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Timaeus 01 - The Pilot

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Summary: AU from The Gift, Xander is thrown somewhere entirely unexpected and makes some new friends.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Xander-Centered > Theme: Atlantis ProjectLucifaelFR18113,540126113,87330 Apr 0630 Apr 06No
TITLE: Timaeus Pilot Episode - The Gift
SERIES: Timaeus
Episode: 01 - The Gift
AUTHOR: C. J. Whittaker (cj@cjwhittaker.net)
WEBSITE: http://www.cjwhittaker.net
DISTRIBUTION: Anyway, just let me know
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the brand characters in this series of stories. They belong to their respective owners.
SUMMARY: AU from The Gift, Xander is thrown somewhere entirely unexpected and makes some new friends.
FEEDBACK: Yes Please, via my group or E-Mail. It's all good.
CATEGORY: Crossover/Action/Adventure
RELATIONSHIPS: Not Sure Right Now
RATING: Mature for Language and content
WORD COUNT: 13,336 Words
SPOILERS: All Seasons of SG: Atlantis and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Please Note that Atlantis is a total AU because of the nature of this story.
WARNINGS: This is an AU for SG: Atlantis, SG-1 and Au from BtVS: The gift
BETA: Graham Hands, Jayesh, Oom Desi and James White. Thanks to them all.
DATE: Started 10/12/2005 - Finished 22/12/2005
AUTHORS NOTES:

Firstly Thanks To Marc DeHaan for being my SG brain and helping me flesh out an idea to a story. Thanks to Tenhawk for making me Think before I wrote.

For the curious:-

Timaeus is a theoretical treatise of Plato in the form of a Socratic dialogue, written circa 360 B.C. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world.

There that should clear it up! :D

For the more ardent fans of the SG-Verse, particulary Atlantis you may notice me taking liberties with timelines, technology and plot. It's what I do, I twist what is, into what could be. So I just thought I'd give you fair warning :)

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Episode 01
The Gift
Sunnydale Ca – Terra (22nd May), Night

Xander had just hit the Barbie doll goddess with the steel ball. He was now running hell for leather towards his next task. He'd not been assigned this task in the battle brief. This one was personal. By time he had reached the scaffolding though he already knew that something was wrong. Spike was out for the count on the ground. He wasn't the vampire’s best fan but knew that it must've been something indescribable to have made that happen. Spike loved Dawn and would protect her with his unlife. He glanced up at the scaffolds and saw Buffy struggling with a small gray demon. Xander knew he had to get to Dawn and help her before it was too late. He knew Buffy could handle the demon, he just had no doubt about that at all. At that current moment in time, it was Dawn that needed him.

He ran to the first ladder and began to climb it.

"Xander!" the voice of his finance called out, a strong hand clamping on his shoulder, stopping him from going up the ladder.

"What is it Anya!" Xander demanded, turning on her with wild eyes.

"You can't go." she told him firmly, her eyes wild.

"I'm going." he told her even more firmly.

"You're not" she said pulling on him harder than she should be able to. He fell to the ground and winced.

Xander looked up at her, the first rousing of suspicion of his face, "Anya!?! " he demanded, the single word a question.

Anya knew what he meant, it was obvious really. "I called my old master, I wanted to make sure you and I could be safe, this is the only way." she said, tears in her eyes.

"You were wrong." Xander told her, getting to his feet, "If you stop me now, you'll loose me forever."

"If I let you go, I'll lose you forever." she told him, a strange sureness in her voice.

"I'm going." he told her, his tone broking no argument.

Anya stood before the ladder, "I can't let you. It's ... part of the deal I made."

"You KNEW this was going to happen." Xander roared at her, making the not so ex-demon flinch.

She didn't answer, giving him all the answer her really needed.

"We're over, right now Anya. So you may as well move." he growled, casting his eyes around. Looking for a way around her, he found none.

Anya didn't move an inch.

Xander's eyes died and he became hard and cold, "Move, last warning."

"No!" she said in a small voice.

"That's an innocent young girl up there."

"She's not human."

"More than you." he shot back, a little heat entering his voice, "Not that it really matters she's still an innocent." he reached behind his back and pulled out a colt 45 fully loaded and ready for action.

Anya looked at the gun in disbelief. "You'd shoot me?"

BANG, BANG Anya dropped with a shocked look on her face to the floor as her knee caps were taken out. Xander knew that he hadn't done any permanent damage to her. She was after all a pretty high ranking demon. He didn't need or WANT to kill her though. He just wanted to get past her.

As she dropped Xander was already jumping, snagging the ladder and beginning to climb straight away.

-xXx-

Buffy looked to her sister her face suddenly peaceful, It all made such sense to her now.

"Buffy ... no!" Dawn suddenly cried out as she watched her sister's face change.

"Dawnie, I have to."

"No!" Dawn cried out with tears streaming down her face.

"Listen to me. Please, there's not a lot of time, listen." Buffy said, grabbing her shoulders.

"Dawn, listen to me. Listen. I love you. I will *always* love you. But this is the work that I have to do. Tell Giles ... tell Giles I figured it out. And, and I'm okay. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world ... is to live in it, be brave. Live, for me. "

Buffy turned and in almost slow-motion, ran down the platform as Dawn stayed there crying.

Buffy swan-dived off the end of the platform, Xander suddenly exploded onto the platform, his eyes wild. Moving faster than he even knew he could he ran to the edge and jumped after her towards the portal. He managed to snag a jutting out scaffold and reached for one of Buffy's legs.

Dawn watched in stunned aw, tears flowing down her cheeks and two of the most important people in the world disappeared over the edge.

Buffy continued her perfect swan dive towards the port hole, Xander swinging out after her, his hand stretching out to her foot, his fingers brushed her trainer, but that is all before his arc continued anchored as he was to the platform, a single arm between him and the long drop.

Buffy continued to fall into the portal and just for a moment hung perfectly motionless, her face making expressions of pain.

The Portal writhed and spat for a moment as Buffy's body continued its journey down and through it.

Xander's long frame slammed into the scaffold hard enough to rattle his teeth. His grip was wrenched from the scaffold pole. His continued momentum slammed him hard enough to make him bounce off with a slight spin.

Buffy fell totally through the portal and continued to towards the ground. Behind her the portal became less jagged and took on a silver light.

Xander fell towards the oddly behaving portal.

Buffy's body slammed into the floor with a sick crunch, motionless.

As a newly awoken Spike tried to crawl towards her, the portal calmed for a second looking all the world like a pool of water in the air.

Xander hit the top of the pool and fell into it.

Spike reached the dead body of Buffy, blood tears already appearing on his face.

Xander's body didn't reappear from the other side of the portal. It suddenly made a backwards whooshing sound and disappeared.

The air became totally still for a moment as the Scooby gang came to the horrible and sudden realization. They'd averted another Apocalypse, yet in doing so, they had lost two of their number, two of the most important, the body and soul of their group.

Unknown - Unknown, Day

Xander flew spinning out of a pool of vertical water, flying over a set of steps his world a torrent of color, then suddenly his flight was interrupted by a very hard surface.

He bounced off of said surface with a dull clang and dropped to the ground, crying out in pain as he did so.

He lay on his back for a full minute, his eyes still feeling like they were spinning. His ribs were killing him and he felt the tell tale tickle at his temple. That not so lovely tickle that meant he was bleeding. He gave himself a few more moments. No demons had grabbed him so far, strange as far as he was concerned. He could only think that he was were Glory had been going before Buffy had kicked her butt.

With the thought of Buffy he felt more pain. This wasn't anything to do with his body though. The last thing he'd managed to see was her body hitting the floor. She'd hit hard and limply. Dead before she'd even reached the ground. Why he wasn't he had no idea. He sat up, painfully, and looked around. For a hell dimension it could pass for Colorado. He was sat in a small clearing, pine trees all around him. As he looked back he could see he had hit what looked to be a vaguely cylindrical object. A Largish object, but not as large as his ribs had felt it should be.

