Fate’s Little Plaything Chapter One – Slayer Lite Summary:
Fate hasn’t finished playing with Cordelia – and this time there isn’t even a Vengeance Demon in sight. Pairings:
None at present Disclaimer:
I don’t own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Stargate SG-1 Notes:
Loosely set just before, or at the beginning of, the 5th season of BtVS. Continued from “Someone’s Else’s Mess” – this will probably only make sense if you’ve read the two preceding stories first. Note that there are some major AU components.
Thanks to everyone who responded with copious amounts of information on gallantry awards in answer to my query. I’ve no idea what a real medal citation sounds like (I came up with something I thought sounded suitably official and ostentatious) so please bear with me. Base Hospital, Stargate Command, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 31st July 2000
“I’m a what?” Cordelia’s outraged shriek practically shattered every piece of glass in the room and echoed through the many levels of the SGC.
Sitting only a few feet away, Buffy rubbed her ears and winced. “Thanks a lot, Cordy. Slayer here? Sensitive hearing and all that...”
The brunette glared at her, with an intensity Buffy hadn’t seen in a very long time. “Could be one here, too. Just what I always wanted... If you get yourself killed and I wind up on pointy-stick patrol, I’ll find a way to resurrect your ass, just so I can kick it!”
“I said Potential Slayer, Cordy. You’re too old to be Called,” Buffy tried to placate her friend who, after all, was still confined to bed and recovering from near-fatal injuries.
“And not like it’s my fault,” she muttered defensively.
“What is this Potential crap, anyway? I thought girls were just activated at random when a Slayer died,” Cordelia demanded.
Buffy shook her head. “Most don’t have the Slayer essence which allows them to be Chosen. Those that do, the Council tries to assign a Watcher as young as possible, so they can be ready just in case. The Council – bless their hearts - can usually magically track when and where a Potential is born. Three things wrong with that. First, the Council sometimes kidnaps little girls if it isn’t satisfied with their home environment, so it can raise them according to the official Slayer model. You know, complete lack of a normal life, social skills and most human contact – think Kendra. If they aren’t Called, the Council simply walks away in their late teens – leaves them completely unprepared for life.
“Second problem. Apart from the whole immoral kidnapping tendency, there aren’t enough Watchers to go around. Why is this a problem? Because vampires and demons are drawn to Potentials – and Slayers – from their early teenage years. If the girl isn’t trained, she’s pretty much a sitting target. Might explain why you had so many near-misses in Sunnydale High, not just from hanging with the Scoobies and me. You, Cordy, had a big fat target painted on your ass.”
That explained quite a lot, Cordelia decided, though not quite everything.
“Why didn’t Giles ever mention all this to me? I mean, even if there weren’t enough Watchers to go around, you’d think he’d know I carried the Slay Girl gene-code, or whatever. Or someone in the Council might at least have told him I was a budget version of you,” Cordelia sounded annoyed.
Not that she really wanted anything to do with the Council. The brunette had just added child kidnapping to the list of reasons why she disliked the ancient organisation.
“Brings us to problem number three, Cordy. Giles and the rest of the Tweed Appreciation Society didn’t know. Sometimes Potentials aren’t identified when they’re born – and then permanently disappear off the Council’s radar, unless they draw that short straw. Then if they survive to be Called – like me – it’s a Hell of a shock to the Council and her new Watcher. ‘Cos we haven’t had the brainwashing... They call us Wildcards – Giles reckoned that was a really good description of me, for some reason. In your case, being born on the Hellmouth royally screwed up their mystical locator thing. According to Giles, the council were “bloody clueless”,” Buffy clarified, giving the heavily abridged version of Giles’ explanation.
The Slayer decided the Council’s ignorance might actually have been a good thing for this unique Potential. Now, however, wasn’t the time to pour gas on a Cordelia-shaped bonfire.
The NCO nodded thoughtfully, having calmed down for the moment. “So if you hadn’t been around, I’d probably have joined the barbecue fork statistics.”
“Might have happened anyway, Cordy. Sunnydale High mortality rates? Sure, the Slayer essence gave you a big “bite me” label on your back, but going out in the dark’s a gamble for anyone back home.
Buffy fidgeted uncomfortably and Cordelia fixed her in place with a steely glance, sensing there was more to come.
“The whole story, Slay Girl. Like, now,” the Potential Slayer demanded firmly.
“Yeah... Well... Uh... You’re different, kinda special,” Buffy finally forced out.
Cordelia’s hazel eyes narrowed even further. “If you’re talking about my astonishingly good taste, style and dazzling personality, I could have told you that. But I don’t think that’s what you’re driving at, Buffy. So I’ll ask you once more... Spill, dammit!”
