"So let me get this straight; you're telling us that there really isn't any kind of power armor that lets you fly around the solar system, and that the energy source that our sensors picked up and that destroyed over half of the fleet of invading alien starships was really you, kid?"
The doubt and skepticism in Jack O'Neill's question was clearly obvious to anyone listening, and it was even more unmistakably present in the subsequent question that followed his previous statement.
"Let me guess: you arrived on this planet in an experimental rocket ship built by your genius-scientist father, which was launched just moments before your home world exploded?"
"Ehhhnnn! Wrong, Colonel! I was born at the local hospital here in town, and you can check all of the local records at your leisure," the dark-haired boy grinned a bit sourly at the older man. "I was just as normal as pretty much anyone else growing up around here. Especially when you consider the local definition of normal. Not to mention that my parents were nowhere near as good as the Kents."
The wry smirk on the kid's face as he spoke and the glance he threw Dr. Giles' way was something none of the Air Force team missed, although none of them had any idea of what it might mean. For his part, the Englishman was remaining notably quiet and closemouthed, and seemed content to let the youth do all the talking for the moment.
"So what are you going to tell me was responsible for these new abilities of yours, kid?" Jack asked, his irritation at the kid's lack of any reasonable explanation also becoming evident. "Magic?"
The sarcasm in his voice made Carter and Danny wince as he finished up with the very acerbic question/jibe.
"Yep. Got it in one, Colonel. Guess you fly-boys are smarter than you look, huh?"
The kid's smart-aleck remarks were really beginning to annoy O'Neill, that much was quite evident to the other members of the team, not that they were all that pleased with his attitude, themselves, but they found the situation being handled quite adequately before anyone could open their mouth and say anything in reaction to the youth's not-quite hostile remarks.
The Englishman's quiet word held just enough censure in it that the kid had the decency to look down at his feet for a moment, a faint flush of embarrassment coloring his cheeks, before he looked back at O'Neill and apologized.
"Sorry about that last remark, Colonel. It hasn't been a very good night around here for a lot of people we know," he said quietly, a fleeting expression of pain crossing his face before vanishing behind an atypical look of apology.
"But the part about it being magic, that's true."
As he spoke, the kid had gotten up and moved to the center of the living room, and he just stood there, the expression on his face as patient as that of a statue as he looked at the Colonel.
The equally brief expression of annoyance on Jack's face at the youth's remarks was nothing any of SG-1 hadn't seen before this, and it, too, came and went so swiftly that an unwary observer might have missed it entirely.
After all, the mission always came first, Jack reminded himself. Their main priority was to get SG people access to that suit and if letting some smartass kid get a few zingers in on him was what it took, then he could grin and bear it with the best of them. Of course, he'd be planning his revenge all the while.
He was just opening his mouth to make some understanding reply when the kid abruptly seem to *blink*, and all of sudden, standing in front of them was an armored figure that looked as though it would be more suited standing in the middle of a video game than the living room of an English librarian. The massive, more-than-slightly-imposing figure had some kind of large pistol holstered at its right hip, and a *very* imposing sword hanging from its left, and seemed to radiate a sense of power and authority that impressed even the normally sardonic and acerbic Colonel.
"What the hell?!"
"That's impossible! Even the Asgard can't materialize equipment around a living being!"
"Amazing." Even Teal'c's equanimity had been shaken by the youth's action.
"Does this do anything to make my story more believable, Colonel?"
The voice issuing from the armored form in front of them was clearly that of the kid who had just been standing in front of them a moment earlier, which was something they all could agree on.
How the hell he had just done whatever it was he'd done was unknown at the moment, and Jack had absolutely no idea how he could do something like that, but explanations could wait till later. Right now, he had to get the kid to agree to let Stargate Command's scientists examine the armor and see what they could make of it, and to do that, he had to figure out what the kid and/or the librarian might want in return.
"Uhm, yeah, I would say it definitely does, kid," Jack nodded his head in agreement. "So where, ah, where exactly did you say you found this, uhm, this magic armor of yours, huh?"