Beside him, it seemed he had narrowly missed it. Was a pedestal like 'thing' with a glowing orb in the middle. Okay, so that DID look magical at least. Across from that was a big circle with symbols all around it. It looked like it MAY have been how he'd gotten here, where ever here was. There was a strange stillness to the place though, he looked up, shading his eyes from the sun. His mouth fell open, strike that... It was Suns, plural, oh and three moons.

"We're not in Kansas anymore." Xander mumbled his eyes flashing with momentary anger. Was this what Anya had meant. That he'd end up being transported to some funky... planet/dimension/other, he had no idea, but even as much as he loved her, he had loved Buffy more. Thus he was angry enough with Anya to want to kill her at that very moment.

He got to his feet, ignoring the pain. If only he'd been quicker, if only she hadn't caught him up in talking. He could've reached Buffy, stopped her, or perhaps even catching her, How dumb was jumping off the platform anyway. Oh, he could see WHY she had done it. It was obvious now that he came to think about it. It was all about blood, her blood and Dawn's blood. They key to unlocking the dimensional gate. If that is indeed what it had been. Frankly he had no clue at that moment in time, and even more he didn't care. He'd failed to protect Buffy, failed to protect Dawn from the horror of loosing her sister.

He'd never fail again, "NEVER AGAIN!" he screamed up at the sky as his emotions rolled through him like a tidal wave. Anger, guilt, fear and a host of others went through him in a rush. He fell to his knees, uncaring of the pain still screaming up at the sky.

-xXx-

At some point he'd stopped screaming. The tears had come then, the inner war of guilt, self hate and disbelief had been waged. He had no idea which had won. AT that precise moment he was just feeling numb. Empty almost.

He looked back at the ring and the podium device, wondering how two such simple looking things had caused all this. What had Glory been so damn interested in.

He staggered back to his feet. The pain from his side once again making itself known, he ignored it, his eyes cold, hard and calculating, whatever was here had better hope it was nothing like Glory or he'd make it pay, make everything pay for taking away the light that was Buffy, she was needed in the universe, he wasn't, so why wasn't he the dead one, why did SHE have to die.

He could feel the anger bubbling up again and directed it. Molded it into something he could use. A part of him he'd thought dead was taking over his tired brain. Actually, not so much taking over as directing it, focusing it to ensuring the body survived. Even while 'Xander' was on holiday while his railing emotions bubbled and cackled inside of him.

Xander slumped down in place as it all got too much for him.

-xXx-

After a while the ghost of a soldier took command of limbs and eyes.

The area was a good twenty foot square, grass with a few odd rocks lying around. Not very good cover if anyone was watching from the tree line. There was that odd tube thing, if it was as hard as it had felt. Well, it COULD be used as cover.

Xander's feet moved of their own accord, turning in a full 360 in a half crouch. Arms almost, but not quite in a position like he was holding a gun, or rather a machine gun, eyes sharp, narrowed slightly against the bright light, but picking up every detail he could memorize, soldiers after all were trained observers. He couldn't be sure but there didn't seem to be anything amiss, he really needed to set up a perimeter, but doing that with one person was pretty much impossible, so cover was the next most important thing.

To that end the currently drone like Xander turned to the odd Cigar like object in the clearing with him. Then the ghost of a memory essentially kicked Xander back into touch. It wasn't a voice as such, more of a mental command, whatever it was, worked, Xander's eyes snapped back into life and glanced around. Shocked that he had moved, but at the same time he remembered doing so, and why.

He shivered slightly; it had been a long time since something like that had happened. It had happened quite a lot shortly after that night, but had faded off. It only happened in times of great stress. Apparently this was one of those times.

Xander knew he had to keep his wits about him now. Sure this situation sucked, but he wouldn't be able to 'pay' whoever had set it up, back if he was dead, he walked over to the pod, that was the name he applied to it, it was after all pod like. It was crazy, but the geek side of him was insisting that this was a space ship. He found that everything else in him had to agree as well.

He ran a hand down the side of the pod, finding the metal to be cool to the touch despite the heat. The twin suns were making it fairly hot, he was amazed that there were trees if he were honest with himself, there had to be a lot of water around to fight off a heat like that. He walked slowly around the pod, his eyes checking all around him, to the best of his ability. Once he reached what he was going to call the back. He found what looked to be an open hatch. It was almost TOO inviting in fact. Like the owners had not been gone for long.

With a mental 'fuck it' he walked inside.

Once he'd done so the hatch slid to a close behind him. It both startled him, and angered him. He suddenly felt like he had walked into a trap. No sooner had he thought that the hatch slid open again. He let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and stepped backwards.

Strangely, now that he knew it wouldn't lock on him, the last thing he wanted was that doorway open and exposed. He backed off another step when it slid back to closed.

He looked around warily as the entire pod seemed to slowly come to life around him.

"Well damn." he commented mildly as the pod proved his geek side right. It was the only thing it could be with all those blinking lights.

Xander looked out of the front window warily. Still nothing moved in the tree line, which he was grateful of, but he HAD closed off his 360 view of the area.

Suddenly before his eyes a 'holographic' (The only word he could come up with to describe it) display appeared before his eyes and showed scenes from a full 360 view around the craft.

Xander did something he thought he'd never do again. He smiled like a loon.

"This is so cool." he said joyfully. He was stunned, but this was actually making him feel a little better. Boys and their toys as a good movie once said. It was true though.

"Can you show me anything about where I am?" he asked the ship.

"Please." he added belatedly, just in case.

Another display popped to the right of what he assumed was the pilot’s chair. Xander slipped into it and looked at the display.

"Okay, thanks but I can't read this writing. Looks familiar though." he 'told' the computer.

'If only I could make it out.' Xander added in thought.

There was a hiss as some of the controls in front of him slid to one side. Xander turned and looked at the hole that had appeared, his face pensive but curious.

Suddenly an arm looking thing flashed out and grabbed Xander's head, holding it in place.

Xander let out a not so manly scream, but strangely relaxed when the arm did nothing else to him. A light then flickered on, making Xander think that this was some sort of display device. Perhaps one he'd be able to read.

Then a nebula looking like appeared before his eyes. "That's very pretty." he commented to the ship, "But means...urk" he cut off when suddenly a thousand bees started to buzz in his head. A sudden riot of colors flowed, 'through' his eyes and shot into his mind's eye. Flickering and flashing in some complex rhythm that Xander had no idea how to interpret.

At least not at first.

-xXx-

Xander's eyes flickered open, he had one HELL of a headache right at that moment. As soon as he caught that pixie with the hammer and nail it was SO dead.

He sat back up in the chair in which he had slumped. He watched as once again the displays and controls on the ship woke up. Apparently they had gone into standby mode. He must've been out a while, not only his head hurt either. His eyes in particular were giving him a hell of a lot of pain.

"Erh, can we put up a shield or something to dim outside" he called to the computer. Before the sentence was finished the forward 'window' had turned to a dark shaded color. The computer further more changed all the displays to a dimmer version, some of which changed to a strange 'inverted' form of themselves. Xander let out a sigh of relief.

"Thanks." he said to the computer, that had helped but his body still felt like it was on fire. He glanced curiously at his arm. He was slightly alarmed to notice that his shirt had been torn, because he now had a bulging bicep where it hadn't been before. He was no slouch in that department before hand, now however he could feel the pent up power in his body.

"What did you do?" he asked.

The computer gave a chirrup in answer. Making Xander looked at the main console curiously.

"Do you understand me?"

Another chirrup, Xander couldn't tell if it was a yes or no frankly. He figured he wasn't going to get a direct answer as yet to what had happened to his body so he let out a sigh, "Can you show me those displays again. Let's figure out where the hell we are and go from there"

The computer once more chirruped, that was starting to freak Xander out.

