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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...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Buffy-Centered > Theme: ActionjAkLFR1525142,908257672446,11719 Jan 0615 Mar 06Yes
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Chapter 20

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 Twenty

The party was a good idea. Five days after returning from her trip to the Asgard homeworld, Buffy couldn’t help but realize that things were tense all over. Even within the mountain, she was amazed at how much the tension had been ratcheted up. She had a pretty good idea that it had something to do with Sif’s meeting with those in charge of the SGC. Nobody was outright saying anything, but hints she had picked up made it pretty clear the Asgard had told them that Buffy was under their protection. They must have been somewhat less than delicate about it too, because soon after the meeting ended, senior diplomats began arriving from Washington, and Hammond had been holding briefings almost all day, every day. The glares she was getting from offended politicians contrasted nicely with the way everyone else was acting like she was visiting royalty. An invitation to General West’s party, where only the most senior military, business, and political elite were invited, pretty much sealed the deal that she was now operating at a lofty social level.

The ostensible reason for the party was to introduce the advance team of a high-level delegation from Washington, who would be arriving several days later to discuss ‘the situation.’ Buffy was given strong indications that ‘the situation’ involved her in a very direct way, but nobody was so impolite as to actually say so. Heading up the delegation would be the Vice President, and his front man arriving early to coordinate the meeting was a Senator named Kinsey, whom Buffy had never heard of before. The only Kinsey she knew had been a sex researcher back in the ‘fifties. When she brought up that fact it caused uproarious laughter among the SGC crew. They had never even heard of the movie about his life, even though Teal’c was familiar with Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Qui-Gon in the Star Wars prequels.

For reasons Buffy couldn’t fathom, O’Neill was also invited to the party, although she suspected it was likely to represent the SGC. Given the tense situation, Hammond hadn’t felt comfortable about leaving his post, which sort of limited their options on who they could send to babysit Buffy. She took the opportunity to dress up, not having had a chance to really push the sartorial envelope in far too long. Once she was ready, and in her not-so-unbiased opinion looking beyond fabulous, she felt good enough about herself to even be polite to O’Neill. He cleaned up surprisingly well for an old dude, looking resplendent in his dress uniform, and had even cleaned and washed the jeep he was using to drive them to a posh section of town. It came as no surprise that West’s house was impressive. Given his position, she expected no less. Even so, it had been especially decorated for the festivities.

Along with West and General Kerrigan, their senior aides, O’Neill and several other officers, the mayor, two senators, two congressmen, and a billionaire were in attendance. Two Secret Service agents acting as an advance team preparing for the Vice President’s arrival were also loitering around. Their respective wives and dates were done up even fancier than Buffy, who glared at O’Neill for having whined about her taking too long to select her own accessories when he had arrived to pick her up. It wasn’t like she had made him wait that long… no more than twenty minutes, tops. He was also damned lucky they had let her out early enough to get her hair done or she’d be unleashing some medieval slayage on his ass about now. Her lack of adequate jewelry meant she was still considering it, a fact she brought up with an irritated glare as she assessed the competition while he parked the car. Since it was also most definitely not a date she opened her own door, showing an impressive amount of smooth leg as she exited, her dress not just up to fashion-plate Buffy standards, but a level or two higher than normal.

Even among the high-powered crowd she was the center of attention. They had been hearing the rumors about her, and by his actions West made it clear that she was the guest of honor, to the open annoyance of a famous right-wing radio personality. The fact that nobody would say why she was the guest of honor made it even more interesting, especially since all of the politicians West introduced her to made it clear they knew who she was, and had no intention of causing her any offence, but wouldn’t explain why. Which was rather underhanded of them, as it only made speculation even more rampant. Buffy would have found the whole event a Cinderella-level soirée were it not for the fact that one of the guests was sending her spider-sense into a five alarm chorus… as was the fact that he was accompanied by someone she remembered quite clearly. The last person she expected to see there was her father’s old boss, Greg Denneck.

