Chapter 2: The Demon in the Room
Disclaimers: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. Star Gate SG-1 belongs to MGM TV Entertainment and probably someone else.
AN: First of all, don’t ask me where the chapter title came from. My muses confuse me some times, but I’ve yet to think of anything more fitting so this is what you got. Secondly, hi! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I finally got my muses back on track the same way I’m generally able to with some of my other stories – by playing with timelines. I don’t know why, but for some reason that just really helps my muses focus. So I have played with the timeline a bit to keep my muses happy. Hope it doesn’t throw anyone too much. A Fine Line Chapter 2: The Demon in the Room -X-X-X- Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
The President rose to his feet and moved around the table to greet the Council Representatives as the others in the room followed his example, though remaining where they were. “Dr. Giles, good morning. I hope your flight went well?”
“As well as can be expected, Mr. President, thank you for asking.”
“At least it wasn’t commercial.” The dark haired young man–Harris, the escort had called him–offered with a rye smile.
Jack thought, ‘Still a little young for a civilian to be involved here, but he might be OK…
“True,” the older, English man replied, while reaching out to shake the President’s pro-offered hand. “And yours?”
“Oh, I’ve been here for a few days since our last phone call. But it was brief, and relatively free of turbulence, thank you.” The President nodded, before turning his attention to the young redhead that was right next to Dr. Giles. “Miss Rosenberg, I believe?”
“Yes, sir.” Willow nodded, shaking his hand while offering a shy smile. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“A pleasure... And Mr. Harris? Are you still free-lancing?”
“Nope, the Council owns me completely now...and they pay me more. So it works out well...Mr. President.”
“Yes,” the President chuckled, still smiling as his eyes fell on the blonde that stood beside Harris. “Miss Jenkins, congratulations to both of you, of course.”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” the pretty girl replied, smiling as she shook his hand.
“I do hope that you plan on sending me an invitation?” (1)
“Um, we haven’t gotten that far yet.” Harris offered. ‘What?
’ Jack wondered, looking them over. Then he noticed the engagement ring on Jenkins’ ring finger. ‘Ahh...goody...They’re going to take over the management of the Stargate while planning their wedding...I wonder if they’ll think of having it off world? That might be neat…
“Of course, of course,” the President nodded before he finally turned his attention to the young blonde woman that had come in after everyone else. “And Miss Summers,” he nodded; moving towards her and offering his hand, giving hers a firm shake when she accepted it. “I must say that it’s an honor to finally meet you.”
The blonde blinked, “Thank you...sir. It’s an honor to meet you, too.”
The President laughed, “It’s nice to hear you say that, but I hardly think the two are comparable.”
Jack frowned slightly as he looked her over, just as he knew most of the others in the room doing the same. This
was the ‘warrior’ that the President wanted them to show the utmost respect? Who’d died ‘in the line of duty’–what duty if she’s a civilian?–several times to save the world?
She was so...blonde. And not in the way Carter was a blonde; Summers’ really seemed to fit the stereotype. She was also very short. And what her generation considered ‘fashionable’. She had pink nail polish that matched her pastel blouse. Which looked kind of odd with the tight black leather pants and high-heeled, black leather boots that she was wearing. But it suited her. He wasn’t sure if the complicated-looking twist-thing she had her hair up in did.
Then he noticed the way she was standing. Her back was to the wall, turned at an angle that allowed her to watch the doorway in her peripheral vision even as she watched everyone in the room and the open door to the General’s office on the other side.
At first glance she looked pretty relaxed—and kind of out of it—but she had her feet spread in a stance that looked a great deal like one of the resting positions martial artists used. So that she would be able to move quickly and take anything anyone threw at her.
And now that he thought about it, his well-honed gut-instincts were telling him that throwing something at her would be a bad idea...
“This is General George Hammond, the commander of Stargate Command,” the President gestured to the General, who nodded from where he’d been sitting beside the President on the other side of the table. “And this is Colonel Jack O’Neill, second in command of the base, and commander of SG-1.”
“Hey,” Jack waived, offering a small smile.
“And Major Samantha Carter, second-in-command of SG-1, and one of the base’s leading scientists with a doctorate from the Air Force Academy.”
“Nice to meet you,” Carter offered, nodding to the group.
“And Doctor Daniel Jackson, head of the Archeology Department and the base’s leading translator and linguistics expert.”
“Hi,” Daniel murmured, smiling nervously.
“And Mr. Teal’c of Chulak, formerly a servant of Apophis, now a loyal friend and ally.”
“It is an honor,” the former First Prime also gave a respectful nod to the group, though his eyes were locked on Summers.
“And we also had a surprise visit from these representatives of the Tok’Ra, one of our strongest allies.” The President continued, nodding to the four representatives of the Tok’Ra Council. “This is General Jacob Carter, who with his symbiot, Selmac, is our primary contact and ambassador to the Tok'Ra High Council. I’m afraid I do not know what capacity Mr. Martouf, Mr. Amarnon and Ms. Anise are here in, though I believe that Ms. Anise and Mr. Amarnon are both scientists.”
“That is correct
,” Anise, the Tok’Ra, nodded, allowing her eyes to glow golden before visibly relaxing and letting her host take over. “I am Freda, Anise’s host. We are here in hopes that the Tau’ri might be able to help us with one of our scientific endeavors.”
“Yes,” General Carter nodded, “but that can wait for the moment. It’s a pleasure to meet all of you.” His eyes flashed as he relinquished control to his symbiot, “I agree. I hope relations between the people of the Tau’ri and the Tok’Ra may remain fruitful in the future.
Dr. Giles nodded in agreement, apparently not the least bit flustered by the strange change in voices or the glowing eyes. “We all hope that is so, I’m sure. Perhaps we might get to the matter at hand, then?”
“Yes, of course,” the President nodded, as he made his way to his seat at the opposite end of the table, gesturing to the other seats, “Please be seated.”
Summers had been watching the Tok’Ra closely when they were speaking, but hadn’t even tensed throughout the whole transition. As she made her way to a seat on the left of the other head of the table, where Giles was sitting, she continued to watch the other Tok’Ra scientist, who hadn’t spoken: Amarnon. When she took her seat she appeared to be perfectly at ease, but her back was to the wall again, and she could see everyone in the room and all possible entrances easily from where she sat.
“Now,” Dr. Giles began, looking from the Generals to the President, “I understand you wished to negotiate the possibility of remaining involved with the Stargate under the Council’s auspices?”
“Yes. I hope that won’t be a problem?”
“I shouldn’t think it would be... However, I must admit to some confusion on that point.” The Englishman shook his head before continuing, “It was our understanding that you wished to remove the Stargate from military control because certain factions in the U.S. government have been interfering with its operation, leaving our world open to potentially disastrous results?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Well then, doesn’t continued military presence here render the Stargate's transfer utterly useless?”
“No it doesn’t,” General Hammond shook his head, offering a small smile, “Not if we plan it right, and make sure that we don’t leave the N.I.D. any loopholes to slip through.”
Giles nodded, “Yes, I suppose that would work...”
Before he could continue Summers cut in. “And just how do you want the military involved here?” she inquired, now turning cool green eyes to the opposite head of the table, suddenly ignoring the Tok’Ra across from her, who she'd been staring at for the past few minutes.
“Well, we already have dozens of trained operational off-world teams, a top-of-the-line medical facility and faculty, some of the brightest scientific minds the world has to offer, and some of the best linguistic and archeological experts in the world—they’re actually rather difficult to find—”
“That’s because we own most of them.”
General Hammond blinked, “I beg your pardon?”
Giles chose to explain his younger associate’s allusion, “The Council owns and manages nearly all of the corporations, unions, clubs, portions of universities, etcetera, having to do with languages, linguistics, history, and mythology worldwide. That is why many of those worth employing are difficult to find, and almost impossible to buy.”