He looked at the various displays. To his shock, this time he was able to make out what the hell they said. He wasn't sure what to make of that. He had wanted to be able to understand the displays. Now he could. The ship had given him that ability using the weird face grabbing thing. He was sure of it. What the hell else could it do?

"I'd like a ham sandwich." he said hopefully.

Nothing happened and he sighed, "Worth a shot I suppose. I was just hungry is all."

Suddenly a compartment below the main console popped open. Xander leaned down and found what looked to be a foil package. He took it out and looked down at the console in shock. "I want Angelina Jolie." he said.

Nothing happened, "A woman?" he asked again.

This time a display popped up and it seemed to be showing a solar system map. It pulled back to show more than one system. This one appeared to have a dot on it.

"Okay..." Xander said. The computer had realized his request all right. It didn't know who Miss Jolie was. Or Xander Assumed, what a ham sandwich was. It knew what a woman was and what food was though. If the small package in his hand was rations like he pretty much guessed it had to be. He tore open the pack and sniffed it experimentally. It had virtually no smell at all. He could only hope it was still fresh. The packaging looked like some sort of foil and had been intact so it was a hope.

He bit into the pale bread like substance. A moment latter his face twisted into a grimace. It didn't taste off, but it did taste NASTY. He swallowed with difficulty. "What's in this shit?" he asked.

The computer worked out what he'd meant, and showed a complex diagram. Xander was surprised to find he understood it. Basically it was a combination of all a humanoid body needed to keep on going. Which, he supposed was why it tasted so bad, Just like medicine had all you needed but always tasted like shit.

"Thanks." he muttered, stuffing more into his face. He realized something else from the 'woman' scan. No women, meant with fair certainty, no people. On this planet, for that was what it certainly was now. He really needed to try to fly this thing somewhere and figure out what had happened.

The ship rumbled slightly as it lifted off making Xander’s smile and drop crumbs from his mouth. "Fricking A." he said, barely understandable muffled as it was by his rations.

Floating In Space – Milky Way, The Next Day

Xander was resting his feet on what he had come to call the dash and reading from the small PDA like device that allowed him to access the pods controls and database remotely. Or so he had read so far anyway. He was on his way in a round about way to a trading station. That was what his scans had indicated at least.

That wasn't what he was reading about however, he was more interested in finding out what the hell had been happening to him. His headache had been getting slowly worse and he was having flashes of memories that were not his own. He could understand what he was reading for one thing. All the displays in this one man research pod made perfect sense to him now, which included the sensor information, information that was just basically beyond his understanding before he'd had his face grabbed.

He gave an elaborate sigh, and looked at the readings of his body again. It just didn't make sense. Or rather, and scarily enough, it DID. He just didn't know WHY it made sense. His DNA was changing, and he was changing mentally and physically to go with that. He hadn't been able to sleep at all since that event. He'd tried, but the changes inside of him were having an effect on the outside as well. Most of which were so painful he'd been woken and then knocked out when they'd been happening.

His muscle mass had increased by 10 percent, the very way in which he saw the world had changed, his bone structure had become heavier and as far as he could tell he was using more of his brain. All of which had HURT LIKE HELL. Luckily, recently his pain threshold had also grown. So the pain from both the light and the now dying off changes to his body, whilst still present, had become bearable.

He focused out of the dimmed cockpit and looked at the slowly growing shape of the space station. As best he could guess the damn place was made out of other ships. It was a mess to look at. This wasn't his first choice. He'd only had a day with his new craft but at the same time he NEEDED food. He'd managed to find a few things on board he could live without. He hoped to trade those items for others including food. As far as he knew he was stuck out here for an indefinite amount of time. He needed to make a life for himself after all.

He sat up a little straighter in his chair and faced forward. Luckily, his ship board systems would do most of the work. All he had to do was try not to scratch the paintwork.

He directed his ship using the simple control panels in front of him. His course set Xander sat back slightly and watched the hodge podge of ships looming into his vision. From his point of view it was at the same time ugly as sin, and very beautiful. It was like he could see the pulse of life or something... that moved around the station. One end had a very strange looking ship in particular and it fascinated him. For one thing it was 'leashed' to the rest of the station and it seemed to virtually glow with what Xander decided to call bio-electrical energy.

The communications device on his ship came to life and a voice filled his cockpit. Xander winced slightly. "ALERT APPROACHING VEHICLE WHAT IS THE NATURE OF YOUR BUSINESS?"

"Trade." Xander answered simply.

"PROCEED."

The communication fizzled to a close and Xander smirked at the console. "Well, they're all warm and fuzzy." he commented, gaining a bleep from the computer. Xander once again looked at it funny, it had been doing that off and on. It really bugged him. He couldn't tell if it was answering him directly or just tweeting to itself.

It wasn't too long until the main hanger bay of the station appeared and his little pod automatically slipped him into the correct position to just slide into place.

Xander just let the computer do the work. He really didn't want to risk ditching out on the deck if he could at all help it.

The computer touched them down with barely a thump.

Xander smiled to himself and walked to the back of the Pod. "Don't let anyone in." he said, grabbing the pod he paused, "Except me anyway."

The computer chirruped again.

Xander cast one look back at it and then walked down the ramp formed by the rear door.

-xXx-

Xander looked at the man sat across from him. He couldn't help but getting the impression of an ancient reptile on a rock, waiting for its prey. It was in the man’s smile. He was called Mika, just Mika and apparently was the man to see on the station. He in fact was the only one you could trade with.

There was something very gangster about the guy that was making Xander very nervous.

"Welcome young man, how may Mika help you today?" the man said in an oily voice. Xander got even more nervous, in his experience, people talking about themselves in the third person was NEVER a good sign.

"I'm just here to do a little trading." Xander said as pleasantly as possible.

"Really and what does it have that Mika wants?"

'It?' Xander thought to himself. "I have some technology that you may be interested in." Xander said.

"Mika likes technology, your ship perhaps?"

"No" Xander said firmly, "Walking in space isn't easy you know/"

"Mika has a deal for it that it will take." Mika said as if Xander hadn't spoken. "We are a collector of things that interest us. Things such as your ship. You perhaps saw the construction of our station."

Xander blinked at the sudden change in conversation but nodded.

"All are from interesting source. Your ship will make a fine addition."

"My ship isn't for sale." Xander affirmed.

"The ship for its life." Mika said his eyes hard as flint and glittering dangerously. His five bodyguards had their weapons trained on Xander in a blink of an eye.

Xander smiled and raised his hands, then he MOVED, diving for the nearest guard. Suddenly pain shot through his system like a super charged cattle prod.

"Not now!" he groaned dropping to the floor like a stone.

Mika looked down at him with a cruel smile. "Place it in the dungeon. Just in case it has a lock down in place. We'll try to get the code out of it, if he hasn't or we crack it... You know what to do."

One of the guards nodded searched Xander and then with some difficulty managed to haul him up. He glanced at one of his co-workers who took Xander's feet. The two together managed to man handle Xander to the center of the room and drop him down the shaft that had appeared there.

His limp form shot down the tube, picking up speed until it flew out of the exit. He was airborne for a moment before slamming hard into the floor shoulder first.

Two other forms shifted in the darkness and made their way cautiously over to his body.

"I think I should have first choice." one said, a female voice with a hint of an exotic accent.

"Oh really, whatever gave you that idea." the other said. Also female, sounding almost English and highly amused.

"I have been here longest." the first voice said, sounding joking.

"By a Day!"

"It still counts." the more calm voice commented.

"Charming." a wry sounding second voice said.

Xander groaned slightly.

"You'd better be quick. He's waking up." the first voice said.

"We'll split it, straight down the middle. 60/40"

"Oh Ha Ha!"

