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 Eighteen
When a full week passed with no sign of Buffy’s return, the SGC command staff started to get a bit concerned. The scientific and material resources the Asgard could bring to bear on any problem were so vast that the SCG had never even heard of anything they couldn’t figure out in a day or two. O’Neill was quite outspoken with his certainty that Buffy had probably caused so much mayhem and destruction when the poor unwitting Asgard had let her loose on their planet that they were likely rebuilding their ‘Gate from scratch in a desperate effort to send her back and free themselves from her presence. Privately, even he was wondering what was happening, but was just as happy that she was far from Earth. Events outside the mountain were not going well.
Turning off the television when the alarm came over warning of an unscheduled incoming wormhole, O’Neill tried to put aside the images of massive riots in Houston being shown on CNN. Since the Attack, as the media always capitalized the word, there had been rioting in a lot of cities. People were scared, and they were freaking out. Glad for the distraction, O’Neill made his way to the ‘Gate control room, watching armed troops rush in as a small tour group of new hires was swiftly moved beyond the blast doors. Glancing down at Harriman, O’Neill had to shout to be heard over the claxon. “What have you got, Walter?”
“Signal coming though now, sir. It appears to be from the Asgard!”
They gave each other equally surprised looks that the Asgard would actually identify themselves rather than simply override the SGC safety protocols, but the code seemed legit, so O’Neill ordered the iris opened. When Hammond arrived a few seconds later they brought him up to speed, and when the General didn’t countermand the order they both moved down the metal stairs to enter the ‘Gate room itself. The alarm turned off just as the loud ‘Whoosh!!’ sound of an incoming wormhole formed, quickly stabilizing. A second later Buffy casually walked through.
“Damn. I was hoping they’d keep her.” As intended, the casual insult was overheard, and Buffy gave O’Neill the finger along with a quick smile as she waited for someone else to follow her through the ‘Gate. Not at all insulted, O’Neill swallowed his own amused grin when he realized that the small grey alien who followed Buffy through the ‘Gate wasn’t Thor. He raised an eyebrow towards Buffy, and she got the hint and made the introductions. “General Hammond, Colonel O’Neill, this is Sif. She works with Thor. Actually, he kinda works for
her. Be nice.”
Both men were careful to conceal their frowns. Thor commanded the Asgard fleet. Given that the Asgard were up to their nonexistent ears in a war even more brutal than the one facing Earth, there weren’t a lot of aliens higher up their chain of command than Thor. It had also seemed that it was a matter of deliberate Asgard policy to route all Earth-related activities through Thor. Both wondered what they had uncovered about Buffy that had caused the Asgard to change their long-standing practice, but neither brought it up as handshakes were offered and accepted. Unaware of the implications of her companion’s presence, Buffy blithely chatted on during the introductions. “I think he’s sweet on her though.”
The alien looked up at her grinning face, expressionless as always, but both men got the impression that if it could have blushed, the Asgard would have. “We reproduce by cloning, Miss Summers. My kind have not engaged in… that sort of activity… for thousands of years.”
A triumphant –and surprisingly perceptive—gleam noticeable in her expression, Buffy shrugged aside the comment. “Yet you’re still a ‘she,’ and he’s still a ‘he,’ and even if you can’t do
anything about it, you guys know the difference. Especially
you two, I should point out! The things I saw you guys doing when nobody else was watching… well, okay, it wasn’t quite groping in the closet, but don’t try to tell me
it was all business…”
O’Neill had never seen an embarrassed Asgard before. He was seeing one now, as the alien almost squirmed. “Miss Summers, I assure you…”
Whatever she would have tried to assure them about would never be known, because at that point the group of new hires who had been rushed out of the ‘Gate room when the alert sounded had been permitted to return, the rare chance to see an Asgard not to be missed, and Buffy recognized one of their faces. “Willow!
All else forgotten, Buffy rushed down the ramp and wrapped a smiling Willow in a big hug, delighted that Carter had come through with her offer to bring her friend into the project. The six other newcomers watched jealously as Buffy introduced the redhead to the two men in charge of the entire facility, and an actual alien being as well. Not surprisingly Willow was both awed and excited to meet an Asgard, but by that point aliens were far less interesting to Buffy than catching up with the events in her friend’s life since they parted. Looking down at Sif, Buffy asked the alien if she needed her presence at the upcoming meeting, or if they would mind if she excused herself for the vastly more important purpose of catching up on gossip. She even put the question in exactly those words.
