Spoilers: All of TV Buffy (no comics), SG-1 seasons 1-7
Betaed by: jedibuttercup
Summary: When two secret organizations intersect, the results aren't always pleasant. Both the IWC and the SGC protect Earth, but in very different ways.
Rupert Giles looked up from the report he was reading at a discreet knock at his door. "Yes?"
His secretary poked his head in the door. "Your one o'clock appointment is here, sir. He's been shown to Reception 1. None of our wards were triggered—no magic, no demonic elements, no arcane artefacts."
"Thank you, Edwin," Giles said, closing the file. The last time they'd been visited by a representative of the United States military (one of Riley Finn's colleagues), the unfortunate man had been in a state of possession contracted while on the job. The demon in question had been trying to infiltrate the new Watcher headquarters before the full wards were activated, but unfortunately for itself had mistimed its approach. Since no one had any idea how their current visitor even knew of their existence, extra precautions had seemed wise in case it was a similar situation.
It was at times like these that Rupert Giles most mourned the destruction of the Council archives. The reference material they had, by and large, managed to replace—there were Watchers all over the globe with large personal libraries, many of which had survived even if the watcher in question had not. The bureaucracy, however, hadn't been duplicated offsite, being deemed less critical. If this Colonel O'Neill had ever had contact with the Council, there would have been a report on it … and Giles would not now be going into this interview blind.
Colonel Jack O'Neill was a lanky man, with hair halfway between brown and grey. He was slouching in his chair when Giles entered, but his eyes were alert. Despite his rank, he was dressed in civilian attire, which hinted at some sort of covert operation. Giles sighed. He understood the necessity of militaries, but his experience with covert programs had not been good. "Colonel O'Neill," he said, holding out his hand. "I'm Rupert Giles. You wished to see me?"
"If you're the one in charge of the Slayer, yeah," O'Neill said, shaking hands with a firm grip. He did not, however, rise to do so.
Giles pursed his lips at O'Neill's insolence. Well. Two could play that game, and as he was far more interested in getting information out of the American military than giving any, he was under no pressure to play nice. He sat in the chair opposite O'Neill, crossed his legs, and raised an eyebrow.
"Nice place you've got, here," O'Neill said.
"Thank you," Giles said, voice heavy with irony; it was nothing of the sort. It was an elderly office building in severe need of modernization, but it was perfectly adequate to their needs and within their budget. Nicer accommodations could wait until things were more stabilized.
After waiting for Giles to make more of a response, O'Neill got to the point of his visit. "When I met Phan Anh Mai and her Watcher, thirty years ago, I was … more than a little peeved at a grown man sending a child to fight anything, much less things that go bump in the night."
Phan Anh Mai—O'Neill must have served in Viet Nam; while there was no Hellmouth in the country, the chaos of war often allowed demons freer reign than they normally had; the destructiveness of modern weaponry intensified the phenomena. Phan Anh Mai had been quite competent at reigning them in; Giles wasn't sure, but he believed her death was due to the war, not her calling. She had still been far too young. "I sympathize," Giles said with a twinge of unwilling agreement. Sending Buffy out, knowing that one day his training would not be enough of a shield against the monsters she faced … she had been so young when they first met, and unscarred. "I did not create the system, but it does work. It is necessary for the protection of humanity."
"Adults are supposed to protect kids, not the other way around." O'Neill's voice was full of the righteous contempt of one who neither understood nor wanted to. "But I was in the middle of a mission, and so were they, and her Watcher assured me that it was only ever one girl at a time, and that some mystic mumbo-jumbo controlled it all and there was no way to change the system. I couldn't do anything then, and I couldn't say anything when I got back because who would believe me? But I consoled myself that it was only one girl, and I moved on. Now, I find, it's not just one girl. And I don't have to move on. And this time, I don't have to worry about my superiors and teammates thinking I'm nuts."
"At the time, there was only one girl in all the world. Circumstances … changed, recently," Giles said carefully. This was all common knowledge, now, in supernatural circles, and there was no reason to lie or hide it from someone who already knew about slayers. "For various reasons, the balance of power in the supernatural world had shifted, and not in a good way. The world was in terrible danger of destruction."
"When isn't it?" O'Neill interrupted.
