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 Fifteen
When she got back to Cheyenne Mountain, the General was waiting for her at his parking spot. After carefully backing into his stall, she left the vehicle, smiling at her two-star reception committee. “I told you! Not a scratch on it!”
Hammond just smiled, and silently took a few of the shopping bags she handed him, not realizing that was a breach of military etiquette on par with desecrating the flag. Ordinarily, major generals were not
porters, but Hammond was no ordinary major general. And after her activities that day, he had no intention of ever even attempting to teach her military etiquette. So far he was pretty happy with her just the way she was. The parking lot was actually a fair walk from the mountain entrance, so there was more than enough time for Buffy to tell him much of what she had seen and done, her report far less linear and professional than those he would get from one of his team leaders, but filled with amusing anecdotes and fashion observations that made it somewhat more entertaining than most post-mission debriefings he attended, if a bit harder to follow.
They had almost reached the entrance to the mountain when Buffy suddenly stopped, staring at the trees outside the gate. Her concentration was so intense she never noticed that half a dozen men, who had been just oh-so-casually walking along, immediately reached for their weapons, on full alert for whatever sniper or alien spy their unusual new asset had detected with her amazing senses. Hammond stopped as well, not interfering, allowing her to do whatever it was she did, knowing that when dealing with wild talents such as hers it always paid off to give it broad latitude on how it acted. It took the better part of a minute before she put down the bags she had been carrying in her right hand, not looking at her stout companion but framing her fingers so that he could see an area near the entrance gate.
Seeing nothing but a few trees and a fence, Hammond just shrugged. “I don’t see anything.”
“The trees.” She sounded distracted. “The colors.” It took her a few seconds to return her attention to the General, and her hazel eyes were huge and frightened. “They look exactly
the way they did in my dream.”
Hammond finally understood, and felt his stomach clench. “We’re out of time.”
She nodded, turning back to look at a scene that would have been quite beautiful, were not the significance so ugly. “They’ll be here soon; a day or two at the most.”
“Okay. At least we know.” Waiting for her to pick up her shopping bags and walk with him into the mountain, Hammond wasn’t surprised when she didn’t begin talking about the days events again. They no longer mattered. For the next little while, only one thing would matter.
The consensus of opinion was that capturing the second Goa’uld infiltrator was critical. But until Buffy had a prophetic dream nobody really knew how
critical, or why
it was critical. Unfortunately she was too hyped up to sleep, and repeatedly warned people that it was never a good idea to rely on psychic warnings, because they tended to fail just when you needed them most. Hammond thought it a pretty good warning, and had his planning teams proceed under the assumption that no more prophetic visions would be forthcoming. If she did have another dream it was all well and good… but until it happened they had to come up with a plan of action based on what data they had available.
The meetings had grown too large to be handled in the SGC boardroom. Since NORAD now had primary responsibility for fighting off the incursion with the demise of Xerxes, the meetings were held twice a day in their much larger briefing room. And Buffy was no longer asked to leave once she had given them the results of her latest dream. Nothing was said about it, no reasons were given, but after she explained how she had detected the second agent and showed the rock she had taken from his home, Hammond basically told her to sit back down rather than asking her to leave. She was very careful to not speak unless spoken to, to offer her opinion only when asked, to be as silent and unobtrusive as a very attractive civilian woman could be in a room filled with mostly older military men. And she watched how Hammond handled a meeting.
She recalled with embarrassment the long, pontificating diatribes she had given when dealing with the Potentials. She compared and contrasted it to the way Hammond took control while almost never saying a word. He kept the meeting on track, restrained the enthusiasm of some of the participants, made decisions when a judgment call was required. Most of the time, however, he let others speak. They provided the expertise, the ideas, the enthusiasm; his job was to bring that out without allowing the meeting to descend into anarchy. Everyone participated, everyone went away with an assignment, a small part of the larger puzzle to consider, a subgroup to discuss it with. All resources were put to use, everyone felt like part of the team, knowing they would all have some input into whatever solution might eventually be decided upon. Although their situations didn’t quite compare, Buffy was uncomfortably aware of how Hammond’s methods contrasted with her own, and how different were the results.
