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 Thirteen
Once the General left, there was apparently some private discussion as to what they should do with Buffy, given that she had just derailed all their plans. The girl in question didn’t bother to participate, since she was still hoping that everything would work out in the end. She was finding that it was a whole lot easier to make a stand on principle when you were fairly certain they would agree to her terms, so she wouldn’t have to face the consequences of not agreeing to theirs. O’Neill tried to come across as a real hard-ass, but she figured chances were pretty good he’d have kept his word to not return her to the NID even if she hadn’t saved Carter’s life. With that non-trivial favor in her back pocket, she would have to do something rather spectacularly stupid for them not to be willing to bend the rules pretty far on her behalf. And her demands weren’t dumb enough to cross that particular line.
Eventually Teal’c escorted her around the base to see if she sniffed out any more covert Goa’uld, but neither were surprised when she didn’t. Afterwards, Buffy asked for a room where she could lie down for a quick nap before dinner. He appeared just the slightest bit relieved to realize he wouldn’t have to forbid her from leaving the premises. But she wanted to know if there would be another dream as much as they did, so just stretched out on the bunk and tried to sleep. She wasn’t really surprised when sleep didn’t come, however. Still a bit ‘juiced’ from the events of the day she was still wide awake, and had things been different would have gone out for a patrol to burn off the excess energy. With that option not available, she had no option but to lay down and think.
Thinking was not something she enjoyed. Not because she was stupid, but in many ways the opposite: because she wasn’t. After so long as a Slayer she knew her strengths: she was brilliant at improvisation, at reacting once battle had been joined. Given even the most generic, broadest outline of a plan, she could wing it to a successful conclusion. She’d brought down the Master, the Judge, Angelus, and Adam mostly by listening to her friends and then working with the broad outline of a strategy they came up with. Usually it was the Scoobies who came up with plans in a kind of communal effort, with Buffy having the final say if there were any options. It had been a productive, successful way of dealing with their various opponents… until they faced the First. With the First they had tossed aside all of the methods and techniques which had made them such a formidable team. The reason they had failed was not something Buffy wanted to think about. Because it had been her own fault.
She had failed in dealing with the First because she had cut herself off from utilizing the extraordinary resource her friends represented, paranoia and delusion and outright stupidity making her feel she could no longer trust them. Guilt over allowing Caleb to take Xander’s eye, distrusting Willow’s issues with power and magic, frustration with Dawn’s desperate need for some kind of emotional stability, all had combined with her own self-imposed isolation, her own fear that she would have to sacrifice her friends to defeat their overwhelmingly powerful opponent, left her ripe for the sort of mental manipulations which were the First’s weapon of choice. It was something she tried not to think about, had been running away from ever since being reborn in this world. In many ways she had been using the impending crisis with the imminent alien invasion as a distraction, something requiring all of her attention so personal issues could be put aside. But with the SGC now believing her warnings, she no longer had that excuse. And lying alone, in a darkened room deep within Cheyenne Mountain, she could no longer ignore it.
She hadn’t wanted to talk to the Scoobies because talking about it would be too painful. Her friends had let her get away with it because they understood that the distraction could prove fatal, not just to her but to the entire world. So she hadn’t talked about her abandonment issues after her father left, hadn’t talked about the overwhelming burden of caring for Dawn, hadn’t talked about her absolute burning hatred
of her so-called ‘friends’ for bringing her back to a hellish existence when she was finally at peace… or her self-disgust at hating them for doing what they thought was not just necessary but right
. Because she had felt that way she had turned to Spike and begun a sadistic, masochistic, abusive relationship which made her feel even guiltier and more disgusted with herself, making it that much harder to bring up the issue with even those people she was closest to.
Perhaps things might have improved had Tara lived. Buffy hadn’t been close enough to Willow’s girlfriend to feel the extreme reluctance to bring up the issue as she had been with Willow herself. There was a gentle decency to the young witch that made people feel comfortable talking to her, even people as emotionally distant as Buffy had become. But when Tara had been killed even that outlet had been cut off, and Willow’s reaction and subsequent personal issues had ensured that the person who had once been her closest friend was no longer an option when it came to discussions of such a deeply personal nature. As she became more and more emotionally isolated Buffy had become harder, more distant from even those closest to her, until she had become unable –or willing—to listen when she most needed competent advice.