"As you say," Giles said. "The world is often in jeopardy from one threat or another; possible apocalypses happen at an average of a little over one every three years, with mere catastrophes rather more frequently. But this particular threat was … rather more severe than previous ones. It was more than a single slayer—even a slayer with quite a lot of backup and teamwork behind her—could hope to fight."
"Did you think of asking for help?" O'Neill said. "Maybe a combat-trained group with heavy weaponry? Guns, rocket launchers … maybe some flamethrowers? I know you've got Army contacts. They might not have your experience with the supernatural, but it'd be a damned sight better than sending a kid in."
Giles snorted. Ah, yes. The American military could always be counted on to believe that they were better equipped and trained than any other fighting force. It might be true in conventional terms; Giles was not a military expert. But it was certainly not the case when dealing with magical or demonic foes. "The last time a military force tried to deal with the supernatural on a large scale, the Slayer ended up having to rescue them. I know, I was there. We needed a fighting force, not more people to be protected. We gave the potential slayers a choice: they chose to be strong. That spell could only work by choice. Every girl who became a Slayer that night did so of her own will."
"Teenagers aren't mature enough to make life-altering decisions," O'Neill said. "That's why they're called teenagers, and not adults. Besides, some of those girls didn't have any idea what being strong meant. Or everything that went with it."
"The Hellmouth was opening and assassins were being sent after Potential Slayers in an attempt to wipe out the Slayer line altogether," Giles said. "We didn't have time to fly around the planet, find every girl, sit her down, and explain things." Had O'Neill been speaking with a new Slayer? If so, why didn't Giles know about it? It was standard procedure to report contact with political or military authorities. "We've found all of the new Slayers and given them training and support."
"You sure of that?"
Giles had a schoolboy urge to wipe the sceptical expression off the other man's face. It was the snide tone, he thought. In the worst of his Ripper days, he couldn't have bettered it. "Yes."
"Yes," Giles said, matching his tone.
"Right," O'Neill said.
"Why are you here, Colonel?" Giles said. He'd had quite enough of being insulted in his own office. Well, his own office building. "You can't expect to come here, throw a tantrum about something you haven't the faintest idea about, and miraculously change the way the fight against demons has been fought for longer than humans have recorded history."
"Seems to me you've already changed it, and not for the better."
"Slayers have choices, now, and far more support than the old Council could have offered them. Whether they come to us, stay with their families, or some combination, none of them are alone. They have watchers, and now they have sister Slayers, comrades, which no slayer before has ever had. It makes a difference." There was no point trying to justify himself, Giles realized. O'Neill had every mark of a man who refused to listen. He stood. "Edwin will show you out."
"Wait," O'Neill said, rising. "I do have a point, here. I want a copy of the manual."
"The what?" Giles asked.
"The manual. Slayer 101, whatever you call it. You must have something to hand out to the girls, their families, and their handlers—Watchers, whatever you call them."
"How arrogant you are," Giles said. "You come in here and attack us for things you can't hope to understand, and you expect us to give you anything at all? Why on Earth should I?"
"Because if you don't, the first thing I do when I get back to the States is call Child Protective Services and tell them your organization is endangering minors."
"Blackmail, Colonel?" Giles said with a raised eyebrow. "Hardly the behaviour of an officer and a gentleman. In any case, there is a Hellmouth in Cleveland that is slowly becoming more active, and it's hardly the only demonic or mystical hot spot in your country that needs to be watched. You might save a few Slayers, though I doubt they'd thank you for it. What about all the other children who will die in their stead, or be orphaned, because their protectors have been taken away?"
"Maybe the military can do a better job this time," O'Neill said.
"You could hardly do worse than last time," Giles shot back. He paused, holding on to his temper with both hands. O'Neill was arrogant enough to believe he could do it, and then (assuming he didn't manage to get the planet destroyed or enslaved through incompetence) the Council would have to go in and clean up the mess. "What do you want the Handbook for?"
"Classified," O'Neill said.
"I'm hardly going to hand over information that might be used to experiment on Slayers." O'Neill's concern might be a smokescreen, though Giles doubted it; it might also be a tool for a more sinister organization, as Riley's had been, at first.
"I'm not gonna let anyone be experimented on," O'Neill said with exasperation. "What kind of man do you take me for?"