“Ah, I see...”
“Wait...” Daniel was frowning. “Do you own the Travers Foundation?”
“Yes, we do.” Giles nodded, “The Travers family was involved with the Council for centuries before Quentin Travers was killed at the bombing of Council Headquarters in London, a few years past. Some distant relations are still involved, but control of the Foundation was immediately transferred directly to the Council, as per his last will and testaments.”
“Huh, I worked for them in Graduate School and a while after that. They funded almost all of my research in Egypt.”
“With the criterion that they could call you in to work with them at any time afterward?” Giles nodded, “Yes. That is one of the ways the Council got a hold of a number of experts when Travers was in charge.”
“They never did call it in, but I guess I still owe the Council for that, I never would have been able to afford Graduate school or my research without it.”
“We’ve already called in a large number of the debts owed to the old Council, so in all likelihood we won’t need to call you.” Rosenberg offered, then blinked as she reconsidered her words, “Not that we wouldn’t appreciate your abilities as a linguist, I’m sure, but—”
“I understand, Miss Rosenberg,” Daniel cut in with a smile as the redhead they weren’t supposed to offend under any circumstances blushed lightly out of embarrassment.
“Yes, well, as I was saying,” Hammond continued after a moment’s pause, “We already have the facility fully staffed and operational, with many of the best in each field here. And as shutting down the Stargate in order to re-staff the facility could be unnecessarily dangerous to Earth’s defense—”
“I’m sure, but that doesn’t quite explain why we shouldn’t plan on gradually transferring most of your people out and ours in.” Summers cut in, shooting her group’s eldest member a hard look that was clearly meant to forestall any objections her friends might have.
“Well, yes, but—”
The President cut General Hammond off quickly, holding the blonde’s gaze as he did so. “I know the Council has undergone a number of changes in recent years. But I was under the impression that you were still trying to recover from the Battle with the First.”
‘Battle with the First?
’ Jack couldn’t help but wonder, and saw the same displeased-curiosity in the eyes of his teammates around the table. Sam and Daniel were up to date on pretty much all the news, all the time, between the two of them, but Jack paid attention to anything having to do—or what might have to do—with the military. And none of them liked the idea of any kind of battle that’d happened without their knowledge. Jack least of all, really, because as former Spec Ops he was used to kind of being in the loop on even the most hush-hush type stuff. Not that he saw many details and the like, but he still tended to hear something
Buffy shrugged, “We lost a lot of our intellectuals, yeah, but that’s not who we might be transferring in, Mr. President. Most of the scholarly work and whatnot is handled by civilians here, even now, right?”
“And much of the military presence is in the off-world teams, and the defensive measures the SGC employs. Which would mean that we could easily transfer some of our fighters in to replace most of the soldiers here. It’s not like we don’t have enough of them. There are already too many Slayers posted around the globe, and the new class will be graduating soon.”
’ Jack caught the title with a frown.
“Yes, but the soldiers posted here have off-world experience, and—”
“They didn’t have any before the Gate was intentionally opened a little while back. And everyone has to start somewhere.” Summers shrugged again, “Yes, most of our fighters are new and very young, but they are trained, and many have already proven themselves more than capable of holding themselves against your special forces. Easily.”
“And while your ‘fighters’ are trying to figure everything we already know out, the Goa’uld can attack and slaughter us all?” Jack cut in, allowing a deliberate edge he rarely used to slip into his tone as he did so.
He didn’t flinch when Summers’ very green eyes turned to his, but if he’d been even a few years less experienced then he was, he probably would have. A small frown worked its way onto his face as he wondered how this kid—she really couldn’t be much more than twenty, so the possibilities were daunting for how she—got that look in her eyes. A look he’d seen in his own eyes just a few days before when he looked in the mirror, and then seen reflected in the eyes of his teammates when they’d agreed to break orders and commit the court-marshal-able offense of going through the Stargate to save the world.
That’s what it was, he realized and suppressed a wince as he did so. The only thing that could cause that look: the weight of the world. And somehow he was sure she’d borne that weight a lot longer than he or anyone else in the room had, despite the fact that he had to be twice her age.
The President was frowning deeply as he broke into the silence, his tone quiet while everyone else remained silent. “Do you not want military presence here, Miss Summers?”
Summers continued to steadily hold Jack’s gaze while she answered the President, “Don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Honestly it depends on what I think of the teams I meet. And how they work with my girls.”
Realizing she wasn’t going to back down, even though he wasn’t entirely sure why, Jack blinked to break eye contact with her. When his eyes opened again her gaze was still locked with his, but then she nodded and looked away, finally turning to the president with yet another shrug.
“I’m just pointing out that the Battle with the First was a result of a great imbalance...”
“And this may be a way to fully balance out our new resources,” Dr. Giles realized, nodding his approval of her analysis. “But that doesn’t mean we should change everything here, Buffy. Considering their successes and such.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” She repeated with another shrug, “We’ll have to see.” Then she looked around the room again, before raising an eyebrow in the President’s direction. “And they clearly have no idea of what we’re talking about.”
“No,” the President confirmed, “they know very little of your past. Nothing beyond the fact that the world owes you all many debts and you’re greatly respected.”
“Well, that’s very flattering, but they need to know who we are and what we do before we can really start talking.” Summers rose to her feet, everyone in the room almost unconsciously following her lead. “If we head back to our hotel now and return at the same time tomorrow, can I trust that everyone here who needs to know more will be better informed by then?”
The President blinked, but then nodded quickly. “Certainly. I’ll have Agent Finn meet you to double check on what they need to know and what they don’t. He’ll see to it that they have the information later this afternoon. And we’ll meet here again tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
“Great,” Summers approved, glancing at her friends and nodding towards the door to indicate that they should leave now. When they started to, she turned her attention to the Tok’Ra, “I’m afraid whatever matter brought you here will have to be addressed after the meeting tomorrow. Hope you don’t mind?”
“Not at all,” General Carter replied, though he appeared to be just as confused as the other military personnel present. “There are quarters here for us, so we’ll meet again in the morning.”
“Afternoon. I know you’re our allies, but there are many things the people here need to know if they’re to work with us that you don’t.” With a sharp nod somehow directed to the whole table, Summers turned on her heel and walked out of the room, leaving silence in her wake. -X-X-X- In the Hallways of Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
‘Was that really necessary, Buffy?
’ Willow asked as the they moved away from the briefing room towards the elevators that would bring them back to the surface. ‘I mean, couldn’t we have just told them? With the President backing us up they couldn’t really question us... At least not too much.
‘I know... But I don’t want to talk about what goes bump in the night, what we do about it and why in front of the Tok’Ra. They don’t need to know, at least not yet...
‘And you didn’t like the silent one?
The eldest Slayer shot her a look, ‘Was I that obvious?
‘No, but you were watching him for a while...
’ her magical best friend replied. ‘Do you think he’s a Goa’uld?
‘I don’t know. But he felt more like the Jaffa’s belly-buddy than the other Tok’Ra... So he definitely might be. I’ll have to meet a known Goa’uld before I can be sure of what that feeling really means, I think.
‘If you can sense the difference between a Goa’uld and a Tok’Ra just by being a Slayer, it could definitely be handy in the future.
‘Definitely. Even if we do end up working with them.
’ Willow sighed, ignoring the looks shot her way from the others. ‘We don’t have the resources to just send them away and take over.
‘Maybe not. Yet. But I’m not going to have any of my girls working with anyone we don’t trust.
‘Fair enough, I guess...
‘Hey, that guy’s part of the president’s Secret Service guys, right?
