Half a Legacy
She was old.
Almost indescribably old.
Almost, save for the fact that she could quantify her age quite well and there were days, years- even centuries -when its weight hung oppressively about her as she shepherded history along inexorably toward the future. Normally it was a lonely affair. She maintained her post in the void, and that post had seen few visitors in the last twenty five thousand years. Her sole companion through the millennium were the gates; a pair of massive double doors reaching several stories high while providing the only fixed reference within the inky blackness that surrounded her.
Today, however, was an exception to that solitude. Today the void was alive with light; streamers of brilliance flaring around her and the gate. The woman's red eyes tracked the anomalies soaring through the night indifferently and resumed her walk to the gates themselves. The streamer's agitation increased with each step, and they began to weave their patterns closer to her as if to warn her off from her present course of action.
The observation produced the slightest edge of amusement on the green haired woman's face and she continued regardless, walking through the wisps and up to the gate directly where her final steps were blocked by a new streamer of light seeking to impose itself between her and her goal. The light twisted and flared in a vaguely threatening manner, causing the gate's guardian to arch a skeptical eyebrow.
"Is that right?" She asked the bothersome entity almost rhetorically, and it pulsed violently before she dismissed its antics with a shake of her head. "And what shall you do if I don't?"
The tangle of light and energy flared brightly with challenge, encroaching upon her personal space. The air gusted around her, sending her black fuku fluttering; but doing little else to move the seemingly bored woman.
"In other words, nothing," She finished and swept the light gently aside with a hand, as if it were little more than a kitten looking for attention. She glanced back, favoring the other streamers with thinly veiled contempt as they flitted to and fro. "None of you will. Unless you are to come down from your high horses and reverse your edict?
Their agitation stilled into a silent drift. The woman nodded and turned back to the gate. "I thought not. You are watchers. A pathetic shadow of the people we once were. Fortunately, there are still those of us who may act."
The green haired guardian stretched out her hand and the local atmosphere displaced as a long, heart tipped staff materialized into her grip. The jeweled orb at the heart's center pulsed bright pink, and the massive doors before her cracked open. She nodded and verbalized the next command.
"Dial the Earth gate."
"Unscheduled off-world activation!"
"God, I miss that," Lt. General Jack O'Neill commented, cocking his head as the advisory echoed through the nuclear hardened corridors of Stargate Command. The concrete and piped hall he and Doctor Daniel Jackson walked down was as faceless as the last, but both knew the route to the gate room by heart, even if the doctor himself was less enthusiastic concerning the announcement than his counterpart.
"You would," Daniel returned in a doubtful tone, pushing his glasses back up his nose as he followed the air force veteran and long time friend around a corner and into another faceless corridor. More salutes met the pair, though they were reserved mainly for O'Neill.
"Better than the paperwork waiting for me back in DC."
The archaeologist thought on the matter for a moment. An alien visitation or administrative purgatory... Tough call. In the end he conceded the point reluctantly. "I guess. I don't suppose this has anything to do with why my survey of PX-773 short was cut short, does it?"
"Nah," Jack waved the comment away as they closed on a fatigue clad security officer, who snapped to attention beside the door he was guarding. Another salute was dispensed with and the soldier punched a code into the doors neglected keypad, producing a loud click. The Lt. General glanced back. "I'll explain that once Carter beams down. This comes as much of a surprise to you as it does me."
The door led through to an all too familiar flight of stairs where another uniformed air force security guard snapped to attention, standing aside to reveal the nerve center of the SGC in all its digital glory. Uniformed enlisted personnel in blue jumpsuits manned an array of terminals, while an equal number of officers looked on. One in particular stood amid the bustle, and his eyes were already on the two new arrivals.
"Just couldn't stay away, could you, Jack?"
"Had some time to kill before Carter achieves orbit." O'Neill returned Major General Landry's casual salute with one of his own and stepped up next to him. Daniel gave the graying commander of the SGC a deferential nod and took his own place within the control room just in time to watch the final symbol of the age old ring that sat beyond the pane of heavy bullet proof glass lock into place. The next phase of its operation was induced by its human operators and the trinimum-titanium shutter spun closed to seal it off. Seconds later, the iris was back lit by a brilliant flash.
The personnel of the gate room watched the now shielded Stargate expectantly for a moment, and when nothing out of the ordinary presented itself for their viewing, turned back to their terminals to monitor its status.
Major General Landry held his own study of the active gate for a moment before turning a sidelong glance at one of the technicians across the room. "Anything?"
"Dead air, Sir," The officer replied as the equipment monitoring the gate's emissions came back with a distinct lack of activity. The Major General glanced around the command center for anybody else with something to report, only to arrive back at Brigadier General O'Neil's bored look.
"They can't all be alien invasions, I guess," He quipped, looking back to Daniel for confirmation. The Archaeologist favored him with a dry look that made it clear the humor his fallen upon unappreciative ears.
"Sir, you better have a look at this," Another officer from the corner of the room glanced back to the group, beckoning them over to his terminal.
"Oops. Spoke too soon," Jack revised, earning a chuckle from the facility commander, and the trio made their way over to the black technicians station. His display was a color graph readout, mostly idle save a small jagged line at the bottom of the screen.
"What do you have, Carlson?"
"Everything is green across the board," The officer replied to Landry's question, motioning across the screen and its variously graphed bars. "Power is nominal, no unusual energy spikes..."
"But?" The general prompted and Lieutenant Carlson nodded.
"But I've got some weird activity down in the sideband," He pointed to the line and its minor spikes. "Not radio and definitely not an IDC... But I would almost swear they were data packets of some sort."
General Landry inhaled sharply and swung his gaze across the room. "Commander Peters?"
"Nothing hitting our firewalls, General," The officer in charge of Cheyenne Mountain's information and technological security reported after a quick glance at his own screens.
"Well if it's not coming to us, then where..." Jack O'Neill's own musings were cut off as sudden realization hit him. He and Daniel looked at one another with the simultaneous revelation.
Landry blinked, then turned back to Lieutenant Carlson. "Can you confirm-"
"Activity just spiked!" The Lieutenant reported with the slightest edge of panic in his voice. The minimally jagged line flowing across the bottom of his screen suddenly jumped. "If that's data, it's got to be in the gigabyte range now."
"Somebody is downloading large scale instructions to our gate," Daniel Jackson all but mumbled, turning back to sealed gate room and the back-lit Stargate beyond.
"Disable it," Landry order in no uncertain terms, and this time a female voice replied.
"It's riding the wormhole's energy signature," The brunette officer spoke out, this one manning a large mainframe. "We can't cut the link until-"
The iris baring entry to the gate twitched.
"Too late," Daniel shook his head and watched the barrier unlock. The barrier spiralled open to reveal the shimmering blue event horizon of the wormhole.
Landry grabbed an idle handset radio. "Teams one and two, defensive positions!"
Two sets of massive armored doors ground open and camouflaged troops flowed into the dancing blue light of the gate room, flanking the ring from both sides while heavy caliber weapons were racked. A select few soldiers peeled off from the main group and manned a fixed batter of light rockets; the other bringing a .50 caliber anti-armor machine gun to bear.
"One and two reports in position," The radio crackled and the general join Jack and Daniel at the observation window. Thirty seconds of silent tension passed before the gate finally rippled with activity. What stepped out was vaguely human shaped; their new arrival's details being washed out by the brilliant blue light dancing from behind. Various limbs cleared the flowing surface of the Stargate's event horizon, which held for a moment before finally flickering out.
What was left once the light normalized was... female.
That didn't deter the guns from being directed at her person, however, but the stranger stood in place amiably, armed with only a silvered, heart tipped staff balanced lightly across her left shoulder. Green hair flowing down her back and red eyes held little concern for the arms pointed at her . Instead, they found the observation deck.
"Indeed, now," She held her gaze a moment before a thin smile crept across her lips. "Is this any way to treat a guest?"
One general looked to the other and O'Neill shrugged, silently passing off command of the situation to the very commander of the base. Technically, the ex-team lead of SG1 could have taken command right then and there, but he had handpicked the man for a reason. Landry was a much better statesman than O'Neill himself would ever want to be, and he suspected those skills were about to come in handy.
Neither did General Landry disappoint, grabbing the silver stem of a mike from the nearest station as he keyed the gate room intercom. "Please excuse us. We might have had a warmer reception prepared if we had been expecting company. Perhaps if you were to tell us who you are and why you're here...?"