He recognized her as well. The fury in his expression merited a smug look of contempt, but his companion wasn’t so easy to dismiss. Casually returning her attention to O’Neill, she met his eyes and made a subtle gesture towards the two men. Getting the message, he was about to make a sarcastic comment when he noticed how hard her eyes were. By then he knew her well enough to know when she was just being typical Buffy, and when the Slayer was on the job. In this particular instance the latter was most definitely the case. He knew exactly who she was gesturing at, although he couldn’t imagine what it was that would set her off about the famous industrialist. “Milton Berklyn. Zillionaire. Big-time political contributor. Kinsey’s patron, in fact.”

Already having met the senior Senator, and drawn her own conclusions as to what an oily prick he was going to turn out to be, Buffy was still shocked that any politician, even one like Kinsey, would work with someone triggering every sense as a dangerous, truly evil entity as the man O’Neill had just named. Even though she hadn’t been a Slayer the last time they met, Buffy had instinctively reacted against Denneck. But even he was a pale shadow to this man. Even though he was definitely human, the Slayer was reacting to him like it would a master vampire. It took all of her self-control not to stake him out of hand, and she knew she wouldn’t allow the man out of her sight the entire night. Others might misinterpret her attention for attraction. Berklyn was an extremely good-looking man; tall, slim, in excellent shape, easily a decade younger than O’Neill. Very well dressed, even affecting a black walking stick despite no sign of a limp. Women seemed drawn to him, to the timbre of his voice, the casual grace he displayed in every gesture. She tried to hide her reaction, but Buffy saw him as a slimmer, more distinguished version of Angelus, and every instinct was screaming that he was just as amoral and dangerous.

Without a word being said she conveyed that assessment to O’Neill using only the hardness in her eyes, the way she stood, seemingly as ease but prepared to unleash unimaginable violence the instant an internal switch was triggered. For the most part she hid it well. Only O’Neill knew that Death was in the room, deceptively packaged in a tiny blond girl in a pretty blue dress. Or at least he thought he was the only one who knew, until West met his eyes questioningly, suddenly not quite the jovial host, knowing something Very Bad was about to happen and having no idea what or why. Trying to diffuse the situation before any of the VVIP’s around them got caught up in the cross-fire, O’Neill tried to gently grasp her forearm and guide her to a small study just off from the crowded living room, but he could feel that her muscles were tensed into steel cables and knew he wasn’t moving her anywhere she didn’t want to go.

Later he would be embarrassed to realize how long it took him to understand why she had picked her spot and wasn’t budging. Even after all he had seen, he still didn’t fully appreciate the tactical skill the girl could bring to bear on any situation. He was still seeing her as a dangerous predator; deadly, but not too bright. It was an impression she deliberately encouraged. It was only when he realized the position of the doors, the unobtrusive Secret Service agents, the other ‘guests’ who were acting just a bit too interested in the silent confrontation most of the other people there didn’t even realize was happening under their noses that O’Neill understood that she had chosen the single point in the room which gave her the most flexibility, the greatest set of options for any subsequent action. It was probably only then that he understood just how good she was, that despite all his experience and training this girl was a whole different level of ‘dangerous’ than even him.

Almost casually, he moved so that he wasn’t in her way, acting against all instinct which demanded he protect her from a danger he still couldn’t see. For a fraction of a second he thought about saying something, demanding either an explanation or a complete dismissal of her instinctive reaction. All that was frozen in its tracks with a series of lightning-fast thoughts: she was one of his people now, it would distract her, and he would support her call. Her instincts were inhumanly good, as was her lethal talent. And finally, he was beginning to see the faintest trace of what had spooked her. The look in the eyes of the Secret Service guys. The way some of the people were watching the girl, how different it was from the way a normal male would look at a very attractive woman. When O’Neill finally finished his quick survey he met West’s eyes, the General a combat veteran himself and aware that something serious had spooked his guest of honor… and that a special ops leader he trusted was also sensing something Very Wrong.

