Disclaimer: I do not own any characters relating to either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1. This story is intended for entertainment purposes only and does not provide any financial compensation.Far Beyond NormalChapter Ten
Buffy had no idea why she hadn’t left town. She pondered the question as she walked through the rubble. ‘Pondering’ wasn’t her strong suit. One of the reasons why she had a team to support her work as the Slayer was so they could do the ‘pondering’ while she handled the violence. She was real good at the violence part. She even had a ready-made excuse; it was a survival mechanism. A Slayer diverted by introspection was a Slayer distracted and an easy lunch for the first passing vamp. In Buffy’s case her support group included people of both genius and extensive experience. She was able to trust them to go through all the information and reach an accurate conclusion without her having to go through all the raw data herself. They didn’t quite give her marching orders; but 90% of the time she did whatever they recommended.
Without being able to discuss the situation with Willow or Giles, Buffy was forced to rely on her own instincts, and her gut feeling was that she should remain in Colorado Springs. It was dangerous, since they knew she was there; but whatever was going to happen would happen there first, so that was where she had to be if she stood any chance at all of stopping it. Even a month ago that would have been a problem as Buffy was accustomed to sleeping in a bed and eating in a kitchen; basically living the normal middle-class American life with all its conveniences. With the cops, the Feds, and now probably the United States Air Force all searching for her it was no longer possible for her to hide in plain sight, to stay at a hotel, or even to break into an unoccupied house to spend the night. So she needed a hideout.
If there was one thing she had learned from her experience at the murderous hands of the NID, it was the need to adjust her threshold for discomfort on her personal ‘want/need’ scale. Given the threat of recapture, some modest inconvenience was no longer quite so unpalatable. So she gave up on the idea of spending her nights sleeping on a comfortable bed and searched for alternative arrangements. Even a city as prosperous as the ‘Springs had areas where time had passed it by, where decaying, abandoned structures awaited the wrecking ball. There was also considerable wilderness just beyond the city limits, inhospitable terrain where she could easily have camped out, far from prying eyes. But, for various reasons, she didn’t want to be too far from town, just in case ‘something’ happened, so after a careful survey of the options she settled on hiding out in a district containing semi- and completely-abandoned industrial buildings to the south of the city, near the huge Fort Carson Military base.
It was far from a perfect place to hide out, given the activity around it where trucks constantly moved to and from huge distribution centers, but she wanted to be close to Cheyenne Mountain, and found a collection of three old warehouse buildings in a fenced-off enclosure. The government wanted to expropriate the land as part of the base and the owners had been fighting it in court for years, but until the situation was resolved no one was using the place except for those people who, like Buffy, had their own reasons for living in such squalid conditions. There weren’t many of them, just a few drug addicts or homeless people who needed shelter from the rain, or a place to sleep off the effects of whatever poison they were currently stuffing into their bodies.
There were also a few who presented a more serious problem; criminals or psychopaths who preyed on the weak or defenseless. If she tried to hide out in such an area, no matter how much effort she put into remaining unseen, it was virtually certain that eventually somebody would wonder what a pretty, young, white girl was doing there, and the local human predators would find answering that question an irresistible challenge. And unlike the druggies or the drunks, the predators would have no compunction about informing the authorities should she not accede to any demands they might make.
Buffy had even less interest in doing what criminals told her to do than she did in following the orders of the government. Fortunately for her, she also knew how to address the situation. Human predators could be dealt with a lot like she had dealt with non-human predators; attack them from behind, leave evidence that their most obvious competitor was responsible, repeat as needed. The resulting gang war was brief, brutal, and removed almost all of the local power structure from the playing field. It also had the added benefit of padding her dwindling supply of emergency funds. Interestingly, despite the shots fired in anger and sudden upswing in the number of people admitted to hospital due to ‘gang related activities,’ the police did nothing except increase their patrols to the surrounding neighborhoods, apparently content to let the gangs engage in their own Darwinian struggle.
A few days after the brief exercise in real-time evolution in action, a new crew showed up to establish dominion over the few social rejects who hadn’t left when the shooting started. Buffy waited until it was dark, attacked them from behind, broke enough assorted bones for them to get the message, and then left them to draw their own conclusions. With limited prey, no drug or prostitution money to be made from the feeble residents, and something both invisible and powerful hiding somewhere in the dark, the local criminal element abandoned the area for greener pastures. Even so, Buffy went to considerable effort to conceal herself from the few people who remained, suspecting that their gratitude for her efforts would not stop them from selling her out to any of the various groups looking for her for the price of a bottle of cheap booze.