Xander groaned again and then finally his brain kicked in. He was instantly on his feet and looking around. To the two other occupants in the room, it was pitch black. They had learned to move around by sense of touch alone. To Xander though it was quite a different matter. Yes, for the most part it was dark but as he looked around he was able to make out two distinct forms. Both of which were totally different in their colors. One he could tell was slightly taller than the other. Even crouched down as they were. Both had backed away from him pretty quickly as he stood as well. He hadn't meant to scare them, but he had woken rather suddenly.

Person number one was predominately a pale green glow, with swirls of both electric blue and navy blue with an orange core. The other was a much more complex looking light show. Yellow, Red, Green and even some white mixed in. There was a slight smudge of what Xander could only describe as dirty gray. Which was all very interesting, but he currently had no frame of reference as to what the colors meant. It did at least let him know where they were though.

Which from the way they were looking around, which he could indeed tell as the colors were shaped to their bodies, he had the advantage over them in that regard.

"I'm Xander." he said by way of introduction.

Orange core was the first to speak, "I am Cassiopeia of the Xarians." they said, a female voice is Xander was any judge.

There was a chuckle from the other speaker who from what he could tell was also female. "And you are?" Xander asked pleasantly, turning to face her. She was vaguely facing him, using his voice to 'zero' in. Xander narrowed his eyes at her, it looked almost like she was getting ready to jump him. He moved silently away as she answered.

"My name is Vala Mal Doran." she said, leaping as she did so. There was always the outside chance that he had something worth stealing after all. Perhaps even a way out of this damn cell. She slammed into the opposite wall with a dull clang.

A chuckle came from the darkness well to her left. "That wasn't very nice." Xander remarked wryly.

"Well, A girls got to do what a girl got to do to survive." Vala replied.

"So what are you guys in for then?" Xander said making sure to keep himself moving silently around. He didn't want her to try again after all.

"The owner of this establishment insists I marry him." Vala told him.

Xander chuckled again, "What did you do to gain that erh... honor"

"Some confusion about ownership of some cargo. He offered me a deal that I took. But caught me trying to ... break the engagement."

"And you... Cassiopeia wasn't it?"

"Yes it was. He anticipated she might refuse his advances so he sent for me."

"Why?"

"Because I'm a witch, he wanted me to cast a spell."

"It appears that Mika has become somewhat obsessed with little old me."

Xander was smiling. He had a feeling he'd like Vala. "So you didn't cast the spell I take it?"

"It is against my order's most strict rules." Cassiopeia told him. Her voice took on a curious tone, "You do not seem surprised that I am a witch."

"Been there, threw away the tee shirt."

"Tee shirt?" they asked together.

Xander rolled his eyes, catching sight of something as he did so. "Just as a matter of interest, why haven't you escaped?"

"I have tried. Mika's security is rather good I'll give him that."

"I can not perform a spell to save myself. Our craft is for others to gain from not ourselves."

"Hmm. Yes that sounds familiar." Xander said wryly. He suddenly jumped straight up as high as he could and snagged the lip of the chute he'd arrived from. He curled himself round it and then inside of it.

"What ARE you doing?" Vala demanded.

"Getting out of here." Xander said as if it were obvious.

"Wait, take me with you." she said, suddenly taking on a seductive tone. "I'll make it worth your while."

Xander laughed, "This from the woman that just tried to get the jump on me." he said. "Besides, I have every intention of taking you both with me. He said, catching the top lip of the shaft and pushing himself back out. Then caught his feet on the lower lip and managed to squash himself into a crawling position and began to make his way up the vent.

"Wait, how?"

"I'll be back." Xander told her, "I promise."

"Oh great!" Vala commented throwing her hands in the air.

"He speaks the truth." Cassiopeia commented with certainty.

"Oh really, well thank you VERY much for your input." Vala said scathingly.

Xander just smiled and continued up the vent.

-xXx-

In the quietness of Mika's empty office the doors to the chute suddenly exploded upwards and Xander hit them with all his might, which was shortly followed by Xander himself appearing out of the shaft like the wrath of the gods, deflating slightly when no one was to be found.

"huh." he mumbled softly and wandered over to a large bank of monitors, toggling them all on.

A smile crossed his face as he watched Mika and his merry band of soldiers throwing everything they had it his little pod and having NO luck.

He riffled through the alien looking desk that Mika had been sat at and an even bigger smile appeared on his face. He pulled out the large pistol like gun and checked it over. It looked to work the way a good old 45 might, it was larger though. He had to wonder what sort of ammunition it took, but he could find no visible means of changing a clip.

He HATED to go into a combat situation with an unknown weapon, but it looked like he had little choice. He looked back at his pod ship. The ship had seemed to be linked to him since he had found it. 'I wonder...' Xander thought to himself. Then concentrated.

He beamed as it lifted off of the deck and he 'felt' a voice in the back of his mind. He commanded his ship to make an exit as he began to make a mental map from the monitors. After a few moments study he was ready.

The entire station suddenly shook as his pod carried out his command. Unfortunately not taking Mika out. He'd backed off as soon as it had lifted off. So only the guards still in the hanger bay had been taken out.

Xander looked back at his stolen weapon one more time and then with a deep breath walked towards the door.

Just as he reached the door it swung back to emit five angry looking guards with Mika just behind them.

Xander didn't pause, and this time. Mind numbing pain didn't follow. He moved like a snake, punching a guard hard in the nose with an up thrust. Then sent a side thrust kick into another's stomach sending him sprawling into a second guard. As they untangled themselves Xander aimed with his pistol and pulled the trigger in four shots, with a strange fizzled bang, shots of energy spat from the gun and slammed into the four guards killing them instantly.

Mika and Xander looked at each other from a distance of no less than 6 foot. Mika snarling, and Xander smiling.

Then Mika turned tail and ran hell for leather down the corridor. He managed to get round a bend just as Xander left the room. Several more guards fired at his position, forcing him to duck back into the room for a moment. Xander leaned back against the wall, then risked a quick look.

Then he took a deep breath and jumped into the corridor. His pistol barked death twice, sending the guards back into cover. Then Xander backed quickly down the corridor, shooting as he did. He checked behind him the whole way. Though he seemed to be backing AWAY from the enemy at this point.

Several guards appeared in front of him and he shot at them with deadly accuracy, catching one in the head. As their partner's head exploded into a gore laced mess the other guards ducked back to cover.

Xander narrowed his eyes, popped off two more shots for safety. Then praying he wouldn't run out of energy anytime soon, turned tail and bolted down the corridor. He was on his way to the holding cell he'd been in. He had a promise to keep, and he always tried to keep his promises.

-xXx-

"Did you hear that?" Vala asked.

"Yes; I did." Cassiopeia said smugly.

Bang, thump, muffled thud. Zap, Zap, thud. Hiss.

A crack of light appeared in the pitch black room. Both the occupants shielded their eyes against the light. They had both been down in the darkness for some time. The light was very painful to them after all that time. Then the doorway was swung fully open, forcing them both into the shadows.

"I know it hurts." Xander said his voice calm, "But we really..." he was cut off as he had to duck a shot. He turned and fired off a shot down the corridor, it was followed by a scream. "Need to get moving." he continued still calmly.

The two women looked at each other. Now it was light Xander was able to take them both in. Orange core Cassiopeia was in fact blue skinned with bright red hair and a slight bone ridge by her bright yellow eyes. All in all it was a shock, but a strangely attractive look. Add to that her somewhat lithe body and threadbare clothes and she was pretty drool worthy for an alien. The first one Xander had ever met in fact.

Vala was something different though. She was obviously human, pale but with black hair, two shocks of white in it. She was dressed in what could only be described as a leather cat suit that did things to her cleavage and her somewhat athletic curves. Even though she was dirty as hell she was still drop dead gorgeous.

"Ladies?" Xander prompted as they blinked at him. "We really do need to get out of here."

