Abruptly Daniel and Illyria were standing elsewhere. Daniel looked around and recognized the bridge of a Ha'tak, as half a dozen guns were pointed towards them.
"You're back already?" said Jack. "And you brought friends."
"Friends?" said Daniel. He looked around. Illyria stood to his left, watching impassively. To his right, floating in mid-air about a foot above the deck, was a woman in a flowing white dress, crouched in a foetal position, hair covering her face. She glowed a soft white, and seemed to be muttering something.
"What?" said Daniel.
"I said," the stranger repeated, "what the hell does a girl have to do to stay dead around here?"
Almost in unison, Willow and Illyria said "Cordy?"
Marcus L. Rowland
“That’s my name,” said the stranger. “Don’t wear it out.”
“Didn’t you say she was dead?” asked Jack.
“Standing right here,” said Cordelia. “And yeah, I’m dead.” She stretched, looking at her body, and added “This is just a temporary thing. Once I’m done here this goes back upstairs. Though I have to say they’ve given me nice boobs, better than the last time around.”
Several pairs of eyes, not all of them male, suddenly looked in the same direction.
“You are the Powers’ messenger,” said Illyria, ignoring the weapons that were pointed at her.
“Think of me as the small still voice of conscience.”
“Riiight,” said Willow.
“Okay, not so small or still.” Cordelia shrugged.
“What’s this about?” asked Jack.
“She wants the ha’tak…” Daniel gestured to Illyria, “and she’s been sent by the Ancients to make sure that we give it to her…” he indicated Cordelia. “It turns out that the Ancients are the same as the Powers that Willow mentioned, and that their non-interference policy doesn’t extend to the supernatural.”
“Pretty much right,” said Cordelia, “except that I think that this is a spectacularly dumb idea, I don’t know what the Powers were smoking when they came up with it. I want to talk Fred out of it.”
“Time is short,” said Illyria. “Fred is no more, and you speak of things you do not understand.”
“Sure I understand. You go to take out Wolfram and Hart, you’re going to crash and burn. It’s a suicide mission. Whether you take them down with you or not the Powers are rid of you.”
“They would be rid of me soon anyway.”
“This shell was never meant to hold a god. Wesley delayed things, for a time, but in the long term that has made things worse. Within weeks the shell will fail and I will die.”
“That’s unfortunate,” said Jack, “but a lot of people have been hurt...”
“Many more will be hurt if I do not leave this world in time. The change will release considerable energy. I would use it to destroy my enemies.”
“How much energy?” asked Sam.
“I would estimate one point five times ten to the seventeenth joules.”
“Is that a lot?” asked Kennedy.
“About… ummm… thirty-seven megatons,” said Sam.
“Okay,” said Jack. “Then we need to get you off-world fast.”
“First,” said Illyria, “You will tell me what I need to know about the workings of this vessel.”
“Hey, who said anything about using this vessel?” said Jack. “We can fly you to the far side of the Moon, if you explode there it won’t do much damage.”
“The Powers, your Ancients, wish me to take this ship. You will not oppose me.”
“We need this ship,” Jack said stubbornly.
“You have destroyed others like it.” Illyria gestured towards Daniel. “His memories tell me this. Without it I cannot be sure to cause enough damage to eliminate the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart. I had planned to use the Key to travel to them and destroy their universe…” Willow and the Slayers tensed “…but there was always a risk that the damage would spread until all dimensions were consumed. Your Ancients showed me a better way.”
“Something’s better than a thirty-seven megaton explosion?”
“This craft is capable of relativistic speeds, its engines contain naqahdah. These are force multipliers.”
“So you’re going to… ram their planet and explode?”
“It is not a planet, but you are essentially correct. I will gain relativistic speed in this universe, before using its engines to transfer to the nexus of dimensions occupied by the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart. At the moment of arrival they, and I, will be consumed by the explosion.”
Illyria cocked her head, as though considering something, and abruptly vanished.
“Where the hell did she go?”
“I think she’s gone back to the White Room,” said Daniel. “It’s a conduit between our world and wherever the bad guys live. She has to keep killing it, or they’ll know what we’re doing.”
“She’s killing the conduit?” asked Willow.
“It looked like a big panther, but its body kept repairing itself when she killed it.”
Illyria reappeared, her boots stained with bright red blood. “Time grows short. I will have this vessel, with or without your cooperation.”
“There’s more, isn’t there?” said Daniel. “I didn’t get much when you and Oma Desala were talking, but it felt like you were talking for hours. You don’t need that much time to decide to crash and burn.”
“It is none of your concern.”
“Phoenix.” Dana stared at Illyria, fascinated by something that only she could see. “Phoenix rising from the ashes.”
“You have got to be kidding,” said Cordelia. “You think you can come back from that?”
“It is unlikely.” Illyria looked uncertain for a moment. “But if I can consume the energies of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart as we are destroyed, I may be able to survive and assume a more durable form.”
“Durable?” asked Sam.
“It will be many eons before the rest of my kind are ready to return to this universe, before the stars are right. If I am to survive to greet them, I must be more durable.”
“You think that you can go through a nuclear explosion and survive for thousands of years?”
“That would be difficult,” said Teal’c. “You will be alone.”
“I need no companions,” said Illyria, “save perhaps a counselor. A link to the Ancients, or whatever takes their place in the fullness of time.” She turned her gaze on Cordelia. “You will be adequate to serve as my Qwa'ha Xahn.”