The place she selected for her hideout did not measure up to the standards of the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude –Buffy gave a mental sigh, and wondered if she would live long enough to look up Xander’s counterpart on this world—but it suited her needs. Fires had gutted two of the three abandoned warehouses in the fenced-in enclosure, but those two were none the less used by most of the residents. There was pretty much nothing left to burn in them, except what materials they brought in for their own purposes, and they were more accessible than the third building. That building had a small office area attached to the warehouse part, retrofitted into one end of the building probably in the 1950’s. The added working area extended all the way up, four floors from the dock to the roof. Wooden stairs between each level had been either burned away or removed, and the opening in each floor sealed with heavy steel plates, in an attempt to keep vagrants and kids from getting in, getting hurt, and suing the owners.
The outside was a solid concrete wall, but boarded-up windows looked out from the office section to the rest of the cavernous warehouse, which was in far worse shape than the other two buildings. An entire section of the roof had fallen away, scorch marks covered the walls, and the floor was covered in rubble and garbage. Some of the cantilevered beams which had once held up the roof had fallen, and those that remained didn’t look very safe. Their rusted anchor positions could be easily seen during daylight, the concrete crumbling away from the bolts. This was the place Buffy decided to make her temporary home.
The very things which made the office part so inaccessible made it perfect for her purposes. Only an experienced mountain climber –or a Slayer—could reach the upper floors. After a careful survey she was fairly certain nobody but her had been there in decades. The numerous holes in the walls of the open warehouse part of the building allowed her to enter through any of a dozen separate places, meaning she was unlikely to be trapped if she varied which one she used each time she returned. And once inside the warehouse, it would have been impossible for another human to follow the routes she took climbing the walls, moving along the rickety trusses, jumping over what anyone else would consider impassible breaches, to reach the office level. After two weeks she had set up a fairly comfortable encampment. She had food and supplies, a bed roll and sleeping bag, her ipod, and a stack of magazines. All the comforts of home.
Her friends would have been stunned at not just her new ‘home’ but the clothes she wore. Street clothes; a dark hoody, loose and warm. Running shoes. Baggy jeans. She hated them all. Part of her image, her style, had been to project a certain sense of sartorial elegance. It had been a direct, in-your-face challenge to the vampires, wearing high-heeled boots and clingy pants, her way of showing her contempt for them, a direct challenge and enticement, a silent statement that she would put herself at such a disadvantage just to look good, but would win anyway. Unfortunately it attracted too much attention when dealing with humans, and she was trying to remain hidden; so fashion-plate Buffy was temporarily on hiatus. So to compensate she practiced her other skills; around her bed roll was a cache of knives, sticks, and a very expensive crossbow, which she had purchased from a hunting supply store where she had astonished the grizzled salesman with her knowledge of and expertise with the weapon.
She had already mapped out and tested three separate escape routes. If the police arrived she would grab a small emergency pack beside her bed, containing money, food, water, and a change of clothing, and use one of those escape routes. If the NID found her she intended to grab the crossbow and her supply of arrows, and go hunting.
O’Neill was in a foul mood, and everyone knew it. He had been in a foul mood for the previous two weeks, ever since his friend had been beaten half to death, not to mention he and the rest of his team knocked out by hand-made darts she had thrown at them from a roof. Now that they had finally tracked the irritating little girl to her lair he should have been finally satisfied, happy they would finally be able to show her who was incompetent and who wasn’t. Her contempt for the SGC had been obvious to them all. She had taken it as axiomatic that since they were incompetent, they would inevitably fail in their sacred duty to protect the Earth from the Goa’uld. A kid, a short, vacuous, loony-bird who had never held a job or done anything useful in her entire life, had casually dismissed the finest, most professional military organization in the history of the world as incompetent, their failure inevitable. It was insulting, and O’Neill had never been one to accept insults gracefully.
That hadn’t been the excuse he had used to sell this operation to Hammond. No, to get the manpower he needed he’d had to bring up the usual red herrings; that she had demonstrated more-than-human abilities, that she knew too much about the StarGate, that she was claiming there was a fatal weakness in Xerxes. But they were just excuses, and Hammond and everyone else knew it. They all knew O’Neill did not take insults lying down. But that didn’t mean his excuses weren’t true. So Hammond had stood aside and let him devote far more resources than they could spare to finding the extraordinary little girl. When they finally located her, using satellite-based infrared sensors and several million dollars worth of motion detectors, it should have been one of the more satisfying moments of his career. But it wasn’t. Not any more.
Nobody knew who sent the dvd, or how they managed to get their hands on it. Even Carter had never been able to break into the NID mainframes and retrieve information on their activities. But there was no question that someone had, because there was no way in hell that NID would have permitted the electronic file on their interrogation of Elizabeth Summers to ever see the light of day. Because what the disk showed was so horrific, so disgusting, so offensive to everything O’Neill felt about his government and his nation, that if it ever got out what they had done to her there would be rioting in the streets.