She returned to her quarters with a lot to think about. They weren’t making any big production out of teaching her, but Buffy was very aware how much she was learning, the leadership skills she had never even considered. Knowing full well how important any information she might be able to provide would be over the next few days Buffy tried to sleep, but too many thoughts were running through her head, too many regrets over having missed what now seemed so obvious, when it really counted. Lying on an uncomfortable military-issue bed, hours away from possible nuclear destruction, and she was obsessing over her mistakes with the First. Hammond would be disappointed in her. Trying to divert her brain, she turned on the small television that had been provided, amused to see they actually got satellite tv so deep underground. Not so amused to see that every channel was filled with stories about the President having given a prime time address to the nation, describing intelligence reports suggesting there was a strong possibility of a terrorist attack on the country, possibly involving nuclear weapons, within the next two days.
Scenes of chaos as people tried to evacuate cities. Rumors and denials and accusations of lying, of cover-ups, of deceptions. The country was tearing itself apart, and not just because of her visions. Other issues were at work. Other demons were affecting people here, ones not so obvious as they had been in Sunnydale. She wasn’t the only one having problems keeping her eye on the ball, obsessing over event long since passed, allowing old traumas to divert her attention from present realities and future needs. There was something wrong with this world, something even more wrong than it being in the path of limitless Goold greed and ambition. Perhaps experiencing a horrific attack from space would knock some sense into them, would allow them to focus on what was important. But she doubted it. And even if it were true, it would be a catastrophically expensive lesson to learn.
Turning off the tv set, Buffy lay down in the dark, and wondered what was happening to her. Wondered what was happening to this world. Wondered what part she had to play in it. Wondered if she would be up to the task, having failed so spectacularly before.
When she finally fell asleep, she never even knew it.
As was usual recently, she slept less than two hours. When she got dressed and returned to the meeting room, dozens of people were already there, talking quietly, drinking coffee, acting like nothing so much as expectant fathers in the waiting room at a hospital nursery. When Buffy appeared, everything stopped; all talking abruptly ceased, donut-wielding hands hung in midair, cigarettes were left to smolder. She paused for a second, a bit nervous to be the center of so much intense attention, but quickly got control of herself and faced the General, who was looking as rumpled as she had ever seen him appear. “Everything changed.”
Before they adjourned to the main meeting room up on the NORAD level Buffy gave everyone a quick run-through of the new vision. Hammond immediately called in Carter and more technical people than Buffy had seen outside of the MIT campus. When they got up to the meeting room enough brass was already present to pack the room, and despite its size there was standing-room-only even before the SGC contingent arrived. At least five of the officers outranked Hammond… but he nonetheless took the seat at the head of the table, while they sat silently in chairs along the wall. This was his meeting, but a lot of people were interested in what was going to be decided there.
After calling the meeting to order, Hammond gave a quick over-view to get everyone up to speed, and then had Buffy recap her latest dream. Having had a warning, Hammond knew the reaction it would get and quickly restored order when a dozen people tried to speak the second she paused for air. It was another lesson Buffy took to heart: when necessary, Hammond could be a very intimidating man. “Enough
! This is a military briefing and I will have it conducted with appropriate decorum or I will
have anyone behaving unduly disruptive removed from the premises! Is that clear?” By Hammond’s standards that was the equivalent of throwing a profanity-laden tirade, and it quickly brought about the silence he demanded. “The important thing is that if Miss Summers is correct, we are able to get in at least one long-range hit on the Goa’uld battlefleet. This would indicate that Xerxes is back in play. Is this even possible? Major Carter?”
Other civilian computer experts had wanted to answer, but when Hammond glared at them they reluctantly held their silence and permitted Sam to respond. “Sir, we have barely begun to go through the code Dr. McGregor worked on. We have already found some indications of subroutines that aren’t in the approved program log. It’s starting to look like my earlier protests that what Buffy claimed would happen was impossible, is turning out to be not only possible but likely. I have no idea how he did it. I have no idea how much viral code is buried in the software. Until we do, my recommendation would have to be against using Xerxes under any circumstances. If we turn it on, I seriously doubt if we could control it for even one shot.”