“Giles checked the records and hasn’t seen anything – anyone – quite like you before. Potentials might have some Slayer-ish instincts – and you certainly do, the way you went after that Jaylokh Demon. What they don’t have is any of our speed and strength. You do, just a teeny-bit, but it’s still there,” Buffy held her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart.
“Explains how you were able to learn to fight Slayer-style so quickly – and why your skills have improved so much in a year. Even with my – though I say it myself –expert training, you shouldn’t have been able to take down most of these special operations guys, Cordy. Especially not in the third and fourth bouts. Your strength, speed and response times give you just enough of an edge,” she added.
Cordelia’s eyes widened. “Guess I should try to hide that, before someone starts asking questions!”
“Maybe for a few months, but I get the feeling it won’t matter if you join O’Neill’s crew. Murray was the only one in Van Helsing who could beat you – and you gave him a few moments. Whatever he is, the guy doesn’t have to hide his abilities from the SGC. I’m guessing they won’t have problems with a Potential-Plus to back them up,” Buffy pointed out, though she did have residual concerns.
Right now might not be the best time to enlighten the SGC about Cordelia’s newfound abilities. Better to reveal that information at a more opportune time and, in any case, the information had been a strictly one-way flow up to now. The Slayer thought it only fair there should be some reciprocal sharing, beginning with two things. Namely, what was the SGC’s real function and, secondly, what – or who - exactly was Murray.
“Which brings me back to you. Best way to hide those abilities is to know them – that’s what works for me. When you transfer to Sunnydale, I can start training you again. I’m betting you’ve a tad more in there – not a humungous amount, but enough to make a difference. Only way to find out is to stop thinking like a... I hate the term, ‘cos we are normal, but it’s all I can think of that fits... Like a normal person, with all the physical and psychological hang-ups to hold you back. You have to unlearn what you think is possible. Only then will you understand your true limitations,” Buffy unconsciously channelled Merrick, her first Watcher.
“Thankyou Sensei,” Cordelia sniggered mockingly. “Watching all those bad martial arts films again?”
The smile changed to a frown and she looked slightly worried. “Makes sense, but I so don’t want you beating the crap out of me again! Seven days a week for seven weeks... Can’t believe I put myself through that.”
“This ought to be less painful,” Buffy assured her, having a Giles-type regime in mind.
“Might not have too much time for more training, though,” Cordelia pointed out. “Army duties, college work, then officer training? At that rate, it might take you a while to train me. Like, years.”
“We’ll figure out something – doesn’t have to be nearly so intensive as the training I gave you after High School,” Buffy replied.
“You know, it might even be your own fault this Potential thing has happened,” the Slayer ventured.
“Giles and I have a working idea – actually it was mine, yay me - that your Slayer essence only began to bubble up after fighting demons and vamps for three years. And being trained in Slayer moves, by the Slayer – which you asked for - was probably what flipped the “on” switch,” Buffy revealed.
“Figures. First time in my life I ask for help from anyone and... Fate might have a special place in her perverse black heart for screwing with Slayers, but the bitch has kept some leisure time aside to bend the Cordy over and shove a fucking broom handle up her butt, ‘til she’s red raw and bleeding,” Cordelia scowled darkly, reverting to Paratrooper Mode.
“Eeeuuuhhhh!” Buffy grimaced at that imagery.
The brunette shrugged apologetically. “Sorry... I know this Brit Sergeant-Major on attachment to the 82nd. That was something he said – just seemed to fit. Thing is, you say I’m too old to be activated, Called, Chosen, whatever. So not convinced here. I prefer to believe in the power of the Hellmouth, Fate and – for all I know – the frigging pixies, to do everything they can to screw with my life. Who the Hell needs Vengeance Demons to do it?”
She winced as her painkilling medication began to wear off. Buffy could tell – Cordelia’s degree of snark increased exponentially as the level of painkiller in her body bottomed out. Fraiser was gradually reducing the dose, but the wounds still hurt badly. The doctor had theorised that some component of the demon toxin acted on nerve endings in the immediate area of the injury and would take a few weeks to leave Cordelia’s system entirely. This wasn’t, of course, exactly doing wonders for the Potential’s temper.
As if on cue, Florence Nightingale – as Cordelia had sardonically named her regular nurse – appeared with the familiar tray. The NCO could have sworn the needles were getting bigger. Plus she was convinced her medical nemesis had a permanent sadistic gleam in her eye. Cordelia might have the edge in put-downs, but the nurse wielded the hypodermic. And that was more than equivalent to having the last word.
“Who needs the broom handle when you’ve got her?” Buffy offered, heading for the door and excusing herself as a disgruntled Cordelia rolled onto her side – her friend deserved a little dignity.
