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Far Beyond Normal

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Normal-verse Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Buffy did not survive her confrontation with the First. Fortunately, Buffy has never been one to let death stand in her way...

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Stargate > Buffy-Centered > Theme: ActionjAkLFR1525142,908258674455,21519 Jan 0615 Mar 06Yes
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Chapter 12

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 Normal

Chapter Twelve

The questioning went on for hours. The two men in the room she didn’t remember from her dreams turned out to be the SGC version of interrogators, and they were light years better at it than their NID counterparts. Instead of beating people until they got the answers they wanted to hear, they went over everything that was said, line by line, in seemingly random order, searching for discrepancies, uncovering additional details Buffy didn’t even know she knew. It seemed repetitive and pointless to someone as impatient as the Slayer, but the results were impressive. There was no question in her mind that if she had been lying about a single aspect of her story they would have uncovered it, if she had been concealing anything they would have known it. Without torture, without threats, they got more information out of her in three hours than the NID had in three weeks.

By the end of the session Buffy was getting tired and frustrated, something the interrogators knew full well and used to good effect. The problem was their methods only worked up to the limits of her knowledge, as unlike with torture, she did not make up stuff just to get them to stop hurting her. Torturing people got more results, but not better results, since a lot of it was bogus crap the victim made up on the spot. Simply by verifying what she knew, and what she did not know, gave them more accurate information, but left everyone frustratingly aware of how little they knew, and how much they needed to know.

Finally the General called a break, as even the infinitely patient interrogators realized they weren’t adding anything new to the long, detailed notes they had been taking throughout the questioning process. He called in a female enlisted person to take Buffy to a washroom, where she could shower if she wished while they found some clothes for her. More than happy to accept the offer, Buffy also realized they wanted to talk over the results without her in the room, so took her time, not having had an opportunity to wash up after the fun times the previous night. In fact, she wasn’t even certain how much time had passed since she had been awakened by their assault on her temporary encampment, but figured it hadn’t been much more than eight or nine hours. A lot had happened since then.

The replacement clothing they provided was military issue, casual green camouflage BDU’s without insignia, and as she had once told Riley, they did make her look Private Benjamin-ish. But they were clean, and she was clean, and wasn’t wearing restraints or being guarded by large, competent MP’s, so Buffy was in a pretty good mood for the first time in far too long when the girl who had escorted her to the showers guided her back to the meeting room. They had obviously been warned about her return because when she entered, all discussion had ceased.

She wasn’t surprised when the General spoke, or that he did not bring up the results of the internal discussions she hadn’t been allowed to participate in. “It would seem we are unable to proceed at the moment, given the limits on the information provided during your prescient dream. We also have some additional hints to go on based on your recollections of the people involved, the equipment in the rooms, the tactics of both ourselves and the Goa’uld that you witnessed. We will need some time to process this information to see if we can uncover any more specific details on the failures with the Xerxes system.

“As you represent our only source of intelligence on this potential catastrophic failure, on my own authority I am temporarily confining you to our facilities here at the SGC. By confining you here, I will be complying with our regulations regarding individuals who are wanted by civilian authorities. Barely in compliance; I would appreciate it if you didn’t just leave and make me have to justify that decision to people who will undoubtedly be very upset with me unless I am able to demonstrate that it was necessary so we could, well, save the Earth. You will also be restricted to the ‘civilian-access’ locations within the facility. Don’t go near the ‘Gate room, mainframe or power facilities, or the weapons locker. Other than that you are free to move about. Just be available should we have any additional questions.

“I think that will be all for now.” He looked around the table. “You are all dismissed.” The others stood up from their chairs as the General rose, a military gesture of respect Buffy didn’t follow. “It’s been a long night. Personally I intend to visit the cafeteria and have something to eat. Unless you have something else you need to be doing, you are welcome to join me. This includes you, Miss Summers.”