Although he had claimed that the file and what it showed changed nothing regarding their own issue with Miss Summers, O’Neill privately admitted he had been badly shaken by the brutal, dispassionate images of torture and the clinical descriptions of her interrogators efforts to psychologically break the girl. O’Neill himself had faced torture more than once; by the Iraqi’s, once by Sokar. He knew what she had endured. What she had somehow not just survived
, but had the physical and mental toughness needed to emerge from something so barbaric with both mind intact and her ethics not permanently distorted by the experience. He also knew that just witnessing the short video clips on the dvd had broken something in Carter. She would never be able to think of her government in the same way again. Teal’c had not really been impacted all that much; he had already been on the girl’s side, not offended as all to losing to a superior warrior in a fair fight. He made no secret of his approval for both her tactics and the test she had devised to determine whether she could fight the Goa’uld on her own. Their only bit of good luck was that Jackson had been working in his lab at the time and hadn’t seen the disk. O’Neill knew that his friend’s reaction to it would have been… unpleasant.
None of it changed the fact that they still had to question the girl. But, of course, it changed everything. When he went over the plan of action with the men and women who would be charged with carrying it out, O’Neill made it abundantly, overwhelmingly clear that if the girl were ‘accidentally’ killed, or subject to anything but the most disciplined of military security procedures once captured, he would personally see to it that the perpetrator of said unprofessional conduct would be subject to a very up-close-and-personal demonstration of his unhappiness. His eyes, his entire demeanor had expressed so much barely-controlled rage that the room had gone dead silent, not a single person doubting for an instant that he meant what he said, and that the consequences of not meeting the standard he demanded would be very, very severe.
There were 22 front-line teams in the SGC order of battle, two of them company sized. Those two teams, SG-13 and SG-18, were not called upon very often, but when they were it was inevitably to contain a situation already devolving rapidly from ‘furball’ to full-blown ‘clusterfuck.’ Which meant that the members of those teams had to be trained to a razors-edge, ready at a moments notice to mount either a rescue mission or a full-scale armed assault, but normally spent a lot of time doing exactly nothing. Under ordinary circumstances it would be ludicrous to pit either of those teams against one little girl. Pitting both of them against one little girl, even one who had kicked the crap out of a Jaffa of Teal’c caliber, didn’t seem to be a worthy challenge. But that was just fine with SG-13 CO Lt. Col. Ash Fenton. He didn’t like ‘worthy challenges,’ or ‘fair fights,’ or any of that other moronic ‘Han fired second’ crap. His job was to win, not to play nice. He didn’t just believe in ‘overkill;’ he wanted to crank it all the way up to ‘ludicrous kill’ every time he faced an opponent.
By the time Ash was ready to deploy, over a hundred people were involved in the effort. Even the ambulance drivers and helicopter pilots were Special Forces trained. With the area conveniently isolated from the civilian population, he saw no reason to be subtle. One of the things he loved about the SGC was that nobody minded if it took a sledge hammer to drive home a nail, so long as the sumbitch got drove. It was the philosophy Ash lived by.
She didn’t know what it was that woke her, but instantly realized that she had waited too long before relocating. Nothing was visible so far, she couldn’t even hear anything, but seconds after awakening from a sound sleep, Buffy was preparing to bail. She put on her leather pants, not only because if it came down to a fight she wanted to look good, but because they were a lot tougher than cotton and provided far less of an infra red signature. Leather jacket, thin leather gloves, and a thick woolen toque were for the same purpose. Grabbing the emergency pack and crossbow, she was heading for the wall no more than 60 seconds from the moment her sleep had been suddenly disturbed.
Her night vision wasn’t as good as her opponents would have using electronic imaging devices, but she didn’t need to see too well to find the cable she had carefully concealed. Climbing it, swinging into the warehouse, she kept to the deepest of the dark shadows as she quickly reached the rusting steel roof trusses. The concrete support anchors provided even more cover as she waited, silent, finally hearing the barely-perceptible sounds of cloth scraping against metal, leather sliding along rope. Whoever the invaders were, their noise discipline was amazing. They were so quiet she couldn’t get a count on how many there were; but it was a lot more than she had expected.
When she moved in, Buffy had assessed the location as if it were a vampire nest, then considered how she would have attacked it. She went over all of the assumptions she would make in determining her plan of action, and then carefully set things up so that anyone else would encounter exactly what she would have expected to meet up with were she in their place. So there was a chemical heat source on the top floor of the warehouse, trip wires and what looked like jury-rigged explosives along the breaks in the walls. It wouldn’t quite take an army to attack the top floor, but everything was designed to indicate that was where she was sleeping, and that it would take some serious firepower to penetrate her lair.
