow, “Why?”
“Because I don’t trust Travers. If he catches wind of what I’m about to do, he’ll become very dangerous,” Giles explained in a barely audible tone.
Once outside, they filed into the rental they had used from near their landing site. As they drove, Giles started to explain. “Travers holds an enormous amount of power in the Council, while a good deal of them would normally come to our side, they won’t because of Travers.”
“Why would that affect these negotiations this badly?” Buffy wanted to know.
“They are of the opinion that they hold the long straw, so to speak,” Giles explained, while they drove towards the nearby town. “Normally, he would have. However the Giles family does have our own connections, some going every bit as high as Travers’ does. I never saw eye-to-eye with my father, but I did get to know quite a few of his friends, and even respect some of them.”
“How will that help us with the Council?”
“It won’t. If we do this, you might find yourself cut off from their support. Travers won’t forgive this. It doesn't matter that until three hours ago, he had no idea of the wealth we possess, let alone that we’d let them in on it. He’s greedy. Greedy for money, and greedy for power.”
“Cut off from what support?” Buffy asked incredulously.
“Exactly.” Giles retorted angrily.
“Here we are,” he said a little later, as he pulled into a small parking lot. “I hope their menu is still as exquisite as it was when I worked at the Council.”
They had stopped at a small inn; at least that is what it looked like from the outside. One of those little places most often seen in the more stereotypical depictions of rural England. Giles even had to duck when walking through the low door. Buffy loved the American style, but this was... cozy. She couldn’t think of anything else to call it. She followed Giles inside, smiling, the rigors of the past three hours at the Council all but forgotten.
Giles walked over to the counter and asked for a phone, quickly moving to the corner the waiter had pointed to. Buffy walked along with him, curious who he was calling.
“...Lord Sherbourne, This is Rupert Giles...yes, you used to call me ‘The Prick’.”
Buffy gasped, she didn’t think that this was how the ‘Lord’s’ would be talking.
Giles looked at her sternly, and continued talking. “My apologies for calling you at this hour. I have a rather delicate situation with the Watchers that you might be interested in.”
“No, as I said, it’s rather delicate. I’d prefer to talk in person if possible.”
“You are? Congratulations are in order then. When are you leaving for you new post?”
“That soon? That might be a problem.”
“The situation is with Sir Quentin Travers.”
“I’m delighted that you think so. I’m sure Travers Sr. would be thrilled if that were to be true,” Giles chuckled.
“We have to meet a little out of the way, our... transport is parked at the Eastchurch airfield.”
“Thank you, sir. We’ll be there in about three hours.”
“That is correct, we are at the Council estate at the moment. Our transportation is part of the problem, as you will soon see.”
“Thank you, your Lordship.”
Giles hung up the phone, and looked at Buffy. “At least it seems we have time for dinner after all.”
Buffy’s face lit up, the smells coming from the kitchen had her stomach rumbling in anticipation.
“Who is this Lord Sherbourne we are meeting?” Buffy asked while they were eating.
“He’s the hereditary Earl of Sherbourne, and former British High Commissioner to India. Even if you might not be impressed by meeting an Earl, the latter is definitely worthy of respect, so please be on your best behavior, at least in the beginning. He has a reputation for being flamboyant, so I think you’ll like him, once you get to know him,” Giles explained. “He’s an old friend of the family. While we didn’t get along as kids, he is highly respected. We can trust him.”
“At least more than we can the Council, I hope,” Buffy replied, a tinge of bitterness in her voice. She honestly hadn’t expected them to try to be that stubborn or greedy.
“Definitely. But don’t get me wrong, Lord Sherbourne is a politician, and a diplomat through and through. Don’t take anything for granted,” Giles warned her.
They took their time finishing off the dinner, before leaving for the shuttle.
It took them a little more than an hour to get back to their shuttle, at the decommissioned airfield. Buffy had commented on the irony about it taking them fifteen minutes to fly from Jupiter, but it took them an hour to drive the last fifty miles.
“Why do I have the Bond theme running in my head, Giles?” Buffy joked as they stood in front of their shuttle, looking at the approaching headlights.
“I did say he was rather flamboyant, didn’t I? I might have forgotten that he’s also a sucker for a good spy novel. Which is why I decided to have the meeting here, instead of trying to move it.”
“I never would have guessed,” she laughed, as the cars pulled up to them, and what she assumed were guards stepped out, looking at the large vehicle floating behind Giles and her.
“Rupert, old boy?” came the loud exclamation from the tall figure getting out of one of the cars. “Do you have any idea of the amount of ruckus you’ve been causing back in London, with that contraption?”
Giles groaned, and looked at Buffy. “You really need to figure out some sort of cloak for these.”
Buffy nodded slowly in agreement, while the man strode up to Giles, purposefully, and immediately proceeded to shake his hand vigorously. “Rupert Giles, it’s been far too long. I thought you were in America.”
