Title: Just a Boy and a Girl
Summary: There are some things Willow never told her friends about Career Day…
Disclaimer/Author Notes: First of all, this is dedicated to Dawnlady. Her request for the Summer 2006 Fic-a-thon was:
WANTS: A good believable cossover -humour and plot
LIST THREE BTVS/ATS MAJOR CHARACTERS: Xander, Willow, Dawn
LIST AT LEAST THREE OF THE ABOVE GENRES THAT YOU'D BE TICKLED TO RECEIVE: Anita Blake, HP, Highlander, SG-1,
LIST THREE THINGS YOU WANT IN YOUR FIC: non guilt ridden Spike, some interaction, maybe even love between characters from the different Universes, an annoying character of the crossover to be put down by a scoobie
LIST THREE THINGS YOU DON'T WANT IN YOUR FIC: guilt ridden Spike, Willow/Kennedy, Willow being uber witch, whiny Buffy.
Because Dawnlady didn’t want to see Willow with Kennedy, or Uber-witch Willow, I thought it might be nice to work with Season 2 Willow. That being said, I will be quoting from the episode “What’s My Line”- which was written by Howard Gordon and Marti Knox (quotes in italics). I will also be using characters belonging to the Stargate franchise for my annoying characters put down by a scooby.
“And you’re quite sure they’re the ones we’re looking for?” The man sitting across the desk from Principal Snyder looked through the files in front of him. His face looked mildly amused, but his posture indicated he was anything but relaxed.
“Have I ever let you down?” The principal bared his teeth in what passed for a smile. “Now, about that small finder’s fee?”
“Now, hold on a minute. How do we know they’re the ones?”
“They fit your profile- a distaste of the military establishment, personality tests indicating propensity for loyalty, few social and familial connections, and most importantly IQs over 140. The mayor hand picked them, himself. I’m telling you, they’re an even better find than that Ross girl.”
“I don’t know. They may not have what it takes.” The man closed the top file. He had read all he needed to know, and had to admit that the profiles would intrigue his superiors, but right now his job was all about making this little dog Snyder sweat it out a little.
“That’s not my problem. Your people asked me for names. I provided names. I completed my end of the deal.” Principal Snyder twitched a little, and the man sitting across from him smiled at the nervous gesture.
“I suppose you did. I just want you and your mayor friend to realize that my employers really don’t like to be
“Neither do I. So, I’ll see you next Thursday?”
“Career Day it is.” The man stood up, put on his navy blue hat and picked up the student folders. “Pleasure as always doing business with you.” The man offered his hand.
“Likewise, Colonel Maybourne.”
~*~ “Try the canapé. It’s excellent.” Said the recruiter in the dark blue suit that had just steered Willow away from her conversation with Xander.
“What is all this?” Willow was confused. One minute she was faced with the possibility that maybe she had failed the career aptitude test, and the next she was being offered hors d’oeuvres by a suspicious man.
“You’ve been selected to meet with the head recruiter for the world’s leading technology development organization. The jet was delayed by fog at Seattle, but he should be here any minute. Please make yourself comfortable.”
“But I didn’t even get my test back.”
“The test was irrelevant. We’ve been tracking you for some time.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“I would think so. We’re extremely selective. In fact, only one other Sunnydale student met our criteria.” One of the recruiters nodded towards the couch before the pair of recruiters left the room. Willow sat down on the couch and looked over at the other lucky student. The boy glanced over and did a double take when he realized here was the Eskimo-girl he had been looking for since the International Day Party.
“Canapé?” The boy offered the tray of appetizers that he had just been snacking off of to Willow.
Willow looked skeptically at the appetizer tray. “Um, thank you?”
“You don’t sound so sure.”
“No offense, but I don’t normally take canapés from strangers.”
“Oh.” The boy put down the tray. “Well, that’s easily remedied. I’m Oz, and I recommend the ones with the capers on the top.”