She had actually set up house on the third
floor because there was a small break in the wall which was hidden from anything but a close look. Hidden well away from the location Buffy herself would have attacked, given a similar tactical situation, she was able to reach the roof and wedge herself into a prepared, extremely defensible position before the attackers made their move. Even had she not been given an early warning Buffy figured she had a shot at escaping the initial attack, depending on how serious they were about it. Once she was above the warehouse, light from the stars shining through the holes in the walls, she was able to see that they were really, really
serious about it. Her eyes could just barely see the infrared lasers of their guns’ aiming systems, which would normally have been invisible even to a Slayer were there more ambient light. She counted a lot of beams.
It was a good thing she had trained with Riley’s commando unit so had a fair appreciation for the difference between human and vamp tactics. She hadn’t purchased a gas mask, figuring the size of the warehouse and the open walls would make gas ineffective, but she paused a moment to put in earplugs and put on her goggles. They would almost certainly uses ‘flash-bangs,’ stun grenades that would temporarily render her deaf and blind if she wasn’t prepared. If she was properly prepared, she hoped to be able to use the distraction of their assault to cover her escape. As ready as she could be, she settled into her concealed bolt-hole and waited for the action to start.
Being the impatient sort, she was agreeably surprised when she didn’t have to wait very long. Unfortunately she was also the curious sort, so had been caught glancing down when the first flash-bangs were tossed through the open window leading to the top office floor. Even muffled by the concealing wall, the sudden, incredibly loud banging noise, immediately followed by an abrupt flash of sun-bright light, dazzled her. The first was instantly followed by a dozen more, as they blew holes in the roof and dropped the stun grenades, before men rappelled down nylon ropes into the office in a carefully choreographed pattern. Although her night vision had been a bit impaired in one eye by the sudden onset of their assault, Buffy was instantly in motion, snaking through a small seam in the broken wall to reach the outside of the building, hopefully in a place no one was watching.
To her annoyance they had enough manpower to be watching everywhere. The long column of rebar, which just happened to be located near her exit and could be used to climb down to within a dozen feet of the ground, had attracted the attention of one of the dozens of men she could see her vantage point standing guard. Only a second had passed since the initial sounds of the attack, so Buffy waited, hoping they would be distracted by something, anything that would let her make her move. When long seconds passed and the guard didn’t turn away, but was no longer only looking up but also watching to his left and right, Buffy felt chances were things weren’t going to get any better so she would have to act.
Jumping out from the concealed crack, she grabbed the rebar and slid down it with the friction from one hand just barely breaking her freefall, dropping so fast that the man below didn’t have time to bring his weapon into play from the time she jumped until she dropped to the ground only a few steps away from him. Moving with Slayer speed she kicked out, trusting that his headgear was strong enough to keep his head from being crushed because she really needed to make sure he stayed down, so hit him pretty much as hard as she could. Not even watching where he dropped, she was already in motion, rushing towards the second guard a dozen feet away to her left, ducking down when he brought his weapon up, knocking his legs out from under him, a quick chop to the throat ensuring he stayed down.
Rolling and leaping to her feet, already running towards her planned evacuation point, she noted in passing that the man had been carrying a Taser. In fact, everyone she had seen had been carrying either Taser’s or similarly non-lethal weapons. It made her clench her teeth in frustration, because if they weren’t out to kill her, she wasn’t allowed to kill them, not even inadvertently. And there were a lot more of them than there were of her, they were really good at their jobs, and they were already reacting to the warning that she was outside the warehouse and running.
About fifty feet from the warehouse was a pile of rubble, her first checkpoint. Unfortunately, and indicating that these people were a different kettle of fish from the NID retards she had dealt with previously, they had staked out the pile with three guards who saw her just a fraction of a second before Buffy, running full out, saw them. All three fired their Tasers within a half a second of each other, the laser acting not only as an aiming point but allowing them to hold down the trigger, the gun not firing until the laser determined that she was within range. Even to a Slayer the shock of the three simultaneous blasts of electricity hit like a freight train, 50,000 volts surging through her body, bypassing the brain and locking almost every muscle into rigidity. But she was a Slayer, one who might face enemies with a similar electrical defense mechanism, and her body adapted to the attack within seconds, far sooner than the calmly approaching men expected. The first they realized that she wasn’t helpless was when she jumped up, kicking the closest man in the head, came down with her body twisting to sweep the legs out from under the second, and grabbed the arm of the third, lifted him bodily to crash his full weight down on the prone –but until that point conscious—body of his partner.