The two females then shared a quick look and then nodded at each other. They had built up a strange semi friendship in the time they had spent together. So it was by mutual agreement that they followed Xander out of the cell and into the light.

It blinded them for a moment, but Xander was herding them effectively until their own sight came back into play. Every so often Xander had to force them back and pop off a couple of shots, keeping the guards at bay.

Around them the base was in turmoil. Alarms were blaring, lights were flashing and in general the station was falling apart. Building a station out of ships might seem like a good idea, until you realized that you really needed better glue than you had used. Then, strangely it wasn't as much fun.

Xander lead them down an endless procession of corridors and access tunnels until they came against a solid wall.

"Oh shit" Xander commented.

"That doesn't sound good." Vala commented with no sign of her inner worry.

Xander turned and pulled the two women behind him as guards arrived and started to rain fire down on their position.

"SHIT!" Xander repeated.

"What is the matte.r" Cassiopeia's calm voice asked.

"That is NOT supposed to be there." he told her. He turned back to look at the strange looking wall. There was something... off about that wall.

"There is a great creature nearby." Cassiopeia said airily.

"Hmmm" Xander said, his mind running over where he may have gone wrong. He idly hooked his arm around the corner of the wall and fired off a few shots. There was a couple of screams as his blind shots hit.

Xander tossed the gun to Cassiopeia, "Here" he said, "Cover me."

Cassiopeia looked at the pistol with extreme distaste and held it between thumb and forefinger. Vala rolled her eyes and snatched what she knew to be a phased plasma pistol from her companion. "Let me." she said, taking a look round the corner before taking a few shots.

Xander walked over to the wall and studied it in great detail. Finally he reached out and felt it. The first thing he noticed was how warm it felt, and then how strangely non-metallic it felt, despite the way it looked. Then he got the shock of his life, which included falling through a worm hole.

It wasn't like any intelligence he'd encountered but yes, this ship was alive, sentient and perhaps most importantly it was trying to communicate with him. The only way it knew how, telepathically.

Xander reached out to the source of the mental voice and began to try to respond.

Huge, it was huge. The mind he touched was massive. 'The brain itself must be the size of the ship' he decided. However, the only way he could describe the intelligence he'd touched was something like a VERY intelligent, but over excited puppy. It wanted to please, very much so. Yet there was eons of knowledge there as well. Billions of co-ordinates, and the information flowed through his brain, showing him a sensory perception of space on a scale that baffled him. The way this ship looked at space was just amazing. It was also painfully lonely. So much so that Xander was actually crying and he didn't even realize. Just swept up by the moment of emotional feeling and content of the contact that it stirred within him

He soothed and whispered to her. It was indefinably female, it was in the very way she thought, the maternal instincts within her about him, about her passenger. The feeling that she would actually sacrifice herself to make sure HE survived.

He was yet to go aboard and she cared that much about a possible passenger.

Xander forced his mind to work with him and talked to the intelligent ship, the space faring creature. He asked her why she was alone, a rush of images assaulted him.

Others like her, most of them Immense and larger even than her. Rushing her, hurting her, the pain, the PAIN. Xander sank to his knees as it threatened to overwhelm him. He struggled to keep going though. She showed him the things they said to her, a language so complex that even his newly acquired talent for languages had trouble making out.

The long and the short of it was though, she was an outcast. A Freak of nature to them. There was something about her they didn't like. Something that made her a threat to their very species. Xander didn't know what. She wasn't showing him that. She was scared, scared that he too would shun her. She wanted to be a home; it was the overriding instinct of all her kind. To be shelter, to be home to their passengers. She had been denied that, then when she had tried to argue against it they had tried to kill her. She had panicked and run away.

'Holy Hannah' Xander breathed as he realized something, she had JUMPED to here from VERY far away. He was shown that it wasn't supposed to be possible for her to do that, but it was just a part of her. That she was so very tired though, it had almost killed her. Then she had been running as the various people had tried to kill her, thinking her prey. Even the more advanced races hadn't realized what she truly was. Apparently there WERE natural space creatures, rare, huge and apparently fun to hunt from what Xander could gather. He was shown meeting after meeting. He saw the last from her point of view, watched as a pyramid like ship chased her into an asteroid field. Five other's surrounding her. Then she'd jumped again, only this time it had almost killed her. She was just so very tired.

Then he saw her cruel capture by Mika and his band of pirates. Saw her leashed to the rest of the station. Felt her pain as they tried to force their way in.

He soothed her with his emotions, knowing words wouldn't make much sense to her until he learned to speak to her properly. He asked if she wanted to be there.

She replied very much that she did NOT.

Xander asked if she could release herself.

Apparently she had tried and failed.

Xander's eyes grew hard as he reached out to his pod and commanded it to his will. He asked if she would like to go with them.

She asked if they needed a home.

He told her that HE did, but he couldn't speak for his companions.

Meanwhile Cassiopeia watched in rapt awe while Vala kept on protecting their position. Only an occasional glance backwards showing she had any idea something was amiss. He hadn't moved since he had put his hand in place.

The doorway suddenly slid open under Xander's hand. His eyes snapping open. "In here quick" he commanded.

Vala fired off a few suppression shots and followed her two current companions into another section of the station. Or so she assumed. She was quick dissuaded from that point of view. This was totally unlike the rest of the station. Where the station, mixture it was, was metallic, technological. This had a much more organic look and feel to it.

Xander reached for the wall again, his eyes fluttering to a close.

Vala looked at Cassiopeia, "What is he doing?"

Cassiopeia looked at her with wide yellow eyes, "We are in a great creature, inside another living being. So very sad, strong and scared." she said with green tears appearing in her eyes.

Vala rolled her eyes and looked around, "Could do with a change of décor." she commented.

The door they had just used rolled back to a close.

Xander soothed the ship as his pod came about and lined up with the access corridor. A flash of a yellow squid looking weapon and the corridor was blown away. He then commanded it to blow away the leash around the creature they were on. He made sure the computer was VERY accurate with its shooting and the 'load' of the weapon.

The ship shuddered as the resulting shot gave it freedom for the first time in close to two years. Then Xander asked her if his pod could also come aboard.

She replied that it could and that she'd bring it in. She said something about a whip, but Xander had to assume that it wasn't as bad as it sounded.

Once the pod was aboard he urged her to run for it.

There was a feeling of building power inside the ship.

On the outside, the three tentacle looking appendages slowly spread apart, white energy crackling between them as they did so. Then the vessel itself started to glow with light. Then in a rush she was gone. Leaving the ships that had scrambled to fire on her in a confused rabble even as the station behind them continued to disintegrate.

-xXx-

Instantaneously several sectors away the space born creature suddenly appeared from no where and came to a full stop. Inside its bows Xander was still standing exactly where he had been his eyes closed and breathing slow.

"What was THAT?" Vala demanded to know.

Cassiopeia ducked her head which was her people’s version of a shrug. She had no idea what it had been but it had certainly been very impressive.

Xander's eyes snapped open, startling them both. "That apparently was something called a Starburst. Something Nola is particularly good at it seems." he said with a half smile. He shook himself slightly. "That was ... well Wow pretty much covers it." he said. Then looked at Vala and held out his hand.

"What?" she asked with a beaming smile.

"My weapon?"

"Men, it's always about your weapons."

Xander smiled, "I'd really like it back." he said calmly.

"I dropped it." she told him.

"Then why are you holding it behind your back?" Xander asked.

Vala sighed, "Fine." she said tossing it to him with bad grace.

Xander looked around, "We need to go to my pod. Get something to eat."

"You have food?" the two women asked their eyes lighting up. In Cassiopeia's case literally.

"If you can call it that. I have some rations I'd be willing to share." Xander said. He briefly touched the wall and then set off obviously with a direction in mind.

They pretty much had no choice but to follow him.