The red eyed woman inclined her head gracefully, as if to admit a minor social gaff. "Of course. It was rather rude of me, but suffice to say the matter is of the utmost importance, else I would not have forced entry into your quaint facility."
Landry looked from Daniel to O'Neill. His superior officer shrugged indifference and the archaeologist simply cocked his head curiously. Seeing no hard objections from the two SG1 veterans, the general keyed the mike once more. "Then perhaps we should carry on this conversation face to face... assuming I have your word that your intentions are not hostile?"
"Were they, you would have known so the moment I disabled your barrier," She returned, smiling serenely.
General Landry arched an eyebrow and Daniel blinked as the vision of a Naquida "gatebuster" bomb rolling through the Stargate's event horizon came to mind. General O'Neill just nodded matter-of-factually with the same thought in mind.
"She's got a point."
The older general chewed on the matter for a moment longer before coming to a decision. "Team one and two, stand down. Escort our guest to the briefing room; Miss...?"
"Meiou," She advised as soldiers took up escort positions around here. "Setsuna Meiou."
"She's... Ancient," Daniel Jackson blurted as his eyes fell upon Stargate Command's newest visitor. It wasn't anything about the woman he could distinctly put his finger on. Her mode of dress, for example, was the last thing he would have expected. It was a white, form-fitting top matched to a shorter black skirt. The bow sitting just above the generous lines of her cleavage was likewise completely unexpected, but after so much exposure to the race itself he knew she was an ancient just as assuredly as he knew the sky was blue.
"Daniel," General O'Neill cast a sidelong glance over to his friend, his voice taking on a tint of disappointment. "Didn't anybody ever teach you not to comment on a woman's age?"
The doctor turned back to Jack with a plaintiff look. "No, not her age, she's actually an ancient!"
The general nodded plainly, as if it had been a given and noted the woman's slight smile. At least somebody caught the joke, he snorted silently to himself as General Landry took control of the meeting.
"Now, if we can get the obvious questions out of the way and assuming our esteemed Doctor Jackson is correct," He began, offering her a seat. She simply nodded graciously, but remained standing with that oddly shaped staff across her shoulders. It reminded him all too much of the Priar staves, even if hers was slightly less threatening looking. "What brings you to Earth?"
"Fate, Destiny... the usual things," The green haired woman replied cryptically. "Speaking of Destiny, how are things going at the Legacy site?"
Major General Landry's face feigned cluelessness. "Legacy site? You have me at a disadvantage Miss Meiou."
"A few locked doors, a lot of dust," General O'Neill replied in his stead, and his counterpart flashed him a guarded look for divulging the information. Still, it was all too obvious the woman knew. She was dropping names entirely too freely not to, so he decided to play that knowledge the best he could. "Don't suppose you could help us with those, could you?"
"Destiny?" Daniel stared at the woman as the name caught his attention; at least until the second part caused his thought process to jump tracks. "Wait, Legacy Site? Jack, what's-"
"You were going to get the full briefing with Carter," The general waved the point away as if it were inconsequential. His eyes turned back to the patiently waiting woman. "Though it's looking like that will be sooner than later."
Daniel simply stared, but that was broken with Setsuna's next words. "Perhaps. Though it will take more than some crude gene therapy to get what you've found up and running."
"What have we found, Jack?" Irritation mixed with insatiable curiosity intermingled in the archaeologist's question. "Better yet, where?"
General O'Neill looked from him to the woman, who in turn smiled enigmatically back. He returned to the doctor himself. "We found some stuff on the Moon, Daniel. Looks like a fairly large installation."
"The Moon?" He blinked back, slightly incredulously.
"Oh, is that what you think you've found?" The woman's voice took on a tone of mirth. "An installation?"
That caused Jack pause, and General Landry stepped in with the question that had been on the very tip of his tongue. "Are we to assume it's not an Ancient installation? Like the one..."
He hesitated with his next words, but she finished them easily enough and with total disregard for their secrecy. Her reply took on a more serious intent. "Like the one in Antarctica? No. What you have found is the throne of the Silver Millennium, and with it, our last great sword to wield against the coming darkness."
"Throne? Silver Millennium? As in the a capital...?" Daniel repeated, wallowing in the fact that he was completely without a clue as to the obvious alliteration and its significance to whatever was on the moon.
"And are we to assume you would help us with this... Throne?" Landry forwarded tentatively. It was almost too much to hope for. For once, they wouldn't have to go bowing a scraping across the known galaxy for Ancient technology... Assuming the oddly dressed woman was indeed the genuine article.
"It is not as simple as flipping a switch," She amended, but nodded regardless. "Nor would I expect you to simply take my word for it, which is why I am prepared to deliver an act of good faith."
"And what would that be?"
No sooner than Landry had spoken the words did a beige phone anchored to the conference table in front of General O'Neil come to life; a small yellow light blinking obnoxiously on its face. Jack eyed the light, then the woman warily. She simply returned the look with unflappable calm and he took the phone in hand, pulling it off the hook.
"O'Neill," He stated and listened to the report. An eyebrow went up with the information and he looked at the woman again, who sported a smug look now. "Right. I see. Hold for now. Nobody touches anything."
The general set the phone back onto its cradle and held the woman with a stare. "I'm to assume that was your gesture of good faith?"
"I have allowed your personnel access to the... installation," Setsuna nodded, her smugness fading slightly. "It's peripheral systems will more than likely have remained functional, but I doubt any of the primaries will be usable after so long; certainly not without further assistance on my part."
"Assistance you are willing to provide?" General Landry asked suspiciously, prompting the woman to nod. "And, not to put too fine of a point on it, but what's in it for you?"
"I have an agenda, of course," The red eyed woman stated evenly, ensuring that all attention was riveted to her person. "Had I the luxury, you would never know I existed and your Legacy Site would remain yet another mystery of a bygone era. Sadly, that is a luxury neither of us can afford."
"Swords are usually meant to be used against an adversary," Daniel stated warily, and Setsuna simply nodded.
"Indeed," She continued, all traces of humor gone by this point in the conversation. "An adversary that will bring an apocalypse down upon all of humanity. We all have agendas, but for now you will have content yourself in knowing that I, like yourself, am not willing to see the legacy of the Tauri perish."
General Major Jack O'Neill folded his hands to his chin and gave the ultimatum some thought. Ancient technology. A real live ancient to show them how to use it. And the warning of some dire, insurmountable threat. Just like old times, he wanted to chuckle sadly. Really, there was only once answer he could think of.
"Where do we start?"
"The entire planet?"
Samantha Carter simply nodded at Daniel's reaction and swung the point of her FN P90 assault rifle and subsequently the attatched flashlight down yet another darkened hallway of a civilization long since passed from the living... For the most part. Occasionally they stumble upon a terminal in standby, but attempts to manipulate anything still powered had so far demonstrated little in the way of progress as to what, exactly, Jack's project had found.
"The Gul'old bombardment destabilized the planet's core," The blond continued, turning another corner and lancing the light through another futuristic- albeit barren -hallway. Cold breath curled up from her reply as its warm moisture interacted with the nearly freezing temperature of the atmosphere around them. "Jack is certain that everybody gated out, but he hasn't gotten around to telling where they gated to."
"Which explains why I'm here, I guess..." The archaeologist mused, pausing by another softy glowing panel while deciphering the block symbology of the Ancient's language. Doctor Nicolas Rush had been on P4X-351. Besides being a genius in astrophysics, he was also the only person outside the SG1 team itself with enough knowledge to make sense of ancient technology. Daniel gave the panel an experimental poke before looking back over his shoulder to Carter. "Though you are starting a disturbing precedent."
The air force female paused, blinking back at the doctor. "Disturbing? How's that?"
"Just in the fact that celestial bodies in close proximity to your person tend to meet an untimely demise."
"Oh, come on now," Samantha balked with a slightly put out expression. "It's not that bad."
"You destroyed a star," The doctor countered absently, turning his attention back down the hallway.
"But that was-"
"That cutting edge Asgard cruiser named after Jack," He continued failing to notice that Carter had stopped behind him with a put out look.
"The replicators had control-"
"The other planet," He continued, pausing at the corridor junction, sweeping the flashlight's beam from left to right. "What was it? P2X-34 something?"
"P2X-3408," She countered, all but exasperated now. "But that couldn't be helped."