Looking over at Berklyn, West had no idea what was setting off the girl. He himself was a huge fan of the industrialist, and had been delighted when someone of his stature had accepted the invitation to the reception he was holding for the Washington team. Although there had been plenty of speculation about the Summers’ girl, it was really Berklyn most of the local elite wanted to see, and had turned a small get-together into the social event of the season. Kinsey was powerful, and likely to grow more so, but he was a political animal none of them really trusted. Berklyn had the social graces of European aristocracy, despite being American, and could charm the panties off a nun. But not this girl, apparently. Having the two of them in each other’s faces would not be pleasant. His wife would never forgive him.

Hoping to head off whatever disaster was about to happen, West was relieved to note that Buffy seemed to get a grip on herself as he approached. She seemed to relax, although there was a hyper-alertness to her that probably only those who knew what she was capable of doing would notice. Given her tiny size and genuine attractiveness most people would almost instinctively dismiss her potential for violence, even had they noticed the momentary lethal glint in her eye. By the time West oh-so-casually crossed the room to stand near her she seemed back in control of herself. But West had studied her carefully after his introduction to her amazing talents, and knew it was an act. Having witnessed her in action, he also wasn’t about to dismiss her instincts despite the power and fame of his other guests.

“Is there a problem?” He spoke quietly, glancing around the room, noting how much attention was being paid to them by people who should have been looking elsewhere. The high-powered political delegation should have been hustling the money-men, but all were watching Buffy with varying expressions of interest. Kinsey wore his usual smarmy look of contempt, but only California congressman Dan Kessleton seemed to be seeing the girl as something other than an object to be manipulated into doing what they wanted using any means necessary.

“Did I ever tell you that I once ran into Dracula?”

The comment came out of left field, and O’Neill looked at her strangely. “The Dracula?”

She scowled, not looking away from the billionaire, annoyed at the awe in his tone. “Just ‘Dracula.’ No ‘the.’ He just had a good PR outfit. Though I gotta admit, turning into a bat was wicked cool. But his big claim to fame is a mind-control power called the ‘thrall.’ Really freaky. He could cloud your mind, make you do stuff, the whole bug-eating thing. Euro-trashy seduction, sensual overload, all sorts of tricks with his voice and eyes. End result is you do what he says, no matter what.

“Our friend over there reminds me a lot of good old Drac.”

West frowned. “You mean he’s a vampire?”

For a quick second she glanced over at him, frowning. “No! But he sure as hell has the power of the ‘thrall.’ Same attitude as Dracula, too. Monomaniacal, sociopathic asshole. People are just toys for him to manipulate at will. It’s all a game to him, playing with us, screwing with our heads for his own amusement. I thought Denneck was a jerk. But he’s got nothing on this guy.” She continued to observe the billionaire as he was lionized by fawning admirers. Even from across the room she could feel his charisma, only her experience with the famous vampire permitting her to resist being overwhelmed by the same feeling of adoration. And just like her experience with Dracula, she wasn’t entirely sure how thoroughly she would be able to resist his influence.

She wasn’t at all surprised that neither man believed her. O’Neill frowned, but West just looked irritated. “That’s ridiculous. Okay, I’ll admit the guy has charisma to burn. But that doesn’t make him a vampire.” Buffy also wasn’t surprised at the way he was deliberately misunderstanding her words. Part of what made the thrall so effective was that it forced its victims to come up with their own explanations for any information which contradicted the thrall programming. Unfortunately West wasn’t finished. “C’mon, I’ll introduce you. Once you meet the man you won’t find him so intimidating.”

Knowing that it was inevitable, Buffy allowed him to guide her towards the two men holding audience across the room. She kept the tightest possible rein on her emotions, hoping like hell the partial immunity she had developed after exposure to Dracula would give her equal protection from the person she was approaching. The crowd surrounding him gave way as they arrived, not even realizing they were doing it, chess pieces to be moved at will by a man who Buffy was absolutely certain considered them to be less than dirt at his feet. And to think she had thought Denneck was an asshole. But she was just a tiny bit concerned, as their ability to manipulate even strong, mentally tough individuals such as West and O’Neill was a bit disconcerting.