-xXx-

"You know I'm not even sure I'd classify this as food" Vala griped as she wolfed down the bread like ration despite her complaints.

"Trust me, it's got what you need. Even if it does taste like tree bark." Xander replied, munching down on his rations.

Cassiopeia on the other hand was showing every sign of enjoying hers greatly. A quick check of the database and a scan had shown she was also compatible with the nutrients contained. However, obviously, she had a VERY different sense of taste.

Vala looked around the pod they were sat in with avaricious intent. "This is quite an interesting ship." she said, her voice not betraying the wealth she could see in every corner of its cramped conditions.

Xander cocked and eyebrow at her, "It's mine." he told her firmly, "and what's more it only works for me."

"This is a vessel of the Ancients." Cassiopeia told him with a surprised look on her normally serene face. "Yet you say it will operate for you."

Xander nodded at her, "Yep. Weird huh. It's done some whacky shit to me so far though. I think it made it so I COULD be the pilot. I have no idea why though."

"The ancients were very wise." Cassiopeia told him.

"They were arrogant." Vala corrected, "Clever though, after all they DID build the gate system."

"Gate system?" Xander asked. Remembering the odd stone ring on the planet he'd shown up on. It had been a busy couple of days so far.

Vala looked at him with disbelief written on her face. "You know how to operate one of the ancient’s ships but don't know about the gates. What planet are you from?"

"Earth?"

Vala paused and shrugged, "Never heard of it, must be rather backwards if you don't even know what the Chappa'ai is."

"A chap what?"

"The gates, are called Chappa'ai." Cassiopeia told him, "They are mostly controlled by a race of beings called the Goa'uld."

"From the way you said that, I'm guessing not nice guys."

"They like to be worshiped as gods. Not that it's such a bad thing" Vala said with a smirk. "Being worshiped as a goddess would always be interesting I would imagine."

"Uh huh" Xander said with a smirk. He finished his rations and brushed off his hands, "We all done?"

He got nods in reply.

"Come on Nola has just been pumping atmosphere into the bridge for us."

"Nola?" Vala asked.

"The ship." Xander said by way of answer and shooed her out of his pod. He looked back at it narrowed his eyes at it. A shield jumped up around it. He turned to face Vala and smirked at her. "Wow, how about that, a car alarm too."

She narrowed her eyes at him.

-xXx-

The 'bridge' was as stunning as the rest of Nola most of the entire front section was taken up with the vista of space, there were a few chairs around, and a couple of consoles that looked like they had been grown straight out of the floor.

The thought that there were ships out there that had been 'grown' astounded Xander. He was still trying to keep up with all that had happened to him in the last 48 hours. Somehow though, he WAS coping, in fact it was kind of fun. It was a rush and a challenge that he didn't think he'd feel again, and that feeling had only been such a short time ago. It brought to mind the phrase about be careful what you wished for. He above all should know the validity of that one. His mind skittered around the thoughts of Anya's betrayal of him. That was one thing he couldn't face just yet. He WOULD though. He really needed to think about some of the things she had said to him. He had a feeling she'd said more than she had been meant to.

Xander walked to the front and laid a hand on a clear section of the hull, resting his hand on Nola's inner skin. As he did so a thousand thoughts hit him in one go. Somehow he managed to work his way through them, separating out the thread he needed and following it.

He talked back to her once more and they began to learn about each other.

Vala turned to Cassiopeia, "Now what?" she asked.

Cassiopeia dropped into Indian position on the floor and laid her hands palm up on her knees, her eyes fluttering closed.

"Oh lovely." Vala said throwing her hands up in the air. She looked around for a moment then dropped down beside Cassiopeia. Assuming the same position as the alien. Her eyes fluttered closed and she relaxed.

After 30 seconds, she opened an eye, "This is boring." she said out of the corner of her mouth.

One of Cassiopeia's eyes flickered open, its glowing yellow iris baleful.

"Sorry." Vala said, going back to her meditation.

30 Seconds later, "Are we done yet?"

Cassiopeia opened both eyes and managed to quash the desire to vaporize Vala... Just.

-xXx-

Xander's eyes snapped open two hours later and he turned around. Vala was lying on her back fast asleep and Cassiopeia was still in the same Indian position.

"Cassiopeia?" he asked in a low voice, so as not to disturb the resting Vala.

"Yes Xander?" the calm serene voice of Cassiopeia answered. Her eyes though were still closed though and her breathing was virtually nonexistent.

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"I am well, thanks be to you" she replied, her eyes finally fluttering open. She fixed him with her yellow gaze. It was almost disconcerting, but Xander had faced worse. There was none of the predatory look to her eyes like there was a vampires, despite the similar color. Hers were vibrant in color tone and warm in expression.

"I try to always keep my promises. Besides I had the feeling you didn't want to be there."

"I did no.t" she replied simply.

"Cool, but now what?" he asked.

"I do not understand."

"Nola, well we..." Xander paused and began again. "Nola and I would like to extend an invitation for you, both of you actually, to stay. Here aboard Nola. She lives to be a home and frankly I'm... a little lost out here."

Cassiopeia continued to look at him for a long moment before inclining her head slightly, "I would be honored. Thank Nola for me, and I thank you once again."

"It's nothing really." Xander said, and brushed the hull, passing on the message.

"That is a remarkable skill, you a human are you not?"

"I am."

"I have not known any other human that could converse in such a way."

"According to my DNA I'm not like other humans anymore." He smiled, "Nola and I share that oddity actually."

"She also is unique among her kind. I have not heard of any being like her."

"She is from WAY over that way" Xander said waving off behind them. "Same galaxy, different leg entirely. Oh and yes, there are many like her, but she is also unique. Not that I'd say I was unique exactly."

An unblinking look was all the reply he got for several long moments of silence. Xander had never been good at long silences, strangely with Cassiopeia they seemed almost.. comfortable.

"We will need supplies."

Vala sat up in an impressive display of abdominal muscle control, "I can help you there!" she said with a beaming smile.

Xander gave her a calculating look. So far he wasn't sure he'd trust her as far as he could throw her. She seemed great, but had a 'One for all, more for me' type of personality.

"So do you want to stay aboard?" he asked her, keeping his voice neutral.

Vala looked at the strange human in front of her. Her mind whirring along rapidly. Of late she had made more enemies than friends, ripped off an entire planet and generally make an annoyance of herself. Perhaps laying low wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Especially if she could get a change to grab that pod. Security systems were made to be broken after all. It couldn't be that hard to crack surely. Perhaps, at some point, she could 'convince' him to let her take it out. A ship of the Ancients would draw a huge price and she had just the buyer who would LOVE to get his hands on it. If he didn't kill her first of course.

"Yes I think I rather would." she said with a girlish smile.

Xander smiled back at her. He was right, he did like her. Trust her on the other hand...

Three Days Later, In Orbit Around Arbosia

"Like any other backwater world this planet is run by the pirates and thieves." Vala told them brightly. "They are about as dishonest as they come, but in a very honest way. They're not like Mika. We make a deal with them, they'll keep it." She paused, "If only we had something to deal WITH," she said.

Xander smiled at her and held up a vial, "How about this" he said.

"Well it's very pretty, but what is it?"

"Translator Microbes."

"I see, and they are?"

"Basically, inject some of these babies into your system and they swim up to your brain stem, sit their and act as the ultimate translator. Any language, they'll translate it. It's that simple."

Vala's eyes lit up. The commercial value of these babies was astounding.

"This should get us just about anything we want, right?"

"Where did you get those from?" Vala asked.

Xander smiled that damned annoying smile. It was the one Vala had come to hate in the three short days since being thrown together with him. It was the, 'I am so not telling you smile'. So that meant it was either from his pod or Nola. She had no idea which, didn't really matter. What mattered to her was her cut. "Take a fair percent for yourself AND Cassi. The rest split between food stores and me and Nola." Xander said preempting her request.