“I’m Willow, Willow Rosenberg, but you can just call me Willow, because calling me Miss Rosenberg would be too formal, and just Rosenberg would be weird, and … capers, you say?” Willow blushed as she realized she had been shaking his hand for longer than the socially acceptable amount of time.
“Yup, capers. Did you know that capers are actually flower buds, and they have to be picked before they blossom in order to keep their flavor?”
“Really?” Willow helped herself to one of the crackers. “I wonder what caper flowers look like when they’re all blooming.” She ate the cracker, thinking about the capers as she swallowed them. “They taste like they would be yellow, if that makes any sense.”
“No, totally, I was thinking they might be a nice golden color too, like maybe mustard?”
“Ooh! That’s exactly what I mean.” The pair smiled shyly at each other. “So, are you interested in computers, too? I checked that off on my personality survey, so I’m assuming that’s why I’m here. Of course, I also said I liked shrubs, but Buffy thinks that was a trick question and maybe the test figured I liked computers more than I liked shrubs, so that’s why I’m here and not at the landscaping seminar.”
“I guess so, although, I like shrubs too.” Oz shrugged.
“Do capers grow on shrubs?” Willow wondered out loud. “Um, I mean… so, computers. Did they tell you which computer company is recruiting us?” Internally, Willow was thinking just how stupid she must be sounding at the moment.
“Not really.” Oz’s lips twitched as though they were trying to hide a smile. “Although I have a theory.”
“At first I thought Microsoft, but now I’m not so sure. What’s your theory?”
“I think, and this may sound crazy, but that it’s not really a computer company per se, but rather a government conspiracy.” Oz looked Willow in the eye to assess whether she believed him. She looked skeptical, but willing to hear his argument. “Devon’s brother swore he saw some weird guys in suits driving a black van towards the warehouses when he was leaving the Bronze last week. He says they looked like feds.”
“Well, I don’t know how reliable Skip is, but it’s possible.”
“Like the X-files.” Willow offered excitedly.
“Maybe.” Oz smiled. The pair fell into a contemplative silence, munching on the hors d’oeuvres. At first Willow thought Oz’s suggestion was a farce, but then she asked herself ‘What would Buffy do?’ and when her answer was ‘slay first, ask questions later’, she realized that if vampires and demons were true, then maybe government conspiracies weren’t so far-fetched for this Californian town. After all, considering the amount of damage demons did to public structures, surely the government might have noticed, and if they had noticed and tried to investigate what had happened, they might have come across her simplistic efforts to hack into the local government computers. They did say they had been watching her. Maybe this wasn’t really a recruitment effort, but a secret sting operation. Of course, if that were the case, why would they include Oz? He hadn’t been helping Buffy out by hacking into government computers from the school. He hadn’t even met Buffy.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the return of the two recruiters. The silent one, who Willow secretly thought looked more like a secret service agent than a college recruiter, stepped into the room. The second one stayed in the doorway. “Hey guys, thanks for being so patient. It’s time now to take a ride.” Willow and Oz shot each other questioning glances. “Don’t worry, I promised Principal Snyder that we’d have you back before the end of the class day.”
He headed down the hall, expecting the students to follow him. Of course, Willow and Oz didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, as the second ‘recruiter’ was subtly edging them towards the door. They followed the man in the navy suit out to the visitor parking lot where a black limo was waiting. The man opened the door, and indicated they should enter. Willow looked for a hint of what to do from Oz. He shrugged and climbed into the back seat, figuring that if a kidnapper had gone to the trouble of getting a limousine, the least he could do was humor the man.
Willow followed him in and was a bit surprised when their host closed the door behind her rather than joining them. “Ah, Mr. Osbourne and Miss Rosenberg. It’s always a pleasure to meet the future of America. I’m…”
Willow turned to face the man sitting on the opposite bench seat who had started talking. “Senator Kinsey!” She blurted out.
“Ah, I see you’ve already heard of me.” The senator grinned. “Before we get any farther, you might want to fasten your seatbelts. We’re going to take a quick drive.”