"I found the armor in my basement last week, Colonel," the rather imposing figure standing before them stated rather casually, a moment before it *blinked* again, and then the kid was once more standing in front of them, wearing the same pair of navy blue jogging pants, a long-sleeved, grey tee-shirt with Twinkie the Kid on the front and a pair of sneakers he had on a moment earlier, looking a lot like he was just in from cutting this Dr. Giles' front lawn. If he had had a lawn, that is.
"What?" and "*Where* did you find it?" and "Good lord!" were all issuing from the various Stargate Command members' mouths, and the big black guy's forehead was furrowed with frown lines as Xander casually continued, "A friend of mine had been working on it last year when we were thinking about doing something big for Halloween, and I forgot entirely about his leaving it down there until I was cleaning the basement last week."
"What's your friend's name, uh, Xander," Jack barked, trying not to sound too authoritarian as he demanded the information. They had to get a hold of this friend ASAP, before someone like Kinsey or one of his minions at NID got wind of him and made him disappear into one of their labs, never to be seen again.
"Jesse McNally, Colonel," Xander replied calmly enough. "But there's no point in your people going looking for him. He disappeared last year, and he's never coming back."
"Look, kid, I'm sure there's probably a very good reason why he ran away, but we need to find him before some other people we know about find him, first," Jack told him, trying to put enough emphasis into his words to make the kid open up, without making him feel like he was betraying his friend.
"We can arrange a place for him to stay, if that's what he wants. We just need you to get in touch with him for us. It's for his own good."
"You don't understand, Colonel," Xander shook his head. "There's no way he can come back. None. Ever."
Before Jack or any of the others could say anything more, he went on.
"Anyway, he wasn't responsible for the way the armor is, now. When he was working on it, it was just normal stuff, like anyone could make in your own house. It only became magic last night, and that was because I happened to be wearing it," he explained, but not really.
"Sorry, kid, uh, I mean, Xander, but I don't think any of us are following this not-really-explaining-anything explanation of yours," Jack broke in, in an attempt to try to make sense of everything the kid was saying, as he indicated himself and his SG-1 teammates.
"You need to be a little more specific about what's so special about you that your wearing the armor made it magic last night, and what the hell was it that happened to you that could let you fly out to the outer edge of our solar system under your own power, faster than light, and not only survive attacks from spaceships that could wipe out an entire seagoing fleet with one shot, but enable you to destroy over two dozen of those spaceships single-handedly?" he asked, spelling out in clear detail the clearly impossible things the youth had accomplished only a few hours before.
The teen glanced over at the older man he obviously regarded as some kind of mentor with a look clearly asking for assistance and received a barely perceptible nod from the Englishman, who then leaned forward in his chair, the look on his face close enough to one of Danny's that Jack realized that they were in for a bit of a lecture.
"Colonel, Major, gentlemen," Giles nodded to each of his 'guests' as he addressed them, "what I am about to say will almost certainly sound both impossible and unbelievable and make you think I am most likely at least a bit eccentric, but I ask that you listen and then consider my explanation in the light of the various events that you know have taken place earlier this past evening."
Seeing the exchange of uncertain glances the four visitors made, Giles smiled slightly to himself and then began his explanation.
"While the vast majority of the world's inhabitants would most vehemently deny it, magic does exist," he announced to his attentively listening audience.
"From what little we had been able to determine by questioning others who were also affected by last evening's events and changed into their costumes, it would appear that a sorcerer who had been operating out of a costume shop here in town, for reasons currently known only to himself, cast a spell that affected anyone who procured their costumes, or at least a part of their costume, from his shop and transformed them into whoever or whatever their costume had been intended to represent.
"Since Xander had obtained paint and other accoutrements for his costume from that shop, he was transformed by the spell into the individual his costume was intended to portray, a character from a game he and his friends played some years back, who happened to be an incredibly powerful fictional character and a being possessing all of the powers you apparently witnessed him utilizing last night in his battle against the invading space fleet he had informed me of, a short time prior to your arrival," the librarian explained.
