Chapter Three: Understanding
"Faith has the Ancient technology activation, or the ATA, gene."
Faith shook her head at Beckett's pronouncement. "Yeah, we knew that much." She pointed around the conference room, at her entire team, plus Weir. "We've known that for a week."
Beckett gave her a look. "You're not listening to me. She
has the gene."
"Oh." McKay sat up. "Oh oh oh!"
"Exactly," Beckett said.
"Gentlemen," Weir interrupted. "Can you please explain to the rest of us what you are talking about?"
"Sorry," Beckett said. He pulled up something on the display screen. It looked like the dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park, a movie Faith had been forced to watch over and over on prison movie night.
Beckett pointed at a piece of the screen. "Here."
Faith blinked. "Here what?"
"The ATA gene is sex-linked." Beckett looked around the room at a number of blank faces, and sighed. "The gene is attached to the sex chromosomes."
"So?" Sheppard asked, slumped down in his chair.
Beckett sighed. "You must have noticed that there are more males on the expedition team with the ATA gene than females."
"We were looking for people in the traditionally male dominated fields," Weir said. "The military, theoretical sciences..." Her voice trailed off as Beckett shook his head.
"Even if that were the case, statistically, we should have located more women with the gene. It should appear in the population like red-green color-blindness, but it doesn't. It's startlingly rare to find a woman with the ATA gene on earth."
"Why?" Ronon asked. If Sheppard looked bored, Ronon was almost comatose with disinterest.
"How much do you know about human genetics?" Beckett asked him.
Teyla sat forward. "I, for one, do not know anything about this topic. The Athosians do not have your advancements in medicine."
"It's simple, really," McKay butted in. "The DNA in each of human cells is composed of the genetic material, half from each parent. Forty-six chromosomes make up that genetic blueprint, if you will." He stood up and began to pace, a sign that the explanation wasn't going to end quickly. Faith wished she'd brought a snack. "Each parent delivers twenty-three chromosomes to the embryo, and those match up with the other set upon fertilization."
He walked quickly to Beckett's computer and pulled up a screen. "The only exception on the matching is with the sex chromosomes, which determine if the offspring will be male or female." As he spoke, he drew a short line, labeled Y, and a longer line, which he identified as X. "If there are two X chromosomes, it's a girl, and if it's XY, it's a boy."
"Yeah, the short and stubby Y chromosome," Faith muttered.
"Very funny," Rodney said. "The ATA gene is recessive, so for--"
"Excuse me," Teyla interrupted. "I am not following this explanation."
"There are two kinds of genes," Sheppard said. "Dominant and recessive. Like eye color. The gene for brown eyes is dominant, while blue eyes are recessive. So if the parents pass on one gene for blue eyes and one for brown eyes, the kid will have brown eyes. The only way to get blue eyes is if both parents pass on a blue-eye gene."
Teyla nodded. "Yes, that makes sense."
Sheppard gave her a half-smile, then noticed McKay was staring at him with wide eyes. "What? It's high school biology."
"True," McKay had to admit. "But as I was saying, that sort of expression doesn't happen on the X and Y chromosomes."
"Short and stubby," Faith said again, smiling sweetly at Rodney's glare.
"If a recessive gene is on the X chromosome, then males only need their mother to pass the gene along." Beckett pointed at Sheppard. "Since both the Colonel and I have the gene, that means our mothers had the gene."
"Hey, wait," Faith said. "So that means that for me to have the gene, then both my mom and dad had it?"
"About the only thing he did give me," Faith said under her breath. "Anyway, so what? I guess that means there's more likely to be guys with this AT-whatever gene, right?"
"Exactly," Beckett said. "But as we said before, even taking into account the genetic rarity, statistically we should have found more women with the ATA gene."
"But instead..." Weir frowned, tapping her pen against the table. "We only found Simpson."
"No, we only brought Simpson," Beckett corrected. "Another woman involved with the Atlantis project in the early stages tested positive for the ATA gene, but she backed out before the expedition got off the ground. She never even visited the Antarctic site." He pulled up a picture on the screen. "Pamela Soon, a twenty-five-year-old microbiologist in Australia, has the gene, but didn't come with us."
Beckett kept talking, but his voice seemed curiously far away as Faith struggled not to react, not to let anyone see what she was thinking.