One thing she did have to admit was that the guy was dreamy. The closer she got, the more obvious it became. Coarse blond hair, deliberately shaggy, expensively styled to appear untamed. Brilliant blue eyes, full of curiosity and intelligence and just a spark of mischief. From a distance he’d appeared slim, but on closer inspection he had a lean, fit, runners physique, not an ounce of flab on him. As befitting his wealth and status his clothing was impeccably stylish, expensively cut and tailored to his precise specifications. She wasn’t sure how much of her impression was due to his overwhelming aura of innate power or simply a natural consequence of his position atop the social hierarchy, the natural due of the Alpha Male in the presence of a woman. Never before had she seen a more attractive man. Next to this man, Angel had been a pot-bellied truck-driving yokel. Next to him, Spike had been a punk, a Billy-Idol wannabe loser. This was the man she’d been looking for her entire life.

West introduced her, his tone fawning, naturally obsequious in the presence of superior man. Buffy smiled prettily as the incredible man raised her hand to kiss her knuckles European-style, demonstrating the culture and refinement she would have expected of such an individual. He spoke, asking something, but she instinctively knew that as a woman it wasn’t her place to answer, it was up to the men accompanying her to discuss important things, her function to be pretty and silent unless addressed directly. She didn’t even really bother to listen in on what they were talking about, knowing it wasn’t important and almost certainly beyond her understanding, so simply primped and casually looked around, more to demonstrate her toned physique and draw attention to the lines of her neck than out of any interest in anything beyond appearing sexually attractive to this extraordinary individual.

For just a fraction of a second she was confused, not recognizing the man standing beside the God-like being she was lucky enough to be standing near, wondering why he was looking at her with an expression of amused contempt. There was just something about his expression that annoyed her, a momentary glitch in her fog of sexual attraction. There was an almost audible click as her mind suddenly cleared, reaction instantaneous as she lashed out with her left hand, belting the billionaire in the jaw hard enough to knock him flying back into the wall, twisting to follow up with an uppercut to Denneck’s smug face before his friend’s already-unconscious body hit the floor. The two Secret Service agents, ostensibly there to provide security for the Congressional team, reached for their guns, but Buffy was already in motion, leg sweeping around to kick one in the head, grabbing the gun arm of the other and twisting, applying just enough force to knock him down and secure him with the proper leverage to ensure he remained there despite his every effort.

It had all happened so quickly that all four were down before the first scream came from someone in the stunned crowd. Buffy herself was almost freaking out in horror at losing control so completely, allowing herself to be mentally dominated so totally, so quickly. She wanted to take a shower, she felt so violated. For probably the first time she understood why Xander had been so outraged over being in thrall to Dracula, when at the time she had privately found it a bit amusing. Having experienced it first hand, she was finding it a whole lot less funny. But dealing with it would have to wait, as her host was looking at her in horror, and she had a surprised but about-to-become-supremely-pissed-off Secret Service guy in an armlock. Still, at least he was under control, unlike a furious West, who was looking like he was thinking about attacking her himself.

Before he could even get over the shock and start demanding explanations, Buffy glared at him, and growled. “Look at me! Look directly into my eyes.” Her words penetrated his anger, and he suddenly recalled that the whole point of the party was to ensure they came to some arrangement to ensure she was around to be used as a resource by the SGC. Forcing himself to calm down, West nodded. Seeing that he was quickly gaining control of himself, Buffy ignored the others only then beginning to demand answers and directed her full attention to the NORAD commander. “Don’t look away from me… but out of the corner of your eye, take a look at your friend there. See him for what he really is.”

It took only a second for him to process her instructions, Buffy was happy to note. Considering the guy was one of the few people in the world with the authority to launch nuclear missiles on his own initiative, it was nice to see that it took a lot to knock him off balance, and he was quick to regain it when it did happen. Even so it took a few seconds before he finished glaring at her and took her suggestion. She knew the instant he did, because his eyes suddenly widened in shock and his head snapped over to stare at the unconscious billionaire. Barely paying attention to the Secret Service agent at her feet struggling mightily to escape her secure hold, Buffy glanced over at O’Neill, who had followed her suggestion when he saw West’s reaction. Obviously he rather quickly saw the same thing, as he was staring at the unconscious body and then looking away from it, trying to come to grips with what he was seeing.