The alien did not seemed to be especially crushed by the thought of Buffy preferring to skip out on it’s discussions with the SGC leadership. “You are free to leave. I shall attempt to restrain my licentious nature during your absence, despite being surrounded by males of your species.”
Frowning, Buffy looked over at O’Neill. “That sounded like sarcasm. I didn’t know the Asgard could do sarcasm. Did you know they could be sarcastic?”
When O’Neill shook his head negatively, Sif spoke up. “Seven days in your presence was more than sufficient to train us all on the subject, Miss Summers.”
“Yup. That was sarcasm. Watch out for her, guys. She’s a quick one.” With a final nod Buffy grabbed Willow’s arm and led her from the room, leaving the poor girl to shrug her shoulders in apology to the man who had been escorting the group around the facility. The new hires had been given explicit instructions not to leave the group, not to wander off, not to get in the way of anyone. But it was Buffy, and nobody even tried to tell her she wasn’t supposed to interfere with the new hire process. So the two young women left the room just as Carter, Teal’c, and Jackson arrived. Buffy wanted to find a computer, so she could show Willow the pictures of her trip, before someone classified them so highly secret not even God would be allowed to see them.
In the meeting room, Sif introduced herself to Hammond, SG-1, and several other senior officials within the SGC. “To those whom I haven’t met, my name is Sif. I sit on the Asgard High Council, where my portfolio might be considered, in your terms, Operations and Planning. My group effectively runs all aspects of Asgard society relating to our confrontation with the Replicators, as well as any other potential threat. Although I do not run any operational military actions, I am charged with ensuring that those who do have the resources they need to meet their responsibilities. Given the reality of our situation vis-à-vis
the Replicators, more than two thirds of all Asgard industrial production falls within my purview.”
Everyone got the message. She had some big-time clout with the Asgard.
“As you are all no doubt unfortunately familiar, industrial production within a society experiencing a confrontation on a massive scale is very carefully regulated, resources allocated according to absolute priorities, entire manufacturing chains dedicated to just-in-time availability of required elements on an as-needed basis. We have devoted enormous efforts to ensuring that everything that is needed will be where it is needed, exactly when it is needed. Our entire society has been transformed to ensure that this supply chain is operational, capable, and effective.
“Simply by existing, Buffy Summers has forced us to throw it all away.”
After asking to borrow someone’s laptop, Buffy brought Willow up to her quarters on the 19th sublevel of the complex. Neither realized you were supposed to sign a dozen forms in triplicate, then wait six weeks for security checks to process before you received a computer. Buffy wanted one; Buffy got one. Nobody was going to tell her no. While Willow booted it up, Buffy emptied her backpack onto her bed, looking for the camera, but the bed almost collapsed when a black metal hammer fell from the bag. Ignoring it, Buffy unwrapped the camera from where it had been protected by a shirt and after removing the chip, handed it to Willow. Some of the pictures which soon showed up on the computer screen were spectacular, and Willow was tempted to pinch herself, awed at the realization that she was looking at photographs taken on an alien world.
“I can’t believe you traveled to another galaxy
!” There was no trace of jealousy in Willow’s voice. Although excited by the concept, she wasn’t certain if she ever wanted to experience such a trip in person.
Shrugging, the excitement of returning to Earth starting to fade, Buffy was even more grateful her friend was around because of everything she had learned while a guest of the Asgard. “I’m going to have to think of something different if I ever have to give a talk on it, because my main memory of the whole trip was that I was in a city with like ten million Asgard, and there wasn’t a single toilet available outside of the apartment I slept in. Somehow I doubt if saying that would bring the ‘awe inspiring majesty’ of the experience to my audience.”
After giggling, Willow agreed that it wouldn’t, and continued looking through the pictures. There were a lot of them. Despite only having arrived at the facility two days earlier, she knew they would create a sensation among the scientists, exobiologists, and other related experts on staff. “Thanks for putting in a good word for me, Buffy. It was scary leaving my work behind, especially since I’m so close to getting my PhD, but the stuff they want me to do here is about a billion times more interesting, and they’ve promised to hold my position on the graduate studies program open for whenever I return, and
the government will give me an academic grant for two years for every year I work at the SGC. With a deal like than on the table I’d have jumped at the chance even if I wasn’t so desperate to get out of Boston. It wasn’t safe there, and I was really worried since Tara wanted to get a job because my finances were starting to run pretty tight…”
She stopped when she noticed Buffy’s huge grin which appeared the second she mentioned Tara’s name. For a second she said nothing, before reaching over and hugging her friend as tightly as she could. Her voice was hoarse when she finally choked out a few words which couldn’t possibly convey the depth of her appreciation. “Thank you… thank you so much for giving me Tara.”