"Wait a minute," Jack interjected, as he held up his hand to halt the Englishman's explanation, "are you saying there were other people affected by this spell, too?
"Were any of them affected the way Xander here was? Did any of them remain as the characters they went as, the same way he did?" he asked, obviously excited by the revelation of other people having been changed into their costumes.
Jack and Carter both noticed the slight tensing and stiffening of both of their hosts' spines at Jack's question. Giles hesitated only the briefest of moments before replying.
"We're not completely sure," he stated, as he looked O'Neill straight in the eye and lied without the slightest qualm of conscience.
"Quite a number of Xander's classmates either died or were seriously injured as a result of the spell, although none of the survivors seem to have evidenced any residual extraordinary abilities, as far as could be determined, given the rather tumultuous events of last evening. A close friend was critically injured and still remains in a coma in hospital at this moment. Since she has not regained consciousness since the accident occurred, we simply do not know whether she has suffered any lingering effects of the spell. In actuality, the doctors have given us little hope that she will awake from the coma she is currently in at any foreseeable time in the future," he concluded, leaving out for the moment that Buffy was the Slayer. Absently, Giles hoped that Kendra would be able to get to Sunnydale before the demons learned that the Hellmouth was unguarded.
"Okay now, that's the situation as it now stands," Xander spoke up once Giles finished, drawing the military contingent's attention back to him not just by his words, but by casually folding up his legs beneath him where he stood and simply remaining in a seated position, apparently floating or hovering in mid-air.
"Thanks to the spell, one of the things I can do now is get occasional, intermittent precognitive visions," he stated, his announcement drawing frowns of mixed concern and some anxiety from their guests.
"It's completely random, and something I have absolutely no conscious control over," he further informed them at their incipient hopeful looks, "but shortly before you guys showed up, I got a series of flashes that showed me things that make me think we could possibly end up working together in the future."
Jack's face lit up upon hearing those words from the kid; it looked as though things might be finally going their way, for a change.
"But we can talk about that later," Xander immediately continued. "One of the things the visions showed me was a scene with you guys, me and some other people I know, all standing around a hospital bed, along with a feeling that things were going to be okay.
"Now, with the situation being what it is and one of my best friends lying in the hospital in a coma, since I'm not a real big believer in coincidence, I'm thinking that maybe you guys might be able to do something about her condition," the superhumanly powerful youth said as he remained nonchalantly floating in the air before them.
Carter, Danny and Teal'c all immediately looked towards O'Neill for his reaction, and Jack thought furiously as both the kid and the Englishman joined them in waiting for a response.
Several considerations all fought for his attention simultaneously.
Memories of Bill Bixby playing the Hulk, and his immortal quote, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry", along with the realization that there was absolutely nothing anyone could possibly do to stop the kid if he decided he wanted to fly to Washington and demand an audience with the President both resonated in his mind as he also took into account the fact that Hammond had authorized him to make any agreements or concessions necessary to ensure an alliance with whoever was responsible for kicking the snakes' asses out of the solar system. Hopefully, with crippling losses.
Doing what they could to help heal this kid's girlfriend would certainly make him a lot more cordial and considerate towards any offers they might make in the future, and besides, it was the right thing to do, anyway. Negotiating with someone's life in order to make them do something they didn't want to do was the type of thing Kinsey would do, and that alone made it anathema to Jack's way of thinking.
"Well, first off, let me make it clear, I'm not promising you anything definite, because we don't know all the facts about your friend's condition," O'Neill replied almost immediately as he looked the kid straight in the eye, "but it's entirely possible we might be able to do something to help her.
"I can't really say anything more without having our doctors look her over, but if you can arrange to let our medical people examine the young lady, we'll know a lot more about what we can or can't do for her, afterwards," he said. "I'm not gonna lie to you, kid. There's a fair chance that there isn't anything we can do to help your friend, even given the stuff we do have. Right now, I just don't know."