"The last American military group that showed interest in the Slayer did want to experiment on her," Giles said dryly. "And they tried to kill her when she wouldn't let them. You'll forgive my scepticism that you have the Slayers' best interests at heart, particularly as you won't say why you want it."
"I promise that the information would not be used to harm any Slayer, or passed on to someone who would want to. Is that good enough?"
Giles considered. Much as he wanted to throw the American out on his arse, the new Slayer-Watcher Handbook had very little information that might be dangerous in the wrong hands. At least, nothing too dangerous. Certainly less dangerous than O'Neill trying to contain the Hellmouth with a team of commandoes would be. "If I give you the handbook, will you agree not to interfere with our operations?"
O'Neill paused. "Yeah. Do we have a deal?"
"Very well," Giles said. It would be worth it just to get O'Neill to go away. "Wait here." He left the room, closing the door behind him.
Edwin was waiting in the hall. "How did it go?"
"My opinion of American soldiers hasn't improved," Giles said dryly. "Get him a paper copy of the newest revision of the Handbook." It could be scanned or typed into digital form, but there was no sense in making it easier for O'Neill to copy or share it. "Then escort him out. And schedule a conference call with the other directors and Willow."
"Boy, that sounds like it must have been a barrel of laughs." Xander's voice was scratchy over the satellite phone. In Africa, where Xander spent most of his time these days rebuilding that branch of the organization, phones were often scarce or unreliable. The extra expense was a necessity.
"No kidding," Willow said. "It sounds like Walsh all over again."
"I hope things are not that dire," Giles said. "I don't believe O'Neill was lying, though he was concealing a great deal." He'd called a special meeting of the Executive Committee of the new Watcher's Council to discuss the situation. Being a far more decentralized organization than their predecessor, the department heads for each continent actually resided in their own district, instead of the comfort and security of the main establishment in London. It was a far more useful structure now that there were Slayers all over the globe at the same time, but Giles was quite glad Willow was there to handle setting up the conference calls.
"I am concerned by his implication that we have not found all the slayers," said Father Abraham Rincon Suarez, the head of the South American branch, and a welcome find—Giles hadn't realized how much it had worn on him, being the rational adult of the group, until he'd had Father Abraham's quiet competence to rely on during meetings of the Executive Committee. "We all know the potential for destruction—of the self and those around, not to mention the slayer-hunters—that being alone and unsupported can cause. Could we have missed any?"
Willow shook her head, although most of her audience couldn't see her. "No. We've done several different kinds of tracking spells. We used the spell the old Council used to find slayers. We did a couple of different general location spells, from different schools of magic. We reconstructed and tracked the original Slayer activation spell. I've been working with the Devonshire coven on this for months, and they've called in favours with other good magic-practicing groups, too. We've checked and re-checked. No one's fallen through the cracks."
"But even assuming that all slayers have been found, that does not mean they are as connected as they should be," said Ainra, the Chief Slayer of the African branch. "I don't know what the other branches are like, but Africa is a large continent with many languages and poor communications and transportation. We have contacted all the Slayers that have been identified, but that does not mean that we have trained them well enough or are regularly in contact with them. We simply do not have enough Watchers, nor enough Slayers willing to move or travel out of their home country regularly."
"The same could be said of South America," Father Abraham said.
"North America's doing fine," Robin Wood said. "God bless Skype and good roads."
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose. "I know how difficult the situation is, and I am pleased and proud with how well you all are doing in spite of the disadvantages we are currently working under." Even at its height, the old Council couldn't have fielded enough watchers for as many slayers as they now had, and with the destruction … they were scrambling, and always falling further behind. They didn't even have a cadre to train new Watchers with. They were trying to build relationships with the smaller local groups around the world that had supported and trained the Slayers in the millennia before the expansion of the British Empire, but given the history of the last two centuries it was difficult, at best.
"Thanks, G-man," Xander said. "Bottom line: is there anything we need to do about this O'Neill character?"
"I can see what I can dig up about him," Willow said. "And whatever project he's working on. Our preliminary search before he showed up didn't tell us much, but we've got more to go on, now. Robin, I may need your help on this one—there may be legwork."
"Sure thing," Robin said.
"Assuming Willow is correct, and we have located all the new Slayers, I see nothing that we can do besides watch for further interference by O'Neill," Giles said. "And continue in our mission to train and support new Slayers and Watchers."