Willow settled into the seat next to Oz and fastened the lap belt just as the car pulled out of the parking lot. “So, I bet you’re wondering why a Senator like me would be coming to a career fair.”
“You could say that.” Willow blushed. “I was told we’d be meeting a representative from the world’s top technology employer.”
“And you are. The US government hires more scientists than any other organization on this planet. You see, to govern efficiently, we need to have access to the best technology available, and it’s not just about having the best technology money can buy. It’s also about having the best technology money can buy to make sure that the technology you’ve already bought is doing its job correctly.”
“Well, true, but…”
“And technology isn’t just about silicon chips and kilowatts, it’s also about the people. The government needs the best minds working on the biggest problems your generation will have to face.”
“Yes, I understand that, but…”
“There is no bigger challenge for the government than being held accountable to the tax paying public. It takes the brightest minds to answer such a daunting challenge.”
“But we’re just high school students.” Willow finally finished her sentence. “Why would the government send a senator to recruit high school students? No offense, but don’t you have better things to do?”
Senator Kinsey chuckled. “Believe me, this is much more important than a lot of the business that gets done on Capitol Hill. You may just be high school students now, but that doesn’t mean you’re not important. Why I believe that high school students could save the world if someone just gave them the opportunity!”
Oz looked at the senator skeptically. The man was definitely trying to appeal to their sense of self-importance and teenage angst. Unfortunately for Kinsey, Oz didn’t really buy into that whole “man trying to hold him down” nonsense; all that rhetoric was for naught.
“I’m guessing you’re planning on offering us this opportunity?” Oz smiled at the wariness in Willow’s voice. Evidently she wasn’t falling for the empowering the youth speech either.
“Well, that depends on you.” The Senator’s face was now all business. “As the head of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, I have the opportunity to name two students from my district for an internship position with an intelligence organization.”
“What, like the FBI or the CIA?”
“Well, I suppose, but I was actually referring to the NID.”
“I don’t think I’ve heard of that group.” Willow frowned. She had in fact heard of the group in various chat rooms and boards she had gone into looking for information on the demon of the week, but no one was really sure what the NID did. It was sort of like, when in doubt blame the NID – alien abductions? It’s really the NID. Sudden increase in three-headed toads at the local pond? Blame the NID. And Area 51? Totally an NID operation. She didn’t want to admit to Senator Kinsey that she read those tabloid sources, but on the other hand, Oz’s earlier comment was looking less and less like a joke.
“I’m not surprised. The NID is a civilian organization that oversees the top secret research being done by the nation’s military branches. There really is no reason why someone not in the military would know about it. However, the group is a vital check on the power of the US military.”
“Should a top secret agency be offering internships to high school students?” Oz finally spoke up.
“Believe me, this is a very rare opportunity, and I can’t make any promises yet. You need to be tested first.”
“We get to take a test?” Willow tried to hide the hopefulness in her voice, but she wasn’t fooling anyone. If there was one thing she was good at, it was taking tests.
“Just a quick aptitude test- the test your school uses doesn’t even begin to cover the skills needed by an NID agent. If your scores are high enough, you’ll be invited to Washington, D.C. for a summer internship, and possibly long-term employment. That internship would come with room, board, and a stipend as well. I can’t tell you how many other high school students would sell their souls for such an offer.” For a moment Willow was scared that Senator Kinsey really was bargaining for her soul, but then remembered that the Senator wasn’t from Sunnydale; he represented all of California. Surely, it was just a figure of speech… wasn’t it? The limousine came to a stop, and Willow glanced out the window to see that they had pulled up next to a nondescript warehouse in the harbor district. “We’re here.”
Senator Kinsey led the teens into the corrugated metal building. “Ah, Woolsey, is everything alright?” The senator greeted the man waiting for them at the front door.
“Of course. And I take it these are the prodigies?” It was hard to tell whether the man was trying to be friendly or sarcastic.