"Okay, Colonel, that's good enough for right now," the kid grinned at him, his relief at Jack's offer of help evident on his face. "Why don't you start arranging to get your people out here, and we'll start on things on our end, okay?"
"Okay, then. We'll meet you at the hospital. What's the name of the patient we'll be looking for?" O'Neill asked as he and the other members of his team got to their feet.
"Summers. Buffy Summers."
"Get that man out of here!"
"Mom! Calm down! Don't make a scene! Please!" Dawn had to physically hold her mother back the moment that Joyce caught sight of Giles as he and Xander first entered the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital.
It took Xander a moment to recognize the tall brunette restraining Joyce as Buffy's younger sister despite the explanation that Giles had provided him after showing up at the Watcher's apartment earlier that morning.
Seeing the statuesque young woman standing before him that the twelve year old had somehow been transformed into the previous night by this guy Rayne's spell, he was momentarily taken aback by a beauty that unquestionably equaled that of the girl's older sister.
"Dawn?" he half-asked/half-stated as he looked at her. "Mrs. Summers? I came as soon as I could when I heard about Buffy. How's she doing?"
The older blonde's face was drawn with worry and fear, he could see that easily the instant he looked at her, and he moved forward to encompass both women into a hug that was as much for his own reassurance as theirs.
"The doctors aren't telling us anything, Xander!" Dawn sobbed into his shoulder as she eagerly accepted the comfort he offered. "Buffy's not waking up, and they aren't telling us anything about how we can help her get better." The dark-haired youth could feel the younger (well, not that much younger, now, it seemed) girl shaking silently as she tried, only partially successfully, to control her tears as she wept in his arms.
"All the doctors will tell us right now is that it appears that Buffy sustained a number of critical injuries as well as an unknown degree of brain damage when the car hit her," Joyce informed him as she managed to maintain her composure while speaking to him.
Seeing the glare she was currently directing in Giles' direction, Xander tried to head off what looked like a full-blown frenzy in the making.
"Mrs. Summers, listen to me, please. I know you're really, really pissed off at Giles right now, and I'm not saying you're not completely justified in the way you're feeling," he spoke as soothingly to her as he could manage, given the gut-clenching fear he himself felt about his best friend's situation, "but can you hold off trying to kill him for the moment, please? We need to talk to you about Buffy and some things we've just found out about a little while ago that we hope are going to help her get better. Please?"
He watched uncertainly as Joyce, after giving him a probing look that felt as though it had examined him down to the utmost depths of his soul, spent a moment almost visibly bottling up all of her seething emotions and temporarily stuffed them down into some mental compartment
Closing her eyes momentarily and letting out a long sigh, she then reopened them to give Giles a vitriolic glance and say quietly, "We *will* be discussing this *entire* situation, Mr. Giles," before apparently dismissing him entirely from her thoughts.
Turning to Xander, who already had Dawn snuggling up under his arm for reassurance, the still beautiful blonde mother of (now) two Slayers said to him, "And we are going to talk later, too, young man. About a lot of things I've only now been told about."
Smiling slightly to herself at seeing the brunet youth, who according to Dawn's account had already brought her elder daughter back to life once before, gulp slightly upon hearing her words, she then went on, "All right, then. What are these new developments you mentioned, Xander? And how might they help Buffy?"
"Okay, well, the first thing I have to tell you guys is that Dawn wasn't the only person affected by whatever it was that happened last night," he told her. "You see…"
"So, Doc, can we do anything for the young lady?"
O'Neill's question was the one uppermost in everyone's mind, regardless of whether they actually knew the young woman in question or not, and he had taken the opportunity to ask Stargate Command's Chief Medical Officer in the privacy of the hospital's head administrator's office that they had 'borrowed' for the duration of Dr. Frazier's visit.
Jack had to admit that the ease with which the hospital staff had cooperated with their requests to accommodate the expected 'specialists' had been both surprising and gratifying; on the other hand, though, he was more than a little bothered by that very same lack of difficulty in getting the hospital staff to make those same accommodations.