When seen out of the corner of the eye, Berklyn did look something like a vampire. Extremely pale, eyes an even paler blue that looked as if he might be blinded by cataracts, there were noticeable scars disfiguring his face. The short walking stick he carried was actually much longer in reality, a large crystal at the top end, glowing with a dull blue light. His hair was thinner than it had appeared, a terminal case of split ends horrifying Buffy far more than the dark scars on his chin. Any direct look and the features all disappeared, instantly showing only the stud muffin the others in the room were still seeing. But soon a few of them were also seeing something weird, and muttering could be heard above the horrified shouting in response to the display of violence.

Tiring of holding off the struggling agent, Buffy let him go but almost instantly grabbed the back of his collar and ripped down, the buttons on his shirt and suit jacket securing his arms to his side. It wouldn’t hold him long, but Buffy knew she didn’t have much time either way. Unless she was prepared to kill Berklyn while he was unconscious, which she most definitely was not. But he would awaken soon enough, so there was a lot she had to do before that happened because she knew damned well that he would be able to completely cloud their minds again the second he regained consciousness. Turning back to face a still-shocked West after tossing the bound agent onto a nearby chair, she politely asked if she could borrow his cell phone. It took even him a few seconds to realize what she was asking, and he glanced over at O’Neill before slowly reaching into his pocket and handing over his cell, careful to keep his hand from touching hers as if afraid she might become even more violent.

Ignoring Kinsey who was only then storming over to demand an explanation, Buffy called in the number she had been given for emergencies. When the call was answered on the first ring she asked to speak to Hammond. Ignoring West’s frown, she impatiently waited through the momentary delay before she was transferred to the SGC commander. “George, it’s Buffy, and things are about to go to hell in a handbasket. I’m serious about this: Rodeo Arcade. Right now.”

As she spoke she stared directly into West’s eyes, wondering if it would be one shock too many, but was impressed when the man seemed to be thinking things through, ignoring the distraction of Kinsey’s incessant ranting to consider what had happened, what he could see with Berklyn, and the implications of Buffy’s call to Hammond. No more than a few seconds passed before he sighed and held out his hand for the cell. Knowing she was taking a big chance, but knowing too that she couldn’t prevent it, Buffy handed him the phone and waited as he identified himself to his subordinate. Then, to Buffy’s profound relief, he made the call. “The order is valid. Follow the protocol, General Hammond. Seal the Mountain.”

There was a sudden, stunned silence among those witnessing the event. Since it was built, Cheyenne Mountain had been sealed from the outside world exactly twice; during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and on 9/11. Even Kinsey’s mouth dropped in shock that the NORAD commander would reiterate and approve Buffy’s code phrase. They were about to get even more surprised, as West continued. “Don’t worry about Glen; he outranks you but he also knows that the Arcade variant of Rodeo falls into your bailiwick. You are in command. I would suggest that you let him handle the standard stuff while you concentrate on whatever it is Buffy thinks is about to fall on us, but it’s your call. Get out a pencil and write this down.” A second later he ran off a string of numbers. “That’s the combination to my safe. All of the codes are in there. Use them at your discretion.”

As he spoke the final sentence he looked directly at Kinsey. For the first time since the initial shock at Buffy’s display of violence there was dead silence in the room, as the high-powered guests finally figured out that the NORAD commander had effectively given someone else the power to start a nuclear war. Until that moment not even the politicians had realized the situation was so serious, the stakes so high. “You are authorized and directed to go to Defcon 2 and remain in that condition until and unless the requirements and restrictions of the Arcade protocol have been fulfilled. Please confirm.” When he got the required response, West once again ignored Kinsey’s outraged demands for an explanation and handed the phone back to Buffy.