She'd been on the trip to Australia with Willow and Kennedy to meet Pamela Soon, a Potential who had been activated into a Slayer by Willow's spell to defeat the First. Faith never really felt comfortable around Pamela. The woman had been too smart, too open. Faith hadn't trusted her, mainly because she was such an open book. But in the end, Pamela had agreed to start Slayer training. Faith remembered her saying something about wanting to make sure she made a difference, not wasting her life chasing dreams.
Pamela had been chasing Atlantis.What's the chance that both me and Pam just have this gene as a coincidence?
Faith thought. Her stomach churned as her whole world flipped upside down. It has to be a coincidence. It can't have anything to do with the fact that we're both Slayers.
Faith had once asked her first Watcher what made her the Slayer, why she had been chosen. Her watcher had believed it was magic, that somehow the magic knew Faith was worthy. For years, with all the bullshit that had happened, Faith had clung to that simple declaration. She'd had to believe she was worthy, because nothing else would have gotten her through.
But if her growing suspicions were right, it wasn't magic at all. She wasn't chosen because she was worthy, or because she was special. She just had some freaky genes in her blood, something strange to set her apart from everyone else.
She wasn't special after all.
With a start, Faith pulled herself back to the meeting. "Huh?"
Weir smiled at her. "I realize this is a lot to take in. I asked if you would be willing to try out the rest of the technology in the city that require the ATA gene."
"Yeah, I guess," Faith said, although she had no idea what that would entail. "I won't break anything, right?"
Beckett grinned at her. "If I can't break it, you can't." His smile faded slightly. "Are you all right?"
Oh, great. She must have looked as shell-shocked as she felt. She made an effort to smile. "Yeah, peachy. Look, I'm not one for this science crap-- stuff. Can I bail?"
"Of course," Weir said. Before she had finished the words, Faith was up and out of the room like a shot.
Her burst of speed only lasted a minute, which got her as far as the Gateroom She sank down onto the top step in the Gate atrium, staring numbly at the Stargate.
This genetic thing didn't make any fucking sense. If she was right, and all the Potentials and Slayers had the same genes, then what made her a Slayer when Kendra died? How the hell could a little gene know when the other Slayer died, and make a Potential into a Slayer? Why only one at a time?
She tried to tell herself she was probably freaking out over nothing. If both Faith and Pamela Soon had the same rare gene, it was probably a coincidence. That the Atlantis team hadn't found any other women with the ATA gene probably had nothing to do with the fact that Earth was now awash in Slayers.
Well, up to a certain age. Willow's spell had activated the young Potentials. They hadn't found any new Slayers older than thirty, and had been hard-pressed to track down any Potentials older than that. Giles hadn't been surprised, talking something about how Potentials usually ended up in high-risk jobs anyway. Many of them had been coming to sticky ends for centuries.
Faith needed to go have a talk with this Dr. Simpson lady, see what her deal was, if she'd been having any crazy dreams for the past few years, if she might have been a Potential.What the fuck am I doing?
Faith asked herself. I'm acting like this gene thing is what's making me the Slayer, what makes us all Slayers. How can--
She looked up to see Radek Zelenka standing on the step beside her. "Radek, hey. Dobrý den
He couldn't help smiling at her attempt at speaking Czech. "You don't look so good."
"Charmer," Faith muttered as Radek sat beside her. She tried to pull herself together. Radek was way older than her, all smart and stuttering, but he talked to Faith like she was just as smart as he was. They were friends now, and the last thing Faith wanted was to look weak in front of him. "McKay and Sheppard were doing their Pinky and the Brain impressions."
Radek laughed. "But who was who?"
"Yeah." Faith rested her elbows on her knees, staring at the Gate.
"Are you feeling better?"
"I need to stop getting impaled, but yeah." Faith jerked her thumb in the direction of the conference room. "Shepp's still supposed to be taking it easy."
"Broken ribs are nothing small," Radek said. "But that is too bad, I need him to look at something."
Faith looked at the small object in Radek's hands. It was smooth and metallic, about the size of her outstretched hand, with a groove on one side. "That thing? What is it?"
"That I do not know." Radek handed it to Faith. "We found a whole room of these on the North pier, but none of my team can get them to work. I thought, if they are activated by the gene..."
Radek's voice trailed off as Faith settled the device against her palm, causing it to light up.
The moment it touched her skin, the device, about the length of her hand and almost as thin, began to glow. Her fingers slid around it possessively, even as her breath caught in her throat.
It felt good in her hand. It felt powerful.
It felt like the fucking Scythe back on earth.