“Bet she blunted the fricking needle. And what did I say about Vengeance Demons?” the Potential Slayer closed her eyes and shook her head in resignation.
The nurse stared at them as if they were both crazy.
Base Hospital, Stargate Command, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 1st August 2000
“What’s the occasion, Slay Girl? All dressed up and nowhere to go?” Cordelia was surprised to see the Slayer wearing a smart green dress and heels, rather than the casual slacks and sneakers she’d been wearing around the SGC.
“General Hammond’s treat,” Buffy responded evasively. “He sent – make that ordered at gunpoint – Sam to the mall with me this morning. Maybe she’s an Einstein-level genius in science, but she knows diddly about shopping.”
The Slayer grinned broadly. “Has a pretty neat Harley, though. And boy, does she know how to handle it!”
Cordelia did a double-take. She couldn’t quite picture the Major as a leather-clad biker chick.
“Guess it’s the fighter pilot in her...” the Potential decided.
“Let’s get you smartened up, Sergeant Chase. You’re having visitors today – and you look like something the vamp dragged in... Or maybe spat out,” Buffy told her mysteriously, vigorously attacking her hair with a brush, then busied herself smoothing blankets and sheets and plumping up the pillows.
The NCO finally drew a line when Florence Nightingale also entered and approached her determinedly with a face-cloth. “Been washing my own face since kindergarten, so take a hike!”
For once, the patented Cordelia glare was more than enough for Doctor Fraiser’s evil minion, who hurriedly made her exit.
The Potential glared at Buffy. “If you don’t tell me what’s going on, I might lay some of my Slayer Lite on you...”
The blonde smirked at her. “That’s not a bad line. Been trying to think of something else to call you. Queen C doesn’t seem to fit now. But Slayer Lite? Hmmmm...”
“Don’t you fricking dare, you bottle-blonde pain-in-the-ass!”
“Good to see the patient still isn’t,” O’Neill quipped, as SG-1 filed into the small room.
The Colonel and Carter were each clad in their Service Blues, a relatively unusual sight, while Teal’c and Jackson had both donned suits. Buffy, meanwhile, was pinning Cordelia’s Purple Heart – the bauble, as the Potential had dismissively christened her wound decoration – to her pillow. As far as the brunette was concerned, Purple Hearts were for people who had been injured properly in battle, with bullets and shell fragments, not mauled with a demon’s claws. She was the only one in Team Van Helsing who held that view, many of them preferring to face enemy gunfire than the denizens of Hell.
Finally, Cordelia figured it out, cursing Fraiser’s painkillers for taking the edge off her processing powers. The medal for gallantry she’d been promised - or threatened with – over the last couple of days was about to materialise, probably with a great deal of unnecessary fanfare. In the old days, the brunette had constantly aspired to cheerleading trophies and other such trinkets, most likely because they were one of the few ways she could obtain overt parental approval. It was ironic, she reflected, that now she’d actually done something to deserve an award – or so everyone appeared to think – the prospect was merely embarrassing. Cordelia also knew it wouldn’t do to say such a thing out loud, since Carter and O’Neill each had a veritable chestful of fruit salad, all of it doubtless richly merited.
She only hoped Buffy and the other Scoobies would be equally rewarded, especially the Slayer. Judging by Buffy’s demeanour, however, the little blonde couldn’t have cared less one way or another.
“Button yourself up there, Sergeant,” Carter pointed to Cordelia’s hated surgical gown. “Wouldn’t do to give the brass an eyeful.”
“No, ma’am. We couldn’t have that,” Cordelia sighed wearily.
Major-General Hammond’s Office, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 1st August 2000
“So, my soldier did her unit proud,” Major-General Strass nodded, convinced as always that the soldiers of the 82nd could only ever be a credit to the uniform.
He’d been visiting 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, not far away, when the mysterious invitation came in from Cheyenne Mountain. The 82nd’s CO was surprised to find that the rookie intelligence NCO, who’d been whisked away by SOCOM a few weeks earlier, was currently occupying a bed in the base hospital here, after receiving life-threatening injuries. No one would say how, when, or where Sergeant Chase had been wounded or, indeed, what the nature of these injuries actually were. Strass did know she’d acquitted herself well in combat – and quite possibly contrary to the usual Army Title 10 rules regulating women’s combat roles - but the details were again completely absent.