"And now that last one," Daniel finished, turning back to the blonde, who was staring at him. She opened her mouth to counter his claims but found little to actually counter with.
After a moment of expectant silence she sighed, shaking the insinuation off. I am not a destroyer of worlds, she decided firmly and turned back to the task at hand. "Find anything?"
Daniel Jackson shrugged. "Every panel reads standby. Short of finding a Chair or main control bank, I don't think we'll be able to find out what exactly this place was meant for."
"Then we keep looking," Samantha nodded, picking the right junction branch at random to proceed down. Daniel followed as she continued. "So the green haired woman really is an Ancient, though?"
The SGC civilian adviser nodded unseen behind her. "That's what she says, and I'm inclined to believe her. Aside from feeling like an Ancient, she hacked our gate and unlocked this place..."
"But in human form," She prompted, absently lighting various portions of their path as she pressed her curiosity. To date, they had only met a handful of the beings in corporeal form, and even that was usually temporary state for them.
"Honestly, I don't think she's ever bothered to ascend," Daniel shook his head, wondering at the fact himself. Samantha turned back to him with an arched eyebrow and a look of disbelief. "I know, but she doesn't have that... aura about her."
"So she's an unascended Ancient that just decided to step through our gate and help us unlock all this?"
Doctor Jackson noted the sufficiently skeptical tone his counterpart had questioned in and simply shrugged. "She freely admits to her own agenda. She definitely knows more than she's letting on, but so far..."
"...She's our only lead on all this," The blond air force Colonel finished as both continued their walk. The hallway widened, but was no more populated than the previous ones.
"Samantha. Daniel. Anything?" The radio crackled with General O'Neill's voice and the blond pulled the receiver from its breast clip, keying it.
"Nothing yet, Sir," She returned as her counterpart peeled off for another dormant panel wedged between a pair of plate supports. "Everything in this section is powered down. Control panels read standby as well."
"Same with the other teams," The air force general's voice replied, the hissing crackle of the walkie echoing down the empty hall. "Link up with Aaron. He's found some sort of larger crystal array-"
"Active?" Samantha blinked with the new revelation.
"Dead as everything else," Her superior replied, and Samantha's enthusiasm guttered. Jack continued, "Our ancient tour guide hasn't gotten back with us yet, so poke around the array and see what you can find out."
"On the way," She nodded to no one in particular and returned the receiver to its clip, repositioning her shoulder slung rifle. "Got that, Daniel?"
"Yeah... Just a second..." The doctor returned absently, continuing to poke at the panel he had found. "This one seems to... ah, wait..."
The panel issued a muted beep, as if it was protesting Daniel's activities. The solitary beep also seemed to be the extent of its actions until a soft hissing surrounded him. The archaeologist blinked, pulling away from the panel to look at the wall surrounding it in an attempt to locate the sound that had since ceased. "Sam, I don't think-"
"Ah, Sir... You're going to want to have a look at this." Daniel turned around to find Sam tending to her walkie-talkie and staring at the wall opposite of him that had, at some point, become a large observation window. "Section B-8..."
The doctor stared, joining his partner in gawking at the sight beyond. Outside the view port was a massive cavern that seemed to be carved out of the moon rock, layered in technology and housing a... Doctor Daniel Jackson still wasn't sure, since whatever it was larger than could be seen from the view port itself, even after pressing up against the window to get a better angle. Still, if he didn't know better, what he could see through the dim lighting beyond almost looked like...a wing.
"Go, Carter," The radio crackled back, and Samantha Carter took her own step up to the window, peering up through it.
"We... definitely found something out here," She hesitated, taking in the view incredulously. Whatever it was, it was absolutely huge; eclipse the Prometheus by several magnitudes.
"Another crystal array?"
"No, Sir," The blond shook her head for her invisible audience. "I think we found a ship."
Fifteen minutes later their ten man unit had reassembled along the same corridor, congregating at what looked to be the most likely entry point into what one of their scientific advisers was now deeming a subterranean docking slip, and the consensus back on earth was that a very large ship was stationed therein. An enlisted woman with a hand held video camera panned from the observation port that housed the immense craft to the team congregating around a single armored blast door.
"The wing structure alone is easily the size of an Aurora," One of the civilian scientists of the group gushed, attempting to denote the disparity with hand gestures.
"But to what end?" Another, this time an air force officer in gray-black camouflage inquired, taking another sidelong glance at the observation port. "You don't build something that big, only to keep it locked up."
"Even swords have sheaths," Daniel muttered, mostly to himself but loud enough to where those next to him could hear the missive as he scrutinized the blast door's hand-sized control panel.
"Which begs the question why is this sword still in its sheath?" Samantha asked, watching over Daniels shoulder in the hopes that she could be of some assistance. "For that matter, why-"
"Because The Fall was a quick and decisive affair."
"Ahhah!" The blond Colonel jumped as the foreign voice registered well inside the proximity of the personal space at her back. Samantha spun around to find a pair of red eyes regarding her with a measure of mirth before they flicked over to the remaining and almost equally surprised SG team. The blond stared at the green haired woman, noting the unusual method of dress and heart tipped stave in hand. "You.. wouldn't happen to be..."
"Indeed I am," The woman smiled patiently, walking around her while sending a deferential nod over to Lieutenant General O'Neill before stepping alongside Daniel Jackson, where she waited. Daniel blinked at her for a moment, then turned back to the panel he was in front of, then back to the woman waiting patiently.
"Oh, um, right," He suddenly realized her purpose for being there, hastily moving out of the way. Once he had vacated the panel's proximity, Setsuna Meiou tipped the staff from her shoulder, touching the panel with the metal wrought heart. The red crystal at its center glowed softly for a moment before she pulled the staff away. The door hissed momentarily as the twenty thousand year old seal broke, sliding open with an accompanying breeze.
"The Fall of the Silver Millennium was also a vastly destructive affair," She continued conversationally, continuing on into the hall that had opened up while leaving the Stargate team in her wake. Samantha and Daniel looked to Jack silently, who in turn shrugged, leading the way to follow the Ancient. "Even if we had pressed the World of Elegance into battle, its potential would have been little more than a mote compared to the forces arrayed against it."
"World of Elegance..." The archaeologist picked through her cryptic explanation carefully. "This... ship?"
The woman simply nodded, not having bothered to stop her forward progress- or even turn around -now that another door had come into view. The team's leader, however, had other questions on his mind now. "And what sort of forces were those?"
This time Setsuna did stop to turn back to her questioner, though a troubled expression inhabited her face now. "Ourselves."
"Yourselves?" Samantha Carter blinked, analyzing the statement. "The civil war?"
"The War of Ascension and subsequent Fall of the Silver Millennium... Our golden age of truth and prosperity," The Ancient replied simply, turning back away from her audience to proceed to the next hatch. Along the way were more view ports, and increasing measure of the ship was available to be gawked at as they progressed forward. "Perhaps too much truth, too much prosperity. Some of those that ascended thought themselves gods. Others ascended simply to stop them... In the end our grand quest for enlightenment degenerated into little more than an arms race."
"The Ori?" One of the air force officers asked from the back of their group, earning another terse nod from their guide.
"Among others," Setsuna confirmed as she stepped up to the blast door. Another touch with the heart tipped staff opened this one as well, and she stepped into a new set of corridors; these vastly different from the last. Their new environment was a more curved, organic corridor glowing with metallic blue. The surface of the walls seemed to radiate their own light. Like the previous corridors, however, there was little in the way of real activity. "In a war where the combatants are able to wield celestially destructive forces, a single dreadnought was of little consequence."
"But wasn't it a disease that was responsible for killing off the remaining ancients?" Daniel pressed, and another nod was given.
"One of the many tools employed during The Fall," The green haired woman elaborated, continuing deeper into the new structure that was beginning to curved right. She followed it, returning to her explanation. "Tactical strikes on more resistive targets, such as Sol... Subtle incursions for anything else that didn't require brute force to crack. We were able to save Earth... The other planets and the throne itself, however, were not so lucky."
"Other planets?" Samantha stared, but received no answer to her inquiry. Instead, their journey continued through the silent, glowing hallways for another ten minutes with the woman opening up the occasional hatch until they happened upon solitary room with an array of darkened panels and a large dark crystal central to the space. Setsuna Meiou strode past the panels to confront the jagged cut of the crystal directly, tapping it with the staff and causing its structure to glow a low blue for a moment before brightening to light the room.