“I was, and officially still am, your Lordship,” Giles replied, while putting his glasses back on. “May I introduce my protégée, Buffy Summers.”
“Finally, I never thought you'd get around to it,” he shook her hand far more gently. “And I must say, you look ravishing. Though as Slayers go, that is hardly a surprise.”
Buffy couldn't help but smile.
“I’m Lord Sherbourne, as you might have figured out by now. Though I insist you call me John Marbury, all that Lord and Lady gets a little tiring at times.” He looked at the machine behind them, smiling widely, “So this is why Travers was being his usual self, eh? I can’t imagine why.”
“Not so much the shuttle. Actually, he doesn't know about that yet. It’s the cargo that had him get greedy,” Giles explained, as he led Marbury around the shuttle to the open cargo bay hatch.
“My Lord!” John exclaimed, shocked, “Is that what I think it is?”
“Do you think it’s about six tons of gold?” Buffy asked, smiling in amusement.
John looked at the stack of bars in front of him, his mouth hanging slightly open in wonder.
“And what exactly is it you need from me?”
“The problem is selling it,” Giles explained, “There is bound to be too many questions asked if we just dumped this at any regular gold trader, such as where it came from, and why it’s too pure.”
“There are no impurities in these. It’s perfect for medical or industrial use, but probably too soft for jewelry, in this state.”
John just looked at the cargo, then at the shuttle. “You have to tell me everything, old friend. Like where you managed to get your hands on this.”
“That is why I called you, mentioning it was related to the Watcher business. Because in a way, it is.”
Giles and Buffy spent the next hour giving Lord Marbury what essentially was the cliffs’ notes on the events over the past week and a half, since Halloween night, and why they needed the money.
“I’m not too thrilled about the missing weapons, and if we get involved, we could be looking at a diplomatic incident. But your point is valid,” John remarked, looking deadly serious. “I have to ask you to not repeat your antics here, if we are to be able to have an accord.”
Buffy opened her mouth, starting to defend themselves.
“Ah!” John lifted a hand to stop her. “Remember this, blowing people’s houses up, is a good way of making sure they’ll hold a grudge.”
Her mouth snapped shut with an audible pop. There wasn’t much she could say to counter that.
“So, is this all of it or do you have more?” John asked, gesturing towards the open cargo hold.
“We have samples of the other minerals available to us.” Buffy replied.
“No, I meant the gold. Though, the rest could be interesting as well, I guess.”
“We only have a few cubic meters of it, but we are aware that dumping that much at once could pose a problem.”
“A few wouldn’t crash the market, but it’s a lot,” John replied. “Selling it, without questions asked, is near impossible. I can understand why you went the Watchers first.” John looked at Giles, “How much did that fool Travers want to take?”
“That’s no better than highway robbery,” John exclaimed, outraged, “I knew he was greedy, but taking forty percent off the market price is just insane.”
“Ah, I meant, he wanted to pay forty percent,” Giles corrected him.
“Oh.” For once, John Marbury was speechless at the sheer audacity of Travers’ offer..
“So, what is it you want me to do?” he finally asked.
“I had planned on asking you to intervene on our behalf in getting the Council to agree on a slightly better set of terms. Your name still pulls a lot of weight with the majority of the Council members.”
“If you have any contacts, other than the Watchers, who can move this much, at a fair price, and legally, it would be most appreciated.”
“You’d owe me a favor, both of you.” John said, his expression having lost almost all of the jovial demeanor.
Giles thought it over. He trusted Marbury, but his favors had a reputation of coming at a great cost at times. Being a big believer in the carrot and stick approach, he sometimes needed a big stick to show, in order to get the involved parties to go for the carrot.
“Provided they don’t go against our morals, I can accept that,” Giles finally answered.
John exploded in a brief bark of laughter, “That was a good one, Rupes, I’ll accept that. And I already have a candidate in mind.”
“Who?” Buffy asked.
“It’s better that you don’t know. Now, what’s your price?”
Giles and Buffy looked at each other, briefly, before Giles answered. “We started at ninety-five percent of market value, Travers at forty. We lowered ours to ninety, but as Travers wouldn’t budge, and remained at his forty, we had to give up reaching a common ground. We’d probably have settled for eighty, had they been playing fairly.”
“Eighty you say. Well, I think I can work with those numbers. How much did you say you had here?”
“Thirty-four bars, each one meter long, and a cross section of ten by ten centimeters. 193.2 kilos each, to be exact,” Buffy replied without blinking.
“That’s a little more than six metric tons, isn’t it?” John replied.
“I picked thirty-four, as it’s just about one third of a cubic meter. Thirty-one bars makes just eleven kilos short of six tons.”
“And the remaining three?”
“Maybe leverage?” Buffy responded with a crooked smile, then she got a little more serious. “To be honest, if you can handle all of the bars, we’d like the money from those three to be deposited on a few separate accounts. If possible.”