Hammond noted the thin smile on O’Neill’s face, although his second in command hadn’t spoken since hearing the girl’s latest prophetic vision. He knew that his friend liked to play the fool, but there was a first-class mind operating there, and he wanted to know what the man had come up with that he hadn’t. “Jack. Do you agree with the major’s assessment?”
Standing, O’Neill didn’t bother doing his usual ‘I don’t know why you’d ask me that’ self-deprecating shuck-and-jive; the situation was too serious for it. “When it comes to technical stuff I always
agree with Carter. Even when I don’t know what the hell she’s talking about I still agree with her. But in this case I think she’s missing the trees for the forest, if you get my meaning. We might not be able to trust Xerxes as a system
, but the Avenger cannons still work, and they’re the only things we have with the reach to take out a Goa’uld ship at the distance of Jupiter the way Buffy saw it happen.”
When he saw Carter frowning O’Neill took his seat to let her point out the problem, having already seen it but wanting her to let everyone else know. “Sir, Xerxes is an integrated
system. Long-range detection, hyper-dimensional sensors, computerized firing controls, all working in an environment compounded by relativistic effects. We can fire the cannons, yes; but we’d be firing them randomly, essentially firing blind at ranges where accuracies of a fraction of an arc-second are required. We also have no idea how the intense gravitational and electro-magnetic environment near Jupiter will affect the trajectory of the plasma bolt fired from the cannons. At the moment Jupiter is 39 light-minutes from Earth. Since flight times will be on the order of forty two minutes, there is no way for us to adjust our aim until long after the target has moved on.”
O’Neill stood. “Carter, you’re thinking like a scientist. Forget the physics and the engineering and the details crap. We’re dealing with a friggin’ psychic
here, so none of that matters. We know
it’s going to be aimed right because Buffy says
we hit the target. Case closed.” He could see Carter almost having palpations over that and decided not to indulge her in pointing out the gaping holes in logic. O’Neill had another point he wanted to bring up. “There’s something else you need to consider. What the hell are the Goa’uld doing out at Jupiter?!”
Someone in the crowd offered the obvious answer. “Replenishing their hydrogen stocks from a gas-giant in preparation…” but O’Neill waved that aside. “Their primary objective is to attack Earth
! They can get gas afterwards. Think it through: if they know Xerxes is compromised they should come straight for us knowing it would miss, the way Buffy saw it happening originally. They’re not
doing that because something changed. What changed? We captured their boy inside the SGC. We
now know that Xerxes is boned. And they
know we know Xerxes is boned. They assume we’ll change our tactics, not bother with a system we know is compromised, so they figure they may as well replenish their tanks before
the fight. That gives them more reaction mass, more fuel, more firepower… and without Xerxes there’s not a damned thing we can do about it.”
He held up his hand to hold off on any interruptions. “But they don’t
know Buffy also got their other
agent. They expect to be warned if we change our tactics again. So even though they know that we know Xerxes is boned, they don’t
know that we know they know it! Do you follow me?”
Pleased with his summary, O’Neill scowled at the look of confusion on almost every face around the table. Sighing, he went back over it. “They’re over-finessing. They’re relying on having warning from an agent-in-place they don’t know has been captured. So instead of just coming in and getting the job done, they’re going to refuel under the assumption that it helps them without exposing them to any increased risk, because if there was anything we could do about it their agent would give them adequate warning. So they’re going to be sitting there, blind and dumb, giving us a shot at them before they even think the fight has begun.”
Most of the civilians weren’t seeing it, but Hammond understood. He gestured for O’Neill to sit down before resuming control of the meeting. “Okay, we have a window of vulnerability. We know where they’ll be… approximately. We know when they’ll be there… approximately. The problem is that Major Carter is insisting that ‘approximately’ isn’t good enough. If we had the entire Xerxes system available we could probably destroy their entire fleet. Of course, if we had Xerxes available our opponent wouldn’t be attacking us in the first place. So how do we get the degree of accuracy we need given the resources we have available?”