Divisional commanders aren’t, in general, considered to be stupid and Strass very swiftly put two and two together, admittedly on a very thin basis of information. Rumour had it that three Army Generals were currently under close arrest and being questioned by NCIS – the Navy’s investigative service, not the more usual Army CID – together with a round dozen Colonels and a number of lesser ranks. The rumour-mill also talked of rogue operations by renegade Army special operations troops, working in conjunction with elements of the NID. The unit to which Chase had been attached also explicitly excluded any other Army personnel – but included some very tough operators indeed. SEALs, Force Recon Marines and the mysterious USAF SG teams. These operations had to be connected – the head of the Navy’s JAG office had been at Fort Bragg that day – and it was natural to assume the joint special ops team had been used against the renegade unit. He still didn’t know where – or even why - the Sergeant fitted into the puzzle. And that irritated Strass immensely.
Al he had to go on was a medal in its presentation case, sitting open on Hammond’s desk, and the most uninformative citation for valour he’d ever read. The medal came with direct Presidential sanction, backed up by the Secretaries of Defense and the Air Force – someone was obviously keen to make sure the Army didn’t deny his NCO her recognition in a fit of pique. A full citation was supposedly now attached to her personnel jacket – sealed and classified at the highest levels. Strass suspected the envelope would merely contain a file number, leading to an unobtainable combat report buried in a secure vault somewhere. Whatever Sergeant Chase had been involved in, it was beyond the paratrooper General’s ability to uncover.
The mystery hadn’t stopped there, however. The 82nd’s G-1 personnel section had received transfer orders for the Sergeant, directly her convalescent leave was completed, orders cut somewhat above his own pay grade. She was being shipped off to SOCOM-West at Fort McGregor, to serve on their Joint Contingency Planning Cell. Then there was preliminary paperwork for the Basic Officer Leaders Course.
Hammond may have invited him here for the award ceremony out of courtesy – after all he was in the area and Chase was still part of his division. However, Strass had a sneaking suspicion that his Sergeant would, in due course, disappear into this mountain. He’d seen a similar pattern of orders before. One or two of his best officers had already been transferred on indefinite attachment to the USAF – and he was damned sure they weren’t examining Deep Space Radar Telemetry. Obviously, Strass knew he couldn’t follow the progress of every enlisted man and woman under his command – there were thousands of them, after all - but unsolved mysteries gave him headaches Mysteries like Sergeant Cordelia Chase.
The SGC itself was a mystery dwarfing them all, of course. Rumours about this complex were legion throughout the armed forces, certainly at Strass’s level. Judging by the level of security – the place was crawling with heavily armed USAF special operations troops – it wasn’t a mystery he’d be solving today.
“So... Why so interested in my Sergeant, General?” Strass couldn’t resist prodding slightly. “I mean, she’s a good, competent soldier, but barely in the door. Too soon, surely, to draw any conclusions. And you tend to recruit only the high flyers for this place...”
“Sergeant Chase has a certain – uh – mental attitude which makes her particularly useful in our type of operations,” Hammond replied carefully.
Strass smiled crookedly. “Which have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Deep Space Radar Telemetry.”
Hammond was impassive. “You may make that assumption, General Strass. I couldn’t possibly comment.”
The 82nd’s CO shrugged. “Can’t blame a man for trying...”
“I can, General, when that man – that officer - is experienced enough to know that some things are classified beyond his level for very good reasons. So why not stop the fishing expedition and quit while you’re ahead?” the older General remonstrated gently.
Strass nodded, realising he wouldn’t get the first scrap of information out of Hammond today, or any other day. “Received and understood. Now why don’t we go visit my soldier – while she’s still mine?”
Base Hospital, Stargate Command, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 1st August 2000
Cordelia was doing her best to sit at attention in bed, not the easiest of poses to maintain, as Hammond read out the formal medal citation. Intended for public consumption, this was the shortest he’d ever seen.
“By order of the Secretary of the Air Force, I am pleased to confirm the award of the Silver Star to Sergeant Cordelia Chase, 313th Military Intelligence Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army. It is noted that Sergeant Chase, in the performance of her duty while engaged in a classified Joint Service operation, placed herself in extreme danger without heed for her own safety, in saving an injured and trapped officer who was in clear and imminent danger of death. Sergeant Chase, who deliberately interposed her own body between the enemy and the casualty, sustained life-threatening injuries in the process of this engagement, but continued to engage the enemy until she lost consciousness.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Secretary of the Air Force extends his sincere congratulations and appreciation to Sergeant Chase.””
Hammond shook her hand, pinning the Silver Star beside the Purple Heart. “Well done, Sergeant – and my own thanks for returning Colonel O’Neill in one piece.”
“I just happened to be there, sir,” Cordelia hoped she wasn’t blushing too much, though she felt like a lighthouse.
Absently she wondered why the Silver Star, on its red white and blue ribbon, was actually gold in colour.
“Well done soldier,” Strass also shook her hand.
“Airborne, sir! All the way!” she responded in the 82nd’s approved manner, feeling slightly foolish in the process, especially with Smirky Summers grinning at her from across the room.