Willow blinked, glancing at her friend before quickly following her line of sight to the man that had just come around the corner and was approaching them down the hall with a similarly attired agent next to him. Their conservative business suit didn’t stick out as much as their sunglasses and the communications earpieces that probably didn’t work down here. Unless they’d actually started using the magical enhancements she’d suggested a few months back. She nodded slightly, ‘Yeah, it is. Actually, he’s in charge of the presidential detail. Why?
‘You think I should tell him about the possible Goa’uld near the president? I mean, we’ve worked with the Secret Service before, so he’ll probably at least want to check it out if I tell him, right?
‘I’d hope so.
’ Willow wracked her brain for a second. ‘His name’s Special Agent Matthew Graves.
Buffy blinked at her, ‘Graves? His last name’s Graves? Really?
Willow firmly suppressed a chuckle as she nodded slightly again, even while she ignored the mental nudge that meant Xander wanted to talk to her the same way Buffy was. She already knew what he wanted to talk about, and his complaints weren’t as important as Buffy’s observations and questions right now. So he’d just have to wait until they got to the car. ‘Yes, Buffy, his name’s Matthew Graves. You’ve met him before, remember?
‘Well, yeah, but he told me to call him Matt then. I never knew his last name. Obviously Xander didn’t either, ‘cause I woulda heard about a last name like Graves.
Willow knew Buffy must have heard others—people who didn’t have the high ranking agent’s permission to address him by his first name—talk to Special Agent Graves, but decided it wasn’t important as she nodded to the agent after she had his attention and indicated a door to an empty room they were all supposed to be passing.
To his credit, the agent immediately nodded to her request and stopped the marines that were supposed to be escorting them off the base.
Though they now owned the Stargate, if they wanted to keep it on this base they were going to have to come to some kind of deal with the military, but she did understand Buffy’s concerns.
“Gentlemen,” Agent Graves nodded to the marines as he held up a hand to stop the group by the open door. “If you’ll wait out here, we need a moment with the Council Representatives.”
“Miss Summers, Miss Rosenberg, Miss Jenkins, Dr. Giles, Mr. Harris,” the agent nodded to them and waved them into the room, “please.”
Ignoring the glares the marines were sending the secret service agents as they took up positions around the door, Willow shook her head at Giles, Anya and Xander. “Buffy and I’ll take care of this. Just wait here for a second, OK?”
Not giving them time to object, Willow and Buffy stepped inside with the two agents quickly following and closing the door to the small storage room behind them while hitting the switch to turn the lights on.
“May we help you, Miss Rosenberg?” Agent Graves raised an eyebrow at her as he finally took his sunglasses off, though his silent partner kept his on.
“Actually,” Buffy immediately spoke up, “you wanna talk to me, Matt.” When the middle-aged man immediately turned his full attention to her, she continued. “I thought you might want to know that one of the Tok’Ra reps could be a fake.”
Both of the agents stiffened, frowning severely.
“You think one of them is a Goa’uld?” Graves asked, before shaking his head slightly to turn towards his partner. “Get Trailblazer * away from the Tok’Ra.” (2)
The younger agent nodded and immediately left the room at a brisk walk, closing the door it behind him as he left.
‘Guess they haven’t made the modifications then,
’ Willow suppressed a sigh.
Though, really, it was probably more because they didn’t have anyone to do
the modifications, as she was pretty much the only magic-user in her area of expertise. Most techno-mages or techno-witches or whatever they wanted to call themselves just didn’t apply magic-enhanced technologies to practical purposes. They used it for fun stuff.
It was something the Council was now trying to change, primarily by having Willow train more magic-users in her kind of magic. But it was still slow going, since they had to either learn or relearn a lot, and some just couldn’t do it. Everyone had their limits.
Then the senior agent turned back to the much younger, but extremely powerful women. “May I ask what you’re basing this observation on? We’d rather not offend potential allies if possible. Though we obviously won’t risk the president’s safety on any such precautions.”
“Of course,” Buffy nodded in agreement, feeling a little guilty for not dragging the president out of the room herself, though she did know the possible-Goa’uld was much more interested in Buffy and the other Scoobies than he’d been in the ‘leader of the free world’. She’d sensed that too. She sighed, shrugging slightly as she met the agent’s cool blue eyes. “You know I can sense things, right? Different kinds of demons. Other kinds of danger.”
Graves nodded, “Of course... one of the Tok’Ra felt dangerous to you?” he asked, frowning at the thought that she’d be willing to leave the president near a potential threat if that was the case, but his expression softened as Buffy immediately shook her head.
“No. I think he’s just here as a spy, he wasn’t registering as a threat any more than anyone else in that room was. And almost everyone there was dangerous in their own ways. But I could sense the Tok’Ra’s, um, symbiots? And Teal’c’s.” She shrugged again, “And Ama-something’s felt a lot more like Teal’c’s then the other Tok’Ras’. So...”
“So it’s possible Mr. Amarnon is not a Tok’Ra but a Goa’uld.” Agent Graves nodded in understanding. “Thank you for informing me.” Then a small frown broke through his professional mask again. “But aren’t you leaving rather early? It was my understanding that you’d only just arrived a short while ago.”
“Yeah, we did,” Buffy sighed and shook her head lightly as she continued. “But most of the people we’re supposed to be negotiating with know nothing about us. Most of them looked like they thought the president might be pulling some kind of prank on them when we first walked into the room.”
“Only at first, Buffy,” Willow objected with a frown. “They started taking us seriously a bit after that. And most of them seemed to recognize the need to be wary around you.” Then she grinned, “Though it probably helped that you weren’t playing the dumb blonde act for them.”
“I didn’t think it would be a good one to pull out for today.”
“So you went with the over-protective-leader instead?” the redhead asked, one eyebrow raised.
Buffy sighed again, “I guess.”
Agent Graves shifted slightly, probably thinking of coughing or something to politely gain their attention again, but that little move was all it took to draw both their eyes back to him. “So I take it you will be returning in the near future?”
“Yeah,” Buffy confirmed, before frowning as she sensed a slight amount of disapproval from the middle-aged man. “After the military people here know why they should be taking us seriously. The fact that we hold the future of their program in our hands apparently wasn’t enough,” her frown deepened as she finished, and she had to catch herself to keep from glaring at the disapproving man.
Agent Graves blinked, before nodding as he raised his hands slightly in a gesture of surrender, apparently catching on to the Slayer’s displeasure quite quickly. “I’m sure that makes sense, and I certainly won’t question it.” He sighed as he lowered his hands and continued when one of Buffy’s eyebrows rose. “But that means the president’s going to want to be around here even longer. And even if there wasn’t a chance aliens might come storming through the Stargate or fly overhead to try and blast the base, politically it’s not a good idea for him to stay holed-away, working on a secret project for too long.”
“No, it probably isn’t,” Willow agreed quickly, while Buffy also nodded in understanding.
“He really doesn’t need to stay,” Buffy offered after a short pause. “I mean, we get the fact that this is really important to him.”
“Even so,” Graves shook his head as he stepped towards the door. “He’s gonna stay a while longer. Now if you’ll excuse me I should be getting back to work. Especially if the White House is going to need to organize more conference calls and the like before we head back to DC. Have a nice evening, ladies.”
Both nodded in agreement as they moved through the door that the agent held open for them before moving off with their escort while Agent Graves took off in the opposite direction at a brisk walk not unlike the one his partner had shot off at earlier.
Buffy shook her head when the other Scoobies glanced/frowned at her and jerked her chin slightly towards the ceiling to tell them to wait till they got out of the base before opening her mind to Willow’s mental nudging again. As they moved into the elevator that had only been a short ways off when they stopped, unable to suppress a sigh of relief as the doors closed behind them and the elevator started moving upward.
‘Are you going to involve the Finns and some of their agents?
‘To explain our work, definitely. To work here with us?