“Yes, this is Mr. Osbourne and Miss Rosenberg.” The Senator introduced the teens.
“Hello.” The man offered his hand. “I’m Mr. Woolsey. How much did the Senator tell you? Did he tell you what you were doing here?”
“We’re here to take a test to see if we can get an internship with an intelligence agency?” Willow offered hesitantly.
The man glanced at the Senator. He seemed to ask a question with his eyes. The senator shook his head, and the man bit his lip. “Alright, I suppose that explanation will have to suffice. The Intelligence Agency I work for oversees many different kinds of research. In order to ensure that the research being done by the various military branches is held to the highest standards, we need to be able to understand the science as well as the researchers themselves.”
“If you’ll follow me,” the man headed towards a card table in the middle of the cavernous room. “One of the current programs we’re working with is designing programs that are able to decode various alien languages our military branches have encountered.”
“Like help manuals for the spaceship in Area 51?” Oz asked with a straight face.
“Ahem.” Mr. Woolsey coughed. “I meant alien, as in foreign. Specifically, we’re interested in translating some deceased languages from very remote areas our armed forces are exploring.”
“Oh. Too bad.” Oz shrugged. “I’m sure it would make it easier to drive the space ships if they came with manuals.” Willow snickered at Oz’s answer, despite her efforts to remain serious.
“Having read quite a few owner’s manuals in my day, somehow I doubt having a manual would make a bit of difference.” Woolsey replied, keeping his voice terse. “Now, the Senator and I would like to observe your puzzle solving abilities. If we are suitably impressed, we will be sending you an invitation to join the NID for a summer fellowship. Any questions?”
Oz and Willow stared at the man blankly, trying to figure out just how much he was actually kidding. Before they could formulate their questions, Woolsey continued on with the instructions. “On this table, you see an engraved ceramic tablet, pencils, paper, and a computer. We want you to spend an hour and try to decode as much of the tablet as possible. The Senator, myself, and one of our associates will be watching from the room there.” Woolsey pointed to the one-way mirror along the back wall, which clearly held another room from Willow and Oz’s view. “If there are no further questions, I’ll let you get started.” The man excused himself, joining his fellow NID allies in the observation room.
“I don’t suppose you happen to be fluent in stone-tablet-ese?” Oz asked Willow who was staring at the table, still trying to figure out how much of the day was real and how much she must have been hallucinating. I mean, it couldn’t really be true that the US government had specifically recruited her to oversee military research in high school, and now wanted her to take some aptitude test that involved dead languages, could it? She couldn’t possibly have been taken for a limousine ride by a real US Senator.
“Um? This is Thursday morning, isn’t it? I’m not still sleeping?”
“Do you want me to pinch you? I could, but it might ruin the whole effect.” Oz offered.
“Oh, sorry, no, no pinching.” Willow shook her head. “What did you say?”
“I asked if you happen to know stone-tablet-ese.” Oz filled in.
“Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an English-tabletese dictionary in the school library. There’s a pretty good assortment of dictionaries there.”
“Really? Maybe I should spend more time there. What do you think?” Oz booted up the computer, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to have it up and running.
“Well...” On one hand, if Oz spent more time in the library, it would probably mean spending more time with Willow. On the other hand, if Oz spent more time in the library, he would undoubtedly find out about Buffy, and it would be unfair to ruin her friend’s secret identity like that. Unless of course, Oz was cool with the whole slayer thing and wanted to help out, in which case it would be good for Buffy. Willow settled for a neutral answer. “Books live in the library. They probably like having visitors, but then, I’ve never asked.”
“Do you suppose they want us to write a translation computer program or something?” Willow looked at the tablet. The writing looked a bit like that odd scribbling on the duLac mausoleum they had looked up last week. Giles had said something about the duLac family’s lifelong quest to translate the language of the Old Ones, so she guessed she might be looking at the same language. “I could probably provide a starter word or two, if you think we could figure out how to do pattern recognitions in just an hour.”