Her fate having been decided, and it sucking much less than the alternative, Buffy was happy to join them, her appetite restored by the knowledge that she wouldn’t have to make a suicidal last stand rather than face a return to NID custody. Along the way to the mess hall the General pointed out various areas of the base, letting her know what went on in some of the labs, showing her a few of the alien artifacts they had retrieved from different worlds and were currently studying. Even to her it was interesting, and Buffy wondered how a science geek like Willow would respond in such an environment. Which was a subject she wanted to bring up with the General eventually, but not until she was certain it wouldn’t cause trouble for her friend.

Once they reached the cafeteria she grabbed enough high-carb food to feed a small town, and sat down beside Carter. Pausing only a moment to beg forgiveness to the Almighty Celestial Cow for not being a vegetarian, Buffy scarfed down the burger in three quick bites, and then proceeded to hoover down the four others on her plate, oblivious to the amazed stares of her dinner companions. When she paused for breath, and dessert, she saw their looks and shrugged. “Slayer metabolism. Needs a lot of fuel to stoke the furnace. And I haven’t been eating well lately. You gonna eat that pie?” When O’Neill didn’t claim it fast enough Buffy reached over and grabbed it off his tray, ignoring his indignant look. Served him right for stealing the last piece of strawberry-rhubarb when it was one of her favorites.

Conversation flew fast and furious despite Buffy continually stuffing her face, and they attracted quite a bit of attention from the other people in the cafeteria. It wasn’t often they saw a woman so small eat so much. Since she was now wearing military garb, and few of them had been involved in her capture the previous evening, there was considerable speculation as to her identity. She was surprised at the number of people present. Although part of the reason for the crowd was that it turned out to be lunchtime, she hasn’t realized the SGC had so many personnel. Her vision had only involved a few of them, and given how long they had maintained their secret she would have expected their numbers to be more limited.

Her comment on it brought up discussions regarding the SGC, its history and mandate. Finally, one of the things which had been bothering Buffy finally entered the conversation as Carter told of her experiences when she was taken over by a Tok’ra named Jolinar, how he had been tortured by Sokar, and how Bynarr had wanted to torture her in retaliation for Jolinar having betrayed him. Carter had been trying to use the memory to let Buffy know that she understood and had some personal experience with torture, so could empathize with her over the issue, but to her surprise the small girl seemed disappointed with the revelation. “So that’s why you give off a Goold vibe. You used to actually be one of them.”

Reading between the lines, Carter smiled at her, understanding why the younger woman was disappointed. “Is that why you sat down beside me? You were thinking that I was a Goa’uld agent?”

With a bit of a self-deprecating scowl, Buffy nodded. “There goes my stunning revelation. It made sense too; you couldn’t figure out how to fix the thing because you broke it in the first place. But you’d have had to be a really good actress to freak out the way you were if you knew what was happening, so I wasn’t really convinced the theory was right even when I thought of it.”

Smiling, Carter held up her hands in an ‘I’m innocent’ gesture. “It’s pretty interesting that you can sense the naquadah trace elements in my system. Some Goa’uld can, but very few can detect it at the low level I have. Why didn’t you mention it before?”

Disappointed that she hadn’t actually solved the problem, Buffy nodded at a man sitting at the table in front of them. “I didn’t realize it until now. I knew I could ‘feel’ that Teal’c was different, the same way I could sense vampires back home, but the ‘taste’, the vibe I sensed from you was so different from what I got from him that I didn’t realize it was related to the Goold until that guy sat down and triggered the same feeling.”

Everyone frowned, and turned to look at the man sitting at the opposite table, eating his lunch. He was an older man, mid fifties perhaps, in civilian clothes, talking with a few other men dressed similarly. Buffy noticed the way her companions reacted to her comment, and wondered if she had stumbled onto something after all.

Turning to face the portly General, Carter kept her voice low. “Dr. McGregor has never been Offworld. He went through all of our standard tests for Goa’uld infestation and passed with flying colors. He’s also the lead software architect for the Xerxes power regulation subsystem. He has nothing to do with the Avenger interface or aiming systems, but he does have administrative access to the software development libraries.”