’ the eldest Slayer shook her head. ‘We might want to consider it. Especially if having this thing active is going to attract supernatural attention... Is it just me or is it taking longer to get to the surface than it did to get down there?
The witch snorted, again ignoring the inquiring looks sent her way in response, ‘It’s just nerves. There’s only a few more floors...
’ she smiled as the elevator dinged, announcing their arrival as the doors opened to release them from the tiny compartment. ‘See?
‘Great...just one more elevator to go...
’ -X-X-X- Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
“Well...” the Colonel broke in after a few moments of silence, “That was less than productive.”
“But interesting,” Daniel pointed out, the far-off look in his eyes indicating that most of his attention was directed inward.
“That it was,” General Hammond agreed, not indicating if he was agreeing with only one or both of them. He then turned to the President, who also appeared to be lost in thought, “Mr. President?”
The President started, blinking himself back to the present before replying, meeting the General’s eyes as he did so. “Yes, General?”
“Should I have the heads of all available SGC teams report here for a briefing this afternoon?”
The U.S. Commander and Chief sat in silent contemplation for several moments before replying with a nod. “Yes, I think that might be a good idea,” he then offered the Tok’Ra a small smile. “I’m afraid the SGC will be unavoidably detained for at least the next few days, if you—”
“We can wait, Mr. President,” General Carter cut in, shaking his head. “We’re in no hurry.” He shot the scientists a look as he said this, which apparently made them repress whatever objections they might have had. “I assume our quarters haven’t changed?” he asked, moving towards the door and gesturing for the other Tok’Ra to do the same.
“Yes,” Hammond replied, “I’ll have—” He paused, frowning as the briefing room door opened abruptly again, this time admitting several secret service agents, who spread themselves around the room.
One of them moved over to the President and leaned down slightly to whisper in the man’s ear.
The President frowned at him, but nodded before turning his eyes back to the others. “It seems I’m needed elsewhere, please excuse me.” His guards shuffled him out of the room before anyone could respond past rising with their Commander-in-Chief.
After a moment, General Carter shook his head and replied to his friend and fellow general’s suggestion, “I know the way, George. And I’m sure one of the Airmen standing guard outside can make sure we don’t get lost.”
“Very well,” the General conceded with a nod, before raising his voice to call in the guards outside. “Airmen!”
“Sir!” both Privates replied as they stepped into the room and came to attention.
“Please escort the Tok’Ra representatives to their guest suits. After that, you may return to your regular duties.”
“Sir, yes, sir!”
Once the Tok’Ra had left and the door had shut behind them, the SGC’s second-in-command spoke again. “The scientists didn’t seem happy with this.”
“No, they didn’t.” Sam agreed, shaking her head.
“My heart’s bleeding,” Jack muttered, smirking slightly as everyone left in the room—other than Teal’c—rolled their eyes at him. Hey, he liked Carter’s dad... mostly because General Carter was his teammate’s dad, but the others just gave him the creeps. After a moment of silence he spoke again, “Wonder what we’re supposed to already know about.”
General Hammond sighed, “We should know soon enough,” then he nodded towards the door. “Now I’m sure you all have plenty to do until then. I know I do.”
The others nodded before starting out of the room, only to stop as the President’s head of security came in.
“I need a moment of your time, General. And yours as well, Colonel.” Special Agent Graves said without preamble, before moving towards the General’s office.
The SGC’s two highest ranking officers saw the glanced sent their way, but not having any idea what this was about—other than probably whatever had made the Secret Service want the President out of the room so fast—they just followed the man.
Jack shrugged before he closed the General’s office door behind the three of them. He wasn’t surprised, though, to see that all three of his teammates had taken their seats at the table again. -X-X-X- Outside Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
“Alright,” Xander complained when they finally reached the minivan Willow had rented for them while they were on the plane coming here. “Why did you have to get a minivan, Wills?” he complained, even as he slid the key into the ignition and started the vehicle, waiting until everyone had buckled up before pulling out.
“So everyone would have a comfortable seat and we wouldn’t have to argue over who was in the middle each time we needed to drive somewhere.” The witch repeated the explanation she’d given when they’d first gotten the van word for word.
The Neo-Watcher shrugged, shaking his head even as they pulled through the gate to leave the mountain complex. “Fine, fine... So what were you talking about down under? Maybe why we were leaving early after having accomplished...nothing whatsoever?”
“They weren’t ready for us, Xander,” Buffy replied with a sigh, shaking her head. “The President has known about us for years, he’s gotten used to it, and the shocked ‘that’s impossible!’ reaction has faded a bit.”
“So you don’t believe he was judging them correctly?” Giles summarized.
“I guess. But it’s more that I don’t want to waste time arguing with any of them about whether or not it’s possible and/or morally right.”
“They do have a great deal of experience with some things that are very paranormal to Earth’s normal standard,” the Watcher pointed out, his tone markedly free of judgment.
“Yeah, but that’s out there,” Buffy replied, jerking her head toward the roof of the car. Though she was actually indicating the sky way above said roof, and trusting her friends to get the allusion. “We’re talking about Earth. Where they were born. Where they grew up. Where their loved ones live. Where they’ve lived for decades.”
“Blissfully unaware of all the demons and demonic forces that go bump in the night,” Xander agreed, nodding his head even as he kept his lonely eye focused on the winding mountain road. “Unaware of the fact that near-apocalypses happen every few months.”
“Yeah,” the Slayer agreed, while digging under her seat until she finally pulled her bright-pink, multi-pocketed Chanel purse out, and immediately opened up one of the pockets to pull out and open her cell phone before tossing the purse back to the floor.
“What are you doing?” Willow asked, pointedly ignoring the hideously ugly object that had been a random point of debate between the two of them since Buffy bought it five weeks before.
After she finished dialing the number and had set the phone to her ear to wait for the call to go through, Buffy replied, “Calling Riley and Sam.”
“What are you going to have them tell?”
“I don’t really care, as long as they manage to convince them. And keep it from the Goa’uld.” -X-X-X- Large Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
General Hammond suppressed a smile as he looked around the rarely-used, large conference room. As the SGC now had a total of twenty teams operating out of Cheyenne Mountain, gathering all of the team leaders in the normal briefing room simply wasn’t possible. That was why he was here, waiting with SG1, Dr. Fraiser and all of the base’s ranking officers for the President to return with whoever was going to explain what they apparently needed
to know before opening negotiations with the New Council
A part of him found it hard to believe all of this was really necessary. Found it hard to believe that the President, who’d always been recognized as an exceptionally gifted diplomat, would have not prepared them for the meeting if this preparation was truly necessary. But then again, perhaps he didn’t want to risk offending their new co-workers by doing so without their permission.
New co-workers who had somehow realized that the one of the three Tok’Ra that’d come here the day before was no Tok’Ra at all. Which, he was fairly sure, was the main reason his 2IC was honestly interested in what they were meeting here to learn about. Hoping it had something to do with how they’d known when the Tok’Ra themselves hadn’t suspected a thing.
The small talk around the room was obviously focused on a select few topics.
One, the destruction of Apophis’ fleet was still celebrated news.
Two, the President had
sold the Stargate.
Three, the Tok’Ra were here for as-yet unknown reasons. Well, three Tok’Ra and one Goa’uld spy that was now locked up while General Carter and his symbiot tried to figure out—via messages through the Stargate to the Tok’Ra High Council—just how much damage the Goa’uld Amarnon had done while acting as the Tok’Ra’s head scientist’s primary assistant.
And finally, the President himself was supposedly here and would soon be speaking to all of them soon. Hammond wasn’t too sure of how much speaking the Commander-in-Chief would be doing today, but he didn’t see any reason to mention that.
“So what do you think all of this is about, Jack?” SG-1’s linguistic-expert asked the Colonel.