“Really? That would be great. We’re working on translating programs in Ms. Calendar’s advanced class, but we can’t do much without a starting hint.”
“Oh, you’re in Ms. Calendar’s advanced class? You’re so lucky! I wanted to take that, but it conflicted with history, so I’m in her regular class.”
“That’s too bad. The advanced class is really interesting, well, at least as much as high school classes can be.” Oz offered her a friendly smile. “So, do you want to get started on assigning each symbol a corresponding letter, and I’ll work on starting the program?”
“Okay.” Willow tucked her hair nervously behind her ear. There was so much to do, and only an hour to prove to the Senator that she was worthy of the fellowship.
In the next room, Mr. Woolsey, Col. Maybourne, and Senator Kinsey were watching through the two way mirror. “This is ridiculous.” Mr. Woolsey muttered.
“I didn’t see you coming up with any better ideas.” Maybourne retorted.
“I don’t think I could come up with an even worse idea. Really, abducting a few high school geniuses for a single hour is hardly a solution for translating something even Dr. Daniel Jackson can’t make heads or tails of. If I had known this is what you meant when you said you were bringing in consultants, I would have…”
“You would have what?” Senator Kinsey sent the agent a pointed look.
“Well, I would have asked you to reconsider. This is insane.”
“Relax Richard, what’s the worse that could happen? A few teenagers may think they’re going to get an internship that will never happen and we’re no worse off with the translation than we originally thought. On the upside, if they do succeed, we’ll have the jump on the SGC.”
“But it’s impossible.”
“I wouldn’t say that. This is Sunnydale after all.” Colonel Maybourne leaned back on his chair, resting his feet on the edge of the large window.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Woolsey shot Maybourne a scathing glare.
“Welcome to Sunnydale, California, Woolsey, Land of Freakish Opportunities. Some of the best field agents this government has come from this little burg. Maybe there’s something in the water or something in the air. It doesn’t really matter. When in doubt, odds are Sunnydale will have the answer.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“The colonel isn’t pulling your leg. I’ve known the mayor here my entire career, and he’ll tell you just how
interesting this town can get… if you catch him at the right time and place of course. There’s a lot that goes on here that I’m sure no outsider knows. Still, if Mayor Wilkins says these teens are capable of solving our problems, I trust him. He’s never wrong.” The senator informed his cynical companion.
“That’s impossible. No one is always right.”
“You’ve never met the good mayor.” Senator Kinsey smirked.
“Alright, assuming they do succeed, and the tablet reveals information about the Stargate to two teenagers, what do we do then?”
“We tell them they did an admirable job on our practice exam. They’ll assume we made it up.” Maybourne shrugged. “Relax, Woolsey. This’ll probably be the easiest assignment you’ve had in months. Here, have a drink.” The retired colonel handed a bottle of water to the uptight agent before helping himself to a bottle from the cooler next to him.
“Well, I admit, it sure beats trying to interrogate Major Carter. Nothing gets by her.” The agent slouched a bit in his chair and watched the pair of students through the window. The boy had gone straight to the computer while the red-head was writing furiously on the pad of paper. “Hmm, that’s peculiar.”
“What’s peculiar?” The Senator questioned, as he watched the pair working.
“The files we have indicate that the girl is by far the stronger programmer, while the boy had talents in linguistics. I would have thought their roles would be reversed.”
“Ah, another Carter and Jackson,” Kinsey muttered.
“Something like that, but they appear to be doing the exact opposite.”
Shall we listen in?” The senator suggested. Before either of the other men could object, the senator turned up a little knob on the wall, and the teenagers’ voices filled the room.
“There, I think I’ve just about got it.” The boy spoke.
“Great! I’m glad this computer has wi-fi. That sure saves a lot of time.”
“I know. I should thank Ms. Calendar for letting me save my work to her server space. Talk about a fast save.”
“So, how far along is your translation program?” Willow asked, scribbling something on the pad of paper.