She could see Berklyn twitching and knew she was running out of time, so grabbed the phone and spoke quickly. “They have some kind of mind control ability. You’re probably going to get a call in about five minutes from the Vice President, Kinsey, probably even West himself demanding that you stand down. Don’t do it! Follow the protocol; that’s what it was designed for. Don’t trust anyone outside the Mountain until this is over; not West, not even me. Gotta go.” She hung up, returned the phone to West and looked over at O’Neill. “We need to get out of here. While we still can.”

But it was already too late. Berklyn was stirring, and whatever power he possessed were not impaired by his confusion upon regaining consciousness. The awareness she had seen in West’s and O’Neill’s eyes rapidly faded into a confused dullness, which she knew would be quickly followed by outrage as the vampire-type-thing masquerading as a billionaire industrialist regained his faculties and commanded his human robots to subdue her. With no time to discuss or debate, she lashed out again with her deceptively powerful fist, almost enjoying the opportunity to legitimately knock out O’Neill, and lifted his collapsing body onto her shoulders in a fireman’s carry position. Then she ran, ignoring the shouts following her, the demands that she stop. When anyone got in her way she simply bowled them over, running through those obstacles she couldn’t bounce around.

Quickly escaping the house, she ran to the colonel’s jeep, dropped him in the passenger seat, and frantically searched his pockets for the keys. Someone tried to grab hold of her when she rushed over to the driver’s side, but she belted whoever it was without even pausing to think about it and got in, started the vehicle, and hit the gas. The jeep didn’t have much power but it had awesome traction, and she used it to maximum effect, driving across the manicured lawn, destroying flower beds and crashing through garden walls in order to get out of the estate as fast as possible. Even by her standards she was driving insanely, but she could feel herself second guessing her decision, when she knew damned well it had been the right call. Even at this distance she could feel the effects of the thrall, as Berklyn regained consciousness and used all of his formidable power to command her to stop and return to the mansion.

There was absolutely no way in hell she intended to go back. Driving across lanes and through traffic as speeds no one who wasn’t escaping the devil himself would consider sane, Buffy went through three red lights and probably caused half a dozen accidents before she calmed down enough to reduce her speed to something reasonable. She was still frightened, but even more aware of the fact that the mayor and police chief had been among the guests at the party and would quickly be on the phone demanding that all municipal resources be deployed to find and apprehend her. Before that happened she needed a place to hide. Fortunately she had plenty of recent experience with the process, so made for one of the locations she had already scouted when she was looking for a hideout the last time the entire world tried to find her and toss her svelte ass into prison.

She was driving along a side road, at a nice sedate pace, when O’Neill regained consciousness. After letting him vent for a few minutes over being knocked out, Buffy had enough of the rant and glared at him. “I’ve got two words for you: ‘bug’ and ‘eating.’ Because that was what you were in for if I’d left you there, mister! I have it on good authority that the whole ‘butt-monkey’ experience sucks the big one.”

Since there was very little he could say to debate that, O’Neill settled for mumbling insults under his breath as he massaged his jaw and tried to get his head to stop ringing. Despite the act, his mind was racing, considering the implications of what he had seen, how he had behaved while under the control of… whatever it had been. He’d faced alien invasions before. He knew damned well he was facing one now. “Any idea what we’re up against?”

Buffy frowned. “Aside from the Dracula thing, I’ve never come across anything like this. But I heard about something similar. Bitch-goddess named Jasmine wanted to take over the world. Used some kind of mind control to force everyone in L.A. to worship her. Brain-sucked them behind closed doors, you probably won’t be surprised to hear. She ‘fed’ on the mental energy of her acolytes or something, leaving them dead husks. Some people even thought it was a fair trade. She enforced peace, made everyone happy. Terrific stuff if you don’t have any interest in the whole ‘free will’ concept. Had this really fun talent where she could make someone’s flesh rot off at the merest touch. Also, she was actually this sorta tentacled energy being, just pretending to appear human. She had this ‘worshipper-in-chief’ who was made out of rock. Big, vicious demon dude. Horns, cloven feet, the whole nine yards. Bullets would bounce right off of him. He brought about a rain of fire, blocked out the sun. Really apocalyptic stuff. An old boyfriend of mine killed it with a skewer made out of its own rocky flesh. Kinda gross, actually.”