Sif had produced one of the black oval-shaped objects Thor occasionally pulled out of thin air, and set it on the table. Apparently it was a multi-purpose black oval device, because instead of scanning people with it, this one became a holographic projector. “It is Asgard policy not to interfere with the scientific advancement of other cultures while their own theoretical foundation is in the process of developing, so I will be restricted to using your own interpretation of physical reality as the basis for my explanation of the situation we find ourselves in. Dr. Carter’s background in physics might, in this instance, be more of a hindrance than a help, as I must be very careful to use generic situational aspects of psychical theory, while attempting to convey a more accurate assessment of the implications for our resulting situation even if the underlying physical description is not completely accurate.”
O’Neill just looked at the alien, face a blank mask. “Huh?”
As usual, Carter translated. “She’s not going to tell us exactly how it happened, but she’s going to tell us what did actually happen.”
O’Neill just nodded, wondering why the Asgard chick hadn’t just said that.
“The situation we find ourselves destined to confront has its origins at the very instant of Creation. This instant, what you call the Big Bang, was the beginning of everything. There was nothing before the Big Bang; there was no space, there was no time. Reality as we know it did not exist. All that is, began at the moment of Creation, but what began then was not what a reality as we understand it now. At that instant, all space, all time, all energy, came into existence simultaneously. For the merest fraction of a second, all that was, all that could be, was accessible as there were no rules to prevent it. The fundamental laws of time and space did not come into place immediately. An instant later this would all change. The nature of space, and time, and energy, would all change. Laws would be imposed. Time would run in only one direction. Space would be separated into standard dimensions. Entire universes would become decoupled, isolated forever by dimensional barriers. Energies would dissipate into the expansion of newly created space, cooling, permitting the existence of matter.
“But, for that fraction of a second before nature of All-That-Is changed from All-That-Was, the universe was a far different place than we see today. One in which many things could happen. Where many things did
, in fact, happen, because the era of All-That-Was meant exactly that: anything
was possible. Time did not act as we understand it. Space did not act as we understand it. Energy did not act as we understand it. The nature of time-space-energy within the period of All-That-Was-Possible permitted rules and behavior which do not make sense given the rules which must be obeyed in a time and space which permits beings such as ourselves to exist. During the period of All-That-Was, rules were not rules. Time was not time. Space was not space. All-That-Was permitted anything, no matter how unlikely. It should have been impossible. But in that era, which to our senses would have only lasted a fraction of a second, something which could be considered ‘life’ occurred, evolved, and came to self-awareness.
“What was born there is not like anything we would call ‘life’ because the conditions it evolved in were not like anything we could understand. Time was not time. Space was not space. Energy was not energy. But the nature of the environment they evolved in could
be comprehended by beings who evolved in that environment, and like all life they were forced to adapt in order to survive as that environment changed. No environment has ever changed more than theirs. Time became time. Space became space. Energy became energy. Only very few could adapt to such a profound alteration in their environment, the fundamental shift from All-That-Was, to All-That-Is. So far as we know, only six of them survived the transition.
“We call them the Elder Gods.”
Nobody interrupted, not even Jackson, although everyone knew his brilliant mind was probably operating at warp speed, thinking through the implications. O’Neill, on the other hand, had no idea what the hell the thing was talking about. But the Asgard continued before he could ask. “These were beings of unimaginable power. Within their natural environment they could manipulate all of space, all of time, all of energy. But their powers weakened as the nature of All-That-Was changed to became All-That-Is. Universes were isolated by dimensional barriers. Space became limited to three dimensions, the others confined to quantum scales. Time traveled in only one direction, except again at the quantum scale. Energy cooled to matter, and the vast majority of energy reserves –what you would call ‘dark energy’—became useless, unable to be manipulated except, of course, at the quantum level. When the Elder Gods realized they could not prevent this from happening they used their power while they still could to create a situation where life could evolve which could
exist in a universe where space and time and energy follow the rules as we presently understand them.
