This is pretty short, and mostly scene-setting for the big showdown which hopefully begins in the next chapter.
Apologies for the extended delay - just too many other things going on in my life. Comments please before I post to archives.
by Marcus L. Rowland
"They're not going to buy it," said Kennedy. "You could drive a bus through the holes in that story. I think we're going to have to come clean."
Willow looked around the room, a trapped expression on her face, then said "Fine! Let's just tell all of our secrets. Not like we really know them or anything..."
"Willow, they've got problems of their own. And it's not like they can do anything useful with the info. Any more than we can."
"Why don't you explain it in broad terms," said Jack. "I think that we already understand that the Key is somehow attached to a human, and obviously it's someone you want to protect. It sounds like the Byzantium guys know as much, maybe know who it is. How much more do we need to know?"
"Um... Okay, fine, you're right. This doesn't leave the room, unless you guys want to end up eating mealworms in an aquarium. Agreed?"
"Okay," said Jack, raising his eyebrows slightly at the threat. "Agreed." Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c nodded.
"And?" asked Sam.
"The Key isn't just attached to a human," said Willow. "The monks made it into a human, and made sure it would be someone we cared for."
"So it's... what, an android?"
"What part of human are you having trouble with? Human blood, human hair, human DNA, and I'd guess that sooner or later she'll have human kids. She just didn't start out that way."
"A clone?" asked Jack. "Cool! I've got one of those."
"You've got a clone?" asked Kennedy.
"I was abducted by a mad alien scientist, he cloned me."
"Okay..." said Willow angrily. "Now I know you're putting me on."
"Indeed he is not," said Teal'c. "It was most surprising."
"Especially since he was a kid and had all my memories," said Jack.
"I wonder what they did about a soul," mused Willow. "They can't have copied that without magic, which means it must have formed with the body, or maybe a walk-in... Sorry, maybe when this is over you could introduce me, I'd love to see how your souls compare."
"Okay, I think that puts you back in the lead on weirdness," said Jack, remembering days of psychological tests and making a mental note not to introduce them. "Now about the Key..."
Willow took a deep breath. "They wanted to be sure that she'd be safe, that the Key wouldn't be used, so they sent her us and gave us reasons to want to protect her."
"They sent her to you?"
"No comment. Let's just say that she was someone close enough that all of us wanted to help her."
"But not Tara Maclay," said Daniel.
"No. Sorry... look, this is something you really don't need to know about in detail. The person concerned is well-protected, that's really all I want to say."
"That doesn't make a lot of sense," said Daniel. "Why send it to someone who was likely to be involved in the fight against Glory? Wouldn't it make more sense to send it somewhere completely different?"
"I think that there may have only been a few places in the world they could send her," said Willow. "Sunnydale and the other Hellmouths and mystical points. Also, I have a feeling that they had some instructions from the Powers that Be. The trouble was that the last surviving monk came to Sunnydale to warn us, and Glory tracked him."
"So that's the big secret," said Kennedy.
"And the only way to destroy the Key is to kill this person?" asked Sam.
"Yeah. The only way to use it, for that matter. That's one of the reasons why we couldn't let Glory make her getaway."
"And if she is killed it might cause a catastrophe?"
"Not likely," said Willow, "It was supposed to be a one-shot deal. But it's just possible, she does still have some of the Key energy inside her. We don't think it can be used that way any more, but we can't be a hundred percent sure."
"Okay," said Jack, "Sounds like we'd better get her protected."
"That's taken care of," Willow said sharply.
"If the Knights have access to Goa'uld equipment," Jack warned, "they'll be able to reach her. They have weapons a lot more powerful than a zat, and technology that includes spaceships and matter transmission."
"We'll bear it in mind," said Willow, "but trust me, we've got her well covered and she's difficult to find. If it becomes relevant I'll give you more details."
"Would it help if we took her off-world?" asked Daniel. "We have access to planets that the Goa'uld have nevr visited, so far as we know."
"So the only people there would be... what, a few soldiers or scientists?"
"She'd stick out like a sore thumb if they did come looking," Kennedy said dismissively. "On Earth she's just one person out of millions. With Willow's shielding there's no reason for them to find her."
"Plus," said Willow, "we don't actually know how her power would affect your gate thingy, or it would affect her."
"Good point," said Sam.
"Okay," said Jack. "We'll leave it at that for now. But remember, if it comes to it we have a pretty secure base in Colorado, hiding her there might be the best option."
"We'll bear it in mind," said Willow, in a tone that Jack guessed meant "No way."
"What now?" asked Kennedy. "We're really no further forward."
"We head back to the Charm School," said Jack, "See what we can find there."
"Colonel, I think that might be a very bad idea," said Sam, "In fact, I'd suggest that all of us stay well away from the place until we know more. I should have thought of it before."
"How come?" asked Jack.
"I think we could be dealing with a causation paradox."
"Like Star Trek?" asked Willow.
Sam looked a little pained, but said "In a way. The worst-case scenario would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, with our presence triggering the events of your dream. If none of us are there that can't happen."
"She's right, you know," said Daniel. "We've been concentrating so hard on the location that we forgot the specifics. None of us can go near the place again."
"That never works," said Willow. "Sorry, but we've run into this kinda thing before. The more you know about these things, the harder it is to wriggle out of them, and the worse it gets if you don't go along with things. If we don't go there..."
"Actually," said Kennedy, "the dream's only specific about the guys and Sam. No reason why the rest of us can't be there."
"That's true, but I think it's a red herring," said Sam. "If Willow's right there's probably something specific about this situation that needs all of us to be there. My guess is that something around the Russian complex concerns both our organisations, over and above the simple fact that the Knights are involved. Something demonic kept contained by Goa'uld technology, for example."
"That's a nasty thought," said Kennedy. "And we'd have to handle that, there's no way your guys would know how to deal with it."
"Shooting things usually helps," said Jack. "We'll be going armed, and we know Goa'uld weapons. Anyway, things have already changed. The Russians are evacuating all non-essential personnel pending our arrival and sending in troops. That means no children on the site, probably no civilians at all. The events of your dream can't happen as you remember them."
"How long can you keep the Russians from sending kids back there?" asked Willow. "Will they still be helpful in a month, or six months, or a couple of years?"
"Probably not," said Sam. "Could you use your influence..." she tailed off into silence, struck by an idea.
"Got something?" asked Jack.
"I think so, Colonel," said Sam. "Willow, a couple of days ago you told us about a trick you played to kill Santa Claus. Were you really serious?"
"I think I have the beginnings of a plan..."