The First had exploited that weakness to the fullest. Buffy wasn’t sure how much of what had happened had been the results of the First’s manipulations, and how much it had just taken advantage of issues already present. Which brought her to the subject she most didn’t want to think about. She wanted to be able to tell herself that her bafflingly ridiculous plans for attacking the winery were due to being manipulated by the First… and was not her own subconscious attempt to sacrifice everyone she cared about in some bizarrely twisted way so they would no longer be a ‘burden’ to her. The thought that she might have been deliberately leading the potentials, her friends, and the sister she genuinely adored to their deaths, simply so that what she thought was inevitable would finally be over, was eating her up inside. Even back in Sunnydale she had been unable to face Xander in his hospital bed, his face swathed in bandages due to the missing eye, when she had begun to suspect that she might have actually been trying to bring it about.
Looking back, she was grateful they had ordered her to leave her house when she insisted on going back to the winery, with no new plan, no better reason than the subconscious ‘feeling’ even she didn’t trust. At the time she had been pretty upset, and still was in some ways, but looking back she wasn’t sure if they could have done anything else. She had demanded unconditional obedience and they had rejected it. As she would have rejected it in their place, because what she was demanding was insane. But at the time it had further isolated her, made her even more reluctant to allow anyone to talk to her, to share with her… except Spike.
Which opened another giant cavern of unasked questions, of issues not dealt with. Her relationship with Spike had been twisted, the sort of thing she would once have looked upon with disgust. But there had been something else there, something beneath the violence and sick games. When nobody else had been able to reach her, Spike had gotten a reaction. Not the one she wanted, probably not even the one he
wanted, but at least it was something
, an indication she wasn’t completely dead inside. She had been the one using him, not the other way around, so blaming him for the nature of their relationship wasn’t just unfair, it was another attempt at self-delusion. Because however twisted it had been, it had at least provoked an emotional response, and provided an outlet for what she could now see had been a death-wish.
She had no idea what would have happened to them had both she and Spike survived. Her last memory of the other world had been Spike dying, self-immolating from the power being unleashed by the amulet, slaughtering Torak-han by the thousands. Spike had always wanted to be a hero… well, or a villain, or at least someone who provoked a response. He didn’t want to be the bookish wallflower no one noticed, who wouldn’t be remembered after he was gone. Buffy doubted that anyone
would ever forget Spike. That she would ever forget Spike. Even now she didn’t know what she felt for him –love or hate, disgust or passion—but she knew there was something
, a mourning she hadn’t permitted herself. Because mourning Spike would open her up to all the other issues which surrounded his death.
So much in her life had changed since she was an innocent 15 year old, before she was Called. Too many of those changes were now integrated into the person who was now Buffy Summers, personality traits adopted because survival depended on it. Even if she had a friend as close to her as Willow had once been she doubted she would be able to open up to her about many of her issues, doubted she was even capable any longer of leaving herself so emotionally vulnerable. Nor was she much interested in talking to a psychiatrist, especially not in this
world, where even doctor/patient confidentiality was being sacrificed to their overwhelming need for security. Which left her with no choice but to work out her own issues, to deal with them by herself, to get out of the habit of burying her problems and hoping they would go away. Because in addition to all the old stuff, there were new issues being piled on top of her already-overwhelmed psyche; her rage over the way she had been treated by the NID, how she should deal with her parents, when or even if she should try to get in touch with the local versions of Xander and Giles, even her nervous curiosity when thinking about what would happen the next time she saw Faith. She had so many outstanding issues needing to be addressed, but needed time to figure out what she was going to do. What she wanted
In many ways she was in a very good place to do just that. If she joined the SGC she would be insulated from the outside world, the insular world of the project providing a bit of space from the world at large. She would be given time and opportunity to study, and she had personal reasons now for continuing with her psychology courses. And there would be chances to act as a Slayer, not as originally intended perhaps, as there were no supernatural monsters to fight here, but there were most definitely natural
ones. Mostly, there would be a chance to pull back, to work with a team, to not feel as if the weight of the world rested solely on her shoulders every time she went out to face the demons of the world. She could tell just from the caliber of the people Hammond surrounded himself with that they could work with her here. Every one of his subordinates was, in their own way, extraordinary. The sort of people who, in other places, at other times, would be leaders, used to running things. Here they would have to subordinate their personal idiosyncrasies to the needs of the group; but the group in turn would have to accommodate the extraordinary individuals and their special needs.