“Your guess’s as good as mine, Daniel,” Jack O’Neill replied shortly, the unexpectedly sharp tone he took with his teammate drawing more than a few eyes.
The General knew that more than anything else, the age—or lack there of—of the majority of the Stargate’s new owners disturbed the Colonel. If he wanted to really think about it, he knew it bothered him too. But it was worse for Jack.
After all, it was only a few years ago that little Charlie O’Neill had died in his father’s arms. And being unable to see his son grow up had certainly not tempered the Colonel’s already over-protective nature where children were concerned.
These kids were all more than a decade older than Jack’s son would be if he still lived today. They were all old enough to serve in America’s armed forces. But they shouldn’t be experienced enough to lead
“Well, I thought you might—” Dr. Jackson shook his head, sighing as he continued. “You know, know something. Since you were in Special Forces.”
The Colonel chuckled, “Doesn’t mean I know all of our nation’s secrets, Daniel.” Then he shook his head. “Though if you’d asked me a month ago, I woulda said we all knew the most important one.”
“You think the New Council
’s responsibilities are more important than Stargate Command’s, sir?” Major Carter frowned.
“I don’t see how, but,” here the Colonel shrugged. “The President seems to think so.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c agreed, nodding slowly as his teammates turned to him. “And though young, they appear to bear their responsibilities proudly.”
“That’s one word for it.”
Teal’c turned to the SGC’s second-in-command, not frowning, but his eyes seemed to. “Pride should not be scoffed at for its own sake, Colonel O’Neill. All of our new allies carry themselves as warriors. Buffy Summers especially.”
“Yeah,” O’Neill sighed. “I noticed that, too.” He turned towards the General then, but stopped when the room’s door opened and an airman stepped in, several men in dark suits coming in behind him to take up positions around the room.
“ATT-EN-SHUN!” the airman called out, and all the military officers immediately snapped to while Dr. Jackson, Dr. Fraiser and Teal’c also rose.
A moment later their nation’s Commander-in-Chief entered, favoring the room with a warm smile. More men in dark suits entered behind him, a few of them carrying cases. And behind them came a man and a woman in fatigues similar to those many of the officers around the room would be wearing if not for the President’s attendance. But apparently these two didn’t feel the need to match the formal attire that displayed ribbons and medals on dress uniforms all around the room.
“General Hammond,” the President nodded to him as he reached the seat that had been left vacant between Hammond and his 2IC at the head of the table, which he then addressed. “Good afternoon, everyone. Oh, at ease. And please be seated,” he nodded, and then waited for everyone to take their seats before he continued. “First of all, on behalf of the American people, I would like to thank everyone here for the hard work and outstanding courage everyone here has shown under the immense responsibilities of the Stargate.”
Hammond waited a moment, then answered for all present, “Thank you, Mr. President.”
The President nodded, then gesturing to the informally dressed pair that had come in behind him. “Now, Major Riley Finn and Agent Samantha Finn will be briefing you this afternoon on a wide range of highly classified projects. Though I have no doubt in any of those present in being able to keep such secrets, the Secret Service,” he nodded to several men who were making their way around the table with pens and papers. “Are giving you confidentiality agreements that must be signed and returned before the Finns may begin.” Then he sighed. “Now while I would like to stay to see all of this through, I’m afraid pressing matters in Washington are calling, so I will have to say farewell here. No, keep your seats. And Godspeed.” -X-X-X- Colorado Springs – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
"What about this place?" Xander asked, nodding to a restaurant that was a little ways down the road.
Willow frowned, "A steak house?"
"I'm in the mood."
"Fine with me," Buffy agreed, to be echoed by most of the others in the car.
After a moment's silence the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere sighed, "Fine
So the group's one-eyed driver had pulled into a suitable parking spot and they were making their way into the restaurant for a very necessary supper.
The Head of the Watcher's branch of the new Council turned to the world's eldest Slayer, "Well? Do you sense anything?"
Buffy sighed. "I could kinda sense the Gate to when we were in the building. But more when the ally-snakeheads were probably coming through when we were up in the parking lot."
"When the gate was probably active," Giles nodded, "yes, that makes sense."
"But..." the Slayer shook her head. "This place doesn't feel
like a Hellmouth, Giles. It definitely feels different
, and I think that Anya's right about that attracting attention and causing the recent rise in night-bumpiness. But..."
"This isn't Sunnydale," Willow nodded, "I've felt it too... I think if there was some way to keep the gate constantly active it'd be a lot stronger. But it still wouldn't be the same..." Then she frowned, “Though it felt kinda familiar too.”
“Like a Hellmouth, you mean?” Xander asked, but the witch shook her head.
“No. I mean, it’s definitely having a similar affect, just not quite as strong, but that’s not it.”
"Unless the gate was linked to a demonic hell-dimension and not just another world in this dimension." Anya suggested, smiling when her fiancé took her hand in support.
"Right," Willow nodded at the former-Vengeance Demon's assessment. "That's why there's a few more demons and vampires around, but nothing like Sunnydale." She blinked as something else occurred to her, turning a frown towards Xander and Anya, "And wait a minute! When did you two become engaged again?!"
Buffy blinked, "You're right, I'd kinda forgot about that. And let me tell you I didn’t like having to hide my surprise back there! But when did
Xander glanced nervously between the determined faces of his two best friends, who were currently blocking the path up to the restaurant that was releasing the tantalizing smells of grilled sirloin and baby-back ribs. Sometimes he really hated the remains of the Hyena that had possessed him in High School. There were times it was useful, but having it point out the delicious smells of an adequate supper when two of thr most dangerous people on the planet—best friends or not—were giving him the four-one-one, was not one of them.
"I proposed when we were packing."
The two girls blinked before turning their attention to Anya, who was watching them with one hand on her hip and her foot tapping impatiently.
"He said yes. Can we go in now?"
Buffy rolled her eyes and Willow shook her head before both smiled and turned to walk up the path, the Slayer throwing over her shoulder as they neared the door, "So when's the wedding?"
“Wrong question,” Xander objected, grinning when all three lady’s frowned at him, though G-man seemed to be studiously ignoring their conversation. “The question you should be asking is where’s
the wedding gonna be?” his grin widen when he heard their Englishman sigh. -X-X-X- Large Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 12, 2002 -X-X-X-
After all the confidentiality agreements had been dutifully signed and returned by his skeptical but loyal commanders, General Hammond nodded politely to the pair that was brought in for the briefing he and all of his officers were in attendance for, “Major Finn, Agent Finn: welcome to the SGC."
"Glad to be here, sir," Major Finn, a tall young soldier that couldn't be that much older than Miss Summers, but nonetheless carried himself like a seasoned veteran, replied.
"Yes, thank you, General," the Major's wife agreed, nodding just as politely in response, while both she and her husband scanned the room, paying more attention to the officers than was necessarily needed.
‘They must be trying to judge how we're going to react to their news,
’ Hammond realized, suppressing the urge to shake his head as he made his way to his seat in the larger briefing room, which happened to be right next to the President's chair. "Please don't worry about our reactions, too much," he requested, sitting down. “Believe me, everyone here is used to—”
"The paranormal?" Agent Samantha Finn smirked, shaking her head. "Admittedly your exposure to extraterrestrials may help in this to some extent, General. But I've never met or heard of anyone who didn't think the world had turned upside down or inside out after being exposed to what we deal with every day."
Her husband nodded in agreement. "That's why we're here, instead of the Council Representatives. Buffy..." he paused, seemingly in thought before shaking his head, "Ms. Summers isn't known for her patience in this area. Though no one can really blame her.. not acknowledging his wife's agreement or the puzzled looks they were receiving from around the room, he frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose the best place to start off would be how I learned about all of this.” ‘Alright already, just get started!’
