Into the Fire, Part One
Disclaimer -- Wish though I might, I still do not and likely never shall, save with overly large sums of money that I shall never see, own these characters or the various franchises that comprise this story. BTVS is the property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy, Star Wars is owned by Lucasfilm/Disney, and Stargate SG1 is owned by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. I am merely playing in their respective sandboxes for the interim...
A/N -- Love the reviews I have gotten on this thing so far. They have been very constructive and informative, so it goes without saying that I would never have written this much without the constant stream of input from you, the readers, Force be with you all.Detention Block AA23, Vigilant Watcher
They had thought it would be so cool to go as Stormtroopers this year. Warren, as usual, persuaded Andrew and Jonathan to do the same thing; after all, Stormtroopers never fought alone. They were legion, and they were the Empire’s finest.
Now they would have gladly passed that horrible shop on the other side of the street had they had the chance. The massive download of the basic stormtrooper mental template plus tactics, training, and combat experience was more than enough to convince them of that. They had to play out a first person perspective of shooting and killing a fellow human being, hearing the screams of the dead and dying. Each of the three geeks had had to feel firsthand the genetically programmed intensely fanatical loyalty to the Emperor they were created to serve. Each of them had had to feel the callous brutality with which the Stormtroopers dealt with the citizenry of the Empire. Each of them knew now that they were never again the same as they once were. And now here they were, on the actual Death Star itself, guarding the man who was solely responsible for all this. It would have been so cool were it not for that very reason that all of this had come so suddenly into being. Andrew didn’t know whether to congratulate him or shoot him, where Warren saw opportunity and Jonathan regarded the chaos mage with what amounted to now as a deeply rooted loathing of the man.
They had removed their helmet masks at once upon waking up. The uniforms had been custom jobs, fully tailored and molded to look as realistic as possible. None of them had understood until the spell had broken just how easy the armor was to wear, almost like a second skin or a well-made suit of clothes. And now the armor was real, the blasters were real, as they had just seen Giles demonstrate on the poor, wretched man they were tasked to guard, the whole thing was all too real. Yet there was still enough left of each of them that they wondered if ever they would have the chance to fly one of the TIE fighters through the Death Star trenches or in space after a particularly challenging target.
“Laugh it up, fuzzball,” said Andrew after listening to Jonathan relay those same wishes to the other two. “couple of Stormtroopers like us have to earn that right. You don’t seriously think that Xander or Dawn would ever think we deserved it?”
“Alright, I get it,” groused Jonathan. “We’re ground pounders, not fighter pilots. Still, we could learn on our own, couldn’t we?”
Warren piped up at that. “Look, you guys, what’s done is done. We’re Stormtroopers now, Xander is the Moff, and as long as he wears that uniform, he’s in charge of this station and his orders are the word of God, got it? Now, we play our cards right, we get Xander to let us use the simulators, and when the time comes and we’ve got our skills down, then we convince Xander to let us hop in one of the TIEs and fly missions for him. Once we’ve got enough of those under our belts, then we move on to bigger and better things. I’ll let you guys know when the time comes and I know more, ok?”
“Oh, the daring Stormtrooper commander has a brilliant scheme all cooked up and ready to serve,” piped in Rayne sarcastically. “What a lovely group of conspirators, simply lovely…”
“Shut up, asshole!” growled Jonathan. “You’re lucky we’ve been told to keep you alive and healthy. If Xander doesn’t shove a torture droid up your ass I’ll be more than happy to suggest it!”
“Temper, temper, young man,” retorted Rayne in a singsong voice. “We wouldn’t want you to lose your military bearing in front of the Moff, would we, now?”
“That’s enough, Jono!” snapped Warren. He glared pointedly at the chaos mage’s eyes , those eyes that smiled at having won this small victory, and said, “His time will come, and so will yours.”
The others nodded their assent of Warren’s plan. Just then the comm crackled into life.
“Harris to Mears, this is Moff Harris calling Trooper Mears, respond?”
Warren walked over to the comm panel with Jonathan and Andrew in tow, and he pressed the relay. “Trooper Mears. What’s going on, Xander? I got Jonathan here itching to shoot Ethan because of what happened tonight…”
Xander’s voice came back, “Warren, you and your guys get Rayne and bring him up to the Bridge conference room; I have a special job that’s right up your alley.”