When he nodded to her, Carter stood. “Xerxes is designed to detect and respond to an attack coming in from any vector. Thanks to Buffy we know the precise line of advance the enemy will be using, which simplifies our work by orders of magnitude. Basic celestial mechanics gives optimal trajectories for them to use when flying from Jupiter to Earth. However they have engines, so even if they are following the most mathematically probable path they can change it quickly, and we won’t know about it in time to adjust our aim. We’re limited by speed of light constraints; it will take the shots fired by the Avenger cannon 42 minutes to travel from the moon to Jupiter, and 39 more minutes before we get a signal back at the speed of light showing how well we did so we can adjust our aim. The Goa’uld can travel a long
way in eighty minutes.”
Hammond was frowning, not quite saying she wasn’t addressing the question he had asked but letting her know to get on with it. Getting back on track, Carter continued. “What I’m saying is that we get one shot at this. We will know their position only for a few seconds, probably no more than thirty before they react, and the Avenger system has a cycle time of four seconds. That gives us a maximum of seven shots –probably less-- which might have a chance of hitting one of what Buffy warns us will be six targets. Given the size of the target and the error box of the plasma bolts after traveling that distance, mitigated somewhat by the dispersion of the plasma and the sheer size of the Goa’uld ships, even if we have precise, exact co-ordinates for the targets, our chances of actually hitting one are under three percent. Those are not good odds, sir.”
The General glared at her as she took her seat, not mad at her but at the reality she was forcing him to address. “Yet Buffy’s dream suggests that we do, in fact, hit one of them.”
This time Carter didn’t stand before responding. “One
out of six, yes sir. But we won’t have a chance at hitting the other five, not at that range, not with the rest of Xerxes offline. By the time we located them again they will have almost likely already fired upon our lunar facility, so we probably won’t get a second opportunity to shoot back at long range. And once they get here, it won’t be pretty.”
That caused some murmuring as they had all heard the rest of Buffy’s vision. The Avenger system was their long-range offensive punch. Once closer to Earth, ground-based ‘Legion’ guns were supposed to take over. Nobody had mentioned those guns to her, but Buffy described them attempting to destroy the enemy ships and failing miserably. Orbiting nuclear missiles took up the fight but in her vision had been swatted aside like flies. The Goa’uld hadn’t been able to land unopposed like they had in her previous visions, but the destruction they had brought down on the planet from orbit in retaliation for the affront had actually been worse than in those earlier dreams.
One of the civilians stood up at that point, waiting for Hammond to acknowledge him before speaking. “I know that none of you want to say it, but it needs to be brought up; by resisting we’re actually making things worse
.” He scowled at the glaring looks he was getting from some of the military people. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m just pointing out the obvious. Something
has changed enough that the Goa’uld feel they can’t land. The only thing in the vision that is different is we take out one of their ships. So that means they sit in orbit and take pot-shots at us instead of landing and trying to fight it out on the ground. So this time we don’t end up as slaves, but we take ten times as many casualties and trillions of dollars more infrastructure is lost. Stuff that we need to fight the Goa’uld if we don’t want to end up as slaves anyway, I should point out.” He sat down to quiet muttering among those seated away from the table.
“I have a fairly good idea as to what has changed.” Carter held up the unobtrusive ‘rock’ Buffy had recovered from the second agents’ apartment. “We think this is a remote unit for a short-range FTL communications device. Their agent would have used it to provide intelligence to the approaching fleet. When they don’t get anything from him they’ll know he’s been captured. This won’t affect our options, because given Buffy’s vision, it would seem that they don’t expect to hear from him until they’re closer to Earth than Jupiter. But the implications for us are staggering! Right now we rely on the StarGate or captured Goa’uld ships to give us not only the ability to move between planets, but to communicate on an interstellar level. The sad fact is that we can get to a planet in another star system far quicker than we can get information from the other planets in our own.”