"You're trusting me?" Vala asked, almost shocked.

"Are you worthy?"

"Of course!" she said with a bright smile.

So Xander knew automatically she was going to rip them off. He didn't much care as long as she didn't run off with everything. "Well there's plenty more of these babies, so we should be set for trade just about anywhere." he said appealing to her avaricious side.

Vala's eyes were almost glowing. She couldn't just run off now. That didn't mean she couldn't seriously skim off the top though. She beamed at him and skipped over, taking the vial from his hands. "One day I'll learn all your secrets." she said, standing very close to him with a flirtatious expression on her face.

Xander looked down at her and smiled, "No... You really won't."

Vala just smiled in return and sauntered off towards the hanger bay. She'd been quite annoyed to find that there were other pods available. So she wouldn't be able to use Xander's pod for this trip.

Once she had left Cassiopeia walked in the room, "You realize she will rob us blind given the chance?"

"Yep." Xander replied with a smile.

"Do not be beguiled by her looks Xander."

"She's hot, but honestly something tells me that her heart is actually in the right place."

"For what?"

Xander smirked, "A human, but I was being more metaphoric than that."

Cassiopeia nodded, understanding what he meant now. "As a matter of interest...."

"Nola makes them." Xander answered her unanswered question.

"That was trusting of you. I have known Vala longer than you. I may pass on this secret."

"For one thing, I don't think you will." Xander said smiling, "Secondly Nola is unlikely to tell you WHERE she makes them."

Cassiopeia laughed slightly drawing a look and a smile from Xander. That was possibly the first time he'd made her laugh. He vowed it would not be the last. She had a nice laugh.

"Do you think she will return?" Xander asked.

"I do. You were most intelligent when you told her there were more microbes available."

Xander smiled, "Cassi; That's the first time I've been called intelligent." he commented.

Cassiopeia inclined her head slightly, her version of a shrug. "I merely state what I observe."

Xander smiled at her, "Thanks. Now, let me show you something seriously cool."

"Do I need warmer clothing, because currently this is all I have?"

Xander frowned until his mind caught up with his words, then he laughed, "No; just follow me."

-xXx-

"What is this place?" Cassi asked in awe looking around the huge room with glowing yellow eyes. It was oval in shape and as they passed over the walkway she was able to see it sank down a great many levels.

"Apparently, this is a central nexus. The place that a well it translates basically as 'pilot' would be. Notice the hole is closed over?"

Cassi nodded.

"It's supposed to be open. Normally, while Leviathans, the name for the race Nola belongs to, can survive without a pilot, they can't navigate. Nola, on the other hand, can. So doesn't need a pilot. The best I can tell she considers the others who DO need a pilot to be urh... idiots."

"I can imagine. From what you have told us of her past. She must not have any love for those of her species who shunned her so." Cassi said, laying a gentle hand on the odd podium like structure which would normally be a pilot’s home.

"No." Xander said his voice grim.

"What do you see." Cassi asked, "When you converse with Nola?"

Xander paused, collecting his thoughts. As he did so, Cassi hoped backwards and sat on the podium area, balancing herself gracefully. Xander tried not to notice.

"It's almost impossible to describe." he said, "There's images, sensory data, co-ordinates, sounds, emotions all in a jumble. Not only that, but there are thousands of different threads all at the same time. She thinks of a scale of multiplicity that is awesome. Just finding the right thread takes me a while." he explained, his eyes now far away. "It's... way out of my league to be honest."

"The goddess doesn't give to those who can not deal with her gift."

"You know;" Xander began, "You remind me of a witch on earth."

"You have your own witches on earth?" Cassi said her normally calm voice quite excited.

"Yes, I have two very close friends who are witches" Xander told her.

"Please, describe them to me."

Xander smiled and began to regale her with tales of Willow and Tara.
Two Hours Later.

"Will you try to converse with me?" Cassiopeia asked, a slight smile on her face.

"Haven't we been doing that for the last... long time."

"I meant the way you converse with Nola." Cassi explained.

Xander opened his mouth to reply in a negative and then thought twice about it. Why not, he did think it was just something he could do with Nola, but without experimenting a bit...

"Sure." he said, then blushed slightly. "I think it'll have to be skin to skin though."

Cassi nodded, "My people believe that we commune via our hearts."

Xander eyed her bared cleavage apprehensively, "ah okay." Xander said, then placed the flat of his palm there.

Cassiopeia smiled softly, "My people heart is not there" she told him, then grabbed his hand and moved it down and to the right."

Xander's eyes shot open as his hand curled around her breast. "ah, ah, ah" he stammered almost glowing red.

"Well I pop out for a bit and miss all the fun it seems." a highly amused sounding voice said.

Xander's eyes shot over to Vala and then back to Cassiopeia, who was looking at him with a totally innocent expression. He gulped. "Ah, ah, ah I. I I I"

Vala ... giggled.

Xander snatched his hand back, almost ripping off Cassiopeia's dress in the process. "Ah" he mouthed and then basically made a run for it.

"Humans are strange creatures." Cassiopeia commented once he was gone. "What was the matter?"

Vala smirked at her, "Humans." she began, trying not to laugh, "Are touchy about certain areas of the body."

"So you would have found it... unpleasant if Xander had touched you in that way?"

Vala smiled broadly, "I very much doubt that, but with humans it normally leads to... sex."

Cassiopeia's entire body turned violet for a moment, "Oh." she said, "Oh."

Vala laughed so hard she nearly fell over.

-xXx-

Xander looked up from manifest that Vala had made of her cargo. He tried to smile with the least amount of embarrassment as he could. He realized that Cassiopeia wasn't human, and as such had a totally different culture. He should've known that and had been berating himself about it ever since. But oh god she was ... nicely formed. He was also mortified that because of that fact he'd not moved his hand sooner.

"Xander" Cassiopeia began, "I would like to apologize."

"NO!" Xander said firmly, "If anyone needs to apologize it should be me. I ... I took advantage of the situation."

"You did?" Cassi asked, a hint of amusement in her tone.

Xander was nodding vigorously, "I should've realized that our cultures would be different, I should've moved my damn hand quicker. I'm sorry."

"Did you KNOW we were different in the way we look at our bodies and where, for instance, I keep my heart?" she asked almost stalking towards him, her eyes starting to glow slightly.

Xander looked down, "No, but..."

"Then you do not need to apologize for a transgression that did not occur." she told him with a warm smile, her eyes dimming. "It was an honest mistake, many... friends make mistakes when they are getting to know each other. Perhaps we can just think of this as one of those times. Forgive each other our mistakes and move on."

Xander looked back up at her with a lopsided smile, "I think I would very much like that Cassi."

She smiled at him again, "I am pleased. Though I would like try it again sometime."

Xander's jaw dropped.

"To converse mind to mind." Cassi said firmly, just a hint of amusement in her expression.

"Of course, knew totally what you meant." Xander told her.

"There." a smarmy voice said from the hanger bay door, "Isn't that all better. Shall we all grope now and make up." Vala said with a cheeky smile.

"I have a feeling she's going to dine on that for some time to come."

"She can eat humor?"

"She can eat shit if she thinks I won't find a way to ... pay her back." Xander said with a dangerous smile.

Vala beamed at him, "I'm coming to expect no less." she indicated the manifest, "Does it meet with your requirements?"

Xander had to admit, she'd got one hell of a price for the microbes, especially considering how much she had no doubt skimmed from the top. "This is great. You've got us a fair bit of shopping too."

The two non earth females looked at him, "Shopping?"

"Two women who don't know what shopping is? I may be in heaven!" Xander commented wryly.

"So, oh great chief, what is next?" Vala asked, after giving him a look askance.

Xander paused for a second, "Well I'm hungry for one. There is a galley. The ship has full atmosphere now and I've assigned us quarters. So how we set ourselves up in our new rooms and then a meeting over dinner?"