"It works," Radek said, sounding surprised. "Do you know what it is?"
Faith lifted her hand and aimed the device at the Stargate. The metal pulsed like a heart in her hand. She knew she could fire it, cut a hole in the far wall with a thought.
After Sunnydale caved in, and they'd gotten the wounded to a hospital, Buffy had told Faith all about finding the Scythe, and Caleb, and the strange lady in the pyramid."It was like beyond weird," Buffy said softly, trying not to wake an exhausted Dawn. She laid the Scythe on the motel bed, tracing the metal of the blade with a finger.
Unable to be so close and not touch, Faith ran her own hand down the shaft. "There was some old lady just waiting around for you to drop by a hidden stone pyramid in the Sunnydale cemetery?"
"Something like that. She said there used to be more of her... them, but by the time I found her she was alone. But she was like really old, and she's the one who went all King Arthur on the Scythe."
Faith picked up her can of soda and knocked it back. Damn, but she wished she'd thought to ask Giles to buy some booze for them; underage drinking be damned. She hadn't been drunk since before she went into the clink.
"The lady said she made the Scythe and hid it from the dudes who made the Slayer. Someone used it to kill the last pure demon on earth then buried it here for me to find."
Faith rolled her eyes, about the only part of her body that didn't hurt. "Great, so instead of letting the Slayer actually use the uber-weapon, they hid it until it was almost too late. Have I told you how sick I am of stupid shit like this?"
"Yeah." Dawn shifted in her sleep, and Buffy paused to brush some hair back on her sister's face. "It's like she was waiting for me to show up and do all the work myself, wanting to show me something but not interfere, not get involved."
"No one's Switzerland," Faith said, standing up. "Not getting involvedi getting involved." Screw this, Faith was going to get a drink. Maybe then she'd be able to forget about Robin almost dying, about the Slayers who did die, that she and Buffy weren't the only Chosen Two to save the world anymore. "Back in a bit, it's too dry in here."
Faith stopped with her hand on the doorknob.
"We did it."
For the first time since this whole mess started, Faith allowed herself a tiny smile. "Yeah, we did."
Shaking herself out of her memories, Faith said, "Hey, Radek, McKay told me these Ancients, they could, like, Ascend, right?" The man nodded. "So they could live a long time?"
"Yes, once Ascended. They are a much older race than humans. They first left earth over five million years ago, no one knows why."
"What does that mean, Ascended? Can they change things? Interfere in people's lives?"
"They are not allowed to interfere," Radek said carefully. "The ones who do are banished."
"What, like jail?"
"The one we met was condemned to stay on a planet forever." He eyed Faith's trembling hand. "Are you going to be all right? Should I get Dr. Beckett?"Yeah, get him out here to tell me that some goddamned Ancient wasn't the one who made the Scythe and who made all us little girls into Slayers.
Faith set the hand weapon down carefully, relieved beyond words when the lights faded back into the metal. "You better lock those things up," she said when her heartbeat stopped choking her, ignoring Radek's question. "They might be dangerous."
"Is it a weapon?" Radek asked, turning over in his hands again.
"Lock them up tight," Faith repeated. "Until Shepp gets a go at them."
Radek touched her arm, which startled her enough into turning around. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No. Ja... Ja chodit po tenkém lede
, it's not good."
Radek smiled. "It will be."
"You don't know that."
"I do. Things have to be." He stood up. "I will go put these away until I can get a moment of Colonel Sheppard's time. Oh, and the Daedalus
is about to leave. If you have any letters or messages for earth, now is the time."
"Maybe I'll do that," Faith said. "Dekuji.
Faith's hand tingled, the feel of the weapon in her mind like a brand, so like the Scythe. All the doubts in her mind about the gene and Slayers had been blown away when she wrapped her fingers around the little weapon.
This was fucking unbelievable.~~~Buffy,
Hey. Still hanging out. They're letting me run around a lot, beating the crap out of the bad guys. Okay, there was only the one bad guy, but it was pretty freaking scary, but I chopped him up good, and with a sword too. I really miss my axe. Oh, and I got to fly one of their aircraft. That was way cool. I didn't break it either.
You ever wonder what made us like we are? Like, why you and why me, the Chosen Two? Why were we the ones, back in the day? Why not any of the wannabes? Hell, what made the wannabes?
How's Pamela Soon? That smart chick from Down Under? Is she still okay with the less brainy side of our job? Does she think she made the right choice in not chasing her dream? I wish I could tell her that dreams are sometimes real.