Based on his twenty-odd years of career experience with bureaucracy, most department heads would dig in their heels and insist on a minimum number of hoops for the newcomers to jump through, if for no other reason than to prove exactly who was in charge.
Here, though, it had taken less than twenty minutes' worth of filling out paperwork to get access to everything they had requested, including operating room privileges and the keys to the executive washrooms for Janet and her staff. It was almost as if the people here either weren't interested, or didn't want to know any more than they absolutely had to in order to let the various administrative functions proceed with the minimum amount of disruption to their routines.
He shook off his doubts, telling himself that he was just feeling even more paranoid than usual, as he waited for Janet's answer, while trying to ignore the little voice in the back of his head pointing out that it wasn't paranoia when they really *were* out to get you.
"Well, normally, I'd say that given the sheer number and degree of severity of Miss Summers' injuries that we would require extensive use of a sarcophagus to be able to restore her to anything approximating her normal state of health, considering her medical history and her previous physical condition, according to everything her mother told me," Janet told him as she looked over the various charts and test results the SG medical team had produced one more time with a puzzled frown narrowing her eyebrows in a manner he, unfortunately, found quite familiar, "but our examination has produced a number of… anomalies… regarding Miss Summers' case, Jack."
"What, exactly, do you mean, anomalies?" he asked cautiously, having also noted with a sinking feeling in his stomach Janet's observation that they would require use of a device to which they no longer had access, their only working model having been severely damaged in the last Goa'uld attack
"Well, according to the report filed by the EMTs who responded to the 911 call, Miss Summers was struck by a Ford SUV at approximately six-thirty P.M. last night when she was chasing after some trick-or-treaters she was escorting around the neighborhood. She sustained multiple fractures to her pelvis and right femur, fourteen fractured ribs, the radius and ulna of her right arm were each broken in two places, her right lung and parts of her stomach and upper intestine were punctured by fragments from the broken ribs, her aorta was lacerated and her skull was fractured in three places, causing massive damage to her brain, along with corollary damage to her spinal cord. In fact, she was suffering such severe edema – that's swelling, to you laymen – of the brain that they were considering going in to remove a section of her skull to relieve the pressure," Janet reported in her 'professional medical personnel' voice.
"Sounds like the kid was lucky to have even survived getting hit," Jack observed neutrally.
"She was extremely lucky," Janet agreed. "Based on the x-rays I examined, I would have expected her neck and spine to have snapped upon impact and for her to have died virtually instantly," she noted her professional opinion for the record.
"So, what's so unusual that you feel the need to mention it to me before you even speak to the girl's mother?" he inquired, more than a bit reluctant to hear any more bad news about the young woman's prognosis. Children, whether they were toddlers, kids or adolescents, were supposed to be out enjoying life, living it to the fullest; not be lying in a hospital unconscious and unaware of the world around them. For a beautiful young woman like that to be doomed to lie comatose for God alone knew how many years would be a crime against nature.
"Well, first off, virtually all of her bruises from the accident have healed," Janet pointed out. "The ER staff had taken photos documenting the number and extent, and when I asked them why they did that, the ER doctor gave me some story about them originally thinking that she might have been beaten prior to the accident."
"It's too fast, Jack," she told him. "Far too fast to be anything a normal human being can do. It would normally take at least a week for that to occur. So after seeing that, we gave Miss Summers another complete physical examination, to see if there were any other unusual aspects we might find regarding her physiology."
From the way Janet was so carefully choosing her words, Jack knew she had immediately suspected the possibility of the young woman being a host for a Goa'uld, or possibly a Tok'ra, and his professional paranoia instantly jumped from 'Standby' mode to 'Code Yellow.'
"Fortunately for everyone's sake, we did not detect the presence of any unusual parasites or other infections," she quickly added, reassuring him of the absence of any possible extra-terrestrial presence. "When we checked the girl's fractures, we discovered that they had all begun healing at a rate commensurate with that of her bruises.