The Slayer, however, was in for a shock of her own, as Hammond turned in her direction and produced another box and citation from his pocket. Buffy gulped as all eyes now fell upon her.
““By order of the Secretary of the Air Force, I am pleased to bestow the Air Force Civilian Award for Valor on Buffy Ann Summers. It is noted that Buffy Summers, while attached as a civilian security consultant to a joint service special operations team...””
Major-General Hammond’s Office, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 1st August 2000
To Cordelia and Buffy’s collective relief, the small ceremony was soon over and everyone quickly dispersed, though only after seriously depleting the brunette’s supply of chocolate, to her intense displeasure. Hammond, meanwhile, had indicated a wish to see the Slayer in private.
Buffy, for once, didn’t know what to say at first. The only recognition she ever wanted- or needed – was from her mother and friends. Beyond that, the Slayer could live with being secret identity girl. Which wasn’t to say that it didn’t feel good to be appreciated. Though she might never be able to wear the medal given the classified circumstances behind its award – besides, Buffy couldn’t think of any circumstances where she’d actually want to flaunt it in public – it was a nice gesture on the part of the Air Force, especially since her friends would be similarly treated.
Hammond, however, didn’t believe in such gestures for their own sake. He was a much more practical individual.
“We had to add the part about civilian security consultant to assist the passage of the award – and also to give you something a little more tangible than a shiny trinket,” the General explained.
“There’s a not inconsiderable sum of money for you and each of your friends back in Sunnydale. Consultancy fees can be very generous, especially when we include hazardous duty terms,” he smiled.
“What about Cordy?” Buffy wanted to know, aware she probably wasn’t earning too much as an inexperienced Sergeant.
“Cordelia will be taken care of in other ways, you have my word on that,” Hammond promised.
The General paused. “I spoke with the President about what concrete assistance we might be able to provide for you in future – should you so require and request it.”
“Yes?” the Slayer sounded cautious – she liked and respected the General and was prepared to trust him for now, but the Initiative had left her with a lingering distrust of politicians.
“He was quite explicit that there should be no more Initiative-type operations. “Dabbling in things we know less than nothing about”, was how he put it. What the President is prepared to do is to give you the option of calling on support from the SGC, in circumstances where you might need the extra firepower. SG-1 and SG-15 are already clued in on what you do, while SG-23 and SG-24 would receive appropriate training as you saw fit. At least two of these teams are generally available – but would only become involved at your specific request,” Hammond offered.
Buffy sat back and contemplated the proposal. A couple of SG teams might have made a considerable difference when the school was fighting against the Mayor and his vampires. In future, who knew what scale problems might arise? So long as the SGC wasn’t treading on her toes or indulging in Frankenstein-like activities similar to the Initiative Program, Buffy was quite content with the idea.
“One other part is also under debate. The creation of a specialised rapid-reaction demon-hunting team, purely for search-and-destroy operations, nothing else. Perhaps a few dozen strong. They wouldn’t be operating anywhere near Sunnydale – probably very seldom in the States at all – but could strike hard against demon colonies wherever else these appeared,” Hammond said carefully.
The Slayer considered that, at slightly greater length this time. Giles had told her of many parts of the world, especially the tropics, where demons were a major localised problem. Not generally an apocalyptic one where there wasn’t a Hellmouth in the vicinity, but often devastating to the local population. Even in the US, such outbreaks periodically occurred in some secluded areas and, outside Sunnydale, she probably wouldn’t be around to stop them in time.
“Who’d lead the team?”
“I believe you know Graham Millar, one of the few members of the Initiative who actively disagreed with many of their activities and who, when the initial investigation was launched, cooperated fully with the authorities. He refused to continue with the project afterwards, regardless of NID threats and intimidation by Riley Finn. The others in the team would be drawn from existing special operations units from all services, with no others from the original Initiative team,” Hammond wasn’t sure how she’d take to the idea of an Initiative commando leading a demon-hunting force.
“Graham’s one of the good guys – and he’ll only take decent people into his team,” Buffy acknowledged.
“You’d be given full access to records of their activities – if only to reassure you that they were operating according to their mandate and no more. In any case, we’d likely want you and Mister Giles to have a sizable input into designing their training program,” Hammond continued.
He’d only joined the Initiative after it became fully operational and, unlike Riley, had been horrified by its activities. The Slayer believed she could trust him. If Graham betrayed that trust, then she’d take Hammond up on his offer, ask for SGC support, and hunt down the former Initiative commando.
