This is the Summer 2006 Fic-a-thon for Jedi Buttercup. It's not quite what she asked for, but I hope she enjoys it.
LIST THREE BTVS/ATS MAJOR CHARACTERS:
Buffy, Wesley, Illyria
LIST AT LEAST THREE OF THE ABOVE GENRES THAT YOU'D BE
TICKLED TO RECEIVE:
Highlander, Harry Potter, Stargate SG-1, Stargate:
Atlantis, Firefly, CSI
LIST THREE THINGS YOU WANT IN YOUR FIC:
As close to canon as possible; some kind of adventure
that takes place *outside* of both genres' home zones;
both genres contributing equally to the resolution of
whatever problem/scenario they face
LIST THREE THINGS YOU DON'T WANT IN YOUR FIC:
Character bashing; characters immediately sharing
their secrets with each other; Buffy/Angel
As always, neither the Buffy-verse nor the Gate-verse belong to me. I'm just climbing over their fence to swim in their pool. I promise not to leave a mess. ^^
Now on to the tale...
A slender woman stood with unnatural stillness amongst a horde of tourists and schoolchildren. The breeze off the warm sea lifted her dark hair, mingling the thick blue lock at her right temple with the rest of the healthy, but common place brown. An older couple eyed the blue with distaste, thinking it a symbol of garish rebellion, rather than the promise-kept it was. Illyria ignored them as she ignored the rest of the sub-creatures surrounding her. Her eyes, an even colder blue than the offensive strand, stayed locked on the behemoth of metal and fuel across the shallow, brackish water. That fixation, too, was part of a promise kept. Once upon a time, the ancient god-king within what had once been Winifred Burkle had promise a good man two things: she would learn of this brave new world and that she would never again fully assume the form of his beloved Fred. The second promise had been broken only once, to ease the passing of Wesley Windam-Price. Illyria had no intention of forgoing her word again. Whatever the sub-creatures and lesser beings of this time thought, the honor of the ancient ones was not to be besmirched.
The massive clock mounted high beside the stadium seating counted down another minute and steam and fire belched from the behemoth. The deep-throated rumble drowned out the squeals of the children even over the miles separating the launching pad from the observation point. Sounds beyond human hearing growled in Illyria’s bones and raised the fine hairs on the back of her neck. The pure power on display called to her, as nothing else on this lesser Earth. The science harnessed by humanity was an endless fascination to her, and none more than the disciplines of the Aerospace Industry. Illyria had once controlled the flow of time itself, bent space to her will, but these short-lived mortals had found a way to walk among the heavens in a way she had never contemplated during her millennia of rule.
The humans in the stands cowered away from the inferno commanded by their fellows, unable to withstand the growing light and noise without flinching. Illyria did not so much as blink as the gantries fell away and the skyscraper-high machine began to rise impossibly into the sky on a column of roiling flame, moving faster and faster as it defied the call of Mother Earth. She tracked its path into the sky, beyond the reach of human eyes. Finally, as the twin booster rockets detached from the main engine and began their tumble toward the sea, the Space Shuttle Discovery passed beyond even her sight.
Her attention, once more earth-bound, turned to leaving the observation stands as quickly as possible, before she gave into the impulse to rid the world of the chattering younglings cavorting in ill-supervised semi-freedom among the metal bleachers.
Once on the ground, she glanced once more at the giant, empty frame standing on Cape Canaveral’s launching pad. She blamed the sudden burst of irrational longing on the lingering influence of her shell’s former occupant. Curiosity had driven Fred Burkle on the road to Pylea. Curiosity now pulled at edges of Illyria’s being. There were rumors floating among the members of the Watcher’s Council and its hangers-on. Rumors that spoke of people traveling not to other dimensions, but to other places in this universe, other planets circling alien stars.
Purpose hardened Illyria’s cool expression, speeding her step and scattering the humans that strayed into her path. If humanity could find a way to traverse the stars with loud, garish, brute force, then between the Shell’s knowledge and Illyria’s own inherent power, she could forge another road, an elegant path amongst the distant heavens. She would seek out the half-breed. He could be counted on to convince the Witch or the Key to give her aid in searching humanity’s science for the framework for her journey.
Perhaps, there would be a battle out there worthy of her time as the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart had taken to lying low instead of confronting her as she craved. There had been much too quiet after the Battle of Law Firm and Closing of the Sunnydale Hellmouth. Hunting vampires with the younglings of the Watcher’s Council had faded to be only a pale diversion. She hungered for more.