It was the sort of environment Buffy needed. Perhaps not the one she wanted, but a structure she needed to get her head together. Because the alternatives blew serious chunk-age. Even she could see that she was, emotionally speaking, a ticking time bomb. The alien invasion had provided a useful distraction, something to concentrate on rather than face how close she was to going completely postal. If the government didn’t accept her demands, she would ask O’Neill to send her to some god-forsaken hell-world out in the depths of space where she could go out as a Slayer should, fighting the forces of darkness to her dying breath. But if they refused, if they tried to send her back to the custody of NID, she calmly and adamantly promised herself that she would find a way to escape, to find a way to hunt down those behind the secret organization… and kill every single one of them.
With that, and to her considerable surprise, she fell into a deep, restful sleep.
There must have been a camera in the room because they let her sleep. Or perhaps they were just being polite, and didn’t disturb her. Either way, when she awoke she was surprised to see that more than two hours had passed. By recent standards that was a long, restful sleep. Even so it had been interrupted by a Slayer Dream. As Carter had predicted, the Goold were still coming. And the planet was still about to face nuclear fire.
When she got up and opened the door she almost tripped over an open box left there, containing a change of clothing. A blue jumpsuit, this one in her size, she was happy to see. The running shoes were an improvement on her oversized combat boots, but she had always preferred something with a heel, to provide that extra couple of inches of height God had somehow neglected to give her. None the less she changed quickly, appreciating the fact that she no longer looked like a kid wearing someone else’s army getup as a Halloween costume. She made certain to put on the temporary id card she had been given before walking to the elevator, casually nodding to a few people in passing as she went down to the level where Hammond’s offices were located.
The secretary seemed to have been expecting her, perhaps not surprising given the number of cameras in the facility and how seriously they took their security. She took a seat as requested, scowling at the lame selection of magazines left in the reception area for visitors. If she was interested in taking down various wild animals with a hunting bow she could have spent hours in fascinated research on the subject given that there were no less than six different magazines dedicated to the subject. She wasn’t, and didn’t. Not a copy of Vogue in sight either. Bloody military… She blinked, realizing that thought sounded a bit too British, and wondered what her subconscious was telling her about Giles.
The reason she had been asked to wait was soon apparent as Carter and Teal’c arrived minutes later, quickly followed by two more officers, one she recognized from the morning’s interrogation, the other a stranger. They were all invited to enter the same meeting room she had been in earlier, where the General and O’Neill were already seated with yet another officer. The secretary quietly and unobtrusively brought in a coffee urn and cups before making his exit, and those who imbibed poured a cup before taking their seats. Introductions were not offered before Hammond looked to Buffy. “Did you have another dream?”
She nodded. “Yeah. It was different this time though.” It didn’t take long to go over it, but what little information she provided was enough to make the newcomers scowl.
One of them muttered “They know about the blind spot in the targeting laser if they come in that way…” Buffy just shrugged, having no idea what he meant.
Carter did, however. “I’m not surprised. It was worth a shot, but tomorrow we’ll shift over to the approach radar on the moon and see how that changes the situation.” She smiled at Buffy. “This is a strange way to game out our battle plan, adjusting our strategy and waiting for you to have a prophetic dream about how the change works out once the Goa’uld arrive, but it’s certainly better than nothing.”
One of the newcomers, the one who had earlier muttered, spoke up. “McGregor didn’t know about blind spot on the laser system. I’m not even sure if he could have learned of it, given his restricted security clearance. Not a good sign.”
O’Neill scowled. “That’s just wonderful. We’ve got another spy.”
The newcomer qualified his remark. “We might
have another spy. That’s why we’re establishing our combat doctrine the way were are. So long as Miss Summers…” he nodded politely towards Buffy “…can provide us accurate intelligence as to how the Goa’uld will adjust their tactics based on our evolving doctrine, we should soon find out how much they know. And hopefully determine who might have told them of it.”