“I’ll need to make a few phone calls. Can you wait here?”
“We’ll wait. Thanks.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I haven’t named my price, remember,” John replied, as he strode off towards his car.
All of the SG-1 team rose from their table, when they heard the alarm, and rushed towards the control room.
Once they entered the room, they noticed that the iris had already been opened.
“Sergeant, talk to me,” Jack ordered.
“It’s SG-8, sir,” Harriman replied, “They came under attack, Lieutenant Palmer managed to get away and dial in. He should be coming through anytime, sir.”
Harriman had barely managed to finish his sentence, when it was punctuated by staff blasts impacting the concrete above the control room, followed by Palmer tumbling through, obviously injured.
Jack rushed to the alarm button on the rear wall, as Harriman called for medical assistance in the gate room.
“Close the iris,” Palmer screamed from the ramp. Harriman didn’t need to be told twice, and immediately started the procedure. He had already begun lowering the blast screen in front of the control room.
Jack grabbed the base PA microphone, and briskly ordered Teams 2 and 4 to suit up for a Search and Rescue. He then turned to Carter and Teal’c. “If the OSI will allow it, I’d like to break out the CAR-9’s for this. Sounds like they can use all the help they can get.”
Teal’c nodded, and left the room, heading towards level 25.
Carter looked apprehensive. “Sir, is that such a good idea? They haven’t even been trained with the weapons yet.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure. But I can’t send my people into a hot zone without the very best I can provide,” he replied, “Besides, apart from the thermal blast, they are actually far easier to aim and shoot than their regular sidearms.”
“Sir,” a sergeant spoke from the side entrance leading to the gate room, “Lieutenant Palmer is on his way to the infirmary. He did give us a brief report, though.”
“Proceed,” Jack replied.
“Everything was going smoothly, until about three hours ago, when a major force of Jaffa arrived through the gate, and started to shoot at the locals. The team managed to drive the Jaffa away from the gate, but the rest of the team is presumed captured or killed, sir.”
“Did he say how many Jaffa?”
“They estimated about three dozen, sir. Though Palmer was certain they had killed at least a third of them.”
The two rescue teams had arrived while the Sergeant had been giving his report.
“Gate deactivated,” Harriman interrupted, while the blast screen and iris were retracted.
“Ready a M.A.L.P. for immediate departure,” Jack ordered, “Send it through as soon as it is ready.” He then turned towards the two teams, “I don’t have to tell you that this is a hot situation. Extract our team, and if you can, remove the Jaffa, but SG-8 has priority. Teal’c is hopefully bringing down some new weapons that will come in handy. You haven’t trained with them yet, so I’ll leave it up to you if you are going to bring them. If you do, I can’t underscore enough that you are not to leave any of them behind! Destroy them if you must, but don’t leave them behind.”
Teal’c walked into the room, carrying one of the three remaining crates, and a large stack of ammunition clips. Jack quickly pulled his own weapon out, and demonstrated the weapon’s reloading, as well as explaining his own experiences.
Ferretti smiled widely, “This is one of the weapons that destroyed the firing range this morning?” he asked.
“It is, and with just a single round, so be careful,” Sam replied. “So you’ll be using them?”
“Are you kidding Captain? This is exactly what we need, when going against staff weapons,” Ferretti exclaimed, “We are using far too much ammunition to take down the Jaffa we’ve run into so far.”
“In that case, I’ll be needing a detailed report on their performance, once you return,” Sam demanded.
“Of course, Ma’am.” Ferretti replied.
“Sir, the M.A.L.P. is under attack,” Harriman exclaimed.
They looked at the screen, and saw a row of Jaffa firing at it, until they lost the signal. Ferretti looked at his new side arm, and exclaimed, “Keep that gate open, I’m going to try something,” he looked at his team with a wicked smile. “Follow me.”
“What is he doing, sir?” Sam asked Jack.
“I have no idea. This should be interesting, though, Ferretti has a reputation for being quite... inventive with tactics.”
They watched as SG-2 followed by SG-4 stood side by side, when Ferretti yelled, “One mag, full spread, fire away!” and opened fire into the opened stargate.
“That’s...” Sam exclaimed, mouth opened.
“Bloody brilliant!” Jack agreed. “That man needs a promotion a.s.a.p.!” he all but laughed.
“Indeed, the Jaffa on the other side should be... most surprised.” Teal’c replied dryly.
Jack grabbed the microphone, “Well done! Major, you may proceed if you like.”
The two SG teams vanished through the gate seconds later.
“Carter, please remind me to ask the Capsuleers for a cannon, I’d like to have some mounted in the ceiling, pointing at the gate, for the next time we need to clear the area.”
“I’ll remember that, sir,” she replied, still smiling at the unconventional use of the energy weapons.
“Carter, Teal’c and Daniel. Feel free to go to bed if you need it. Carter, in your case that is an order. I’ll go brief the General.”