A special job? Now everyone’s curiosity had been aroused, Warren saw the looks on Andrew’s and Jonathan’s faces, and he knew they’d want to be filled in ahead of time, the better to keep abreast of Xander’s designs for the station and his new “crew”… Problem was, Warren knew everyone and his brother who had ever been a Star Wars geek would want to get their hands on what amounted to nothing less than the crown jewel of Emperor Palpatine’s vast and terrifying armada. What he needed to protect his claim to the Death Star was to win Xander’s favor and his total, unqualified trust, else the station would fall prey to any and every political enthusiast on Earth. Warren didn’t know if that was the Stormtrooper in him talking or just the product of his own keen intellect, but he’d hazard a guess that certain politicos in Sacramento and in Washington and elsewhere would gain tremendous brownie points with their respective legislative bodies if they could somehow sway the commander of the Death Star to show favor to their respective state or country. That could not be allowed to happen, and Warren would say as much to Xander at the first opportunity.
Which, as it turned out, looked like it had come. “We’re on our way,” Warren replied and then removed his thumb from the comlink switch. To Jonathan he ordered, “Get that man back in binders.” He looked at Andrew then to make sure he knew his part, and then he hinted with a blaster pointed at Rayne to cover him in case the wizard did something very foolish. In a moment, the deed was done, and the others nodded their readiness to leave. He then said, “We’ll find out what he wants for us when we get up there. Let’s go.”Vigilant Watcher Overbridge
Luckily, it hadn’t taken long for Warren and his crew to escort their charge from Level Five to the Overbridge on Level One. The station was truly massive; one tended to forget just how large a small Class Four moon really was relative to the size of Earth’s own moon, and if AA23 had happened to be placed on the other side of the station, then they would have been in for a long, boring ride over, never mind that there were numerous lifts and trams that would have possibly lessened the time and thus the tedium. Still, it was a great relief that Warren’s small band of Stormtroopers had achieved their destination. Sitting in the overbridge conference room was not an option for them given their current duty, but that was soon to change, hopefully, with the new task they were about to be given by Moff Xander, as Warren had taken to calling him in his own mind.
He simply could not, nor was he overly inclined to, get away from his scifi geek nature. Indeed, Warren Mears wore the appellation like a badge of honor, as did his cohorts.
All eyes, however, now were drawn to Rayne with awe and more than a little antipathy for the chaos mage. All knew that it was ultimately his fault that everyone here had found themselves on board the infamous battle station, and that it was ultimately his fault that the station had been brought into being at all. What power did he command, what awesome deity did he worship, that could channel such energies as would summon forth so much matter as to assemble this most terrible construct? There were more questions in his presence, Warren warranted, than there would have been answers given that night, and Warren was more than eager to ask them, but the next moment proved those issues irrelevant as Xander finally walked in with Joyce Summers, Willow Rosenberg and a couple of their younger friends trailing him. The young Moff spent a moment regarding everyone’s faces, and then at length he spoke.
“Most of us here have been made victims of a chaos spell that turned everyone into their costumes for a few hours,” he began, eliciting exasperated sighs from the assemblage, “and by a random, innocuous choice of mine, it brought this battle station to reality, making this setting possible. What we didn’t know, and what may have ben our doom had not our choices led to this station being here, was that secretly, a US military organization within the Air Force has been conducting missions to other worlds for the past year, worlds none of us had any reason to know existed, that is, until now.”
At everyone’s sudden murmuring, Xander continued. “Yes, the existence of aliens has been proven, even if it has not as yet been released to the public. The problem is, the aliens here mentioned have not exactly proven themselves benign to humanity, and according to our correspondence with this supersecret military organization, are actually hostile. For the past few hours, this organization, which as I’ve recently learned calls itself Stargate Command, or SGC for short, has been tracking two signals, which have revealed themselves within the past hour as enemy vessels intent upon assaulting and possibly invading Earth. The SGC’s commanding officer, a Major General Hammond, has asked us to place ourselves and our battle station temporarily at their disposal, and we have agreed for the present circumstances to do so.
“Recent scans by the Hubble telescope have rendered several visual images of these hostile alien craft, and I’ll put them up for display here on the holoviewer.” At that moment, Xander pressed a series of buttons, and an image of two spacecraft appeared above the table. Each of the vessels looked like a pyramid stuck in the middle of a large, dark gray ovoid disc, which showed the ravages of spaceflight and even space combat encompassing the outer hull. “These belong to a spacefaring species known as the Goa’uld, according to the SGC, and the Goa’uld are known throughout the galaxy for posing as Earth-based deities and subjugating the worlds on which they hold sway. Apparently, they were lording it over Earth some thousands of years ago when Egypt was still a very young kingdom, and they captured and transplanted thousands of people to slave for them on hundreds of other worlds, mining and doing other stuff. Nowadays the SGC goes through what they call a Stargate on a regular basis and they take it to these Goa’uld, running small-scale guerilla operations, using small teams of four people or so to explore all these worlds and generally harass the Goa’uld. And that brings me to our current, um…’mission’, for lack of a better term.”