“If it makes you feel any better, I would be chairing the supervisory committee. There might even be space for you and Giles in he committee. Everything that team does – if it’s even formed – will be put under a microscope. The President was crystal clear on that. From what Rupert Giles told me, we came perilously close to an apocalypse – caused by our own rogue agencies and only halted, by accident, through a fortunate accident of timing. If we’d waited a few weeks to put Team Van Helsing into the Initiative...” Hammond shook his head.
“The squid-demon-thing,” Buffy was notoriously bad at remembering specific demon species’ names. “Would have opened the Hellmouth. Hell on Earth – literally. And the end of the world.”
The General shuddered and decided even an all-out Goa’uld invasion sounded preferable to that prospect.
“One other thing...” he wasn’t quite sure whether to push this right now.
“Sergeant Chase. My people only had a chance to talk it over after the operation was finished. They’re very experienced in such things and agree she’s stronger, faster and tougher than she should be – even with your training. Not anywhere approaching you, admittedly, but...”
Buffy cut him off. “Not going there, General. If you think there’s something odd about Cordy, ask her. Isn’t my place to say. And suppose there is? Are you guys going to come clean on Murray? So far, you’ve walked right over my secret identity and stuff – and I’m maybe not military, but kinda important it stays that way – without telling us anything about your purpose. Which isn’t star-gazing. Trust works both ways.”
“By that reaction, I’m guessing there’s something to tell - and Cordelia is a US Army soldier, after all,” Hammond pointed out.
“And I’m just a civilian. One with a wicked attitude problem if you screw with my friends,” the Slayer replied icily, cursing herself for giving anything away.
The problem was, Hammond never would have bought the ditzy blonde act, which was her alternative response. And Buffy had never been noticeably successful at the lying game – they always came back to haunt her very quickly.
The General suddenly felt he’d pushed the wrong buttons. The atmosphere had changed utterly in seconds. Hammond hadn’t intended anything more than to satisfy his own security. SG-1 worked with people – and aliens – with all sorts of abilities. The Slayer trusted Cordelia, which meant the latter couldn’t be any sort of a threat to humanity. He could see, however, how such an enquiry might set off Buffy’s Initiative Alarm.
In future, he hoped to be able to call upon the Slayer and her friends, to give the SGC an alternative response – supernatural heavy artillery – if the Earth faced a crisis from space. Alienating the little blonde wasn’t the way to accomplish that, but perhaps a promise of a quid pro quo in future might help.
“Easy there, Buffy. I was just curious. Cordelia’s abilities would make a very useful addition to any SG team’s combat capabilities. And to prove my good intentions, we’ll make a deal. If – or when – she joins the SGC, I’ll authorise disclosure of what we do here - but only to you. The circumstances are such that I shouldn’t have any problems justifying it,” Hammond went into diplomat mode and talked the Slayer down, before she decided to get creative with his letter-opener.
Buffy took a breath and studied the General’s face for a full minute, but couldn’t detect any artifice. Not that she’d been particularly successful on the lie-detector front with Riley, but Hammond was different. The General was a very open individual, lacking the in-built smarminess she’d mistaken for charm in Riley Finn.
“We’ll both go talk to Cordy... If she doesn’t want to say anything – and there’s not much to say – then that’s an end of it. No harassment by you, O’Neill or Carter. Otherwise, I’m happy,” the Slayer finally agreed.
“By the way, did O’Neill tell you about Willow’s rabbit spell?” Buffy asked, almost casually.
The General decided that was definitely a threat, most likely a promise. And perhaps rabbit spells weren’t the worst Buffy’s witch-friend could pull off. It was much preferable, he told himself, to have these people as friends.
Canteen, US Air Force Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado – 1st August 2000
“So Cordy’s your very own Mini-Me,” O’Neill sniggered into his blue jello.
“Cordy only has a tiny bit of Slayer essence. And so not “Mini-Me”,” Buffy glared, unable to comprehend how anyone could eat that stuff – in her opinion any kind of jello had too close a resemblance to demon slime.
The Slayer had been beyond surprised when Cordelia simply shrugged and readily spilled her Potential Slayer identity. Buffy had expected the brunette to explode – and probably in her direction. Instead, Cordelia had simply rationalised that the SGC already knew about the Chosen One – and powerful witches for that matter – so what was a Potential with a little added punch, by comparison? Her restricted additional capabilities were of limited use in most circumstances, whereas Buffy – so long as she restricted the urge to go off half-cocked – was a much more deadly proposition.
For his part, Hammond was simply mentally pencilling Cordelia in as a partial stand-in for Teal’c. And perhaps a full-scale version once Buffy was finished with her. Of course, now he’d have to live up to his part of the bargain in a year’s time, but that wouldn’t be a huge burden. If the SGC wanted the Slayer as some kind of back-up, then he’d eventually have had to disclose its real purpose, in any case.