"In fact, given her apparent rate of recuperation, even if we had never showed up, the young lady would probably have healed the majority of her injuries within the next two weeks," she said, clearly unhappy with not having a viable explanation for what she had discovered.
"The majority of her injuries?" Jack asked, picking up the redhead's qualification of her diagnosis.
"Miss Summers' brain injuries appear to be healing faster than would normally be expected in such a case, but not at anything approaching the rate of her other injuries," Janet informed the SG-1 team leader. "In this particular instance, if we can persuade some of our – out-of-town associates – to cooperate and provide us the use of some specialized equipment they possess, we can probably accelerate her recuperation and return her to normal within the space of a few days.
"Without any intervention, I really have no idea how long it might be until she awakens," the doctor concluded.
"Great," Jack muttered under his breath upon hearing the doctor's final words. "Now all we have to do is persuade Wonder-Bitch to let us use one of the Tok'ra healing devices. Oh, joy.
"Anyway, thanks for the update, Doc," he then said as he turned to head back to the ICU ward where the Harris kid and Summers' family were waiting for word regarding the young blonde's fate.
"Now to let everyone else in on the good news."
SGC conference room
Later that same day
"We have more important things to do than to waste our time having to negotiate with children over the use of important technology! Tell the boy other worlds have greater need for his services than this planet, and that we will be informing him of which Goa'uld fleets to attack by this time tomorrow, so that he will be ready to spearhead our attacks!"
Jack repressed his initial impulse to throttle Anise, noticing that he received an approving nod of the head from General Hammond as the older man recognized the self-control necessary to implement such a decision, and instead, merely gazed across the table at the Tok'ra woman with a thoughtful eye.
"And how might you suggest we try to force someone who single-handedly destroyed over two dozen invading Goa'uld vessels to do as you suggest?" he managed to ask in what could be considered a fairly polite tone of voice.
The look the woman gave him clearly indicated that she believed him to be suffering from some form of mental defect, and her words as she spoke to him were condescending in the extreme.
"It is quite simple, O'Neill," she practically sneered at the Colonel. "Take possession of this girl he has been seeking aid for and inform him that she will not receive any additional medical treatment and that he will not be permitted to visit her if he does not comply with his orders."
The Tok'ra seemed completely unaware of the reaction her statement produced in the Terran contingent of the group, and she settled back in her chair with the self-satisfied mien of someone who has graciously pointed out obvious blunders to their social inferiors while somehow managing to not see the glares and stiffened postures her instructions had produced in her audience.
"Doctor Frazier, I think you need to begin immediate checks on all of the SG personnel who have been in contact with any of the Tok'ra and see if any of them are displaying any visible signs of deterioration that Anise has just demonstrated," Jack finally managed to say as he turned to address the base's chief medical officer, once he was able to speak without resorting to the rather extensive vocabulary of curses and swear words he'd acquired over the course of his several decades long career.
"I think that's an excellent idea, sir," Janet smiled at him, nodding her approval at the implication conveyed by his orders.
"What do you mean by that, O'Neill?" the brunette alien hybrid asked upon hearing his orders, a perplexed look on her face as she stared at him in non-comprehension.
"Any obvious signs of the rapid mental deterioration you're obviously suffering from at the moment," Jack informed her with a completely straight face.
"What are you talking about!?" the Tok'ra demanded in an outraged voice. "I am suffering from no such condition!"
"You know, it's funny," Jack commented idly as he turned to address the other members of his team. "I hadn't realized she had a death wish that encompassed her entire species."
"Because that's exactly what you're inviting if you ever even consider doing anything like that again," he continued as he turned to address the Tok'ra directly this time.
"I've only known this kid for less than a couple hours, and even from that short exposure, I can tell you that your trying to threaten anyone he cares about would be the worst, and probably the last, mistake you ever made," he advised the dumbfounded woman staring at him in openmouthed amazement at his reaction to her suggestion.
"I really think if this is going to work out that we need to have someone a little less – rigid – in their thinking handling the Tok'ra end of this situation, sir," he went on to say as he turned to the General.