"Visual assist mode," She ordered, and the panels blinked to life, each projecting holographic displays into open air. The Stargate team watched as they and the central crystal began to flicker with graphics and ancient script until the woman spoke again. "Status."
The flowing ancient script vanished across all of the panels- eight total - and were replaced by various pictographs, though only the central crystal's holographic display held the woman's attention. It likewise held Jack O'Neil's attention when the visage of a multi colored framework space craft was conjured before his team. Setsuna reached into the frame of the ship, pulling at it to magnify the internal structure.
"Is that...?" Daniel wondered, peering around her for a better view; though the ship was now large enough to take up almost half the airspace around them now.
"The ship which you are now aboard," She replied, continuing her manipulation of the wire frame hologram, spinning it around on its axis to view it from a different angle. Block ancient script flowed from the points she touched, largely unreadable by her audience save two people. Like Doctor Daniel Jackson, General Jack O'Neill was one of those people and the bits of script he could pick out appeared to be technical data. Without a frame of reference, there was only so much meaning that could be derived, but the representation of the ship itself certainly looked elegant... More so than the their own 304's, with an almost predatory fighter look to it. Like an SR-71, he appraised, his eyes tracing the holographic structure... With that second hull dropping down into what almost looks like a torpedo... He studied the design a moment longer before moving to the most pertinent question that came to mind.
"So can it fly?"
"No." The ancient answered decisively, poking at the graphic to completely banish it back to ether. "Structurally, it has remained untouched for eons, though only one of the original six... Zero Point Modules, I believe you call them, retain a charge."
"Of only two percent," Daniel finished, having spied that particular piece of data for himself during her examinations.
"Six ZPMs?" One of the civilian advisors returned incredulously. "Earth's defensive outpost only requires one! Hell, Atlantis only requires three!"
"Bring transport systems online," She spoke to open air, all but ignoring the complaint. One of the holographic panels blinked with the command. The red eyed woman returned to the spoken missive. "The World of Elegance is a ship of war, designed to engage not simply physical Ori threats, but those lessons learned from the Hydris galaxy as well; Thus the power requirements needed to match those threat levels."
Setsuna Meiou proceeded to leave the room and turned left at the hall, finding a semi circular alcove along its length seconds later. She stepped in it, waiting expectantly for the air force representatives to follow. They all looked at her with questions until general O'Neill himself took the initiative. "Carter, Jackson, Dallas; with me. The rest of you poke around and document, but don't touch," He paused with a second thought, stepping up to the green haired woman. "If that's okay with you?"
"Imminently," She returned with a faint smile, and the smaller team of four joined the woman in the alcov whereupon they were atomize in a singular flash of brilliant light. When General O'Neill's vision cleared, he was on what looked like in a command center with individual stations unmanned while a central control chair sat in the middle.
The ship's bridge, he guessed easily enough, walking out of the transporter alcove to look around. Daniel and Samantha did likewise, while Lieutenant Dallas panned around the area with her video recorder. Seeing little in the way of objections from their host, the general made his way across the bridge and over to the chair, sitting upright onto its flat metallic surface. The general closed his eyes and attempted the connection. The chair pulse briefly as it's crystal blue circuitry found a connection, but lapsed back into inactivity in almost the same moment. Jack blinked, looking first at his chair, then the enigmatic amusement of his host.
"As I mentioned, it will take more than genetics to command the World of Elegance," She supplied, walking to the front of the bridge. "She is the last, most advanced ship to have seen production in our hands and specific safe guards were built into her to prevent her from being compromised by either the Wraith or the Ori." Setsuna noted that she had her audience's full attention and continued. "Of course, the marker gene is necessary, but that can easily be obtained through science or subversion. Human life force is likewise required to operate the Elegance, with that human acting not simply as a key, but the nervous system of the ship. In short, the captain forms a permanent bond that cannot be broken or replaced."
"But what if the captain is... brainwashed?" Samantha forwarded, thinking of the easiest way to gain control of the ship with the information at hand.
"The bond is physical as well, with safeguards to prevent such mental tempering," Setsuna elaborated. "Whomever becomes the Captain of this ship will be so until the day of their death, with the ship following shortly thereafter. The person we choose will have to be in exceptional command of not only themselves, but their own life energy. And even then, that person will need to agree to bond with the ship itself for the rest of their lives. I know of only a handful of such people that meet that initial requirement, let alone ones that we could actually entrust such an artifact."
"I'm taking it you have just the person in mind," The general drawled, favoring the woman with a dry look.
"Indeed, but far be it for me to tell you who that person is."
That caused Jack to blink, as it was the last answer he had been expecting from the woman with her own obvious agenda. "And why is that?"
"Simply put, you do not trust me," She smiled charitably back at him. "Nor will I deny that such distrust is prudent on your behalf. By distrusting me, you would distrust any individual I would suggest, so easiest path through that distrust would be to find this individual yourself."
"Conduct your own investigations, of course," She cut Daniel's own question off evenly. "I have given you the baseline criteria to operate this vessel and I have likewise remanded basic systems access to your authority. You could do worse than simply plugging your own personnel into the command chair at random to see if it will work, for all I care."
"And you... can't?" Doctor Jackson tried once again to question the woman. This time, she replied with a simple shake to the head.
"No, though not for lack of ability," She explained, touching the armrest of the chair. It immediately sprang to life, glowing as if awaiting her connection to it. "I am already tied to another such artifact, negating the possibility of a second."
"Another ship?" The blond pressed, and the green haired woman shook her head again.
"No," The Ancient declined to elaborate further and pulled her hand away from the chair. It instantly darkened. "Though I shall insist on one condition. Should you find this person, you will still require my complete cooperation to return this ship to an operational status, and for that, you will need the full approval of the Queen's heir. Should she find your motives lacking, this ship will not move a centimeter."
"The Queen?" Carter mimed, barely comprehending what she had just heard.
"Her heir?" Daniel was right behind her, blinking in kind.
"Shouldn't any... heirs be kind of... well, dead by now?" General O'Neill cocked his head, trying to read the woman's intentions. "I mean, finders keepers and all that?"
"This one is quite alive and well," The Mistress of Time shook her head. "As such, this very ship and the facilities around it are her estate. Should you wish its continued use, you will need her approval to do so."
"Oookay," Jack shrugged, unsure where the conversation was going. "So when do we meet this "heir?"
"In time," Setsuna replied with that mysterious smile that he was already begin to dislike. "For now, concentrate on the key."
Those were her final words before the woman simply vanished before their very eyes.
"There's no other explanation, Bunny," Minako Aino shook her head; a frustrated look enveloping her normally cheerful face as the two blond females exited their second home otherwise known as the Crown Arcade. The electronic noise and idle chatter at their backs was muted as the establishment's plate glass entryway closed behind them, admitting them to a cooler spring day and a new set of noise as they merged into the sidewalk's pedestrian traffic. "It's a plot, I'm telling you."
Usagi Tsukino rolled her eyes and took another bite from the stick she had been holding. Another chewy, syrup laden sphere disappeared into her mouth, while the remaining two awaited their untimely demise on the wooden skewer. She savored the morsel for a moment before shaking her head to address her friend's issue. "That's just silly. It's not a plot."
"How else do you explain it? Every single time," Minako grumped. "She has it out for my social life, I just know it."
A slight breeze shifted the cooler atmosphere, causing her blond mane to flutter slightly while setting Usagi's own odango streamers to sway. The pair could have been assumed to be twins with a passing glance, though the Senshi of Venus' features were sharper than her counterpart's. Physically, she filled out the blue jeans and light pink jacket better than Usagi filled out her white blouse and blue pleated skirt combination, but blond hair and blue eyes that both shared were enough to make anybody look twice. Most went about their daily lives without paying the pair undo attention, and thus allowed Goddess of Love to continue her rant uninterrupted. "Besides, I thought we nixed all the bad guys."
The Princess merely shrugged, momentarily prioritizing her friend's consternation above that of the dango sticky in her left hand. "Maybe this is clean up or something... A stray youma, maybe?"
"Well, all work and no play makes Johnny be good," Minako harrumphed, crossing her arms as the pair turned off onto a side street that would cut their walk to the shrine by five minutes. "And I'm tired of being good with Johnny."
"You have a boyfriend named Johnny?" Usagi blinked as she compared the new name to what she knew of her friend's very dynamic social circle, coming up with a blank.