Her eyes were suddenly blinded by the glare of a searchlight shining down from a rapidly-approaching helicopter. Jumping instantly out of the glare, rolling, grabbing the crossbow from its secure position at her back, she sprinted for the concealment of the rubble pile, and cocked and loaded the weapon. The glare of the searchlight partly blinded her from seeing the helicopter, but she had a pretty good idea where the engine intake would be and let loose. It was a military helicopter, with baffles protecting the air intake vents from small-arms fire; but a bullet didn’t have a fraction of the kinetic energy an arrow driven by the sort of pull a Slayer’s crossbow could handle. Almost instantly the helicopter swung away, one engine seizing and having to be shut down by a pilot who was almost certainly as astonished as he was livid by the affront.
Still, the pilot had done his job, pinpointing her location for the people on the ground. But most of them had been in the warehouse for the assault, and most of the exits from the warehouse were on the other side of the building, something Buffy had deliberately planned and now hoped to use the few dozen seconds it would take them to reach her to make her escape. Knowing how much they would be counting on the advantage given by their thermal night-sights, she had previously placed some oil-soaked wooden beams in the rubble pile, and quickly reached for the lighter she had cached near the wood to start a small fire. Then she ran, because within a few seconds the small fire wasn’t so small, and it got progressively larger as she ran along the shadows provided by the rubble pile.
With the fire lighting up the entire area, her night vision was suddenly better than her opponents, and Buffy exploited that fact ruthlessly as she came upon more of them, now easily visible to her despite their fancy military camouflage jumpsuits due to the light of the raging bonfire. Coming out from the shadows, the dancing flames causing so many signs of movement they never saw her until she was among them, Buffy lashed out at the nearest man with her feet, mowing them down with all the skill she had learned during her years as a Slayer.
Her opponents were not stupid men, or egotistical vampires either, and quickly tried to use their numbers to hold her off while the man farthest away used his weapon; but unfortunately he already knew from his compatriots that the Taser had proven ineffective and the only other non-lethal weapon in his possession fired rubber bullets. The others delayed her long enough for him to get a shot off, but it had about the effect he expected and he decided to try using the gun as a club when the other four men fell before her in seconds and he was the only one left standing. She was too damn good for that as well, the gun never coming near her as she lashed out with a foot, smashing it back into his chest, and knocked him flying. She was long gone by the time he was able to get his wind back and regain his feet, so he rushed over to ensure that the others were still alive, cursing into his microphone.
Buffy’s plan had been to make her way to the fence to the north of the abandoned area, to reach a truck lot where hundreds of parked trailer units would have provided plenty of cover to make her escape. To the south it was more open, but it was military land where she had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately her opponents had anticipated that she would be moving north if she somehow escaped from the warehouse, and had set up their command post in the area she found herself heading towards. Her first indication that she was in trouble was when another searchlight caught her dead to rights, running along the ground with almost no cover available. She reacted instantly however, rolling, coming up with a rock, and threw it at the light.
Once, Riley had annoyed her by claiming that she threw like a girl. Her rebuttal had been that she threw like a girl who could throw a baseball at nearly 150 miles per hour, which even he admitted had been a pretty damned good rebuttal. So despite the distance to the light the rock she launched took it out like a guided missile. The abrupt darkness helped conceal her, but they knew where she was now and Buffy ran as fast as she could to the east, away from the warehouses where most of the attackers could be seen in the flickering glow of the roaring fire she had set only a few minutes earlier. There was more concealment there, but it also led to residential areas and Buffy had a pretty good idea that if she headed for civilian populated areas, her opponents might feel they had no choice but to escalate the measures they were prepared to take to stop her.
With no choice she ran, and then dropped, crawled, got to a crouch and ran some more, hiding and watching and desperately trying to figure out a way to prevent her numerically-superior opponents from encircling her and cutting off any avenue of escape. Those people were really starting to piss her off, because their tactics weren’t like those of any opponent she had ever faced, except to some degree Riley’s commandoes. They didn’t back off. They didn’t panic. They didn’t pout, or blame each other, or fight among themselves. They were like machines, constantly regrouping, constantly adapting, constantly cutting her off from areas she wanted to reach, continually tightening the noose as they confined her to a smaller and smaller area. Even knowing they were doing it, Buffy couldn’t figure out a way to escape the trap. There was just too many of them, with too much backup, so she was never able to open a big enough break in their perimeter to work her way though without them being able to adjust.