“I think it’s nearly done. We’ve been practicing with some genealogical records Ms. Calendar has, so we’re pretty sure its working; it’s just ugly. Did you know her family is originally from Hungary?”
“Really?” Willow didn’t really care where Ms. Calender was from. She was just happy that Oz was talking to her. Gosh, Oz… even his name sounded cool. Buffy would be so proud of her for carrying on a full conversation, and Xander would probably be in shock too. Still, she was here to do a job, and it wouldn’t do to get distracted. “So, do you want to start inputting the lexicon? I’ve converted it to alphanumeric symbology.” She handed him the pad and directed his eyes to a comment she had scribbled on the top of the page: ‘I think they’re paying attention to what we say now.’
“Oh, hey, I’m not set up for numeric symbols. What about this?” Oz said as he scribbled a response to her comments: ‘I heard the click too. Should I stop the worm?’
“Sorry, I didn’t even think about the variable types.” Willow blushed, this was just too weird for words. Just wait until she told Buffy about this. ‘No. Keep going.’ She scribbled back. “What about this? If we make the symbols case sensitive, we can go beyond the 26 letters.” She wrote down a few more letters and showed him the pad, making a show of translating the tablet.
“Okay.” Oz nodded. Willow wasn’t sure if he meant okay to the lower case suggestion or okay to continuing hacking into the NID server to see what they’re really about.
A few minutes later, Oz mumbled, “Bingo.” Oz offered Willow the seat in front of the computer, and the stood directly in front of her to prevent any hidden cameras from getting a glimpse of the screen.
“Wow, this is impressive.” Willow started scrolling through the various programs the NID was investigating. She
clicked on Personnel button, but rather than finding a directory of employees that would allow her to look up Woolsey and Maybourne, she was directed to a list of ‘personnel under investigation’. On a hunch she typed in “linguist” as a keyword.
“So do you think the program will work?” Oz said, nudging her chair gently.
“Oh!” Willow flipped to the file Oz had found on the Sunnydale High server. “I think it has potential. Some of the loops are unnecessary, but given the deadline… I suppose you want my keywords now?”
“It would help.”
“Okay, why don’t you look through this routine, while I look for familiar motifs?”
When Willow handed the controls back over to Oz, the personnel file for Daniel Jackson was brought up. Oz was able to quickly scan the page. Sure enough, the doctor was involved in translating for some program called SGC, and his focus was on dead languages. Oz typed in SGC on the search engine, and came up with large reports filed by Woolsey. “Oh, hey, I think you found something here.”
“Oh, I guess the variable name was a lucky guess.”
“Something like that.”
Willow glanced at the clock over the false window. Half of their time was already spent. While she and Oz were
learning lots about the people that were recruiting them, she hadn’t really made as much progress on the aptitude test as she would have liked. She turned back to the stone tablet. If only she still had the pictures from the duLac tomb to compare it with. “Oz! Can you do me a quick favor? Can you get into the Sunnydale Historical Societies records and look up any pictures of the duLac tomb? I think they have it on their website.”
“As you wish.”
“Ms. Rosenberg.” The senator’s voice came over the intercom. “Your task is to translate the stone tablet in front of you. I don’t think you should be wasting our computing resources on your history homework.”
Willow blushed as she faced the fake window. “Um, I get that, but this is actually relevant, and well… if it doesn’t work, we’ll still have twenty minutes to try something else, right?”
“Very well, carry on.” The senator’s voice clicked off. “I thought you said she was the Carter? She sounds more like Dr. Jackson.” The Senator sent a scathing glare at Colonel Maybourne, who just shrugged it off.
“Did you find it?” Willow asked Oz once she was sure the Senator wasn’t going to interrupt.
“Yup, here we go. Who’d have thought the harbor district would have such a good internet connection.” Oz shifted over for Willow to look over his shoulder. “Fabulous.” Willow zoomed in on the decorative trim of the tomb. Giles had shown her how to translate it, using the demonic dictionary that he had guiltily admitted to smuggling out of the Watcher’s Council library. “Okay, this means ‘one’, and this means ‘force’ or maybe ‘power’, and I think ‘dark’ is represented by this phrase.” Willow said, as she picked out a few words that were on both the tomb and the tablet. “Oh, and this means ‘age.’”