For their part, SG-1 had been remarkably blasé. A full-scale Slayer was one thing, but they’d seen too much over the years to be overly surprised by Cordelia’s much more constrained abilities. They did, however, also recognise that she’d now be of somewhat greater use to the SGC than O’Neill had predicted.
“Not exactly Mini-Me, perhaps. How could she be, when the original is about seven inches shorter...” the Colonel was enjoying this – he’d taken an incredible amount of joshing about his own clone.
“Are you gonna eat that blue-jello – which is so disgusting by the way – or d’you want to wear it? Because the five-foot-two “original” can arrange that, Jack,” her Slayer’s glare would have sent Sokar running for his mother.
“That Slayer essence must come with built-in sarcasm. You two are so alike...” O’Neill prodded – in truth, Buffy and Cordelia were far closer in character traits than either would have believed.
The Slayer growled, quite literally. “Cordy and I are nothing alike, buster. They broke both our moulds.”
“I do not believe it would be wise to provoke Buffy Summers any more, Colonel O’Neill,” Teal’c intoned solemnly.
“What he said,” Jackson agreed, between mouthfuls of his own blue jello and ice-cream.
Buffy smiled with all the charm of a shark. “Listen to the voices of reason, Jack. And height jokes? Never a good thing. Just like fruit-loops and blue jello.”
O’Neill looked as though he wasn’t ready to let go just yet. Carter, meanwhile, picturing a food-fight developing – and the Slayer and her CO were both probably juvenile enough to start one – decided to change the subject.
“The General says you’re leaving tonight, Buffy,” she ventured.
The Slayer nodded reluctantly. “Yeah... I’d like to stay with Cordy ‘til she’s out of here, but I can’t leave the Hellmouth for too long.”
There was a genuine regret in her voice. “Not big on the whole underground secret bunker – I like to see the sun now and then – but I’ll miss you guys. Even the jello monster. You fit my world pretty well – most people would just have run screaming. Or thought they couldn’t learn anything from a nineteen-year-old five-foot-two blonde student.”
“It has indeed been a pleasure to fight alongside you, Buffy Summers,” Teal’c tilted his head.
“And you, Murray,” the Slayer replied.
For all her misgivings, she had to admit to feeling a certain kindred spirit with the Jaffa. Carter had described them both as warriors, a title Buffy felt strangely proud of. She was, however, still eagerly anticipating finding out the truth about his identity – and a host of other things - when Cordelia eventually joined this strange unit.
It had to be all about aliens, she was certain of that, even if Cordy and the Scoobies just laughed at her suggestion.
810 Wilkins Boulevard, Sunnydale, California – 12th August 2000
Cordelia was just about happy with her new apartment. Having arrived here from the SGC only a day previously, her personal gear shipped over from Fort Bragg, she’d had very little to unpack. Between losing almost everything before leaving Sunnydale and joining the Army, the brunette was pretty much unencumbered with an excess of personal possessions these days. Joyce had helped her find this fully furnished apartment, much nicer than she’d expected to rent on a Sergeant’s salary. Buffy’s mother, however, knew a few of the right people and here she was, comfortably installed on a street named after the late and unlamented Mayor Wilkins.
Cordelia shook her head at the absurdity. Only in Sunnydale could an evil bastard - who’d transformed into a full demon, with the aim of eating everyone in the town - still have streets and public monuments named after him.
She wasn’t expected to report to SOCOM-West until the 1st September and then only pending full medical approval. As it was, Fraiser had expressed mild surprise at the speed of Cordelia’s recovery, having guessed a few more weeks might be required. The NCO decided it must be another part of the Potential-Plus package – slightly accelerated healing, but not nearly enough to be of overnight benefit, unlike Buffy.
In the meantime, she had plenty to keep her occupied. UCS classes didn’t start for another month – and in any case, she be taking her degree on a correspondence basis - but Cordelia was determined to use the time in the best way possible. Her convalescent leave was an ideal time to make a head start on her studies. There were, apparently, several equivalency routes open to her, which would enable her to bypass some of her undergraduate coursework. She’d opted to take courses in Calculus – Cordelia had been surprisingly good at math in High School, verging on the geek, though no one had dared suggest that at the time – and US History, both as part of the College Level Examination Program. CLEP didn’t cover her third first semester option, Military Science 101, which O’Neill had more or less ordered her to take. This was a course predominantly designed for members of the serving military, mainly for aspirant officers, and built around the requirements of nearby Fort McGregor and its various component training schools. In the second semester, she was expected to take a follow-up Military Science class, while a bickering Jackson and Carter had tried to push her towards introductory courses in ancient Middle Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and Astronomy and Astrophysics 101, respectively. Aside from insisting on the Military Science grounding – Hammond and O’Neill both suggesting it was actually superior to anything similar she’d be taught during the Basic Officer Leaders Course – the Colonel hadn’t been at all prescriptive. As O’Neill had put it in his usual tongue in cheek way, he didn’t care if she took options in Fashion Design, so long as she had that particular core.