The chatter of P-90 fire was deafening in the close confines of the cave system. Colonel John Sheppard found himself cursing whatever Ancient genius had decided that a cave with only one freakin’ exit was the perfect place for a Stargate. Since the Puddlejumper would have been useless in the narrow passageways, Sheppard’s team had come on foot on this latest search for the elusive back-up Zero Point Module that the Atlantis expedition so desperately needed. The preliminary MALP readings had failed to detect the Wraith that had been camped out just outside the entrance of the cave. Rodney had speculated that something in the rock had blocked their life signs. That had been before a Stunner blast had silenced him midway through ‘I’m going to die’ monologue number six (the one that bemoaned that only his cat would mourn his passing). Sheppard shook off the thought and glanced at Teyla. She shrugged and mouthed ‘last one’ as she loaded a clip into her weapon.
“Dial out!” Sheppard shouted over the din as the Wraith again charged their position at the entrance to the Stargate’s rough-hewn chamber.
“Where?” Ronan barked; he was in a particularly foul mood: wounded, out of ammo and lugging around an unconscious Canadian.
“Anywhere but home!” Sheppard yelled, unwilling as always to even mention Atlantis when in ‘mixed company’.
“Is that wise?” Teyla asked.
“We don’t really have a choice.” Sheppard pulled out his last flash-bang as the familiar sound of a forming wormhole rolled out behind them. He fired a burst at the nearest Wraith, knocking the creature down momentarily. The damned things were healing so quickly they had to have fed recently, probably on the very native humans they had come to trade with. He flung the non-lethal grenade into the thickest clump of the masked lower-level Wraith warriors. It exploded with the fury of man made thunder and the blinding power of a magnesium flame. He used the sensory confusion to follow Teyla at a dead run toward the Stargate. As they lunged through the event horizon, he heard the shouts and footsteps of renewed pursuit in their wake.
Each planet was unique. There were subtle changes in the shade of the light, the taste of the air, even the pull of the gravity. Normally John would secretly relish these proofs that, yes, he was really, truly on an alien world just like that little boy he had once been had dreamed of when Han Solo and Starbuck were the coolest guys in his universe. Today, the change in light made his eyes stream, the heavy humidity in the air clogged his lungs and the change in gravity sent him stumbling down the uneven steps leading down from ‘Gate. They were minor inconveniences individually, but together they were a real danger when you had Wraith on your six. John blinked, clearing his eyes and finding Ronan at the tree line, Rodney slung over his broad shoulder. Teyla matched his stride as he hurried to join them. They had just plunged into the surrounding brush as a dozen Wraith followed them into the grayish sunlight.
“Here,” Ronan hoarsely whispered, directing his teammates behind a dead fall at the edge of a streambed. Teyla and John dove behind the natural barrier just as the first of the Wraith breached the heavy brush dividing the meadow from the more open area under the old growth trees.
John signaled his team to hold fire, hoping that the Wraith would miss their hiding place, allowing them to slip back to the Gate and head back to Atlantis. It wasn’t much of a chance, but it was the best one they had. He peered through a gap in the tangled limbs and vines, watching as the Wraith spread out in their search for them. He could only gape when the Wraith warrior at the far end of the ragged line was dragged through a clump of hanging vines. The creature gave one gurgling bellow before an ominous silence descended upon the forest, broken only by the Wraith’s head flying out of the shadow to bounce across the ground like a macabre soccer ball. It rolled to a stop near the dead fall, terror evident on the face half showing from the cracked and dangling mask. The other Wraith turned to where their fellow had last been standing with a sudden tension radiating from the normally imperturbable aliens.
The lead Wraith, his eternal Cheshire cat grin slipping, signaled his underlings toward the vine curtain. When the nearest Wraith used his stunner to move aside the hanging vines, a slender arm reached out to grab his wrist, twisting it and breaking the bones with an audible, sickening crunch. By the time the Stunner had fallen from the Wraith’s shattered grip, another arm had joined the first, grabbing the Wraith by the throat, holding the creature so that it dangled from its grip like a dying chicken. Both arms and Wraith disappeared momentarily back into the vines. The Wraith made a spectacular return as a high-flying, yet utterly limp, projectile that smashed messily into a tree. The owner of the arms made a less flashy entrance, stepping calmly into the open with a cool, disdainful expression on her face. She was slender woman clad in anachronistic leather armor; a blue tinged seemingly human woman in anachronistic leather armor. She cocked her head in an almost bird like movement as she studied the nonplussed Wraith warriors.