“Great, we’ll see how far this gets us.” Before Willow returned to the tablets, Oz showed her a quick glance at the SGC information. “Huh.” She muttered, as Oz switched to the translation file page.
“Okay, here goes nothing.” Oz hit a few keys, setting up the initial translation parameters.
“Ruroh.” Willow said as the words started scrawling across the page.
“Ruroh.” She whimpered. The translated text was looking eerily familiar. In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer…
“Did she just say ruroh?” Woolsey stared at the redheaded teen in confusion.
“Why yes, she did.” Colonel Maybourne giggled.
“That doesn’t sound good. What exactly does ruroh mean?”
“I think it means something like ‘oops.’ Now, pipe down.” The Senator shushed his friend, in time to hear the girl say. “This can’t be right.”
“Really? It looks fine to me.” Oz read the screen one more time. “Granted, I hadn’t expected an ancient tablet to have an advertisement for a cheesy horror movie, but I guess those Babylonian teens had to get their kicks somehow.”
“No. We can’t leave it like this. It’s not right.” Willow insisted. Now it all made sense. The secret government agents, the high priority placed on Sunnydale High recruits- the government was going to try to use her to capture Buffy. Of course, if they had the wrong translation, they wouldn’t be able to find the Slayer…
“So, where do you think we went wrong?” Oz asked, knowing that there was nothing wrong with his program, but that there was something very wrong with Willow Rosenberg.
“Well.” Willow blushed. “I know! I made an error. This word means ‘world’ not ‘one.’”
“Okay…” Oz made the suggested correction, knowing it was an error, but deciding to play along. The new translation popped up.
“Oh, and this ‘darkness’ is wrong. It means, ‘night’, or rather, ‘knight’ with a k.” Willow bluffed.
“Any other edits?” Oz smiled at the redhead, and couldn’t help but find it cute how the girl tilted her head back and forth to think, like a confused puppy.
“Umm, can you show me the picture of the tomb again?” Willow muttered.
“Sure.” Oz brought the image up, not sure what the girl was looking for.
“Cross as in not happy or as in hot cross buns?”
“Um, I don’t know. Why are hot cross buns called that?”
“I think it has to do with Jesus… and frosting.”
“Oh, in that case, yes.”
“Okay. So we’ll make this sequence mean ‘cross’, okay?”
“Great. Let’s see how that works.” Willow sighed in relief.
“You know, I hate to admit it, but it looks like they’re just making stuff up now.” Kinsey admitted.
“I don’t know about that. She’s probably just hedging bets for a more reasonable answer. After all, if the passage really is about outer space, she may think she has it wrong when it’s really the right answer. That Rosenberg is supposed to have excellent instincts, but a tendency to over analyze and doubt herself.” Maybourne recited the school file he had picked up on the girl.
“Great, just great. You’re recruiting a teenager with a self-esteem problem.”
“Hey, this is a lot cheaper than hiring a professional. Aren’t you all about saving on accounting?”
“Well, either way, we’re going to have to call time. As charming as this hour has been, I have a meeting with the mayor and some of my more affluent constituents coming up.” Senator Kinsey informed the bickering agents.
“Very well. Let’s wrap this up.” Woolsey picked up the intercom microphone. “Ahem, time is up. Please step away from the computer and put you pad of paper down on the table.”
The teens looked up like deer in headlights. “Um, we’re not quite finished.”
“That’s alright. Just leave what you have.”
Willow quickly scribbled down a few more words on the paper and put it down next to the tablet. “Okay, I’ve got it down.” She muttered to Oz.