Just staring at her for a few seconds, Jack finally spoke. “Has anyone ever told you that your world is a really… strange place?”

“Yeah. Problem is, your world is about to experience first hand the fun and amusement that we take for granted back home.”

There wasn’t a whole lot O’Neill could say about that. “So is Berklyn the god or the demon?”

Shrugging, Buffy spoke while looking around for a parking space. “I sure didn’t get any sense that he was a Godlike being, just that he thought he was a godlike human. The same attitude as Denneck, only writ large. Definitely not in the same league as the First, or even Glory, if he’s the Big Bad. I’d bet big money he isn’t though. I just got the impression that despite his contempt for us, he was a worshipper, not the worshippee. Slightly cuter than the Beast if he’s the main acolyte… but the Beast didn’t have the thrall. So who knows how high he is on their pecking order.”

“Any guesses on how far away you’d have to be to be out of range of the ‘thrall?’ “

Shrugging once more, Buffy pulled the jeep into a parking spot at the side of a residential street before turning to face O’Neill. “Depends. When he was messing with the heads of everyone in the area, the real effect didn’t lock in until we were about 20 feet away. But I could feel him trying to make me come back when we were a couple of hundred yards from the mansion. I don’t think he was manipulating anyone else when he did that; he was focusing all of his power on me. To put it into perspective, Jasmine could control everyone in the Greater LA Basin.” She saw his expression, and knew him well enough to guess his train of thought. “If you’re thinking about shooting him from across the road, I’d guess his staff might have something to say about that. There was a glowing thing on the end of it. Glowing things usually means that guns won’t have much of an effect on the people holding them. That’s why I’ve never gotten into the whole gun deal. Too many of the things I hunt can find a glowing thing of their own. I’ve discovered, though, that there’s not much a glowing thing can do to stop a stake to the sternum.”

O’Neill was a bit worried that her explanation actually made sense. They’d noted that the Slayer had little interest in guns, and assumed it was just a traditional aspect of her work. He had also noted Berklyn’s staff, and from what he’d seen of the capabilities of alien staffs, he didn’t much doubt her assessment. “You think the SGC is buried deep enough that their mind control abilities won’t affect them?”

“Yes.” Her response was instant, her tone certain. When O’Neill just raised an eyebrow questioningly she explained. “If it isn’t; we’re screwed. So I’m going with a resounding ‘yes’ on that one.”

That sounded reasonable enough to O’Neill, so he just nodded. “Why’d you park here?” He looked around for something that might be a safe house, but turned back when Buffy reached into the back cargo area of the jeep and hauled up a small civilian-style backpack.

“This is where I leave you.” She waited for him to object, but he just sat there, waiting for her to explain. Either he trusted her a lot more than she thought, or he’d already reached a few conclusions on his own. “It’s real hard to kill a Slayer once she’s been exposed to whatever power her opponent possesses, and has developed an immunity to it. I thought my experience with Dracula would be enough, but obviously not. I’m going to have to get closer to this thing, keep an eye on it, see if I can get used to it, hopefully build up my resistance to it. But there’s no way you ever will be able to, and if you’re with me it would make you betray me. So time for me to bail on you.”

As she prepared to leave the jeep O’Neill asked a final question. “You’re psychic. You saw the Gao’uld invasion coming. Did you see this?”

Opening the door, Buffy didn’t look at him as she exited the vehicle, but spoke more to herself than the Colonel. “I don’t know what’s coming.” She paused, before finally turning to face him. “But all day I’ve been smelling the scent of jasmine. I think a God is about to make a visit to Colorado Springs. Something a lot of the people around here have been praying for. I don’t think they’re going to find it nearly as much fun as they’d hoped.” Grabbing the heavy backpack, she checked for anyone watching, before running to a back alley, where she quickly disappeared from O’Neill’s view.
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