A half dozen stun bolts slammed into the woman, driving her back several steps. She stood unmoving, her head dropped so that her chin rested on her chest. The Wraith moved toward her, their confidence returning as the woman remained motionless. Her head abruptly snapped up, her eyes blazing in cold fury. “How dare you fire upon me?” she intoned in a dead monotone with an undertone of affronted pride. She moved into a maelstrom of bloody violence, shrugging aside subsequent stun bolts to rip into the Wraith with a combination of pure brute force and deadly, inhuman grace.
Behind the deadfall, McKay was stirring, mumbling as he roused from his Wraith induced slumber. Teyla softly asked, “Should we help her?”
Ronan snorted. “Looks like she’s doing fine on her.” The former runner’s eyes never left the melee; an appreciative expression of his face as yet another Wraith met a grisly end.
“John,” Teyla turned to the Colonel, seeking his opinion, only to find him frozen, staring at blue woman in disbelieving, slack-jawed shock. Concerned, Teyla laid a hand on his shoulder. “John, are you alright?”
“I thought it was only a dream,” he muttered, “a really freaky dream.”
“What was a dream?” Teyla asked.
“The bit of post traumatic stress trashing the Wraith,” he answered, shaking his head in an attempt to gather his scattered thoughts. He glanced toward his friend. “Check on Rodney,” he ordered.
“Rodney, now.” Teyla moved off to obey as John watched as the woman made short work of Wraith who were now trying to flee from her deadly fury. “Well,” he muttered to himself, “That explains what happened to the dragon.”
“…Angelinos are keeping to their homes as the riots centered on the Los Angeles headquarters of the multi-national law firm of Wolfram and Hart spread to encompass surrounding areas of the city. The mayor is to issue...” John Sheppard reached over and hit scan on the radio, searching for a station that was not covering the riot and was in English. His rented mustang purred smoothly down a strangely near-empty highway.
“Well, I picked a wonderful time to visit the City of Angels,” he grumbled to himself. “I thought I left the disgruntled ‘indigenous peoples’ in Afghanistan. I should have gone to Vegas for my fun in the sun before being shipped off to the land of endless icicles.”
When the swift moving shadow flashed over-head, John ducked instinctively, swerving the sports car out of the thing’s immediate path and probably line of fire. The pilot he would always be at heart visually tracked the bogie while his mind gibbered in reflexive primordial fear. “Okay, John,” he said, “get a grip. That could not have been a dragon. Dragons do not exist outside of video games and bad Sci-Fi.”
Then what was it? The little voice of whimsy that lived somewhere in his gray matter decided to chime in with its unasked for opinion. John called the voice ‘George’ because everything needs a name, even bits and pieces of the subconscious. Besides, what the shrinks didn’t know couldn’t end up on a Section Eight form. What class of aircraft has scales and _flapping_ wings, Major? George continued.
“Could be one of those ‘so classified that if I knew about it, I would have to shoot myself’ projects the grapevine is always whispering about. Everyone knows someone who knows someone that is making deals with little green men from Mars out at Groom Lake.”
If it is a black project from Area 51, what is it doing over LA? Looking for a new director for the next ‘Aim High’ commercial? Even ‘everybody’s friends’ from the NID wouldn’t be that obvious.
John snorted, guiding the mustang around another sweeping turn, vaguely thankful for the deserted streets as most of his attention was firmly fixed on the rapidly disappearing silhouette of the unknown ‘craft’. “What am I supposed to do about it if it is a rogue experimental craft? I didn’t make out any markings and it’s not as if I can pull an IFF with the CD player. Reporting a ‘dragon attack’ would only convince the brass that I should be reassigned to a desk job or the psyche ward instead of Antarctica.”
There was only an expectant silence in answer from the ever-helpful voice.
John rolled his eyes at himself as he abruptly downshifted to take the nearest off-ramp at slightly less that suicidal speed. “One of these days, whimsy is going to lead me into whole other universe of trouble.”
Using the distinctive buildings of the looming downtown skyline as guideposts, John threaded his way through Los Angles in the direction the bogie had been heading. The emptiness of the city streets was even more disconcerting than that of the interstate highway. The darkening gloom did nothing to lessen his growing feeling of unease. “What do the locals know that I don’t?” A glimpse of seething shadow had John slowing the sports car to a much more sedate speed. He was struck with a sudden longing for an attack helo and some heavily armed back-up… like a good portion of a Marine battalion. The car, and time, slowed to a crawl as the very atmosphere seemed to press down upon him. He stopped in the road in front of a Golden Era of Hollywood style hotel. The fading gilt on the Hyperion sign caught a few bits and pieces of reflected light, a bit of false cheeriness amidst a nightmare atmosphere.