"No," Venus returned with a leering smile. "But if I did, I wouldn't be."
Usagi groaned at her overly forward nature concerning boys in general, but that aspect of Minako's personality was already well known. Even better, it had successfully distracted her friend from griping about the upcoming meeting Setsuna had called and thus allowed the Princess of the Moon to partake of another dango. Idle chatter filled the remainder of their walk to the Hikawa Shrine, invariably filled with yet more gossip concerning boys, Usagi's own Mamoru and all the juicy details Minako could pry from her concerning their last date. Twenty three slate stone steps later brought them to the gates of the shrine; both girls pausing only to wave at Rei's grandfather as he swept the grounds before continuing on to the inner sanctuary where the others were already assembled and chatting amongst themselves.
"Good afternoon, Princess," Michiru inclined her head deferentially, while Haruka tossed her a casual wave from her position next to the aqua tressed woman. Ami barely paused long enough typing into her laptop to favor the new arrivals with a smile, causing Hotaru to look up from watching the girl over her should and smiled happily at them as well, though with a less distracted air about her.
"Rei will be along in a moment," Makoto reported cheerfully as she bounced over to the blonds. "Should be back from running her grandfather's errands any time now."
Usagi nodded and did the only thing she could do in the face of waiting and impending boredom... She reached under the zataku sitting at the room's center where Ami and her laptop were currently stationed to raid Rei's manga collection. "Chobits... one, two... where's three? Oooh, the new Boys over Flowers..."
"Find what you're looking for?"
"Almost," Usagi nodded, continuing to sift through the collection. "Still can't find Chobits-"
"Leave you alone for one minute and you're already pilfering my stuff!" A black haired girl in a red and white miko robe screeched behind her, causing the blond to nearly tumble over onto the table. "Back! Shoo! Shoo!"
"Don't be so mean, Rei-chan!" Usagi whined, but retreated under the threat of physically violence. "You don't have to-!"
The Princess of the Moon was silenced abruptly as Rei pressed a sharp thumb to the girl's forehead, leaving a rectangular paper slip with kanji to hang in its place. Usagi's eyes crossed as Rei folded her arms with a mock sternness. "Away, manga demon."
"That was just rude." The blond frowned, pulling the holy ward from her forehead to set it aside while Rei reorganized her collection, sliding it back under the table.
"But appropriate." Makoto snickered. The remainder of the girl's faces reflected similar appreciation of their teammate's sense of humor, to which Usagi sniffed with exaggerated contempt.
"I'll have you know that Moon Princesses are not Manga Demons." She replied in haughty tone, turning away from her teammates in a huff.
"Is that so?"
"Eeek!" The blond jumped back nearly half a meter as she turned to find a pair of red eyes boring into her. Usagi's heart nearly burst from her chest in that moment, and she glared at the emerald woman's trespass. "You!"
"In fact," Setsuna Meiou continued matter-of-factly as she walked in from the room's adjacent hallway. "I have it on very good authority from my future self that our dear Moon Princess evolves from a Manga Demon to a Manga Fiend exactly three years, five days, thirteen hours and five minutes from now."
Even Ami had been forced to look up from her notebook computer now with the slightest of smiles. "It looks as if we will have to make preparations."
"How do you even kill a manga fiend?" Minako blinked innocently, putting a finger to her chin in thought.
"You starve it," Rei nodded with certainty, sticking her tongue out at Usagi, who returned fire with her own 'nyeh!'.
Haruka couldn't help but to chuckle at the girl's antics, brushing a lock of her blond crop aside while her own hand searched out of Michiru's. It was quickly found without the need for a visual scan and the Senshi of Uranus took it into her own and... frowned. Haruka's head swiveled to look up to her lover upon noticing its tension, then saw the neutral expression on her face; a stark contrast to the rest of the room enjoying themselves.
"Love?" Michiru blinked, looking down at her partner as amusement drained from her expression. "Is... everything alright?"
"I... I'm not sure..." Neptune returned back to the scene playing out before her, studying the Guardian of Pluto. "She... she made a joke. Our Setsuna..."
"Is that so bad?" Haruka's head swiveled toward the woman as well, who held the slightest of smiles... until she noticed the pair staring at her curiously. Smile persisted for a moment and faded into the enigmatic mask they knew all too well. Uranus frowned with it. "Oh shit."
The unlady like missive was just loud enough for the rest of the girls to hear, and one by one they turned to Haruka, then followed her gaze back to Setsuna, creating a silent void of expectancy that sought to be filled. After several moments Usagi filled that void with the slightest trepidation.
"I thought you said that Chaos was the last of them...?"
"She was," Setsuna nodded, any pretense of amusement gone. Still, her answer inspired a sigh of relief from the various members of their group until she spoke her next words. "On earth."
Usagi blinked. Minako repeated the qualifier silently and Ami raised her hand tentatively. Setsuna nodded toward her. "Yes?"
"That would seem to imply that we may be facing challenges... Not on Earth," The Senshi of Mercury concluded, to which Setsuna merely nodded once more, then sighed.
"Miss Mizuno is correct," The Mistress of Time confirmed. The girls watched as an edge of unyielding determination flashed in her eyes. "The challenges you have faced thus far have merely secured a foundation to the future. Building on that foundation, however, begins out there."
The motion skyward was not lost on anybody present, thought exactly what it meant was still a mystery. Rei shook her head, seeking to further understand the woman's meaning. "But what's 'out there'? Space?"
"Indeed," The guardian confirmed, completely serious now. "Queen Serenity's Silver Millennium was more than just a planet... More than a single solar system. It was an alliance striving towards a common unity. It is time to sow those seeds once more and shore the light against the coming darkness."
A snow covered field suddenly flashed across Usagi's eyes; a field of icy tundra broken only by the skeletons of long decayed cities and the whisper of sub zero wind. Only the dead had a share in this new world, and two words escaped her lips unbidden.
Setsuna merely nodded, already knowing the girl's vision. It was one she had seen far too many times herself. "Though not merely here. Everywhere. If it is not circumvented, life as we know it will cease to exist in this universe."
Of all the people within the room, it was perhaps only Ami Mizuno that could truly comprehend the magnitude of disaster threatening to unfold, nor was she one to mistake Setsuna's words as gross exaggeration. The disaster wouldn't be contained within a single planet or star system. They were no longer dealing with threats on a local scale... If one could term local as being their galactic neighborhood. It was something she had never considered before, but the Senshi of Mercury pulled out the portable compact that represented the Mercury Link and called up a star chart. The holographic display drew the attention of the other girls, but she paid them no mind and slowing pulled at the edge of the image, zooming out.
What had been their own solar system and other neighboring stars disappeared as the west spiral arm of the Milky Way came into view. Ami continued to pull, and their Galaxy disappeared into a labeled dot accompanied by five others in close proximity. She pulled again and the dots became pixel points amongst a dense cluster of galaxies that thickened toward a central point. The Senshi's resident genius contemplated pulling at the map one more time, but resisted, figuring she had enough revelation for one day.
Minako blinked at the map they were all now staring at, then back to Setsuna. "What... What does this all mean?"
The question was enough to tear their mutual eyes from the floating map of the universe back to the smartly dressed emerald haired woman, who held their mutual gazes evenly. "It means Crystal Tokyo begins today. Right here, right now. In this very room."
Usagi's gaze lingered on the holographic cloud for another moment before loosing a sigh, turning her eyes back to Setsuna with an uncharacteristically serious demeanor. "What must be done, Guardian Pluto?"
"Many things," The woman returned gently as a swell of pride filled her breast. A bubble-head and a ditz, she mused silently. But never let it be said that the girl is not her mother's daughter. "For now, however, nothing. Those paths are still being laid; but soon. When you hear word of the Standardized Academic Knowledge Battery test, it will be time." She paused, and an enigmatic smile crept to her lips. "For now... enjoy yourselves, for soon we will be chasing Destiny."
The girls stared at her for a moment before she turned back to Usagi. "Princess, if I may have a word with you alone."
This time no surprise shown on the girl's face as she nodded smartly and stepped away from her friends without even looking back to them for reassurance. For the moment, she was ready to face fate head on, just like she had countless times before. Ten minutes from now might be a different story, Setsuna allowed herself a mental chuckle as she led the moon princess into the hall and toward the sliding door to the back courtyard. Usagi followed the woman back out into the cool afternoon where billowy white clouds dotted the seemingly endless blue sky. The emerald haired senshi's hair swayed ever so slightly in the breeze as she looked out into the sky for several minutes in silence before beginning anew.