The other newcomer wasn’t quite so happy. “If we have enough time. From what I understand this is sort of a once-a-day vision thing, right?” Buffy nodded, having already told them that she would not get another prophetic dream if she cat-napped during the day. “I agree that it’s better than nothing, but if she was right about this then we have to realize that she’s probably right about the time frame as well. Meaning we are running real short on time before we have to be ready for this to go down.”
The General nodded. “Ninety percent of our strategic architecture is fixed. We only have certain missiles, only have certain weapons which can be used against an invasion as powerful as the one Miss Summers foresees. Given the limitations on our resources, all we can do is tweak some of the targeting systems, adjust some defensive patterns which might hopefully confuse their systems. Without Xerxes to provide a long-range punch, our options are extremely limited. It will be a brutal close-range slugging match no matter what we do. Very little of what information Buffy can provide us at this point will affect the assignments of our front line troops. However, it will provide us with critical extra intelligence on their response to our initial, most long-ranged salvo.”
He glanced around the table once before returning his attention to Buffy. “If we can do any damage to the enemy at all with our initial salvo it will provide a substantial increase in our likelihood of being able to survive the attack. Under the circumstances we’re not going to hold back anything. The President has already authorized us to deploy everything in the arsenal. So any clues you provide will not impact the deployment orders of most soldiers in the field, but will have immense implications as to whether they might survive. Given that, the President has agreed to your terms. Dr. McGregor will be interrogated ‘in house,’ by our own team. Every interrogation performed by or on behalf of SGC personnel will comply with every commitment this country has made and be bound by our treaties specifying the conditions which we believe constitute torture.”
There was some murmuring from around the table at that information, and more than a few raised eyebrows. But the General wasn’t finished. From the look on his face, he was extremely pleased with himself. “The President also agreed to your other
demand, Miss Summers. There was considerable… discussion on the matter, considering your threat to murder NID personnel. It wasn’t until I indicated we have an unedited copy of their interrogation report that State Security admitted you might have some reason to be… resentful. After further discussion, the President agreed it wasn’t unreasonable that you might have some problems working with them. So, he has ordered that no NID personnel will be permitted to set foot on the SGC site.”
That got quite a reaction from the others at the table, but Buffy frowned, knowing what he was doing, but not knowing what she should do about it. “I believe what I said was that I would kill them on sight.”
The General just smiled thinly. “I must have misunderstood. I was certain you said you would kill any you caught on this site.” Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth, he was so smooth. “Either way, Miss Summers, you have made your point. Probably better than you realize. There are limits to my power, but this is as close as I can come to setting a standard as far as my reach extends. I can’t change the world, or the decisions of the government. But within the bounds of the SGC, both on Earth and on every planet we travel to, torture will be forbidden. You have my word on that. I hope that is acceptable to you, because it is all I can do.”
He looked at her hopefully, and when she looked around the table she could see similar expressions on some faces, encouraging smiles from both Jackson and Teal’c. She knew the colonel would be thrilled with the promise of NID goons being banished from the facility. The problem was that it was a compromise. The SGC, despite its importance, was a very tiny portion of the U.S. government, and not exactly the source for a lot of torture. But as he said, it made a point, made it loud and clear, and set an example. Under the circumstances, it was as good a deal as she was likely to get. And unless she wanted to be General Field Marshall Admiral Buffy, whose word was law, she would have to learn how to compromise, even when she didn’t like it. And, if she was in the right, then maybe setting an example would prove, in the long run, to be even more powerful than imposing a decision. She met Hammond’s eyes and nodded.
O’Neill winked at her, not necessarily agreeing with her stand but satisfied with the compromise, and smiles appeared around the table. The General reached behind him and pulled out a thick stack of papers. “Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, naturally we have some paperwork involved in hiring you. Security forms as well. If you don’t mind I’ll ask you to go out into the office where Airman Brandt can help you fill this out. While you’re doing that the rest of us will need to prioritize our schedule for our initial tactical response, now that we know you will be available going forward. Given the critical nature of your work here we will be hiring you as one of the more vital civilian consultants. I hope the compensation package meets with your approval.”
He pointed out a line on one page, and Buffy almost choked at all the zeros after the dollars sign.