Jack thought, but kept his thoughts to himself. He wanted to know what the hell this was all about. The young major’s rank hadn’t helped banish his curiosity, because Riley Finn was really rather young for the rank he’d achieved, especially outside of the SGC.
"Officially, my unit is loosely attached to Homeland Security as a covert counter-terrorism unit," Major Finn began, his voice perfectly neutral as his eyes drifted almost lazily around the room, stopping occasionally on the faces of various audience members, probably watching for reactions even as he periodically checked the rooms two entrances as though from habit. "Some of my unit came into special ops right out of college, others are former SEALs and we have a few civilian consultants involved mostly for research, though some of them are the big guns we have as back-up."
"So your wife's a researcher?" Colonel O'Neill asked, clearly curious at how their relationship fit into their work, but bringing about a slight break in the tension around the room in the process. And though the pair hadn’t been introduced as married and might be siblings, their looks weren’t anywhere near similar enough for that to be the case. And they didn’t deny the Colonel’s comment, thereby confirming it.
"Not specifically, Colonel," Agent Finn replied, offering a small, professional smile, "I'm one of the few civilians that is active in the field as well, both as a medic and a combatant."
"I'm having a hard time seeing why a counter-terrorism unit would need experts from so many different backgrounds," the SGC's second-in-command returned, the seriousness in his tone drawing a few disbelieving looks from those that were used to his more immature daily antics and had thus forgotten that he was probably a high ranking superior officer for a reason.
Major Finn nodded, meeting the Colonel's eyes for a moment before replying, "And that's part of what we're here to explain, Colonel." After another moment of silence he continued, "Actually, our mission objectives are fairly similar. You have more tangents then we do, we look into things for scholars and scientists occasionally, but for the most part we're just protecting the human race and its interests in this world."
For several moments' silence hung around the room in response before Major Carter broke it. "What does that have to do with the 'Council' that now owns the Stargate?" she asked, frowning, "Because it doesn't sound like they work for you."
"They don't. And we don't work for them, either. But we have been struggling to develop an alliance with them in recent years, with some success."
"That why we were told to play nice?" Colonel O'Neill asked.
Agent Finn smirked, ignoring the slightly irritated look her husband sent her way as she replied, "Partially."
"We are hoping that this will help us form closer ties to the New Council, help them trust us more," Major Finn elaborated. "But even if it doesn't, they deserve the utmost respect of everyone on the planet at least several times over."
"Okay," O'Neill nodded, the very absence of out-right sarcasm in his tone sardonic.
"Do you fight a different race of aliens like the Goa'uld?” Daniel spoke up, “Some we haven't seen before? Maybe a subculture that's here on Earth?"
"No, Dr. Jackson," Major Finn replied, shaking his head. "We don't fight aliens—"
"Most of the time."
"What?" Finn frowned at his wife's interruption.
"The Queller was an alien, though we didn’t fight it."
After a moment, Major Finn shook his head, still frowning as he continued. "Alright, we occasionally fight aliens, but it's not generally what we're looking for. We do, however, help monitor and control various subcultures that have been here on Earth a very, very long time.” -X-X-X- A Hotel in Colorado Springs – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
“You really want to patrol your first night here?” Xander asked in surprise, one eyebrow raised at his blonde friend. “The little-Slayers haven’t reported any big problems round here, you know.”
“Xander is right, Buffy. And given the diplomatic nature of our venture here, there’s no real reason for you to patrol Colorado Springs. It’s quite well covered, with four Slayers living here already.”
Buffy sighed and shook her head as she rose from going through her weapons trunk, which had come with them in its miniaturized form before being enlarged again for proper use, with two stakes in hand. She eyed both critically, then shrugged and slipped them into different holsters. Why bother choosing when she could just take both anyway? Then she pulled out the little jewelry box containing numerous weapons in miniature forms that would enlarge to their proper shape when she said the magic word, and picked one of the swords. As she clipped the sword-necklace into place, letting it drop to rest beside her cross, she turned to her friends with one eyebrow raised. “I know I don’t really need
patrol, guys. But after all the sitting we’ve been doing lately, I’m gonna start going stir crazy if I don’t burn off a little steam.”
“I’ll go with you,” Willow offered quietly, and the Slayer nodded with a smile.
“Thanks, Wil.” She smiled, before raising an eyebrow again at her Watcher. “We won’t be out too, too late but I really should check-in with the locals anyway.”
“Oh very well,” Giles shook his head, though a smile was pulling at the edges of his lips as he waived towards the door. “But do be careful you two.”
Anya cut her fiancé off before he could offer to go along as well, “Xander and I would go. But we’re busy tonight.”
Buffy and Willow exchanged glances, both smiling while Giles started cleaning his glasses.
“Okay, Anya,” Buffy nodded, not bothering to hide her amusement as Xander’s face reddened slightly while she moved towards the door. It seemed even after years of dating Anya, the Scoobies’ heart could still be thrown by some of her comments. And she’d actually managed to be pretty discrete with this one, too!
“We’ll see you guys in the morning,” Willow added as she followed Buffy out, smirking slightly when Giles excused himself to head to his own bedroom in the very nice suit the White House had reserved for them. She closed the door behind her, hurrying after Buffy, and therefore didn’t get to see if Xander and Anya went into separate rooms or not. But somehow, she was pretty sure the answer was not. -X-X-X- Large Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 11, 2002 -X-X-X-
“...Vampires.” Again Colonel O’Neill was the one to break the silence in the room, and his tone was still quite sarcastic, but now a bit disbelieving too.
Major Finn nodded, “Yes, sir.”
Complete silence descended again for several seconds, before the Colonel finally spoke again, shaking his head as he turned to his CO. “You sure this isn’t just some very strange joke someone in-the-know cooked up with the President, sir?”
“It is a little out there, sir.” Louis Ferretti agreed.
General nodded at his 2IC and the Lieutenant-Colonel’s assessment, but he didn’t say anything, just kept his gaze locked on the unperturbed Finns.
“More than a little, I’d say, sirs.” Major Finn commented, shaking his head. “But this is still all very real.” -X-X-X- A Cemetery, Colorado Springs – November 12, 2002 -X-X-X-
“Not bad,” Buffy murmured as she stepped out of the shadows, suppressing a smirk when the teen she’d been watching spun away from the disintegrating form of the vamp she’d just dusted to stare at her with a slightly shocked look on her face and her just-used stake raised again.
“Who—” the brunette’s eyes widened as recognition dawned a second too late and she quickly lowered her stake as she gasped out, “Miss Summers?!
“That’s my name,” Buffy confirmed, smiling kindly as she glided gracefully over to the younger Slayer. “Prefer ‘Buffy’ most of the time, though.” When the teen just kept staring at her, the older Slayer sighed, “Bethany, right?”
After a moment of more shocked silence, Bethany blinked rapidly, before nodding just as rapidly: only saved from hurting her neck with the too-quick movements by the very nature that had her hunting vampires in graveyards at night. “Um, yeah. Bethany Johnson. That’s me. Ma’am.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Bethany,” Buffy held her hand out, that same, practiced gentle smile still fixed on her face. She cocked her head to the side, looking the girl over with a considerate look as she tried to place the brunette, and frowning when she couldn’t. “I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Were you in one of this year’s classes?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Bethany confirmed with a nod, smiling shyly. “I, um, I graduated from my first-semester this spring.”
“So you should know better than to patrol without back-up like this, especially since this area’s been getting hotter lately.”
The younger Slayer’s smile fell and she looked down sheepishly. “My birthday’s only a few weeks away, ma’am.”
“Seventeenth?” Buffy asked, already knowing that it was. As that was the age Slayers were allowed to patrol at their own discretion, though going solo was discouraged. Any younger than that and the Rules were they weren’t supposed to go out without at least one other Slayer or two mages and/or Watchers as back-up.