Unless she was prepared to raise the ante and start doing things that were almost certain to get people killed, even she could see that it was inevitable that they would sooner or later corner her in a place where the net-launcher guns they had would wrap her up in rope, or the drugged-dart guns would find her, and that would be all she wrote. They had learned the hard way that if they came at her in three-man units she could take them out so fast nobody even knew they were down until they didn’t respond to radio checks. But three three-man teams, operating together, ensured that those coordinating the effort were constantly aware of her activities, able to update their other units to cover any move she might make. So even if she was willing to use lethal force –and until they did, she wasn’t—they would be in a position to bring far more firepower to bear than she could withstand. The truth was, they were hobbled far more by being limited to using non-lethal weapons than she was.
Increasingly frustrated, and increasingly worried about what might happen if she was captured and taken back into NID custody, Buffy tried everything she could think of, every stratagem learned during her long and brutal career. She was able to sneak up and incapacitate entire groups of her opponents, sneak around others, even get a few to attack each other, but they always figured things out too quickly, adapted too professionally for her to exploit any break in their encirclement. And the closer they tightened their line, the more limited her options became. They were the best Buffy had ever faced… and she was afraid that she might not be able to get away from them.
Seated in his command post truck on the road just outside the fence encircling the abandoned area, Jack O’Neill clenched his jaw so tightly he wondered if he might end up driving his teeth right through his jawbone. Yelling wouldn’t accomplish anything. If it could, the tirade Ash Fenton had been unleashing for the past half hour would have been sufficient for the job. In fact there was a lot of screaming going on, as frustrated, enraged men and women cursed their commanders, their colleagues, and especially their target as she almost effortlessly bypassed yet another ‘foolproof’ trap, forcing them to redeploy and try yet again. Nobody could believe what was happening. Nobody could believe that one little girl was making them look so bad.
Fenton’s plan had been thorough. As usual with Fenton it had been ludicrously manpower inefficient, but he had the bodies available so nobody saw much point in letting them go to waste. Everyone had been confident, even cocky given the odds and the opposition they expected to face. They had executed the initial assault without a hitch. But then it had all gone from sugar to shit.
Everyone had known
that she was on the top floor of the abandoned warehouse offices. All the sensors had indicated it, and the plans had been formulated around that given fact. So all of their best men were tasked to that location, leaving mostly new fish to stand guard outside and watch the fireworks. Only she hadn’t
been where they expected. Later they would locate her bed on the third floor, where she had probably been listening to her friggin’ ipod
when they went in. At first they hadn’t even realized she wasn’t where they thought she was. Too many flash-bangs had gone off and started a small fire where they thought she was sleeping, the nightscopes were saturated, and by the time they put out the fire and realized nobody was in the burning sleeping bag, the calls from the unfortunate perimeter guards were coming in fast and furious.
At first nobody had believed them. They were green, some had never even been Offworld, so were probably imagining things. But more and more fell out of contact, others insisted on describing someone capable of doing impossible things, and by the time they figured out what was happening she was already on the ground, away from most of their manpower, and heading for population.
He still had problems believing the kid had been able to take out a Blackhawk helicopter with a friggin’ crossbow
, for cryin’ out loud! If he wasn’t so figgin’ pissed at her might even be impressed. But eight more people on the ground were out of communication, and it took a few minutes to verify that they were only unconscious and not dead. Those had been a long few minutes. They got lucky when the truck hit her with the spotlight –he still didn’t know how the hell she had taken it out from so far away- and were able to deploy their remaining assets well enough to delay her until the rest of the men could be moved from the warehouse to the perimeter, gradually isolating and confining her. But they’d done it half a dozen times, and each time she’d found a way out, each time taking out more people with martial arts moves none of them could believe. He figured they were slowly wearing her down, leaving her fewer options, leaving her nowhere to run. But privately he was pretty worried about what might happen when they did. This kid had already taken out eighteen heavily armed, heavily armored, and expertly trained commandoes. Most would only need to stay in the hospital for observation because that was SOP after suffering a concussion, but ten also had broken bones. What she might do when finally trapped, with no way out, was anybody’s guess.
O’Neill scowled and looked away as Ash went off on another tirade as some poor bastard had to report that she had once again worked her way through their inner perimeter and they were once again redeploying to limit her movements to the east. Unfortunately turning away from Fenton meant he had to look at Teal’c, who was sitting there with an open, obvious, and proud smile on his face, the only one of the eight people in the truck wearing such an expression. He wasn’t in the slightest upset over the disaster that had befallen them or the failure to capture someone whose abilities suggested she wasn’t quite human and therefore potentially an enemy. Teal’c was in fact openly cheering for the girl. And despite O’Neill’s growled accusation that he just wanted her to win so that he wouldn’t be the only one to have lost to her, Teal’c wasn’t doing it out of pride. He figured she had proven herself to be an honorable opponent, one who deserved better than to be run down like a great jungle cat being brought down by individually insignificant but a numerically overwhelming pack of wild dogs.