O’Neill wasn’t observing the man, being on the wrong side of the table and not wanting to turn around to indicate his interest. “Could he do what she says happened to the system?”

“I told you; nobody can do what she says was done to the system. Every line of code he enters is tested by independent auditors. He can’t manipulate the software like she says someone did, and our tests clearly indicate that he isn’t a Goa’uld.”

Overhearing, as he was intended to, Hammond glanced over at the man without moving his head, just his eyes, then glanced back to where Buffy was calmly eating her fourth slice of pie. “So either Buffy is trying to spread FUD within our project staff….”

Carter continued the train of thought. “… or our detection techniques need to be updated, both on the software testing side, and the Goa’uld infiltration possibilities if they can somehow mask the naquadah traces.”

She was frowning, deep in thought, when the man under discussion looked over and noticed her expression. He raised his eyebrow questioningly, then frowned when Carter overcompensated and tried to make her face a blank mask. It took him only a few seconds to consider the implications, assess his options, and reach a conclusion. Without warning, without giving the slightest indication of his intentions, he suddenly threw his knife with homicidal accuracy directly at Carter.

There was no time for her to react. No time to even be surprised by his actions, no time to move out of the way. Nothing human could have reacted fast enough to escape the sudden, unexpected attack.

Nothing human. But a Slayer wasn’t entirely human.

Moving even faster than the intended assassin, Buffy raised the hand holding her fork without ever taking her eyes from her study of the potential threat, wrist not shifting even a fraction of an inch as the sharp blade of the knife slid between the tines, the point of the blade stopping a few inches in front of Carter’s left eye as the guard of the knife was blocked by the metal fork held rock-steady with Slayer strength. There wasn’t even much noise, just a muffled ‘ding’ that captured the attention of only a few people who until then hadn’t noticed the life-or-death struggle happening in their midst. It was so sudden, so unexpected, for a few seconds no one reacted, while the man, who had jumped up as soon as he let go of the knife in preparation for running away, actually got part way towards the exit door before O’Neill recovered and screamed for someone to stop him. The cafeteria was filled with trained soldiers, who reacted almost instantly, tackling the man and subduing him within seconds, not understanding why but responding instinctively to the order.

It had all happened so fast nobody at the table had the time to process it all, to realize how quickly the crisis had come and gone. Casually lowering her hand to remove the knife stuck in her fork, Buffy muttered: “Well, that was anti-climactic. Usually it takes a while to figure these things out.”

Stunned at how close she had come to being killed, it took even someone with Carter’s training and experience a few seconds to get herself under control, adrenaline flooding her system and causing her to shake long after the danger had passed. But unlike Buffy, Carter’s best weapon was her magnificent brain, and it was already considering the consequences of what had just happened. Turning to the general as O’Neill jumped to his feet to take charge of the prisoner, she tried to get control of herself, to suppress the reaction already setting in, and explain the repercussions. “Sir, McGregor had a very high security clearance. He had access to Xerxes. I think we have no choice but to officially consider the entire system compromised.”

Hammond was already nodding, and reaching for a phone. “I concur.”

Before he could call his superiors, Carter continued. “The problem is that verifying Buffy’s story doesn’t change anything, sir! The backup systems still have the same weaknesses we needed Xerxes to address. If the Goa’uld are coming for us like she says, and we have as little time as she says, they’ll be able to take us whether Xerxes is compromised or not!”

Buffy felt her stomach clench with the realization that instead of the problem being averted, it had just changed a bit, the outcome still the same. “Can’t you just go over the stuff he did, rip it out or whatever, and get it back online?”

Already shaking her head, Carter explained to Buffy, but intended her answer more for the General. “We have no idea how he did it, Buffy. If it was a simple matter of going through his code, he would never have been able to do it in the first place. We’ve got to figure out what he did, then how he did it, then how to fix it. Then we’re going to have to test it and verify that the fix works before allowing it back into the operational system. We’re talking weeks, if not months, maybe even more if he had accomplices. Because we also have to face the fact that if one of their agents could penetrate our security, others might have as well.”