“Their powers rapidly atrophied to a fraction of what they had been during the era of All-That-Was. Even so, they were able to create the great stress lines in the early universe which insured that matter would come into being where it could be affected by gravity, so stars could form, and then planets, and then life. They retained enough power to guide those first life forms along evolutionary paths which would culminate in self-awareness, and intelligence, and vast technological achievement. Among those first races, many failed. Many were destroyed in catastrophic wars. But a few transcended their mortal beginnings, achieving Ascension, and could finally communicate directly with the Elder Gods who had made their existence possible. You are familiar with one of those races. We call them the Ancients.
“In the universe where Buffy Summers was born, there are also a number of these Ascended races. One of them is referred to as the Powers That Be.”
There were nearly a thousand pictures on the chip, and despite the wonders they were seeing, it quickly got a bit boring. Willow nodded at the metal hammer Buffy had placed on the floor when it looked like it might crush through the bed. “Where’d you get the hammer?”
Picking it up and twirling it around a bit, Buffy admired the burnished metal construction of the hammer. From handle to tip it was about a foot long, the head square where it met the handle, narrowing in graduated levels to round points at each end. “Thor gave it to me! Jack made some sarcastic comment about giving me a present if I went with him to his planet, and Thor took him seriously. This was the hammer he used when he was here way back when during the Viking days, doing reconnaissance on human cultural evolution or whatever it was they were studying.”
Willow giggled. “No. Mjolnir. That’s what they called Thor’s hammer.”
Buffy was indignant. “Thor
names his hammer and it’s a part of history. I call my stake ‘Mr. Pointy’ and everybody looks at me like I’m weird.” She couldn’t help but notice that Willow was looking at her like she was weird. “See?!? I told you! Maybe I need a cooler name for it…”
Suddenly laughing like a maniac, Willow ignored Buffy’s affectionate frown until she was able to get control of herself. “Thank god I’m here! I am soooo glad I met you, Buffy. I was turning into some kind of anti-social robot before you found me. Now I get to laugh, and work on the most interesting project in the world, and meet aliens, and you probably don’t want to know about this part, but let me tell you, my sex life has gone from zilch to something for the record books…”
Buffy abruptly covered her ears and made loud “Nahnahnahnahnah!! I’m not hearing this!” noises until a giggling Willow fell silent. “I remember living with you two, so I know full well that neither of you are exactly reluctant to get down and dirty! My God, Willow; we ate
at that table! Well, I suppose technically so were you… nonononono badthoughts! Bad thoughts! And besides, it’s not fair to gloat when Buffy ain’t getting any! Of course, maybe that’s a good thing when I’ve just spent a week on a planet filled with androgynous, asexual clones. ‘Cause if I had been, people would be looking at me really strange.”
They both giggled, and spent a few minutes discussing potential ‘love slaves’ for Buffy among the base personnel. Willow had the horrible taste to bring up Jack O’Neill as a possibility. Buffy looked horrified. “He’s like, old
! Is my name Buffy Zeta Jones?!” The comment got her a raised eyebrow in return. Grumbling that she never should have told Willow about Angel and Spike, she brought up what to her was the fundamental point. “Besides, they were hot!”
“And Colonel O’Neill isn’t
?!” When that got her a raised eyebrow in return, Willow pretended to be indignant. “Hey, only mostly
gay here! I can still look
!” But after going through only a few other worthy candidates, Buffy returned to something Willow had mentioned earlier. “How come you were so desperate to get out of Boston?”
Still considering possibilities for Buffy-luvin’ action, Willow had forgotten how quickly her friend’s mind jumped from one topic to another. “Hmmm?” Only when Buffy repeated the question did she realize that the Slayer would not know what had been happening the past week. “It’s really tense out there, Buffy. Ever since those nuclear strikes in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and off the Pacific coast people have been acting really weird. There’s been rioting and vandalism and calls for martial law all over the country. People want to hit back, but nobody knows who hit us, so they just want to strike out randomly. It’s really scary.