It was a metaphor O’Neill could have happily lived without. With the operation going straight to hell and instead of being over in seconds now nearing the forty minute mark, they had attracted far too much attention. There was a residential neighborhood only a few hundred yards away, and the presence of so much military hardware and personnel had not gone unnoticed despite the late hour. When a tv truck from the local media showed up Carter had come to their rescue, explaining that one of their people had been accidentally injected with a psychotropic drug during a chemical warfare exercise, and they wanted to capture him themselves. Because of his training and the effects of the drug the police would have no choice but to use deadly force if they tried to take him in. Their people had volunteered to put themselves at risk if it meant a chance for them to capture him alive. The reporter had bought the story, but it wouldn’t mean anything if the girl got away. Or people died trying to capture her.
He looked over at Teal’c, who was studying the monitors, noting the same pattern O’Neill could see evolving. Despite the fact that she had just escaped, she hadn’t gotten away, and they were getting closer each time. The end game would soon be at hand, when she would have to decide how far she was willing to go to stay free. To remain out of the hands, for all she knew, and O’Neill now knew, of the people who had done unspeakable things to her not that long ago. He knew what he would do to ensure he would never have to go back to face something like that, and looking at his friend, he could tell that Teal’c was thinking the same thing. “You’re gonna have to talk to her.”
The massive Jaffa warrior raised an eyebrow. “I will not lie to her, O’Neill. She fought honorably, and was magnanimous in victory. I will not tell her we will treat her with equal honor, only to betray my word and permit her to be returned to the sub-human cofach
who did such things to her. If we offer her an honorable surrender, the terms on our side must be equally honorable. In your own words, we must be willing to offer her a ‘deal.’ What sort of deal
may I offer her, O’Neill?”
The Colonel scowled, knowing that his friend was going to ask that, but hoping he would have just been satisfied with letting the girl live. The big Jaffa was a warrior, and he obviously considered her to be one as well. To warriors like Teal’c, there were worse things than death. What he had seen on the dvd had been one of those things. “Tell her we’re not the NID.”
“No, we are not. But the SGC is subservient to the government of the United States, and if that government commands you to turn the young warrior over to the NID, you will have no choice but to comply. This is not acceptable.”
O’Neill sighed. “It isn’t just her, Teal’c. If she decides to go down fighting then a lot of people are going to die. She doesn’t know they aren’t NID. You’ve seen what she can do. If she decides to go out in a blaze of glory a lot of those kids won’t be going home tonight. Is that fair?”
“As you have so often pointed out, O’Neill, life itself is rarely ‘fair.’ If you wish to save the men under your command, you have the power to call off this attack. This would save far more of them than might be saved through my deceiving the girl and sacrificing her –as well as my own—honor in order to capture her, would it not?”
Already deep scowl deepening further, O’Neill glared at the monitor in front of him, wondering if there was anything he could offer, or if it would be best just to let it play out. Without another word he stood up and left the truck, and made his way over to the fence. He couldn’t see anything of the life-and-death struggle happening not that far from where he stood. The fire had gone out, and his people were now using their night-vision goggles. How the girl could see in those conditions was anyone’s guess, but the hard evidence suggested she could see just fine. And empirical evidence indicated she was also smart enough to see what was coming. He didn’t think anyone was going to be happy with whatever decision she reached about how she intended to meet it. Least of all him.
Whatever his other failings –and O’Neill knew he had a lot of them—he’d never offered up a young girl to be tortured. Yes, he was pissed off with her attitude. But if attitude meant you were fit to be tortured then he was a dead man. He nodded to himself. It didn’t matter what decision she came to because O’Neill had already come to an unofficial decision of his own. No matter what happened, he would not allow that girl to be returned to the slimy paws of the NID. No matter what she had done, no matter what she knew, she didn’t deserve that. He was an officer in the United States Air Force, subject to the rules and regulations governing the actions and behavior of a person in his capacity… but that was not a price his country could ask of him. Almost anything else; but not that
. Teal’c wasn’t the only one who knew a thing or two about honor.
Grabbing the cutters from the tool locker, O’Neill cut a hole in the fence and entered. Dropping the cutters, he headed off towards the place he figured the girl would be considering for her last stand. He couldn’t see a damned thing, and there were chunks of concrete and rebar and all sorts of crap lying all around, making footing treacherous. Fortunately he wasn’t trying to be stealthy, so every time he tripped he muttered curses over the girl, the idiotic situation he found himself in, and his own monumental stupidity for getting involved in the friggin’ mess in the first place. He was unarmed, he couldn’t see a goddamn thing, and he was doing something that stood a very good chance of being suicidally moronic. It would be a sad, sad end to what had otherwise been a pretty decent career.