Eyes wide as she began to realize how serious the problem was, Buffy started to say something, then clamped her mouth shut when she understood that Carter wasn’t asking her for advice. One of the reasons the First had wiped the floor with her was because she had deluded herself into believing that her innate talents as a Slayer included strategic insight. It was true that she did have some special talents at thinking tactically, but even those were more often than not the result of hard lessons learned through experience. When it came to fighting off a room full of monsters she was the expert; in the situation they faced, just about everyone at the table knew more about what needed to be done than her. Telling herself it was time to shut up and try learning something, Buffy waited for someone else to respond.

Not surprisingly it was Hammond, and he was watching her with a bit of an approving look, as if he had followed her train of thought. “One thing at a time, Major. At least we know the weaknesses within the old system, which is more than we can now say about Xerxes. First things first: pull the plug on Xerxes and notify NORAD that we are returning extra-planetary defense to their control. Second: we have Dr. Fraser go over our captive with a fine-toothed comb and find out how he was able to bypass our Goa’uld detection screenings. Third: we find out if he had any partners. Until Dr. Fraser gets her answers we are dependent on you, Buffy. If you can somehow ‘sense’ these people I want you to go through this entire facility and let us know if anyone else is like Dr. McGregor. Forget what I said about being limited to the civilian areas of the base. I’ll have your passkey upgraded for unlimited access immediately.

“What we do after that depends on what Buffy dreams tonight. With Xerxes offline, her previous visions no longer apply. If the Goa’uld realize they can no longer count on exploiting the back-door they were able to place in Xerxes they might not be willing to carry through with their attack. Personally, I doubt if they will back off, and even if Buffy dreams they will do so we cannot make our plans based on that assumption. But it would be nice to have some idea as to their intentions. And right now, you provide the best information we are likely to get. I will be informing the President that I require the State Security warrant for your arrest be rescinded for reasons of National Security. Your prophetic dreams have been proven demonstrably accurate. You have just become a National Security Asset. Congratulations. You have just been drafted by the SGC.”

He smiled, holding out his hand to be shaken, but dropped it when he saw the young woman scowl. “Is there a problem, Miss Summers? Considering the alternative, I think this is about as good an outcome as you could expect.”

Buffy nodded, knowing he was right, but also knowing that she had to live with herself afterwards. She had come to the SGC to warn them, to hopefully let them do their jobs of defending the planet, not to join them. She hadn’t enjoyed her previous experience as part of a military unit. The way they did things didn’t suit her temperament or attitude. And on some things she would not compromise. “What’s going to happen to him?” She nodded to the scrum in the center of the room where O’Neill was directing the soldiers trussing up the Goa’uld agent in ‘suicide prevention’ restraints.

Hammond frowned, not understanding her concern. “He is an enemy spy caught infiltrating the SGC. He will be interrogated and imprisoned. He will be tried as an agent of a foreign power and could face execution. Surely you don’t have a problem with that?”

“I don’t have a problem with due process. I have a real, deep, personal problem when it comes to the subject of torture. If you want to shoot him as a spy, that’s your business. But if you, or anyone else, tortures him, it becomes my business. I will not work with, cooperate with, or assist torturers. Period. No discussion, no debate, no appeal. If you torture him, or hand him over to the NID to be tortured, even if you do that rendition thing and send him to Syria to be tortured, then you can go to hell. Some things are just plain wrong. I won’t be a party to it. Not even the hypocritical way you do it, by outsourcing it and then pretending your hands somehow stay clean.”