Looking around the room, Carter tried to communicate her excitement. “But if we can locate the device linked to this unit, tear it apart, study it, learn
from it, then our defensive posture would change radically
! Imagine a system like Xerxes augmented by FTL telemetry over interplanetary distances! We would know about any attack the moment it happens, follow their movements in real-time, and be able to respond instantly.” She let them all see the small, green colored rock. “This tiny device has the potential to alter our strategic posture more than anything besides the StarGate itself. I suspect Dr. McGregor might have one as well, they can’t take the chance that we’ll find it, and their objective is to destroy it at all costs.”
That got everyone’s attention. A reliable FTL communications device had been a priority objective of the project for a long time. The possibility that it might be at hand would have been tremendously exciting under other circumstances. Even knowing the price they might be forced to pay to keep it, that price might be worth paying. Hammond permitted some discussion on the subject, not letting the session get out of hand but getting more people involved, more open debate over their options. One good suggestion was that since they also knew where the Goa’uld ships would be in orbit, once again thanks to Buffy’s vision, they might be able to take them out. Concealed orbital mines might have a chance if the Legion guns were as ineffective as she claimed they would be.
Another suggestion came from a voice Buffy had never heard from before, the thick Russian accent not just distinctive but rather unexpected given their location right next to the war-room under Cheyenne Mountain. His thick accent and the complexity of the words he chose meant that Buffy had no idea what he was asking, even though he was speaking to her. Carter translated into American. Essentially, the man wanted to know if she saw any more details in her vision of the Goa’uld fleet at Jupiter. Any moons or bright background stars and their exact positions relative to the planet and the ships. When she nodded, Carter looked like she wanted to kick herself over not having thought of it sooner.
When Hammond noticed her reaction, she explained. “Buffy has always said that she remembers her prophetic dreams in considerable detail. If she can give us the position of the invasion fleet with reference to background objects, we can get a far more precise estimate as to their location and arrival time. It won’t really buy us a lot more of a time-on-target window for the Avenger cannons because the second they realize we’re shooting at them they’ll scatter, and there’s no way to predict which way they’ll go afterwards. Still, it will definitely increase our odds of getting a good hit on them with our initial salvo. This is a really good idea, sir.” She sounded pretty ticked that she hadn’t thought of it first to Buffy, who watched as the Russian guy brought up mathematical maps on one of the display screens, showing ‘cones of probability’ and other scientific crap that probably wouldn’t have made a whole lot of sense even if he tried to explain it in English instead of whatever Russian-accented babbling was coming out of his mouth.
Once again Carter came to her rescue, summarizing his work. “You can see that the most efficient trajectory for ships arriving on the standard hyperspace path from Goa’uld-controlled space to our solar system over the next twenty four hours gives them a fairly wide option for going into a hyperbolic path for refueling at Jupiter with the intention of quickly heading towards earth on a least-time sub-light trajectory. But notice how the cone narrows as they leave the upper atmosphere following the orbital skim to align with earth? That won’t change much over the next day and a half. Now if we zoom in…” the computer image magnified that part of the chart “…you can see some of the Galilean satellites in the background. I’m going to move along this path until Buffy recognizes the alignment of the background objects from her vision. Can you do that?”
Nodding, Buffy watched as the Russian manipulated the parameters of his simulation. After only a few seconds she told him to stop, noticing one orange colored moon from the vision. It was close, but not quite perfect. He changed a few numbers and it was in the correct place, but another, smaller point of light wasn’t right. This went on for awhile because there was several possibilities given that Buffy could only be sure about the two brightest points of light, and although they were certain one was the moon Io the other could have been one of several objects. Given her time limit, they came up with four possibilities over the next forty eight hours, and those narrowed down the time of the attack down to something they could work with.
With the first possibility only a few hours away the general turned the discussion over to how they would fight the surviving ships once they got within the range of earth’s remaining weapons. There was considerably more discussion on this than the initial response using the Avenger cannon, since that was limited by the mathematics of the situation. Buffy’s disclosure that the Goa’uld knew of and had a counter to the Legion guns meant that all their previous battle plans had to be thrown out, and a new one put in place within possibly only hours. Fortunately they had the small Goa’uld ‘Tel’tak’ –class cargo ship available to haul equipment into orbit, and weren’t limited to rockets, or there wouldn’t have been time to mount any redeployment plans. Hammond picked up a phone and ordered it to be loaded with nuclear weapons from the SGC stockpile and to prepare for lift-off as soon as the President signed off on it.