"To this day your stage has been a small one with far reaching consequences, Princess," Setsuna spoke softly, holding her gaze to the sky a moment longer before turning back to the waiting blond. "The stage is about to become much grander; literally the stars itself. For this, I have done my best to set that stage for you, though my time in that role is coming to an end."
"Be that as it may, I will not have you and the girls journey out into the great unknown alone," The woman continued, turning her red eyes back to the blue sky. "The Senshi are not the only ones with a vested interest in "saving the world' so to speak, though the others know not their role fully as yet. You will be approached and I ask you to give them your consideration, nothing more."
"I'll try... I think," The Usagi replied tentatively as her mentor's words flitted in an out of the realm of her meager experience. "But who are they, exactly?"
"The first is an organization," The Mistress of Time replied directly and without the usually mysterious subterfuge she routinely spoke in. "As potent as the Senshi are, they are nine women. Infrastructure is required for an undertaking of this magnitude, likewise one that will pave the way to Crystal Tokyo. They will assist you in that, whether they know it or not."
A slight smile appeared on the woman's lips as she favored the blond. "Do not worry, Princess. I will be there at every step, and we will all be present when our final member is found."
The bunny blinked. "Another Senshi?"
"Not quite," The mysterious look returned. "But another is required for our plans to move forward. You won't be able to miss him. Or her."
"Wait, two?" Sailor Moon's face quizzed, her intellect hooked on the twist of gender pronouns. "You said one."
"Indeed I did," Usagi stared as Setsuna all but openly smirked, a rare sight in her opinion. The smirk disappeared quickly, however, as she continued. "Regardless, take nothing at face value. You are the Princess of the Moon, soon to be Queen; and will wield considerable power in that role. Many will look to take advantage of that and though I have done my best to shepherd events to this point and mitigate those seeking harm, my role as guide is ending and I am not infallible. Trust in your heart, and when that is not enough, your friends."
The two looked upon one another in silence, broken only by Usagi's labored sigh as she attempted to resolve who she was with the destiny taking shape around her. There were so many question on her mind and in the end, only one found its way to her lips. "Should... should I tell the others?"
Setsuna smiled kindly, taking the blonde's hands into hers gently. "That, Usagi Tsukino, Princess of the Moon Kingdom and Future Queen of Crystal Tokyo, is no longer my decision. It is yours and yours alone."
"Yes, Mister President," Lt. General Jack O'Neill replied, speaking into the bright red phone that was the centerpiece to Cheyenne Mountain's central briefing room. He nodded to the invisible speaker on the other end, though realistically it didn't take much imagination to know that person was since the line could only dial one other location. Present as well was the SG1 team old and new, including Daniel Jackson, Colonel Samantha Carter, Colonel Cameron Mitchell and Major General Hank Landry, all in air force blues and patiently waiting the outcome of the call. O'Neill's study flicked back up to his silent observers, then returned to the doodle he had been tending for the length of the call. "No Mister President, only two so far. More, if we pull some from Antarctica and Atlantis."
The General waited patiently as the speaker on the other end continued, and he added an antenna to the doodle's head. "Nor would I, Mister President. Yes Sir. Yes. Of course. Thank you, Sir. I'll keep you apprised."
The gathered audience watched as their commanding officer set the red phone back on its hook and shrugged, leaning back into his chair nonchalantly... As if he hadn't just gotten done speaking to the President of the United States. "Antarctica and Atlantis are off the table as we expected, which means we'll only have the two salvaged units on tap for this project."
"And we'll still be playing her ballgame," General Landry replied in a matter of fact tone, to which Jack simply nodded.
"Which we all but knew going in," O'Neill confirmed, taking a sidelong glance over to Colonel Mitchell. "Unless we've suddenly found a planet where they grow on trees?"
"No, Sir," SG1's current team leader chuckled slightly at the mental image of a branch bearing Zero Point Module plant to be picked like apples. "Only the two."
"And if our mysterious benefactor has her own, we haven't been able to detect them yet from orbit," Colonel Carter interjected, having already ran her own search. "Of course, that means nothing when dealing with Ancients."
A course of agreement accompanied the statement, as every last officer in the room had their own dealings mankind's forerunners at some point. Shuffling a dozen or so ZPMs off into a side dimension would have been well within their capabilities, though it also left General O'Neill back at square one. "Okay, so no end run around. We still need to know more about this woman if we're going to be dealing with her, Ancient or no. Anything we can use. I get the impression that this wouldn't be her first time on Earth."
Cameron cocked his head back at Doctor Jackson and his statement. Green hair. Red eyes? "She sure as heck didn't look Japanese."
"No, but her name definitely was," Daniel ignored the air force officer's doubtful tone. "Even the slight accent. Nothing major, but she's picked some of it up. Like Jack said..."
"I'll drop a note to some of our affiliates in the Tokyo embassy," Landry nodded, scribbling a note on the pad of paper in front of him, then turned back to the only female in the room. "How about the ship's chair, Carter?"
"We've been cycling personnel through at regular intervals; beaming them up to test the thing out," Samantha shook her head, obvious disappointment writ across her facial features. "I've already gone through three quarters of the list an still nothing."
"Our Ancient already knew that," General O'Neill drummed the end of a metallic pen on to the desk as he considered the information present and the options available. "Just like she probably knew how many ZPMs we had to pull and that we wouldn't have any choice but to keep her in the loop."
"Then what do we do?"
"For now, it's all about this Miss Meiou," The General snorted slightly, turning back to the room's other General. "Hank, find her. We need some leverage in this, and finding her before she's ready may just throw her off balance. Until then we play by her rules... Poll our allies with the criteria she gave us; draft another test like the one that found Wallace if we have to, but make it a priority. I've never known an Ancient to just don't step out of the shadows and share their tech out of the goodness of their heart unless shit was about to hit the fan."
"With all due respect, Sir, I don't think a game like Prometheus is going to cut it with this one," Colonel Carter shook her head, then explained as O'Neill's full attention fell upon her. "We specifically targeted that game to find a math genius, not a person like the one fitting the Ancient's criteria."
"She's got a point," Cameron nodded, weighing in. "I can't see some zen life force master spending his day playing video games."
"Then we'll just have to go with the old standby," Hank chuckled, prompting Doctor Jackson to arch an eyebrow from the other end of the conference table.
"And what's that?"
"The same thing they used when I was a kid: Good ol' standardized testing," The second general quipped with a sardonic grin. "She mentioned an heir, possibly a young one. Use our contacts to feed it into education systems across several countries. Combine that with a persons of interest list and we should be able to zero in on our starship's "key."
"Agreed," The O'Neill nodded his approval before standing up, signaling their briefing was drawing to a close. "And another thing... Draw up a roster to crew that thing on the moon. I want the World of Elegance manned the moment we're able to plug in those ZPMs; that is if all this doesn't all fall through, of course."
"Assuming we can recall T'ealc, will SG1 be tagging along, Sir?" Colonel Cameron asked the obvious question with a lazy southern drawl that crept into his voice every now and then, to which the General simply nodded with his own determined smile.
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
Nabiki Tendo had a problem.
Actually one hundred problems, to be exact; all spread out across a single ten page booklet and accompanying bubble answer sheet that dutifully awaited her number two pencil to address question number eighteen. By and large, tests weren't a problem for the teenage senior known as Furikan High's 'Ice Queen'. While she couldn't rightfully claim the highest academic grade point average in the school for herself, she was more than competent in her own right and generally passed every test laid out before her. For subject matter that proved more resilient versus her intellectual efforts, monetary leverage was applied, and normally the answers to said test were found to be in hand within twenty four hours.
Did this make the middle Tendo sister a cheater?
The means, however, were an easy end for the girl to justify; as the world wasn't generally a fair place in her eyes. The loss of her mother and subsequent crumbling of the dojo finances had taught her that lesson all too well, and if corners needed to be cut to stay one step ahead of the competition, so be it. Regardless, this particular exam had been a rather easy one for her to negotiate, and Nabiki dispensed with its questions and the bubble form with her usual efficiency. What year did the unification of East and West Germany take place? Simple. Find the equation that has intercepts (0, 10) and (6, 0)? No problem. What percentage of the human skeletal system resides in the human hand? Cake.