Buffy sighed, shaking her head. “We want you to make it to seventeen, Bethany. And have many birthdays after that. The more risks you take the less likely that’ll be.” She raised a hand to forestall the teen’s protests. “You want to patrol? Need to patrol? Fine, I get that.”
“No. Really, I do. The internal-part of you that’s the Slayer’s not
easy to control. But if you want to lead a long, healthy life, you’ve got to keep it under control. Make sure you’re the one in control. Not the spirit that would rather you spent all your time trainin’ or Slayin’ and never have a life of your own outside of all this. It’s your life, you’ve gotta guard it. Got it?”
The girl looked down, her lips pressed in a tight line as she clearly suppressed the desire to frown, though she loosened that line slightly to let a verbal acknowledgment slip out, “Yes, ma’am.” Then she started as Willow suddenly appeared next to the two of them, having been magically hidden till then.
Buffy had tensed slightly, too, ready to spring to her friend’s defense if the younger Slayer’s defensive reflexes got the best of her, but the girl was apparently controlled enough to only tense up and not immediately attack the powerful witch that’d appeared out of nowhere literally right next to her. Though, actually, most of the younger Slayers tended to be more relaxed in Buffy’s presence, their Slayer-side feeling more secure around the elder. At the same time, the teenage-girl side, of course, was anything
“We know you instinctively don’t want
to share your patrol, Bethany,” Willow murmured, her eyes gentle as she looked into Bethany’s own eyes. “Being territorial seems to come naturally to most Slayers. But that doesn’t mean its good for you.”
“Any more than it’d be good for you to pummel any jerk ya randomly meet just because you can,” Buffy added, suppressing a sigh as the younger Slayer’s discomfort only seemed to be growing now.
“Yes, ma’am—Uh, I mean, ma’ams.”
The territorial thing was one of the Council’s more annoying problems. No matter how much they tried to drill common sense into the Baby-Slayers heads, few liked to report anything that they knew would lead to an older Slayer coming into their territory, wanting to handle their duties alone most of the time. In fact, they’d had several near-apocalypses get a lot nearer than they should have because of inexperienced Slayers thinking they could handle stuff they really couldn’t.
After a moment of silence, Buffy sighed. “It’s almost two-thirty. You should head home.” She frowned when the younger Slayer shifted uncomfortably again. “Now
The girl stiffened, but then nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” She bit her lip, almost bowing as she nodded again. “Good night, Miss Summers, Miss Rosenberg.”
“Good night,” both former Sunnydale residents repeated back to her, and then watched as the teenager turned and dashed off, confident that she was headed home.
Though the Baby-Slayers tended to be territorial and full of themselves they never
direct orders. Even Kennedy wouldn’t disobey a direct order. She, and a few others like her, might try to mouth off a little, but when Buffy actually cracked down and gave an order they obeyed. Always. The fact that Kennedy had actually gotten a lot better since becoming a Slayer had led the Council to debating whether or not the Slayer-essence instinctively made younger Slayer’s deferential to their elder sisters. Because it seemed to be just a little too universal for it to be anything other than an instinctive part of the Slayer. There was definitely Buffy’s reputation and history working in there, but most younger Slayers yielded to the authority of any elder Slayer in most situations.
Even the few Slayers that’d gone rogue and used their powers for selfish purposes, resulting in the removal of their powers once they were caught, never challenged Buffy in person. One of them had tried to challenge Faith, but had backed down pretty quickly when it became clear she just wasn’t up to par when compared to the elder Slayer.
Before either friend could speak again, Buffy’s cell phone rang. She answered it before the second ring. “Yeah?”
“You will take me to the Astria Porta,
” a familiar voice demanded. (3)
The world’s eldest Slayer suppressed a sigh. “Hi, Illyria.”
Somehow, she wasn’t surprised the ancient demon was calling.
The only survivor of Angel’s team always seemed to be rude and demanding, but she was a kick-ass fighter and surprisingly loyal, too. Though the ancient demon liked to project an air of indifference, even dislike of most humans, Buffy had spent enough time with her to know that Illyria actually thrived
on the teamwork they threw at her.
No matter how uncomfortable the intellectuals and many of the Council’s fighters were at having the powerful demon in their midst she was beyond useful. Their discomfort was understandable, of course. Based primarily on the fact that you’d have to be a complete idiot to not realize that Illyria was one of the most dangerous beings on the planet, even if you didn’t actually know anything about her. Still, anyone who knew her name knew at least her more recent history, and had some idea of her ancient past.
The fact that she’d lasted nearly an hour longer than the rest of Angel’s crew, fighting the Senior Partners’ army until the Slayers had arrived intimidated many of the younger Slayers.
Nonetheless, the world Illyria had ruled had been very different from what it was today. And from what Buffy could tell, Illyria currently had no interest in ruling this world that, to paraphrase the demon’s own words: ran itself much better than the ancient world, which was constantly at war, ever did.
In the wake of Angel’s fall the ancient had latched on to Buffy’s team, determined to stay whether they’d have her or not. And Buffy couldn’t bring herself to turn the ancient away.
She hadn’t regretted the decision to welcome the ancient demon. Not only had she gained a fantastic sparring partner—one that could frequently challenge her much more than even Faith could—but Illyria had proven to be an excellent leader in her own right. She was a good combat instructor, too, though her brusqueness bothered many of her students for awhile, but they usually got used to it.
Taking all of that into consideration, as well as the fact that the ancient demon obviously knew something
about the Stargate already, and maybe having Illyria around wasn’t a bad idea... -X-X-X- Briefing Room, Stargate Command – November 12, 2002 -X-X-X-
As they sat in the briefing room, waiting again for the Stargate’s new management to show up, Jack’s mind continued rapidly going over all of the wacky stuff they’d learned about the night before. Personally, he thought Summers was right in her assessment of them yesterday.
Teal’c had, of course, taken the whole scenario in stride, but he wasn’t born here. For the rest of those now in the know, it was literally mind-boggling.
And horrifying. The idea that kids
were fighting a never-ending war to keep the rest of humanity safe went against every one of Jack’s beliefs.
None of the pictures the Finns had to show of the ‘demonic threats’ their world faced today had helped to reassure any of them, either. Some of those things made the Unas look like puppies.
And the vampires—like the Goa’uld—they
could hide in plain sight amongst humanity, though the Goa’uld could only do that if they were able to keep their egos and check, and to date most couldn’t. The huge egos must be a genetic thing, too, since all of the Tok’Ra he’d met seemed to share the problem.
However, even at their very worst the Goa’uld didn’t eat
humans. Technically the vampires just drank their blood, but the end result was the same as if they preyed on them for more than that one, oh so vital part of the human body.
And Summers had been hunting these things since she was fifteen?
He wasn’t sure how old she was now, but he’d guess she was in her mid-twenties. So that’d mean she’d been fighting for humanity’s survival for over a decade. She’d have spent half her life, soon more than half, fighting for their race’s right to live.
When she should have been focusing on high school and college. Maybe dating and parties. Cheerleading and football games. Probably not hockey, as she came from California. At this point in her life she should be looking at career options, starting off on her real adult life.
Instead she was apparently the head of an army.
An army of girls that, like her, should be doing very different things.
Girls that certainly shouldn’t be out, night after night, fighting for their lives.
Girls that should be complaining about how their life was over, the world was ending, when some lame boy dumped them, something they’d be over in a few weeks, if not less. Their complaints about the world ending shouldn’t be about an actual attainable apocalypse!
He could accept the Finns fighting for them with more ease. Both Captain Finn and his wife had finished high school. Both had completed their BA and chosen their career paths, which then brought them into this fight.
But these Slayers were dragged into the fight by some higher powers that didn’t give a damn about the fact that they were stealing the lives of children away from them.
“Are you OK?” Sam’s quiet query forced the Colonel to start.