“Even after 9/11 I never though it would get this bad. I mean, really, I kind of assumed people only went so crazy after 9/11 because the Capitol Building got hit. A lot more people died in the World Trade Center collapse, but none of them were Senators. Only four of them died, but the politicians had grown so used to the idea that they were invulnerable, that they could send out other
people to die, but nobody was allowed to mess with them. The whole ‘divine right of kings’ thing where only another king is permitted to kill royalty. When they found out it didn’t work that way any more, and they were at risk along with everyone else, they went kinda crazy with rules and regulations and laws designed to take out anyone who might threaten them. And us too, I suppose, although I don’t think they were overly concerned about us
were being threatened. That’s why they permitted the torture thing, and the holding without charges, and the searching without warrants.”
She sighed, and thought for a few seconds before continuing. “What happened after 9/11 can’t hold a candle to what is happening out there now. For some reason society seems to be tearing itself apart, and I don’t know why. It’s like there are people out there deliberately making this happen, antagonizing those people most fed up, going out of their way to prevent anyone from breaking up small protests and then using overkill to crush them when they grow into riots. I’ve been talking to people online who are experts in crowd control, psychology, public security, and all of them are just as confused as I am by what is happening. Good people have been assigned to handle this, but for some reason, once the time comes to do something, they keep doing the wrong thing. It’s not just a few people either. Everyone seems to be doing the wrong thing at the wrong time to escalate the situation, and it’s getting worse every day.”
“In Buffy Summers’ universe,” Sif continued, “…some of the fundamental natural laws are different than they are in our own universe. They are easier to manipulate, easier to violate. Rules can be ‘bent’ by the application of unusual forces. Change can be imposed by what might be called magic
. There are underlying rules to this magic, but those rules are themselves subject to manipulation. Whereas the Ancients in our own universe built the StarGate system, the Powers That Be in her universe created mystical links to alternate environments, pocket universes with different rules and properties. Like the Ancients they are extremely powerful, sometimes quixotic, occasionally even helpful. But there can be no doubt concerning either their power or knowledge. Which brings us to our present difficulties. They have discovered that one of the Old Gods has devised a plan to gain corporeality, to assume a form which will permit it to manipulate matter and energy and space as we understand them.
“It is called the First. It is the most dangerous creature in the Universe. And the only being with even the remotest possibility of stopping it is Buffy Summers.”
As she listened to Willow describe the mess outside the base, Buffy was reminded of a similar –although admittedly smaller—situation in Los Angeles the year before she died for the third time. At the time she’d been dealing with her own issues so hadn’t paid too much attention to it, trusting that Angel and his team would be able to handle it. Which they had, although at considerable cost. Something about a Goddess named Jasmine, coming to earth to bring peace, salvation, eternal happiness, and all the other fun stuff that never seemed to be quite as much fun once you realized the price you would have to pay to receive them. She had no way of knowing if the situation outside was similarly unnatural, but it sure as hell wasn’t normal. It would even be, well, comforting
to learn that some of what was happening in this world wasn’t natural, had been imposed externally. That the government of the United States of America didn’t torture people. But without knowing who might be causing the problem, Buffy didn’t know if there was anything she could do about fixing it either.
It wasn’t like she didn’t have her own problems to deal with. Like deciding who she really was. If the Asgard were right –and she had no reason to doubt them—then, truthfully, she was Elizabeth Summers. Which would explain a few things. Like her recent interest in architecture, for instance. Having some of Elizabeth’s psychic talent would explain even more, like her feeling that she had to go see Faith just when she was in trouble. Or, especially, being able to see space ships at Jupiter in real time. What the hell kind of useless talent was that for a Slayer?!? But to a psychic
, on the other hand, especially one prompted for weeks by the prophetic dreams of a Slayer, distance might just be irrelevant. And if those psychic talents could be controlled, well, that opened all sorts of possibilities. None of which were particularly useful at the moment, but presented some options for the future. Because if she wanted to go after the First, she’d need every edge she could get.
Looking over Willow’s shoulder to the pictures of the alien world appearing on the laptop screen, Buffy knew the decision had already been made. Although she had Elizabeth’s body, her abilities, and some of her interests, her mind belonged to Buffy. Her mission
was Buffy’s. And most importantly, she still loved Buffy’s sister.
She didn’t have the slightest doubt that the First knew exactly what her sister truly was. And between stopping the First and protecting her sister, that was cause enough to choose an identity. Elizabeth wasn’t a Slayer. Elizabeth couldn’t do a damned thing to protect Dawn. Elizabeth just wasn’t capable of doing what needed to be done. Buffy
could. And Buffy
did not intend to fail a second time.