Cordelia was looking for something a little more challenging than the Colonel’s facetious suggestion, though she couldn’t quite figure out how a knowledge of ancient Sumerian glyphs would fit any military mission, let alone how it could be compatible with modern quantum theories of the universe. In any case she had to get through her first semester classes before worrying about that, on top of whatever day-to-day tasks she was assigned by SOCOM-West and – hopefully – finding a little time to study her Slayer heritage. Then officer training after Christmas, if she didn’t blot her copybook in the meantime. The brunette resigned herself to consigning any social life to the trash for the next year and more. Probably most of her sleep, too, she decided.
Right now, there were several books on the coffee table in front of her, as she sat curled up on the sofa. Cordelia could choose from the theories of war pile – Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mahan and several others – or the Slayer Studies option, with a variety of dusty texts provided by Giles. Though she suddenly felt strangely compelled to find out more about the frightening legacy she’d inherited – at least in part - Cordelia decided to relegate the latter to bedtime reading for now and concentrate on the material she needed for college. She reached for Clausewitz and a notepad and pen, determined to get started.
Fifteen minutes into the translation of On War, the doorbell rang. Annoyed at her concentration being broken, the Potential stomped off to answer it. Irritation turned to surprise when she discovered it was a parcel, bearing Brazilian stamps and addressed in her mother’s handwriting. Clearly, the parcel had been chasing her around for some months. It was simply addressed to Private Cordelia Chase, US Army, Fort McGregor – somehow her mother had discovered she’d enlisted – and had then been sent on to Fort Bragg, where it missed her again, back to McGregor, and then the SGC hospital.
Unwrapping the parcel, Cordelia found a cardboard box. It contained several photograph albums, together with a number of loose snaps. They were mainly of the brunette as a youngster, either in family settings or with her friends. Cordelia was surprised her parents had even bothered to keep them, given that they’d done their best to forget she existed after fleeing the IRS. It was striking, she noted, how seldom she seemed to be smiling in photographs where her parents were present, and only seemed genuinely happy in those where neither her mother nor her father were within several miles radius.
She noticed two envelopes at the bottom of the box. The first was a letter from her mother. Dear Cordelia Your father and I were very surprised to hear you’ve joined the Army. Neither of us expected you to choose that particular route with your life and I must admit to feeling slightly disappointed. I’m sure you could amount to much more than a mere soldier.
Cordelia, almost hearing her mother’s condescending tones in every word, was tempted to tear it up then and there, without bothering to read the rest. We thought you might like to have the few small reminders we’d kept of your childhood. There really is no space in this house for extra clutter.
Cordelia gritted her teeth. She’d always been unnecessary clutter to her parents, or so it seemed. With an effort, she continued to read, wondering whether her mother was being deliberately hurtful. Probably not – Cordelia had learned her own lack of tact directly from Virginia Chase and, by comparison, was a paragon of discretion.
The next paragraph literally made her choke and reach for a glass of water. She read it three times, just to make sure she wasn’t imagining things. Perhaps the demon toxin was messing with her mind now. A fourth reading convinced the Potential that she wasn’t hallucinating. The main reason I’m writing to you is a little delicate, but I’m sure you’re old enough to understand now. Not long after we were married, I had what might be called an indiscretion with one of your father’s business contacts. It only lasted a few days, but that was enough. I might as well be blunt, Cordelia. The man you always called daddy is not your biological father. As it was, as a married man, he refused to have anything to do with you, though we did rather hope he would have accepted responsibility for raising you. As you can imagine, my parents would have been horrified if they’d ever learned the truth, but Gregory forgave me and we agreed not to tell them. In any case, he was never able to give me children. If for any reason you want to track down your real father, there’s a copy of your birth certificate and a photograph of him in the other envelope. I believe his family now live in Sunnydale. Whatever you decide, I hope you always remember that Gregory was your real father in the ways that matter.
Cordelia almost laughed at the last sentence, but was unsure whether tears might not be a better response. Right now, she felt as if either could come at any moment. One thing was certain, this probably explained her parents’ cold attitude towards her.
Hands shaking slightly, she ripped open the other envelope. It had never even occurred to her to check the names on her birth certificate. A slightly faded photo – probably taken around the time she was born, judging by the clothes -dropped onto the carpet and, picking it up, Cordelia absently decided she’d inherited almost all her looks from her mother. Then she unfolded the birth certificate, threw back her head and laughed hysterically. She really was fate’s little plaything.