Jack glanced over at his 2IC, then shook his head. “It’s not right.” He replied, just as hushed.
“No, it’s not.” Sam agreed, sighing quietly as she kept her voice still too low to be heard by anyone else with everyone talking around them in equally muted voices. “But we can’t blame them for that.” She shook her head. “They may have chosen to activate all of the other Slayers, but they didn’t really have a choice, did they?”
“No,” Jack agreed easily.
The situation these kids had been forced into had called for an extreme response, and the fact that Summers had responded with one that actually saved most of her people, plus the fact that they were now apparently trying to do everything possible to make sure all of the new girls could lead relatively happy lives, was commendable.
Though Summers contrary attitude the day before had been a little annoying, he understood it now. She was just being protective of her people, something he could certainly understand and respect.
“No, they didn’t have a choice.”
“And the situation all of these girls are in now has to be considered better than the possibility they’d faced before. I mean, from the research the Finns had apparently done into the Council’s predecessors records, most of the girls were expected to fight almost completely alone and each barely lasted an average of a year.”
Jack nodded in agreement. He was certainly glad to be dealing with this New Council
if the old one was as bad as it sounded. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle the old Council managing the Stargate. But, then again, the President probably wouldn’t have sold the Stargate to the stuffy British body.
“Ideally, we might be able to help them in the long run, right?” Daniel asked, interjecting himself into the conversation and disproving Jack’s initial thought that the others were too wrapped up in their own conversation to be listening to the one between him and Carter. Mainly because everyone else was quiet now, all focused on what he and Sam had been talking about.
“One would hope so, Dr. Jackson.” Hammond sighed, shaking his head before picking up the phone as it was half-way through a ring. “Hammond.” He listened to the response for a second, then nodded. “Thank you, Airman.” Then he hung up before explaining, rather unnecessarily. “Our guests should be arriving in just a few minutes.” -X-X-X- Elevator #2, Stargate Command – November 12, 2002 -X-X-X-
Buffy frowned as she noticed Willow rub her forehead again. That was the third time the redhead had done it since they’d entered the still descending elevator. And unlike Buffy, Willow wasn’t a claustrophobe. ‘Wil,
’ she focused on the redhead’s name after mentally reaching for the telepathic connection that they were now quite used to using, waiting until the redhead glanced at her before finishing, ‘You okay?
Willow bit her lip, but nodded slightly. ‘Yeah, I’m fine. Just seeing a lotta lights, makes focusing on anything kinda hard.
The Slayer’s frown deepened, glancing around. Sure the fluorescent lights were a little bright, but they weren’t bothering her
extra sensitive sight, so they shouldn’t be bothering her friend’s. ‘Lights?
’ Either seeing or sensing Buffy’s confusion, the witch quickly elaborated. ‘Remember the spell I was gonna try? To make sure everyone at the meeting’s honest and good and all that?
Buffy nodded. It’d sounded like a good idea when Willow had offered to do it for today’s meeting, just before they’d turned in for the night. Which was only a few hours ago. But it sounded like a pretty bad idea if it was making her friend see things and causing her pain.
‘All the spell really does is help me see peoples’ auras. Bad people have dark auras. And negative emotions darken auras.
’ Willow shrugged. ‘On the plus side? Everyone I’ve seen so far has had a really bright aura. Well, except for the guy at the gate. His was bit more grayish, but I think he’s not feeling well.
Buffy nodded, remembering the guard that’d been a little younger than her who’s fellow guard had been keeping an eye on because the younger soldier was definitely looking a bit under the weather. ‘So bright auras are good, right?
‘Yup. They’re just a little irritating to look at.
’ Willow shrugged when her friend’s frown didn’t fade. ‘I’ll be fine, Buffy. This really was the best spell for this sort of thing.
Buffy sighed softly, but then nodded. She completely ignored the confused looks that were directed her way.
Giles and Xander, of course, had noticed Willow’s discomfort, too. But Xander had probably already asked about it, since he and Anya had spent more time with Willow this morning, while Buffy had been getting ready to go. And Giles, of course, would’ve known about the side effects of the spell.
The next sigh the Slayer released a few moments later was one of relief, as they’d finally reached the floor they’d been descending towards for far too long. She was probably too close behind the guard-guys that were leading them down as she hurried out of the elevator behind them, but she really didn’t care. Though she did step back a bit in the hallway to let the stiff pair lead the way.
Not that she needed guidance, she remembered where the meeting room was. Slayer, here. But she was supposed to be playing nice, so she followed behind the guards with her friends right behind her, only shooting a few anxious looks at Willow while in route.
Though she did immediately glance towards her magical friend after she’d entered the meeting room where the military guys were waiting again, and immediately caught Willow’s slightly bigger wince as she stopped just inside the doorway.
’ Willow projected her thoughts to Buffy, probably to reassure her, but also knowing that the Slayer would want to know what the witch was seeing. ‘Bright lights. Some shadows: they’re not all that happy about something. But, ouch. Bright lights... I might need to rethink this a little.
Well, at least she knew for sure that her judgment of people was still up-to-par and they were here to talk to good people.
Now they just had to get to the actual talking part. Since hopefully the demonic elephant in the room was out of the way. End of Chapter 2: The Demon in the Room. NOTES FROM WITHIN THE CHAPTER: (1)
I’m well aware of the fact that the President of the United State probably wouldn’t ask for an invitation to the wedding of people he barely knows, despite wanting to remain on the Council’s good side. The whole mention of it was really just to draw everyone’s attention to it, thus inciting Jack’s thoughts and the Scoobies later reaction... I hope it didn’t throw anyone too much. (2)
Trailblazer = Was actually George W. Bush’s Secret Service codename. I’m not saying President Bush is
the President in my fic—honestly I don’t even know if the President was ever given a name in the Stargate universe: The one before President Hayes, I mean, who isn’t around yet. I’m just using Trailblazer because this story is set in 2002, President Bush was the POTUS then and that was his codename.
That and I’m too lazy to try and come up with an original one. Sorry, it just doesn’t seem that important to me. It’s a term the real Secret Service would use and
I think my OC’s reaction—wanting the President away from the Tok’Ra immediately is legitimate. Would the real Secret Service have let the President go anywhere near the Stargate? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But for the purposes of my story they did. URL: (wiki/Secret_Service_codename) (3)
Astria Porta = Stargate in Ancient, the language of its original creators. Given Illyria is supposed to have existed before
humanity, I think she might’ve known some things about the Stargate and may have even encountered the Ancients/Alterans. That and I just like her as a character. (URL: stargate.wikia.com/wiki/Stargate) AN: Hi guys! Sorry for the LONG wait on this chapter. :-( I really wanted to make this longer and get more done, but the block I’ve been trying to write my way around is ridiculously comprehensive. That’s why the scenes in this chapter jump around so much, it was the only way I could get anything done. I have some ideas for the future of this fic, but nothing really solid. So I’d LOVE to hear any suggestions anyone can offer on that front. On another note, I’d like thank everyone who alerted me to the existence of Kissmekent’s story, Under New Management. I’m not at all upset by it, however, as several people have pointed out: imitation is the highest form of flattery. And when it comes to fan fiction that REALLY has to be considered true, right? Granted, I wish Kissmekent had kept going with it, as that might have gotten my muses back on track a bit sooner. I really didn’t want to leave everyone hanging, but my muses just weren’t interested in this story. Sorry. :-( Anyway, I hope this was worth the wait. And on the plus side, now that I finally got around to playing with my timeline and actually outlining this story. So new chapters should be much more forthcoming...hopefully. Keep your fingers crossed! Oh, and constructive criticism and all helpful ideas are very, very, very welcome. Bye for now! ^_^ ~ Jess S NEXT: Chapter 3: Parley.