John stared at the long, serpentine tail trailing out of the alley leading behind the old building. It gave a feeble twitch before laying still. There was no denying that whatever that bloody tail was attached to, it had been a living creature, not an aircraft of any known or unknown type. Two men stumbled out of the alley, both grasping bloodied bladed weapons, the blond practically carrying his companion. The blond looked up from pavement and met John’s eyes. “Watcher-boy?” he asked dazedly. His companion stirred at the words, adding his bleary stare to the mix. John shuddered at the yellow eyes and ridged forehead of the second man; whatever he was, he was not human. Neither was the third figure that followed them into the poor light.
“That is not my guide,” she stated with cold absolute certainty. The woman was slender with dark hair and strangely colored skin. Gore was dripping from her gloved hands and she moved with a bizarrely ridged grace. “Wesley is dead.” She walked past the two men to pass through the front entrance of the hotel; she gave no physical indication that she was watching John, but he could feel her alien regard like the brush of cold cobwebs against his skin. He would not feel that sensation again until he confronted his first Wraith queen.
“Move along then mate,” the blond man said, turning his attention away dismissively. “Bloody rubbernecker. C’mon, Peaches, let’s go get patched up.”
John watched the two men hobble into the hotel before he was able to tear his stunned attention away. He forced himself to put the car into gear and turn around to head back the way he had come. He was a blooded soldier. He had flown both attack and S and R missions in the hellish fighting of Operation Enduring Freedom and its aftermath. Despite his disregard for certain orders and his subsequent reassignment, he was certain of his ability to keep his cool in moments of action. However, walking into the end of something out of a live action Dungeons and Dragons marathon was a bit much for him.
As he powered up the nearest interstate on-ramp, he muttered, “Perhaps there is more to that whole concept of ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ than I thought if I’m seeing things. _If_ I’m seeing things.” A few moments and a greater rate of speed found him regaining his equilibrium. A wry grin creased his face. “Okay, John. I obviously need this little trip more than I thought. The peace and quiet of Antarctica is sounding better and better. I’ll still get to fly. I won’t have to worry about scorpions in my boots or freaky blue women.” A green highway sign pointing the way to Nevada loomed up ahead. “Right then. Since LA is dead, I think a little side trip to Vegas is in order. Bright lights and showgirls, here I come.”
Once again John Sheppard found himself confronting a frightening vision of blue-tinged woman and gore-splattered gloves, but this time he had seen a bit more, had faced creatures that thought he would make a nice light snack. Weirdness was now a part of life. When the last mangled Wraith dropped to the ground at the woman’s feet, he stood from his place behind the dead fall, ignoring Teyla’s startled protest. “Hello there,” he said with faux-cheerfulness. “We didn’t get properly introduced the last time we met. I’m Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air Force. And you are?” Ronan stood beside him, a reassuringly solid presence even if John doubted that there was anything the big man could do if the blue chick decided to add them to the pile of the dead.
Teyla was still crouched behind him, helping Rodney sit up, but her low incredulous tone carried clearly to him. “You know this woman?”
The focus of the woman’s attention made his skin crawl, but he kept his charming grin in place by force of will. After a pregnant moment she spoke. “I am Illyria,” she said simply before turning her attention back to dead creatures at her feet. She turned the Wraith leader’s body over with the toe of her boot and stared down into its broken face.
Rodney groaned and pulled himself up to look over the top of the deadfall. “How long was I out?” he moaned. The Canadian frozen at the sight of the carnage. “What, what the hell happened to the Wraith?” he shrieked.
“Illyria happened.” Ronan smirked down at the dumbfounded man. He climbed over deadfall to strip the dead of their weapons, giving Illyria a wide berth. Otherwise, he and the blue woman ignored each other.
“That’s really funny!” Rodney snapped. “Just because I got stunned, again, doesn’t mean you can pull the wool over my eyes! Illyria is just a legend in the Ancient’s database. This is not the work of a god-king. Now tell me what really happened! And who is that?”
“That is Illyria.” John answered, pulling Rodney the rest of the way to his feet. “You’ve heard of her?”
Rodney rolled his eyes at his friend, flinging a hand about in agitated explanation. “I’ve read about Illyria in the database. He was just an old story even to the Ancients. Supposedly, he was god-king who ruled over all the other gods and of the Earth until three lesser gods betrayed and killed him and stuck him in a box in the Well of Souls or Spirits or Time or something. That’s all I know. Do I look like Daniel Jackson to you? Now what happened?”
“That woman, who calls herself Illyria, killed them all,” Teyla said.
“With her bare hands,” Ronan added with relish.