Some of the questions utilized a bit more process of elimination versus hard, factual knowledge than others, but so far the surprise pop quiz present little in the way of challenge to Furikan's resident mercenary... Until bubble number eighteen. Nabiki Tendo read the question, then re-read the question; her face slowly scrunching up in layered confusion. Her eyes flicked discretely over to Honoko's desk two rows to her right. Unlike herself, Honoko Asami could claim the highest grade point average in the school, but seemed to be encountering the same sort of difficulty as evidenced by the nervous nibbling of her pencil eraser. The Tendo turned back to her booklet and reread the question one more time.
If sustain pressure is applied to the body's Swadhistana three and Anahata five chakra points, the likely result is:
A) A temporary sense of euphoria
C) A drop in blood pressure
D) Loss of feeling in the right arm
E) None of the Above
SKIP, she decided after another moment's consideration and resolved to come back to the decidedly out of place question once she had gotten the more mundane ones out of the way. The next five questions were well in line with every other test she had taken, and the bubbled sheet continued to take heavy casualties. What year did the assassination of Soga-no-Iruka occur? A. Which shape is most similar to the one shown in figure #3? C. The Muladhara base regulates which bodily function?
Nabiki Tendo's pencil paused unexpectedly as she simply stared at the question dumbfounded, then took a moment to scan through the answers in the hope that they themselves would provide some obvious clue as to what the correct response was. Nothing. She didn't even know what a Muladhara was. It was simply beyond her knowledge, and not even the old standby, 'the longest answer is usually the correct one.' would work here, as every one of the five choices was equally terse. I guess there's always 'all of the above,' she groused, but resisted filling in the bubble on the off chance she would later be enlightened by some sudden inspiration.
The Azuchi Momoyama Era Civil War had which primary impact? Nabiki's confidence returned with the next question as it signaled a return to scholastic normalcy... Or as close to one could achieve having to attend Furikan High. Unfortunately, that confidence lasted for another three questions before being routed by bubble number twenty nine, which caused her to stare at the question in contempt. She stared for another few seconds, before flipping the test book back to its cover just to ensure she had the same one past out to everybody else. The words "STANDARDIZE ACADEMIC KNOWLEDGE BATTERY" printed in bold lettering ensured she had, and Nabiki flipped back to the relevant page in disgust. How the hell should I know what color bio energy is produced by tranquil emotion?
Nabiki's attention snapped to the source of the interruption and the timid voice that it was carried on. Well, this should be interesting, she decided silently as their teacher moved to address Honoko's question. The educator adjusted her glasses, moving her gaze from the papers she had been studying at her desk to the student and her raised hand. "Yes, Asami?"
"I couldn't help put to notice that there are several questions concerning... material that we have yet to cover," The girl noted politely. Several other students around her nodded their mutual agreement, to which the homeroom teacher merely added her own.
"This test is to gauge your knowledge across a wide spectrum of studies," Miss Mushino explained patiently. "You are not expected to know everything. Simply do the best you can."
Honoko stared at her teacher without comprehension for a moment before simply accepting the fact that no further advice would be forthcoming. "I... I see..."
"Very well," The educator concluded, before addressing the rest of the class. "Twenty more minutes, please."
Probably devastated by the thought of having her perfect grade point average reduced, Nabiki chortled silently to herself before returning to her own work. Somewhat encourage by their teacher's explanation, the middle Tendo began to streamline her test taking process. It was becoming increasingly clear that these tests were little more than statistical benchmarks, since they weren't evidentially expected to know all the material, which in turn made the necessity of answering every single question correctly less crucial. Of course, there's a chance they might still be used in an actual classroom setting, Nabiki hedged, but felt sufficiently confident in her position versus the unanswerable questions. She eyed one, four bubbles down from her current position and rolled her eyes. And I know damn well I'm not the only one who doesn't know the seven positions of reiki within the human body.
The question was summarily skipped.
Whereas the teacher had informed them that they had twenty more minutes to complete the test, Nabiki Tendo finished hers in fifteen, and began to review the unanswered questions she had set aside. They and their lead free bubbles comprised a full quarter of the test by her estimation, and had remained quite unanswerable beyond mere guesswork. By the time she considered availing herself to that particular option, her remaining five minutes had elapsed and the teacher intervened by collecting the booklets and their corresponding answer sheets.
Waste of time, she decided before turning her attentions toward the end of the day now that class was effectively over. There was money to collect, loans to be negotiated- "Mister Saotome, you will give me your real test!"
"That IS the real one!"
A child-like voice hit nabiki's ears just as she began to take her first steps into the hallway, an action she immediately reversed upon hearing Miss Hinako's demands mentioned in the same sentence as her future brother in law's name. A student brushed past her just in time for the hallway to flare with power. The teen himself was Tako Meisma, Nabiki recalled the relevant details. Seventeen years old, a thee point two grade point average, an avid gamer and owed her three thousand yen. The dark brown haired boy also had the unfortunate luck of stepping out of the class just as Ranma bounced past, thereby substituting his own body to be targeted by Miss Hinako's Happo Five Yen Satsu. The hallway flashed bright blue and by the time her vision cleared, Tako flopped bonelessly to the hallway tile.
Nabiki starred at the wheezing husk of a student for the merest of moments before shrugging. "Nothing personal, Tako-chan."
The senseless boy twitched as the Ice Queen crouched down to his level and padded at his pockets with her hands before finding his wallet; promptly relieving it of three thousand yen as the now fully adult Ninomiya Hinako rushed by in pursuit of her target. A slip of paper looking suspiciously like an answer sheet fluttered in her grasp as she skidded to a halt and thrust her conjoined hands out in front of her person. "I will not accept this, you... you delinquent! Happo no Yen Coin Return!"
Another brilliant flare of light accompanied the execution of her special technique, slamming into something... Breakable, Nabiki decided upon hearing the loud crunch, not bothering to turn around as she angled out into the hallway in the opposite direction of the martial arts fire fight now in progress. Other students were finally making their way back into the hall to go on about their own business, or if one were unlucky enough, being carefully stepped over due to a sever lack of life force. Nabiki stepped over one such student herself, studiously ignoring the pathetic wheezing emanating from the malnourished husk in route to her locker. Some considered her lack of invention as proof positive that Nabiki Tendo was, indeed, an Ice Queen. While this was in essence absolutely true, Nabiki saw it from a far more practical angle. For example, if she helped every poor soul that bit the dust after straying too close to one of Ranma's altercations, her own days would be spent literally ferrying the stricken to and from the school nurse's office with zero class time to spare. The mercenary liked skipping class as much as the next girl, but doing so would only prolong her stay in the educational hell known as Furikan High School.
Not going to happen, she sniffed, finding her locker to shovel the day's unnecessary study material therein. That train of thought led her to another similar one, and she peaked at the inside door of the locker, finding the 365 day calendar clinging to it via an adhesive boarder. The Tendo smiled and tugged another thirty centimeter by thirty centimeter page from its bulk. Nabiki smiled, crumpling the page in hand. All I do is have to hold out for another one hundred and eight more days.
"Nabiki-san!" The voice caught her attention, and the Ice Queen turned to find Reina angling her way through the crowded post class hallway. Nabiki flashed the girl- almost an honest to God friend -a token smile as bespeckled teen bounced into her personal space, head shaking with exasperation. "God, I hope that test doesn't go toward my final grade!"
"I don't think it will," The upperclassman assured her, closing up her locker for the final time. "Sounds like it was some worthless standardized metric. Probably to substantiate Furikan's budget to the Tokyo Board of Education or something."
"It was the math that killed me," Reina continued her worry, following in Nabiki's wake as they carved through the afterschool crowd and down the stairs to the first floor. "Well, that and those weird biology questions. Only person in our class that seemed to have a decent handle on them was Ruki-chan..."
"Her mother's profession, no doubt," Nabiki inserted, to which her friend simply nodded. "How did she do?"
"Less than half, she thinks," Reina shrugged.
"Wouldn't worry about it either way," The middle Tendo commented as she caught sight of the nearest trash can, depositing the crumple of the calendar's paper within. Her partner watched it rebound off the edge before disappearing into the receptacle.
"What day was that?"
Nabiki smirked. "One-oh-nine."
"I hate you," The sophomore quipped before somebody else caught her eye. "Oh, there's Oshi. Want to see how she did on the test too. See you later, Nabiki-chan!"