There's a bunch of really smart people around here, and they keep talking about shit I don't understand, but there's also people I can relate to. People like you guys. Yeah, even someone like Andrew. If Willow and Andrew had a bastard love child, it would be Rodney McKay. It's even stranger to see in person than it sounds.
Not much to say. I hope things are okay back there. I'm bad at this writing shit, so later.
"How's it going?"
Faith didn't look away from the rising Daedalus
, as Sheppard leaned against the balcony railing next to her. "You know."
The moment the Earth ship began its launch sequence, Faith had really wanted to tell them to stop, to climb on board to take back her letter to Buffy. But it was way too late now.
"Zelenka and McKay are still having heart palpitations over the new Ancient weapons," Shepp continued. "I blew up a table with one. It was pretty cool."
"Good for you."
The Colonel watched the Daedalus
fly away until it was a tiny speck in the sky, then he turned to rest his hip against the rail. "Ronon's telling everyone who will listen that you saved my ass last week."
"Ronon talks too much."
Sheppard laughed. "I've never heard it put like that before."
Faith looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "Does it ever bother you that you've got that gene thing?" she asked suddenly. "That you're not in control of your own destiny and all that bullshit?"
"No." Sheppard squinted at her in the sunlight. "So I've got this gene, whatever. It makes me able to fly the Jumper, but it didn't change me. It just lets me do cool shit." He gave her a lopsided grin. "Why, you feeling all weird?"
"I talked to Elizabeth." Sheppard ran his hand through his hair, making it stand on end. "I asked her to put you on my team on a permanent basis. No more of this training crap. She was all for it."
"What?" Faith pushed off the railing. "Are you serious?"
"Yeah, I'm serious. Anyone who pulls it together in the field like that, I want watching my six."
His smile faded, and they looked at each other for a long moment.
"Did you tell Teyla about this?" Faith asked. It was a valid question; the woman hadn't seemed very happy to learn about Faith's past, even though she had been acting okay lately.
"Yeah," Sheppard said. "She said it was a real good idea. She said some other stuff too, about trust and redemption, but she wasn't making a lot of sense and Ronon kept trying to steal my sandwich." He waved his hand. "Whatever."Really?
"What about Ronon?"
"Ronon was looking at me like I was dumb, so I think that means he's okay with it."
"Rodney's always up for someone else with a gun to protect his lily-white ass, you know that."
Faith held her hands up. "I have no idea what color McKay's ass is, but hey, don't ask, don't tell."
"Oh, very funny. Come on, we've got stuff to do."
"I thought Quantum Leap had you off duty until your broken ribs healed up."
"Dr. Beckett. You know, that show, Quantum Leap? There was a guy on it named Dr. Beckett?" Sheppard stared at her blankly. "Where the hell were you in the early nineties?"
"That's classified," Sheppard said. "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."
"Pfht. As if. I could knock your ass into next week even if you weren't all helpless and kitten-like."
Sheppard headed toward the door. "Teyla's been kicking my ass around for years. Putting you in the mix won't bruise my ego too much."
"Maybe I'll tell her what you said about McKay's ass."
"Watch it, or I'm not taking you on your flying lesson."
Faith's mouth dropped open. "A flying lesson? In the Jumper? Like for real?"
"Yes, like for real. I need to take Zelenka to the mainland to test the range on that hand-weapony..." He gestured with his hands. "Thing. Elizabeth doesn't want me blowing a hole in the side of Atlantis."
"We can call it the Pie Plate," Faith suggested. "'Cause it looks like a squished pie plate."
"We can name it later," Sheppard said pointedly.
Faith laughed as she followed Sheppard to the stairs.
She had no idea what it meant in the grand scheme of things, her having the ATA gene and being a Slayer, but Sheppard was right. The gene didn't change what she was. She was a Slayer. She saved the world, that was her thing. And I was Chosen, or whatever it was that picked me as a Slayer back when Kendra died,
Faith reminded herself, watching Sheppard's butt as he climbed up the stairs ahead of her. Maybe these creepy Ancients were tinkering with the system, but we're the ones who kept fighting and kept dying. We're the special ones, not them.
"The most important thing about flying is to keep an idea of your flight path in your head," Sheppard said over his shoulder.
"I thought the most important thing about flying was not crashing and dying," Faith shot back, hoping up the last few steps.
Sheppard sighed. "Okay, fine, the second
most important thing about flying..."the end... for now