"Do you think you can get in touch with your dad, Carter?" he asked as he turned to address his SIC.
"This is ridiculous! I am in charge in here and you will do as I say!" Anise declared, the expression on her face a mixture of both fury and trepidation.
"Fortunately for us, you're not," O'Neill shook his head in disagreement as he paused in his orders to his team to answer the Tok'ra.
"Carter, get on the horn and see if you can get Jacob here ASAP, okay?" he then resumed giving orders, as he ignored the alien woman's outraged ranting. "I'm not about to let Anise anywhere near the kid without having someone else around to referee; I've got tickets to the Rangers' game next Thursday, and I want to make sure I'm around to use them."
"So, let me make sure that I understand what it is you're telling me, Dr. Giles," Jacob Carter politely held up his hand to interrupt the Englishman's soliloquy.
"You're saying that magic does exist, and that witches and sorcerers not only exist, too, but that some of them actually use their abilities to disrupt society by promoting chaos through incidents like the one that took place in your town last night?" he asked.
"The incident allegedly responsible for transforming this lad here into a being capable of destroying over half of a Goa'uld invasion fleet?"
"Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, General Carter," Giles replied.
"And not only do witches and sorcerers exist, so do the overwhelming majority of supposedly mythological and fantastic creatures catalogued in the various fairy tales and stories told to children," he then went on to expound on his earlier statement.
"And how is it that you know so much about the existence of magic, Mr. Giles?" General Hammond asked politely, as the conversation paused for a moment.
"I'm ashamed to admit that I was involved in certain – rituals and studies involving various little-known arcane practices when I was much younger and a great deal more foolish," Giles reluctantly confessed, after a quick glance at the younger man sitting next to him at the table.
"It was only after several people died or were seriously injured that I foreswore such things," he added, "and I can truthfully state that I have not been involved in anything relating to those practices since then. Unfortunately, it became abundantly clear after only a brief examination of the events of last night that there are still people who are quite deeply involved in such matters, and that at least one of them was responsible for last night's occurrences."
The expression of sorrow and guilt on the Englishman's face as he took a moment to consider his reply revealed much more to the senior military officer than the man's words did, and the general made a mental note to have an in-depth investigation of the man's background made as quickly as possible.
"I see," was Jacob's only comment, a reaction which brought an immediate response from the visibly seething Anise.
"I cannot believe you are giving any credence to this nonsense, Selmak," she practically exploded. "Magic! Demons! Vampires! This is all completely ridiculous!
"The Tau'ri have found some way to empower selected subjects to the levels the sensor recordings have shown us, and are seeking to conceal from us the knowledge they now possess," she declared vehemently.
Before she could continue her rant, Jacob looked over at her and spoke, although this time, his voice seemed to reverberate with power and authority.
"Be silent, foolish child!" he snapped as his eyes suddenly seemed to glow with a white radiance. "There are far more things existent in this universe than you have seen or could conceive of, given the brevity of your life."
"Selmak?" the brunette barely breathed the name, so great was her apparent astonishment at the reaction her outburst had produced from her fellow Tok'ra.
"Indeed. Now, be still, while I attempt to repair the harm you have caused to our relations before it produces irreparable results," Jacob/Selmak nodded, before dismissing her and turning to address the two other non-military people in the room.
"Scholar Giles, Mr. Harris," he inclined his head in an obvious gesture of respect. "My apologies for the behavior of my associate; she is young and has not yet recognized the breadth of understanding the universe has to offer those seeking out its mysteries.
"Both Jacob and myself have seen more than sufficient evidence of things we cannot yet understand to realize that we cannot arbitrarily dismiss any potential explanation given us simply because we might not yet comprehend the premises involved," he explained with a small smile. "Your account of the events of last night appears to be yet another instance of such, and we look forward to discussing the potential ramifications in greater detail at some future time.