His companions nodded their agreement.

"Great, come on then I'll show you to your rooms."

-xXx-

"That wasn't half bad" Xander said with a smile, "At least I can still cook." he laughed, "Even if I don't know what half the ingredients were." he looked at his companions, "Was it okay?"

"Bland." Cassiopeia said her religion forcing her to honesty.

"Ahhh, pass" Vala told him, "But I'm full." she added with a smile.

"Me too." Cassi told him.

Xander frowned slightly, "So not a roaring success then, next time one of you can cook. You can cook right?"

"Yes.""No." they said at the same time.

Xander looked to the yes vote, Cassiopeia, which was no big surprise to him. She was a witch, and brewing potions was very much like cooking really. He was not surprised to find that Vala couldn't either. "In that case I vote you try next."

"Vote?" they asked together, making Xander snort with laughter.

"A vote is a way of running a democracy. A way of running things. We vote and the most votes wins."

"I see." Vala said, her brow twisted, "Odd way of doing things." She was very much of the one woman, one vote that counts view. Which considering her past wasn't out of character for her. Not that her companions had any idea of who, or what she had been.

"We have a similar method on my home world." Cassiopeia told them.

"Great, then let's give it a shot. Raise you hand to vote a yes that Cassi tries cooking next?"

All three put up their hands, "Majority rules, which in this case is all of us" Xander said with a smile. "I think it's the way we should make decisions in general, unless it's crises time. It makes for a better living space if we all at least try to get along. So vote?"

Cassi and Xander raised their hands. Vala rolled her eyes.

"Majority rules again. One against."

"Well this is all very interesting, but when do we get to something important?" Vala asked in an overly ironic tone.

Xander sighed slightly, "I've got no idea what to do next. I don't know anything about being out here, you two have told me a bit but... I'm guessing there is more. I'd also like to get to know you two a bit better."

"I'd say you know Cassiopeia rather well." Vala put in.

Xander valiantly ignored her, "A bit of history and stuff. I'll share if you share kinda thing."

"So..." he said after a moments silence, "Who wants to start?"

Silence was his swift reply. Xander let his head drop on the table.

-xXx-

Vala was awoken by a terrible screaming from just down the hall. Xander had arranged their quarters to be fairly close together. Which she had thought funny, but sort of sweet. He was obviously the sort of person that craved other people around him. She wasn't. She had spent a lot of time alone in the expanse of space and had gotten used to her own company. Not that this particular 'crew' was turning out to be so bad. She had made a killer deal and stashed the lions share already. A few more trips like that and she could retire. She really did have to find out where he got those little creatures from. The scream rent the night again, making her fly out of bed. She had brought them all clothes as part of her little shopping trip and was glad to be once again dressed in cool clean clothing. Sleeping and living in leather for that long had rather put her off the idea for a short while at least. She quickly padded down the hallway to find Cassiopeia already outside of Xander's quarters.

"Oh, hello." Vala said with a gleam in her eye, "Is there something I should know about you and our hot young friend."

Any reply was cut off as the male, as she could now tell, voice screamed again.

"What IS happening?" Vala asked.

Cassiopeia looked at her with green tears in her eyes, "So much pain. I was awake even before he began to scream."

"Why haven't you gone in?" Vala said, making to push past the alien witch.

"We dare not." Cassi said holding her back and nodding towards the bed. Vala's mouth dropped open as she saw Xander thrashing around sending his sheets flying. His entire body was contorted and every single, it seemed, muscle in his body was standing out.

"Well, that's quite the show." Vala said after a moment to compose herself. It was actually quite a show if you ignored the pain it was obviously causing the young human. He was well built with a powerful musculature and from the way he was dressed. She could see just about everything. "What's the matter, do you know?"

"I can not tell. Emotionally I can sense he is in pain. I am not a telepath or healer and as such I can tell you no more."

"Well, what do we do."

"Watch, make sure he does himself no damage."

"Should I stun him?"

Cassi turned to her, "You brought a weapon while you were on planet."

"Of course."

"What?"

"A Zat'nikitel."

Cassi paused, "I am loathe to cause him more pain than he is already..." she broke off as Xander suddenly stopped screaming in agony. His body was still convulsing, but he had apparently lost consciousnesses. "That is a small blessing." she commented.

"At least now we can sleep."

Cassi's eyes pulsed to a glowing yellow for a moment. She realized from Vala's emotional state however, that she was actually worried about the human called Xander. So she let it pass. Perhaps it would be best for at least one of them to sleep. "That is a good idea. I will keep a watch over him though."

"Don't you need to sleep?"

"Not as often as you, and you have worked hard today. You deserve the rest."

Vala blinked at her for a moment before turning silently and heading back to her own quarters.

Cassiopeia watched her go, then turned to watch over her new friend. Her very strange new friend who seemed to be undergoing terrible and drastic changes. She could only hope that they would not last, or permanently scare him.

No humanoid body was designed to take that much pain for any amount of time.

-xXx-

Xander stumbled into the galley the next morning looking like he'd gone three rounds with King Kong.

"Well good morning to you." Vala said brightly.

"What I wouldn't give for a cup of coffee" Xander said grumpily.

Vala took pity on him and pushed over a cup of light red liquid, "Try this." she said her tone surprisingly soft.

Xander smiled weakly at her, and then sipped at the beverage. After a few moments he looked more alert. A few more sips and he was looking almost normal. "This stuff is amazing, what is it?"

"Hoktar nectar" Vala told him, "It's rather good for those mornings when shall we say a busy night was had before hand."

Xander looked at her and smiled, "Thank you." he told her, "This stuff is better than coffee, which does much the same thing on earth."

"This earth of which you speak. Where is it?"

Xander shrugged, "I've no idea."

"Do you know that gate..." she trailed off, "Of course you don't. How is it you came to be out in the galaxy then?"

Xander smiled, "Now THAT is a long story."

"I'm all ears."

Xander looked at her, "Short story form. My friends and I were fighting a goddess."

"So you DO know the Goa'uld."

"No, from what you told me their clever parasites with a good grip of technology. No this was an honest to well god, goddess."

"Really?" Vala said, her tone clearly disbelieving.

"Well, the important thing is. We won, but at the same time we lost. My friend, a ... Warrior she..." Xander broke off and then shook his head, "I'm sorry I..."

Vala cut him off, "I understand" she said, and he actually believed she did. There was OLD pain behind her eyes.

Xander smiled at her softly for a moment before his eyes blazed with sudden panic, and then pain. His hands went to his temples and he dropped to the floor, yelling out in shock. As soon as he touched the deck he connected to Nola.

He saw what she saw for a moment, and knew where the source of the panic come from they were being dragged into the rip in space itself. He shook off the effects of the contact and looked up. "We're in trouble." he said simply and made a run for the hanger bay. Vala was close on his heels. Cassiopeia feeling their distress from her quarters was not long behind them.

Once Xander was there he ran into his pod. It activated from standby as he did so, and at his mental command a series of displays flashed up before him.

"This is ..." he trailed off words failing him for a moment.

"What?" Vala demanded.

"We're being dragged into a wormhole. It just formed in front of us." he looked at his companions. "There's... There's nothing we can do."

"There must be something..." Vala said her face uncharacteristically serious.

"This isn't possible." Xander said, his hands flying across the controls as he manipulated the screens of information. "It's ... It's a stable wormhole. They just DONT form naturally without something causing it." He worked over the displays. Hands now in preference to mental command in his haste. "I don't understand."

"It must be the goddesses will." Cassiopeia stated calmly.

"Screw that!" Xander said his mind racing. "I have a will of my own thanks."

He glanced at his display again, "We're going in..."

Their world went black.

TBC

The End?

You have reached the end of "Timaeus 01 - The Pilot" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 30 Apr 06.

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