“Mission?” asked Warren. “Do you mean to say that we’re going to find where these Goldy guys are and blow up their planet?”
The glare from Xander was worse than a thousand sunburns, and the words that came from his mouth that moment chilled Warren to the core and were burned into everyone’s memory from that moment forward.
“Okay, I want to look at everyone’s faces here when I say these next words, so I have no doubt that you’re all hearing me. Under no circumstances, and I do mean NO
circumstances, will I allow this station’s primary weapon to be used in any capacity against a world on which there’s even a chance that there might be indigenous life. Let that be perfectly, absolutely clear to everyone here. If I hear someone so much as breathe a word about using that superlaser, which in the world of Star Wars was designed with only one purpose in mind, the purpose being to annihilate populated worlds with a single blast, then I will make it my mission in life to show that person the wonders of space while they’re chewing vacuum! Does anyone sitting here not fully comprehend the meaning of my words? I WILL PERSONALLY EJECT THAT PERSON INTO SPACE!!!!
” he shouted, without the whole shouting thing, of course. Hostile words like those conveyed in an icy calm tone scared a person more than screaming the same words at the top of one’s lungs, so it went to say that Xander had everyone’s attention.
“I alone,” he continued, “shall make the decision as to when, where, and why that superlaser gets used. I shall leave that decision to no other on board this station, and that is how it shall remain for the foreseeable future. Is that clear to everyone here?”
Not a one indicated any doubt or confusion on their part, so Xander was satisfied. “Good. Now that’s out of the way, let’s continue with the briefing. The SGC relayed to us that one of their SG teams went missing around a couple of days ago, and there has been no word about their situation or any indication of their whereabouts until the Hubble transmitted this video segment about an hour ago.” Xander then pressed a couple of buttons, and the holoview display shifted into a close-up image of one of the alien craft. Various data surrounding the image indicated that this was a video file indeed, and then Xander pressed a button, playing the segment in time-lapse photography. For half a minute, there was nothing, and then a bright light flashed briefly from the apex of the pyramid portion of the vessel. Then the image froze in mid-flash, and Xander continued. "We don’t know what that was, but the SGC relayed to us that the flash was consistent with the luminous intensity of an M84 stun grenade detonation. Now that in itself is no indication of any human presence aboard that vessel, but we did send the data we got from a recent scan of each of the craft, and the SGC confirmed our readouts. Three human life signs were detected aboard the nearest vessel to us, so we determined that those readouts constituted the SGC’s missing team, which brings us to now.”
Warren sighed to himself in relief, internally. The Stormtrooper within him knew better than to openly display frustration or impatience in the face of a commanding officer; for Warren’s part, he was beginning to get a sense of when to listen to the Stormtrooper and when not to. He was no geek; Warren was, but this was not a situation where a geek’s experience would benefit. He glanced aside to Jonathan and Andrew, who were, like Warren himself, still wearing their armor sans helmet, and still training blasters on Ethan Rayne, whose purpose here was a mystery. Was Xander planning something special for the chaos mage? Did he have a part in this as yet unrevealed plan? The man seemed to elicit only questions instead of answers.
Then the librarian stood up to address the assemblage. Now just what was he doing on board this battle station? The mysteries seemed to abound here on this most wondrous and terrible construct.
“This will basically be a rescue operation,” Giles began, “in three phases. Phase One will consist of an ion cannon bombardment. We suspect that the Goa’uld craft have some sort of energy shielding that protects it from stellar debris during travel through space and from aggressive action during battle. Mr. Harris has assured me that if we engage the enemy with enough ion cannons for a certain period of time, then their shields will collapse, leaving them unprotected and thus vulnerable. This in and of itself would be easily done, with one exception.”
“Which is?” asked Warren. He was a mere trooper, but even a mere rank and file trooper had to be able to ask a question concerning an operation on which he might take part. To do less was stupidity.
Giles looked at Warren and nodded. “Both alien craft have within the past half hour deployed several hundred smaller two-man craft, suggesting that these might be fighter ships of some sort. They have assumed a defensive posture around the local area of the Watcher
’s surface and are holding a distance of around five thousand kilometers, spacing themselves evenly apart, and that suggests to us that they are attempting to reconnoiter the battle station and learn where our strengths lie. What we plan for them is to send out our own drone fighter craft, of which we have several thousand, to engage and hold at bay the enemy fighter screen while we concentrate the bulk of our firepower on bringing down the Goa’uld vessels’s shields. Once that is done, then we begin Phase Two, and Warren?”