Nabiki gave Reina a casual wave and the girl was off to mingle in yet another social circle. In some respects, she was one of the very few people the Tendo almost envied for her ability to move in and out of the various social castes at will without partitioning herself to any one in particular. Oh, her own Ice Queen persona could achieve the same thing, but only by being a caste in and of herself. Where she had to use strategic leverage to enter those circles, Reina could do so by just being herself.
Wonderfully useful talent, that, Nabiki snorted mentally as she walked the remaining steps of the hall and finally through the doorway and out into the bright spring afternoon. Even as she continued on her bearing for the main gate, her left hand was already digging into her purse and eventually acquired a small brown leather daytimer, which she pulled out into open air and flipped to the already cord marked page.
Meeting with the Science club at four to discuss their loan, assign duties at five for next week's betting pool, the ice Queen ticked down the timetable she had laid out in the planner while keeping an eye out for the crowd around her as she made forward progress. Might have to reschedule-
Martial arts shennanigans NOW, apparently, Nabiki's eyes scrunched in silent frustration as she paused under the arch of Furikan's main gate; literally centimeters away from salvation when the child-teacher's voice called out for her. The middle Tendo took a calming breath before turning toward the ten year old girl walking at a brisk pace toward her. Nabiki put on a clearly manufactured smile for the meeting. "What can I help you with, Miss Hinako?"
"Have you seen Ranma?" The child's brunette locks flailed around with each exaggerated sweep of her head as she glanced around, but failed to acquire the pigged tailed delinquent. "He's been behaving in a rather delinquentish manner that cannot continue!"
Delinquent-ish? Nabiki blinked as she picked apart the word that wasn't quite a word before discarding the quirk. "If I do, would you like me to pass on a message?"
The girl stared at Nabiki with subtle intensity dancing in her eyes. Nabiki stared back, awaiting her answer. Miss Hinako continued her staring. After another full minute, the Ice Queen couldn't help herself. "Sensei?"
The child suddenly blinked, staring at her cluelessly. "Nabiki-chan?"
Oh, for cryin out loud, It was all the Tendo could do not to bath what was all rights an adult educator with a fierce tongue lashing. Instead, she settled for a labored sigh. "No, I haven't seen him."
"Oh. Okay!" Nabiki nearly fell into the concrete at her feet with the simple response and the girl was gone, retracing her way back toward the school entrance. The slightest gust tugged at the sleeve of her sweater just as the girl disappeared from sight, and Nabiki made a calculated guess without even looking.
"Twenty five hundred and I won't call her back, Saotome."
"But-!" His protest confirmed his identity immediately, which only withered as she paid him a no-nonsense glance back. The result was predictable. "My tab."
Nabiki simply nodded and flipped to the back of her daytimer, penciling the number in. She paused, fixing the martial artist with a matter of fact look. "You know, this would be easier if you had a wallet."
"I do," Ranma replied. Nabiki blinked as she watched the martial artist render the wallet visible to the naked eye through some sleight of hand trick.
Nabiki eyed it, then him, replying with slightly more irritation as she began her walk anew. "Then why do I keep a tab on you again, Saotome?"
"For the old man," Ranma shrugged, keeping an easy pace beside the middle Tendo. "Always keep a few dollars in it just so he thinks he's getting something when he manages to grab it."
"Smooth, Saotome. Smooth," Nabiki issued him one her rare compliments before her good natured smile took on a more sinister edge. "Which also means you've been holding out on me. How much do you have, anyway?"
Nabiki chuckled at the response. "We'll get back to that, though it is nice to know my baby sister isn't marrying somebody completely clueless."
"Um, thanks, I guess," Ranma scratched the back of his head with uncertainty, at least until she continued.
"Just mostly clueless," Nabiki concluded, smacking Ranma's ego with a stick once more. The senior chuckled to herself and continued her the bombardment. "Speaking of clueless, how did you do on the test?"
Ranma shook his head at the insults, but answered anyway; if only to get her mind off the topic of his finances. "Good I guess. Math was a pain in the ass. Haven't even seen some of that stuff yet."
Maybe I should match you up with Reina instead of my little sister, Nabiki scoffed silently before dismissing the thought. "The test was for all four grade levels, so I'm not surprised. Any luck with the weird questions?"
She watched as Ranma cocked his head without comprehension. "Weird questions?"
The middle Tendo arched a skeptical eyebrow back at Ranma. "What, you didn't notice anything unusual about that test?"
"Um, Oh!" The pigtailed boy's eyes suddenly lit up. "You mean that question about the trains and the crosswind, right?"
"I swear," Ranma continued, oblivious to the girl staring at him openly now. "Must have used three sheets of scratch paper for that one."
"Alright, Saotome," The Ice Queen simply shook her head while her annoyance increased. "Then I suppose you know which direction bio energy circulates through the brain?"
"Chakra? Mostly counter clockwise," Ranma shrugged as they cut through an alleyway to the next street and beyond that, the dojo. Nabiki's annoyance stalled with the response, and she stared at the martial artist for any ill fated attempts at levity. There was none.
"Okay then," Nabiki turned to another conversational tack, her sarcasm all but gone now that she had been thoroughly intrigued. "What color is tranquil energy?"
"Trick question," Ranma returned easily. "I mean, you don't exactly see Kasumi-chan glowing any colors, do you?"
"No, that's... But... No," The Tendo stumbled mentally before taking a moment to organize her thoughts. "Okay, but there wasn't a 'none of the above' answer to that question."
"Yeah, saw that," He shrugged, dismissing the observation as inconsequential. "Figured they probably wanted that one written in."
Nabiki outright stopped this time and it took a moment for the martial arts heir to realized that she had simply stopped at the ally's mouth. She stared at Ranma for another full minute, her mouth opening, then closing in regular intervals before finally coming upon a coherent thought. "You wrote in an answer... on a machine graded test sheet?"
Ranma simply nodded, and Nabiki pinched the bridge of her nose. "Saotome?"
The pigtailed boy answer hesitantly. "Uh, yeah?"
"I'm going to start charging you one hundred yen for every brain cell you kill," Nabiki deadpanned, walking past the martial artist before she suffered any more casualties.
Back at Furikan high, a certain child educator was having her own conniptions concerning the very same martial artist for the very same reason. The rules, unfortunately, were very clear: All tests scanned in as is, no exceptions. Miss Ninomiya Hinako scowled as she looked over this particular test sheet, whose owner apparently didn't understand the standardized directions she had given to each and every student before the test started.
Bubbles, The child grumbled bitterly as she turned the test length wise to be viewed from a different angle. How hard is it to fill in a bubble test sheet? Very hard, apparently, she decided for this particular student, who had not only blackened in the bubbles, but had also apparently seen fit to doodle pictures of people and spirals along the side. The words "trick question!" also drew her eye, causing a tick to develop in her left cheek. Thirty one other tests from her class had already been fed into the scanner without incident, and now all that remained was this very last one... The single blemish on her spotless record. Hinako shook her head sadly as she committed the test to its final resting place, presumably the Tokyo Board of Education.
She was almost correct.
The scanner instantly sensed the end of the paper and chirped happily, applying its feed rollers to the task of sucking the document up to be scanned. Digitizing the document took exactly two seconds, where upon the image was converted to 1024 RSA Encryption and uploaded into an anonymous, high security mainframe operated by the Japanese Public Security Intelligence Agency. From there, it joined a file comprised of several thousand like test results that were summarily compiled and transferred to Cheyenne Mountain's NORAD facility via the United State's Department of Defense WGS-3 satillite. The file was then unencrypted, decompiled and sorted by several algorithms specifically designed to determine the suitability of a potential candidates' inclusion into a project that didn't officially exist based on preset criteria. Moments after receipt, the algorithm processed file header number 100801701A.
It didn't appreciate Ranma's doodling either.
Back form the dead... Or back from crapspace, whichever is closest. This project has been idling for quite some time, so don't think I took a monumental amount of time from other fics to bust this one out. It's been pretty incremental and there are no guarantees as to when an update will occur. It is live and happening, however, which is the best you can hope for. My brain is failing for any special notes section beyond what you see, so i humbly refer you to wikipedia as a reference guide.
Special Thanks: DragonDagger, MateriaBlade Mike and Gsteemso. And anybody else i may have forgotten in my rush to cap this one off and publish. I'm probably the main spelling and grammar on this one, so we're rolling the dice. hope it's not too bad versus my impatience.