Before Rodney could reply, Illyria spoke again. “How did you come to be here?” She stalked closer to them; John and Teyla both tightened their grip on their nearly empty weapons. “You should not be here.”
If Rodney felt the otherworldly pressure of her attention, he gave no indication of it. His snark was still set on full-blast. “We came through the Stargate. You know that big round thing that creates and maintains stable wormholes. You probably call it the Ring of the Ancestors.” The words themselves were inoffensive, but the tone was pure sarcasm. Illyria stiffened, her eyes narrowing dangerously.
“Rodney,” John said in sharp warning, silencing his teammate and drawing the woman’s attention before she could dismember the annoying scientist. She stared at him for a moment before swinging her attention again to the dead Wraith.
“Tell me of these creatures,” she commanded.
John nudged Teyla and she stepped in. “These are the Wraith,” she began. As Teyla spoke, Illyria would order her to give further information on certain details. The blue woman never asked for any specifics about Atlantis or about the Ancients. She seemed to be only interested in the Wraith themselves.
As the two females spoke, Rodney asked, “How do you know her?”
“I saw her, once.”
“LA,” John answered shortly.
“LA!” Rodney yelped, “LA as in Los Angeles. As in California? As in on Earth? Are you sure this isn’t some elaborate practical joke?”
“I’m not joking, Rodney. I saw her in LA long before I stumbled into the Stargate program. Either that or she has a twin sister there slaying dragons.”
“Dragons!” Rodney swallowed whatever else he was going to say with great difficulty. “Maybe you should go see Beckett when we get back,” he said in a tone as close to understanding as he ever got.
“I know what I saw, Rodney. I didn’t believe it at the time, but…” he waved a hand at the carnage. “Somehow it seems more believable now.”
The Wraith briefing over, Illyria returned her attention to the two Tau’ri men and the Pegasus native . She watched them with the cool patience of a predator. The silence stretched on until it became more than uncomfortable. John cleared his throat. “You helped us out, Illyria. Is there something we can do for you?”
“Colonel!” Rodney and Teyla both hissed in warning. Neither wanted to see what someone who could pop the heads off Wraith as if they were dolls would consider adequate recompense. Ronan seemed unconcerned, festooned as he was with Wraith weaponry.
Illyria considered them for a moment. “Where is this place?” she asked. At the blank looks on their faces, she elaborated in an impatience-tinted monotone. “This place, this planet, where exactly is it located?”
Ronan gave her the Gate address, but she shook her head once sharply. “That means nothing. Show me.”
“I can… just a moment…” Rodney stuttered, pulling his laptop from its place velcro-ed to his back. He typed a few commands and turned it around to show her a star chart. She studied it closely.
“I overshot my intended destination,” she said. Illyria then turned on her heel and marched back across the glade and through the vines from which she had first emerged. Once again, the humans got the impression they were no longer registering on god-king’s radar. John hurried after her, the others following him closely. They walked through the hanging vines into pale sunlight. A wide area had been scraped free of ground cover, leaving the reddish dirt bare to the sky. Someone had drawn runes and symbols in a double ring with some blue and white powdery substance. The symbols seemed to writhe on the ground if they looked at them from the corner of their eyes, but were perfectly still when faced head on. It was an elaborate design, one that must have taken days or even weeks to complete.
As they watched, Illyria added a final few symbols to close the interior ring. She moved to stand in the middle of the ring. She faced them, her eyes glowing with an inner light. “You may consider your debt paid,” she intoned, “Now we may both return home unhindered.” She tilted her head in that bird like gesture again and met John’s eyes solidly. “Perhaps we shall meet again, John Sheppard.” She held his gaze as she began chanting in some tongue that grated unpleasantly on the ear. The rest of the Atlantis team could only gape as the interior ring of symbols, symbols drawn in the dirt, began to rotate back and forth like the inner ring of an analogue Stargate. Nine symbols in the outer rings blazed into life one after another. When the final symbol glowed brightly, the ground under Illyria’s feet moved and rippled gently in the blue water-like pattern of a wormhole event horizon. She slipped swiftly, silently down into the impossible wormhole, watching John all the way. When Illyria’s head disappeared from sight, the wormhole vanished, leaving only smeared drawings in the dirt in its wake.
“That didn’t just happen,” Rodney jabbered, “That _couldn’t_ have just happened!” He turned wide eyes toward his companions. “Did it? Could it?”
John sighed, taking Rodney’s shoulder and turning him back toward the Stargate. “Come on, let’s go home.”
Once again, John Sheppard found himself longing for that illusive, pre-Stargate Antarctic peaceful feeling.