Silently observing the discussion flowing around her, Buffy was amazed at the complexity of the issues brought up and the breadth of knowledge of the people present. Her previous experiences with military personnel had not left her with an overly-favorable opinion of those who entered the profession, but this group was as talented and opinionated as any she had ever met. Somehow she had expected that any deviation from the instructions of the person in command would be forbidden, obedience demanded, one person making the decisions and everyone else being charged with implementing his or her brilliant plan. That wasn’t the way Hammond ran things; everything was open to debate until a decision was reached, and only then was the floor closed to further discussion on that issue. It would have been a waste of time: by then, he’d already moved on to the next subject.
It wasn’t only the techniques he used that captured her attention: it was how carefully decisions were arrived at, the implications considered, the ramifications discussed. Buffy’s contribution to the session was limited to very careful questions on the response of the Goa’uld force to the Legion guns; did they have to shut down to withstand the gun’s impact, or just shrug it off without notice? Every detail was important and she didn’t know most of what they needed from her. She did however reiterate that they couldn’t plan too precisely based on her visions, since their latest moves would have already changed the outcome. The vision was only accurate if nothing changed in the interim, and a whole lot had changed just over the previous few hours. With that reminder, Hammond took up a subject that Buffy knew had been another of her failures; flexibility. She had assumed that you either played it completely by ear, or planned out your campaign to the last detail. She was soon given a clinic on flexible response, as the group brought up possible options, but never went too far into details, leaving that up to the people who would actually have to handle it in the field.
It wasn’t until the meeting was nearing its conclusion that they returned to the subject the civilian had brought up at the start; whether they should use the Avenger cannon at all, and instead let the Goa’uld land, trusting that their frantic SOS would reach the Asgard in time for them to come to their rescue, casualties under that scenario being far less than they would be if they resisted the initial attack. Nobody was especially surprised that none of the military people were in favor of it. Fewer casualties or not, laying down their arms while they could still shoot back was not something any soldier could accept. But there were a lot of civilians in the project, mostly scientists, who were generally less emotional in their response, more interested in the bottom line. Some of them argued that fewer casualties by definition was a better outcome. Hammond had a pretty good idea about just how to counter that suggestion. Standing to terminate the debate, he gestured towards Buffy. “You all know Miss Summers. You all know that we are here today only because of the warnings her special abilities have provided. And you also know that she is not one to blindly follow military policy, as indicated quite clearly by her… uh… difference of opinion, shall we say, regarding our interrogation policies. Given that, I think we’d all be interested in what she might have to say on this particular subject. Buffy?”
A bit nervously, Buffy stood as the general took his seat. From the attention she was receiving, it was apparent that most of the people present actually were interested in her opinion, which surprised her. Until then she hadn’t been aware her status had changed so much among the military. She would have been even more stunned to realize that it was the trust she had shown to the two soldiers who had accompanied her to the spy’s apartment which made the difference. They hadn’t said much, not wanting to violate security, but they had told one part of what had happened to their friends, and the story had spread quickly. There had been a lot of speculation as to her identity, and since none of those who actually witnessed her in action would talk about what they had seen beyond the fact that she was ‘amazing,’ being treated like someone whose word meant something by someone in a position of authority, meant a lot to the rank-and-file. Especially when they compared her actions to those of State Security, who trusted no one.
After her long-winded speeches hadn’t gone down too well with the Potentials, Buffy tried to keep it short and to the point. “I’ve fought monsters since I was fifteen years old, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that you make sure they know better than to attack your home. They want to fight me on the street or down an alley, that’s one thing. But come to my home to continue the fight and I’ll not only kill you, I’ll find out where you came from, hunt you down, and destroy the place. My home is off-limits. My family
is off-limits. Everyone knows it.