"For now, however, I believe a friend of yours is in need of our assistance. If you or one of Colonel O'Neill's associates would lead me to the hospital area, I will do what I can to help speed her recovery."
The nimbus of light playing around the young woman's head faded away as Jacob/Selmak lowered the hand holding the bejeweled silver device and stepped away from Buffy's bed with a small sigh.
"I have done everything I can, now," he announced quietly as he turned to address his waiting audience.
"Now all we can do is wait for your daughter to awaken," he told Joyce with a sympathetic expression on his face. "Hopefully, that will be soon."
Dawn, sitting next to her mother, anxiously clutched Joyce's hand as she stared at the stranger that Xander and Giles had assured her that, despite the strange, somewhat unnatural, vibes she was getting from him, was someone trying to help heal her sister's injuries.
"Thank you for everything you've done for Buffy, General Carter," Joyce replied as she managed to offer him a weak smile of thanks.
"I am glad I could be of service," the older man returned the smile before giving both Summers women a small nod of acknowledgement and heading out into the corridor. "I should be on my way, now. I have other people I need to see before I can begin heading back home."
"We greatly appreciate your assistance, General," Giles said as he followed him out of the room, trying not to shrink away at the caustic look Joyce threw his way before turning back to anxiously watch for any change in Buffy's condition.
"Yeah, I really appreciate your using that healing gizmo on Buffy," Xander chimed in, having also followed the two men out of the room. "Without that, who knows how long it could be before she woke up."
"Allies should seek to help each other out wherever and whenever circumstances might dictate, my young friend," the older Tok'ra smiled as he warmly shook Xander's hand.
"And despite my colleague's earlier words, I still hope that we might be allies against the Goa'uld's efforts," he added. "Anise is more a results-oriented person, and most certainly not whom I would have chosen for you to meet initially, had I been made aware of the situation," he apologized.
"Yeah, she's not really ambassador level material," Xander agreed with a grin. "Unless, of course, you're looking to start a war with someone."
"That is something we most assuredly are not trying to do," Selmak replied, the change in the other man's voice and intonations something Xander still found a bit disconcerting, despite the myriad memories of the strange and unusual he had gained as a result of the previous night's spell.
"Even if we could ignore the Goa'uld's threat, I am sure that there are more than a sufficient number of other things lurking out there that we have yet to encounter which will cause more than our fair number of worries," he predicted.
"Which is why I hope that you will give due consideration to our request for help in neutralizing the various Goa'uld factions we must deal with," the Tok'ra finished up his appeal.
"I'll be talking with General Hammond and his people in the next day or so about how we can work out some arrangements to help you guys," Xander replied.
"But until I can make some arrangements to provide proof to them and you, you'll have to take my word that there are other issues I need to address here on Earth that are of at least equal importance to those you face," he went on.
"We will await your contacting us about those arrangements, then, Xander," Selmak answered with a smile. "And until we meet again, I hope you and your loved ones will be well."
It was nearly an hour before the diminutive blonde stirred a bit restlessly in her bed, turning her head to the side and wearily squinting her eyes open.
Buffy's plaintive appeal was barely audible, but all four pairs of eyes in the room immediately focused on the wan figure lying beneath the sheets as they all leaped to their feet.
"I'm here, baby," Joyce reassured her daughter as she seemed to almost teleport across the few feet separating them. "How're you feeling?"
"I hurt," Buffy complained despondently as she tried to focus her uncooperative eyes on the fuzzy blonde image hovering before her.
"Don't you worry, now, baby; everything's going to be all right," the teary-eyed mother promised, sparing a brief instant to bestow a brilliant smile of thanks on Xander as he stood behind Dawn, his arm reassuringly curled around the brunette's shoulder, as she stood next to her mother. Joyce's happiness at Buffy's response to Jacob's treatment was so great that she didn't even glare at Giles as he hovered near the foot of her bed.
"I promise, sweetie. Everything's gonna be fine," she repeated her reassurances as she felt the burden on her heart seem to dissipate away.
Her child was awake and conscious once again, and for right now, all was right with her world.