“Okay.” Oz pushed the wheeled chair away from the computer at an odd angle. Unfortunately, he pushed too hard, and the spoke of the wheel got caught in the electrical cord. As he tried to get up, he tripped, yanking the cord out of the wall, and landing flat on his face. The computer beeped once before blacking out.
“Oh my gosh! Are you okay? Did you get hurt?” Willow rushed to his side to help him up.
“I’m fine but I think the computer memory got wiped with that. The auto-recall hadn’t been turned on.” Oz said. In a much quieter voice he added, “That’s what you wanted, right?”
“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver.” Willow blushed.
“Can I be the orange-flavored one?”
“I guess. You sure you don’t want to be cherry?”
“Too flashy. Orange is more subtle. Tart, and yet not clamoring for attention.” Oz smiled shyly, “Besides, orange matches
“Oh? Ooh!” Willow smiled, “That would be nice; you know, matching.”
“Yes, I thought so.” The teens were now standing in front of the mirror.
“Ahem.” The Senator’s voice cut in, and the pair jumped apart. “Let’s see how that translation turned out.”
“I’m afraid it doesn’t make much sense. Sorry.” Willow said, as the trio of men entered the testing room.
“Well, let’s take a look.” The recruiter who had introduced himself as Maybourne picked up the tablet and read through it. “Not too bad for a first glance. Is this as far as you got?” He passed the pad to Woolsey.
“Sorry.” Willow apologized again.
“Nothing to be sorry about.” Woolsey said, looking at the pad in utter disbelief. How on earth was this possible? Just a boy and a girl had managed to do what Dr. Jackson and a whole team of linguist experts hadn’t managed to do in a month of work. He passed the paper on to the Senator.
“Nope, nothing to be sorry about at all.” The Senator smiled when he read the message. He looked up at the teens. “You
both did an excellent job of working as a team and being resourceful. Those are traits we look for in the NID. Very impressive. I’m sure my secretary will be getting touch with you, closer to the summer.”
“Thanks.” Willow grinned. Oz just arched a brow.
“I hate to run out on you like this, but it turns out I have a meeting at City Hall soon, so I’m going to let Colonel Maybourne take the pair of you back to school.”
“Okay.” The teens followed the Colonel out of the room.
“Well, they sure pulled through.” The Senator grinned as he handed the pad back to Woolsey. “You’ve seen the message. I think you know the next step for the agency.”
“Yes, sir.” Woolsey looked slightly ill. What were the odds that they would find the right world to match that description?
The Senator picked up his briefcase, and headed out the door. “Oh cheer up. Everyone gets a little off kilter their first time in Sunnydale. Just smile, nod, and walk away slowly… It’s what I always do.”
As the teens made their way to their last class of the day, Oz tried to start a conversation. “So, that first translation…?”
“It’s a long story.” Willow offered shyly.
Oz thought for a moment then asked. “Is it long enough to be found in the library?”
“That’s one way to put it.” Willow was relieved that he didn’t ask a more pointed question.
“Gotcha. Well, I’ll see you around?” Oz stopped in front of the door to his shop class.
“Yeah, totally! ‘Cuz, I’m around and all.” Willow waved as he ducked in the class. When the door closed, she shook her head. “Yeah, I’m around. Round, round, I get around. Geesh, could I be any more lame?”
As Oz reached his desk, he smiled. He couldn’t wait to start an independent library research project.
“Are you sure this is right?” The NID agent turned to his captain. He was hot, he was tired, and his waders had been waterlogged since noon. He bet prison camps on earth were more comfortable than this.
“This is what the message said. Keep digging!” The captain ordered. Quietly, he agreed with the agent that this was a fool’s errand, but he couldn’t argue with the translated tablet or Senator Kinsey. The SGC had only contacted one world that had both seas and a cross landmark. If the NID’s intel said there was a secret weapon buried on that world, then he would find it, no matter how deep the marsh. He pulled the translation out of his pocket one more time, and shook his head: In a seaworld there is a Chosen Cross. She alone will stand against the gods, the demons, and the force of steel knights. She is a Weapon of Power…”