“Yes sir, Mr. Giles?”
“You and your men will be on a landing craft which will board the alien vessel holding the SG team. You will go in, make your way to the bridge, neutralizing any resistance you encounter, and then you will make your way back with them to the shuttle, and get back to the station before the Goa’uld have a chance to restore their shields. Once you are all safely back aboard the station, then Phase Three will commence with a renewed ion bombardment targeting the engines on both craft as well as the surviving fighter craft. It’s a bold stroke, but if it succeeds, then not only will we have rescued the Air Force’s missing SG team, but we we’ll also have captured a number of alien craft for study. Does anyone here agree with this plan as it stands? If there are any flaws in this plan, please feel free to point them out.”
Warren raised his hand here. “Mr. Giles, Mr. Harris, do we know the concentration of enemy forces on board the ship holding the SG team? This might tell us whether we’ll be able to move undetected to the objective or whether we have to fight our way there.”
Xander spoke up here. “General Hammond, the SGC’s commanding officer, has relayed to us a basic profile of the soldiers you’ll encounter. At times you may be able to distract them with a well-placed thermal detonator somewhere else on the ship, but they are numerous, and more likely than not you will have to fight your way through at least half of those who haven’t flown out in their fighters. Suffice it to say that stealth and secrecy are your allies here on this mission; the three of you don’t want a stand-up fight against a couple of hundred Goa’uld warriors.”
“Hammond’s people also sent us files to help you navigate your way to the command bridge, where we think the SG team is being held, which files are being uploaded into your helmet computers as we speak. I don’t need to remind you that getting shot at this point is not the best idea, yes?’ Xander continued.
Warren sensed the gallows humor here, and a slight chuckle escaped his lips. “No, Mr. Harris, I think we’d have to take a rain check on that, as I doubt any of us has plans to die tonight.”
Everyone’s eyebrows raised in amusement. “And here I thought Stormtroopers were stupid,” chortled Xander.
“That’s because we’re not Stormtroopers,” shot back Warren with a smile on his face. “Me and my boys are just the men you need for this; we’ll get the job done.”Vigilant Watcher Overbridge
“Buffy, arm ion batteries and stand by to open fire on my command.”
The Goa’uld vessels shone brightly in the main tactical holodisplay as a wire-frame model with data streaming all around it. Several supplementary displays showed the status of the Goa’uld fighters surrounding the bulk of the battle station. They had moved on from their initial positions near the area surrounding the superlaser and the Overbridge, and now were spreading out, trying to cover the entirety of the construct.
Buffy stood again at her station at Tactical, resplendent now in an Imperial gray officer’s uniform, with the rank insignia and code cylinders of a commander. Her hair was combed neatly, and fell straight down to her neck, framing her face. Her fingers now wore no jewelry; an officer required none, and such adornments would only get in the way were she ever to need to punch buttons on a console or squeeze the trigger of her personal blaster, which Buffy now wore on her hip as a statement of authority. Those fingers now flew over her console, commanding the various armaments ordered by Xander to come online and to acquire a firing solution. Within seconds, the evolution was complete, and she reported, “Ion batteries armed and standing by, Goa’uld shields targeted. Ready to fire on your order.”
“Very good, Commander Summers.” Xander pressed a button on his comlink, altering the ordered frequency to communicate with the next recipient. “Overbridge to shuttle. Warren, are you and your men standing by?”
The voice of the boarding party’s commander came back, “Extraction team ready to launch on your order, sir.”
“Very good, Warren. I’ve got a thousand TIE drones ready to launch and make some lovely mischief out there for the Jaffa fighters. I’ll let you know when to bring the party favors. Good hunting, guys.”
“Ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none, Xander. At least that’s how the song went; I never was that much into rap.” Warren replied with a repressed chuckle.
“Alright, Warren,” Xander blessed his Stormtrooper team, “see you when you get back with our Air Force people. Overbridge out.” Xander now clicked off his comlink and turned to Giles, “Mr. Giles, send to General Hammond that we are ready to commence our rescue operation. Dawn, program the TIEs to target the Death Gliders and shoot to disable, ion cannons only. Buffy?”
“Xander?” The diminutive blonde turned now to face Xander, and she notices a small smile cross his face as he nodded to her, indicating his readiness to begin their attack. In a clear voice, he issued the most important order of his life.
“Forward ion batteries, commence firing. Fire at will.”