“For what it’s worth, my own opinion is that you never rely
on someone else to protect your home. I have no problem with someone else lending a helping hand, or the cops following up afterwards… but nobody comes to my home, hurts my family, and just walks away afterwards. Nobody
gets a free shot while I just hide and hope the cavalry arrives in time to save me. Some things you just have to stand up for. Not just because it’s right
, but because if you don’t, it’ll keep happening.” She looked around, trying to meet the eyes of the civilians in the room. “Either way we’re going to get hurt. If we fight back and lose, the survivors will at least have the satisfaction of knowing their loved ones died for a reason, trying to defend their home. The other way, they’ll have died for nothing
, because the Goold will just come back again later when the Asgard aren’t around. That’s the way monsters do things. Even the human kind of monster.”
She sat down. As per her new policy, she tried to think it through, and it wasn’t hard to figure out why Hammond had asked her to speak. She was the youngest, smallest, and ‘girliest’ person in the room. He probably had a pretty good idea as to what she would say. It was one thing for the civilians to dismiss the opinion of their military counterparts as the posturing of violence-obsessed troglodytes, but a bit harder to refuse to listen to a young, female civilian who said the same thing. Looking around the room, she could see from various facial expressions that the General had been correct in his assessment. Much of the opposition to the idea of fighting back, even of firing on incoming ships before there was any actual proof beyond Buffy’s vision that they were actually prepared to attack Earth, had disappeared.
With a thin smile visible, Hammond stood and faced the row of senior officers who had been observing the meeting without comment. “General West, I believe the consensus of opinion within the SGC is that we should attempt to repulse any potential invader using any and all means possible. This being the case, I would like to formally request firing authority be granted to Colonel Mgimba on the lunar base, and launch authority for placing nuclear mines into earth orbit out to the L1 and L2 Lagrange points.”
The man he was addressing, a four star general in army uniform, was the NORAD commander who pretty much outranked everyone who didn’t live in Washington DC. He stood and addressed the room. “I agree. Since we have some time, I’d like you to come up with a final deployment proposal for the Joint Chiefs to submit to the President. Miss Summers, let us know the minute you have anything to add. Until then, we maintain DefCon 3 status.” With that he nodded towards Hammond, and then again at Buffy, before leaving with his posse. Buffy wondered what word the military used instead of ‘posse,’ but since everyone else had moved on to discuss how to save the world from imminent alien invasion she figured it was a question better left to another time and didn’t bother asking.
Unable to leave in case they needed her, but quickly bored as the discussion became increasingly technical, Buffy occupied herself by considering her own options. It was a virtual certainty that Cheyenne Mountain would be one of the first targets of the Goa’uld fleet. That was why one of the Legion guns had been emplaced near the facility. There was some question as to whether the additional defenses could withstand the first direct impact of the main battery of a Ha’tak-class battleship. Nobody thought they could handle a second shot. Everyone around the table would have also been aware of that fact, aware that even if they did everything right, chances were pretty good none of them would survive the first few minutes of the attack. Some of them would be moving on to the Alpha site soon after the meeting ended, their expertise required if humanity was to survive the attack, even if Earth didn’t. Buffy herself would not be one of them. She kinda/sorta expected they would offer her the chance to bail, but didn’t think anyone would try too hard to talk her out of it when she declined. Slayer dreams only worked when she was asleep, so might not be of much use during the fight, but you never knew, and Buffy wasn’t going to run out on a fight she had just recommended everyone else accept.
So she might die… again. It seemed kind of wasteful to bring her back to life, to show her the mistakes she had made, then just let her be bombed into itty-bitty pieces before she could do anything about it. But stuff like that happened. Being brought back didn’t mean she was destined to live forever. At the level the PtB’s operated, they might have needed her just to step on the proverbial butterfly, with the results of her action not taking effect until sixty five million years later. It was entirely possible she would die there, along with everyone else. Yet she felt almost nothing. No fear, no regret, no special desire to survive. She wished she cared more. A person should care about surviving. About living. But no matter how much she wished it, when the meeting finally ended an hour later she felt no different.