“Your what?” Cordelia looked incredulous.
“I think it means High Priest,” said Daniel. “And knowing Oma Desala she’s already given you the job.”
“The shell remembers liking Cordelia,” said Illyria. “And now she is a Higher Being. Who better to serve me?”
“Don’t I get a say in this?” asked Cordelia, then after a moment added “Oh… oh, okay, guess I don’t. All right, that’s cool.”
“That’s cool?” Willow said incredulously.
“Let me put it this way,” said Cordelia. “The job has benefits. Nothing you’d understand, but… yeah, I could go for that.”
“Time is running out,” said Illyria. “I cannot kill the conduit indefinitely. Soon they will choose to close the White Room and find another link to this world. Tell me what I need to know, and do so now. Or I will take this vessel without your help, and you will be responsible for those I am forced to injure.”
“Let me make a call,” said Jack.
“No. No calls. There is no time, and no way to be sure that those you consult can be trusted. The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart thrive on treachery.”
“Okay… Willow, what happens if those guys are taken out? World peace?”
“Nope. Plenty of bad guys around, Wolfram and Hart just oiled the machinery, kept it working well together. But take them out and what’s left will be a hell of a lot easier to handle.”
“And if it all goes horribly wrong?”
“We lose this ship,” said Sam, “and frankly, it’s seen better days. We can live without it.”
“How do I know you won’t turn this thing around and ram the Earth, get your energy right here?”
“The fleeting lives of such insignificant creatures are as nothing compared to the energies of the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart. If I destroyed the largest city…” Illyria cocked her head, as if in thought. “No, it wouldn’t work.”
“Nice to know. Okay, she’s yours. Carter, tell her about the engines. Illyria, one condition – we disable the weapons, and you take this thing out of the solar system under escort. I don’t want you getting any ideas about turning around.”
“That is… acceptable.”
“Okay, get me a channel to the Prometheus, we’ve work to do.”
SG-1, Willow, and the Slayers materialized aboard the Prometheus as it crossed the orbit of Jupiter, the last to leave the ha'tak. Illyria and Cordelia remained aboard as it began to draw ahead, accelerating with the full power of its engines, and quickly vanished from view.
“How long will it take?” asked Jack.
Sam shrugged. “With all of the safeties off another few hours will see them up to the speed Illyria wants then they’ll make the dimensional jump. After that…”
“After that I can return some of the General’s calls,” said Jack. “I don’t think he’s going to be very happy with us. Where’s this thing headed now?”
Sam studied a terminal. “We’re still on course for Saturn, nearest approach at twenty-two hundred hours.”
“Okay… never seen Saturn up close and personal, let’s stay on course and take a look, then head for home."
The radio was distorted by static and distance as Prometheus crossed the Moon’s orbit again, on the last leg of its journey back to its orbital station.
“…estimate that at least five thousand people have been killed in simultaneous explosions in New York, Washington, London, Paris, Rome, Moscow and Beijing. So far seven separate terrorist groups have claimed responsibility for the destruction of the main offices of the Wolfram and Hart organization...”
Jack switched it off. “Do you think someone might have given us a little warning about that?”
“I didn’t see it coming,” said Willow. “They must have been linked to the conduit that Illyria mentioned, when things went bang a little of the energy must have seeped through. She must have taken them out. I wonder if she made it.”
“It’s unlikely,” said Sam. “With everything combined there must have been a total blast of several hundred megatons. She might have Ascended, like an Ancient, but I can’t see her finding time to steal life force and make a new body in the middle of that explosion.”
“Yeah… well, that’s why you’re not a god and she is.” Without anyone noticing Cordelia had appeared on the bridge, and was leaning against one of the auxiliary fire control stations.
“She did it?”
“Oh yeah, and she says to tell you guys thanks. Well, to be honest she says that you must worship her and praise her for destroying the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart, but don’t worry, a polite thank-you note ought to be okay. She’s not planning on being a hands-on deity. Assuming she still had hands, of course.”
“Did you know that the Wolfram and Hart offices would be destroyed?” asked Daniel.
“It could be worse,” said Cordelia. “After all, most of them were lawyers.”
“Did… you… know…?” he repeated angrily.
“Nope. Illyria and the Powers kept that one to themselves. But I’ve a feeling you’ll find that a lot of people missed appointments today, and a lot of the staff were out sick.”
”That’s something, I guess,” said Jack.
“Okay,” Cordelia said briskly. “You won’t be hearing from Illyria again any time soon, she’s settling down for the long haul right now, unless something big gets in her face she won’t have anything to do with the human race for at least the next few thousand years.”
“Good to know,” said Jack. “I just hope that…” He tailed off, realizing that Cordelia had vanished again, and added “I hate it when they do that.”
“Don’t worry,” said Willow, “with Cordy on her team I really doubt that she’ll ever be a problem for you. The guys who are gonna have to watch out are those fake gods you mentioned, that sort of thing has to be really annoying if you’re the real thing.”
“You think so?” said Jack, and began to grin.
Several hundred light years from Earth Anubis’ ha'tak was orbiting one of his vassal worlds, raining down fire upon a pitiful handful of rebels. “You will know that I am your God and you will tremble!” he shouted, though there was nobody in his throne room to hear save a few servants.
There was a strange blue light, and he paused in his rant, looking up to see a dozen swirling vortices open above him. As he stared, transfixed, the first tentacle appeared…
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