Keeping a grip on his temper, Hammond glanced over at Carter, both silently communicating their relief that O’Neill wasn’t around to participate in this discussion. “I did not say he would be tortured…”

Buffy interrupted, proving by that alone she wasn’t suitable for a military career even before her words confirmed it. “You didn’t say he wouldn’t be either. I’m saying I won’t be part of any group that practices torture. Even at second or third hand. I warned you about the weakness in Xerxes because a billion innocent people would die if you didn’t know. A billion innocent people won’t die if I don’t tell you there is another spy, or more details on a vision you just admitted will only provide ‘additional insight’ but won’t have any impact on your preparations for an invasion. I’ve gone from being ‘critical’ to being just ‘useful,’ which means I’ve fulfilled my part of the bargain and no longer have to be a party to something I find personally offensive.”

Sighing, Hammond wondered how he had gotten himself into this mess. Thinking, but not saying “California girls!” in an internal sigh of mental frustration, he tried to stop this before it went any further. “Unfortunately, the world is not a black-and-white place. Compromises must to be made. It’s one thing to take a moral stand, but how many people will you let die in order to maintain your moral superiority over those of us who have to do what is needed if anyone is going to survive, Miss Summers?”

It was a comment she would have expected from O’Neill, not Hammond, and Buffy sneered at what she saw as the dubious logic. “Don’t put the blame on me for refusing to compromise with torturers, General! I’m getting pretty irritated that you expect me to do all of the compromising. Especially on a subject like this. One of the hallmarks of this country has been its moral standing, the way everyone was at least willing to listen to us because we did have a certain moral authority, like the way even an agnostic will listen to a priest even if they don’t hold the same beliefs. You guys threw it all away, and for what? What is it you have learned that justified the price you paid to learn it? What is it you’ll learn from him that justifies losing my cooperation to get it? No deal, General. I’ll compromise when it’s worth it. When it’s necessary. This is neither.”

Hammond was getting a bit concerned her words might be getting through to the other people still at the table. You could never tell with Teal’c, but the Jaffa was a proud warrior, and the SGC had gone to considerable effort not to put him in any situation where he would be forced to compromise his honor. He was loyal to Earth, but there were limits to that loyalty. If Buffy refused to cross an ethical line, it was entirely possible Teal’c would stand with her, especially over an issue so subject to ‘compromise’ as torture. Losing Buffy over an interrogation which would probably reveal nothing useful would be a shame. Losing Teal’c over it would be a disaster. And from the looks on their faces, he was also running into some serious limits on how far he could push Carter and Jackson, and how much they would let him hide from them in the future.

He chose his words carefully, knowing what sort of minefield he might be in should he say the wrong thing. “We talked about this earlier, Miss Summers. I explained that given the catastrophic consequences of not acting in time, it was decided that the comparatively limited costs of over-reacting justified the…”

Once again she interrupted, not something a two star general normally experienced, and not something he enjoyed. But it was obvious she didn’t care whether he liked it or not. “This is where the ‘cost’ part comes in. The price of people refusing to work with you, because you’re no better than your enemy. Or at least not better enough, and people who have more ethics than your typical Nazi camp guard figure they’d prefer to work with others whose ethical standard is slightly above that of cretins who won’t question orders because they are ‘good Germans.’”

Everyone winced at the scorn in her tone, but she wasn’t finished. “I won’t work with you under these conditions. I won’t work with people who practice torture under any circumstances. And I will kill any NID agent I meet on sight, because they have embraced it and have become nothing better than the monsters a Slayer was created to destroy.

“That’s the price for compromising on torture, General. I don’t want any part of it. And I don’t want to be part of any group that is part of it. So, with all due respect, take your job and stick it.”

She never rose from her chair, never changed the tone of her voice, but everyone knew she had given her final word on the subject. When she calmly returned to eating her pie they all knew she had just dismissed a major general in the US Air Force, something no uniformed soldier enjoyed. But on this occasion nobody said anything, because none of them were even sure she was wrong. How much had they compromised, and what sort of price had they paid among their allies who had not been as blunt as the small blonde girl, but who felt the same way? Knowing that nothing he could say would make her change her mind, the general stood, politely excused himself, and left the cafeteria.
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