He kinda expected to run into his own troops first, given that they were supposedly surrounding the girl. But the first he knew he was in the right area was when something slammed into him, hard, knocking him down, and arms as strong as steel cables wrapped around his throat and behind his head. Even if he wanted to resist he couldn’t move. Winded, he could feel his body being effortlessly twisted to provide cover for her, being lifted and controlled with unbelievable ease and strength. In seconds he could hear a muffled curse and suddenly a light was shining on him, the soldiers abandoning their stealthy approach when they realized that the girl had done something unexpected, and now had a hostage.
There were more curses when they realized who her hostage was. O’Neill tried to speak, but the arm crushing his throat made that impossible, made even breathing pretty damned difficult. His hands had reflexively risen in an effort to pull her arm away, but couldn’t budge it. She had twisted his body into a position where he had no leverage, could do nothing to affect the situation he had deliberately brought about. But when he done it, he had expected to be able to explain what he was trying to accomplish. The way things stood he couldn’t explain a damned thing to anyone.
When more lights came on as additional troops ran over, the girl raised his head slightly so they could see who she had. “Back off. I can snap his neck before you can shoot.”
O’Neill didn’t know who responded, but could tell from the tone that the man was furious. “He dies; you die.”
The girl laughed bitterly. “No shit, Sherlock. But since the ‘me dying’ part was already in the cards, I figure this gives me just a bit of an advantage in the threat department.”
The soldiers appeared to think the same way, because they didn’t come any closer. When one tried to circle around her the girl just glanced over at him, and he instantly stopped. Evidently they had learned to respect her senses because nobody even tried to sneak up on her. O’Neill tried to speak; a muffled gasp that she quickly choked off, along with what little remained of his air supply.
The spokesman for the circling soldiers noticed the attempt, however. “Why don’t you let him talk? He must have had some goddamn reason for wandering into a fucking hot zone like a fucking retard
!!” O’Neill had expected the troops would not be happy with him. Apparently he was right about that.
After a second or two the girl released her choke hold just barely enough for him to breathe, and then enough to whisper painfully. “We’re not the NID.”
Unfortunately she was thinking a lot like Teal’c. “Like that would make any difference when they come to take me back.”
There wasn’t time to be wishy-washy about it, so O’Neill gave it to her straight. “We won’t give you to them. Period. My word on it.”
His pledge surprised her, like it was probably surprising the people back in the truck who would be listening in using either boom mikes or the suit radios on one of the observing soldiers. After a second the girl, to his considerable annoyance, rejected his offer. “Thanks. Appreciate the thought. But personally I doubt if you’re in a position to make it stick, Colonel. They won’t honor it, and you know it.”
“You don’t know how much clout we have. If I give my word the government will live with it. They won’t be happy, but they’ll abide by any agreement I make. Given what we do, they have to.”
She gave a kind of lady-like snort of contempt, but O’Neill could detect the frustration and fear behind it. “Not these people. They’ll burn you if they have to, if it means getting me back. They can be real persuasive if anyone objects. The politicians are a lot more afraid of crossing them than they are of burning you.”
O’Neill was getting a bit frustrated himself, not to mention sore given the way she had his body tied into a pretzel. “Well, for crissakes lady, it’s not like you’ve got a lot of options! Either you die here –we
die here!—or you take a chance. Maybe not a good one, but it’s the only one you’ve got at the moment. You know
what we do; you know
how far our reach extends. We can put you somewhere they can’t find you. Yeah, they’ll probably be pretty pissed about it. My heart bleeds. But we
just want to talk to you. Hell, isn’t that why you’re here
?! If you didn’t want to give us another chance to listen you’d be long gone by now. Well here’s your chance. We’re listening. Enough of this Mexican standoff bullshit! I’m getting on in years here, and my back is killing me. Make the friggin’ call.”
It took long seconds for her to think it over. To his own private amusement, O’Neill was more annoyed than afraid. The girl just didn’t have it in her to kill him when there was any alternative, even one that she probably figured sucked the big one. So he wasn’t surprised when she slowly released him. And because he also knew his men, he was even less surprised when the instant she was no longer in a position to snap his neck, about ten of them fired simultaneously, darts impacting everywhere in her torso, injecting enough drugs to stop a charging rhino in its tracks, and enough nets were fired to wrap her up in a cocoon. She dropped like a tree falling, knees unable to bend due to the thickness of the entangling ropes. A very small
tree, O’Neill thought, as he stood and started issuing orders.