"At least we've got an idea who to watch out for," Robin said. "Unless O'Neill was meant to be a distraction."
"I'll be thorough," Willow promised.
"This is fascinating, Jack," Daniel said, flipping a page in the unobtrusively normal (on the outside at least) Handbook of the ICW. "I wish I had access to their archives—they clearly have documentary records going back as long as there's been writing. Even at the basic level—and this is designed for complete neophytes, it's clearly very simple and designed to get across the basics to people with a wide variety of educational backgrounds—there's so much more lurking beneath the surface—"
"Can you translate it?" Jack asked, cutting him off. Long experience with Daniel had taught him that that was the only way to get anything accomplished. The whole team was hovering in Daniel's office, waiting for his verdict.
"Well, yes," Daniel said, frowning. "But … look, they use some technical language. And while some of it I know—like 'vampire'—I don't know all of it. And even what I do know, I don't know if there's a Goa'uld equivalent. Teal'c might be able to help, but …." He shrugged.
"The only demonic creatures I have ever fought are the Goa'uld," Teal'c said. "I know some stories of such creatures as these pages describe, but they are not considered fit tales for warriors among the Jaffa. Apophis' priests collected such tales; but they did not share what they knew. Apophis did not care for his slaves to fear anyone except him."
"Bottom line, Jack, to do a decent job I would need to spend at least a month working on this with the Targoolians, learning their terminology," Daniel said. "To do a good job, I'd need someone who really understands this material there with me—maybe one of the Watcher's Council's academics."
"Daniel, we don't have a month for you to spend on this project," Carter said. "The Targoolians just aren't that valuable as a trading partner and source of intelligence. Even culturally—you said it yourself, they're pretty much a generic agrarian former-Goa'uld colony. You know General Hammond will be sympathetic, but this is comparatively low-priority for the SGC."
Daniel made a face. "I know."
"And we're definitely not letting those slime-balls through the Gate," Jack said. "If Slayers are their answers to demons, I shudder to think what their answers to aliens might be. I'm half-tempted to call social services on them anyway. We know they've got operations here in the US, even if the Brits won't look into it."
"I wish we could afford to do that," Carter said. She'd been hanging out with Cassie a lot since their mission to Targool. "But the SGC has its hands full protecting the Earth already. We're barely keeping our own against the Goa'uld as it is—we can't afford to be fighting a second front. So taking over defending the Hellmouth would go to some other group. Can you imagine what the NID would do if that mandate fell to them? Or a base they had more influence on?"
"I believe that may have occurred once in the recent past, if Rupert Giles' information is to be believed," Teal'c said.
Jack grimaced. Yeah, the shenanigans the NID would get up to were enough to put paid to that idea. "I know. Daniel, if you think this stuff might actually be useful for Yintia, I'll try to keep the brass off your back." Bad enough that the Targoolians were apparently all fine with sending a girl out to do their dirty work (once they'd figured out Yintia wasn't a demon herself, and it was pure luck they'd done that two hours before she was scheduled to be impaled, rather than two hours after). They didn't even have any of the support system the Watchers here on Earth seemed to have. Sending a teen girl—even one with superpowers—out into battle without any kind of training … if General Hammond hadn't decreed Jack wasn't allowed to talk to them anymore (and told the Gateroom staff), he'd probably still be yelling at them. And probably trying to kidnap Yintia and bring her back to Earth where she'd be safe, into the bargain. This book was an attempt to mend diplomatic fences, but for Jack it was also an attempt to do something, however small, for Yintia.
"I do not believe that Yintia is the only one who might benefit from this book," Teal'c said. "You yourself said that Rupert Giles reported that many slayers had been called. I believe there is a strong possibility that Yintia is not the only one who was called on other planets."
"We haven't seen any," Daniel objected.
"We haven't been looking, either," Sam pointed out, looking sick. "Holy Hannah, I wonder how far that spell spread? Targool is relatively far from earth, galactically speaking. The … spell …" she grimaced just saying it, "could even have spread through the Gate system. I have no idea how else it would have propagated that far. We've seen lots of planets that talk about demons. We always thought they were talking about aliens and advanced technology, and just didn't know the difference. But what if some of them were speaking accurately?"
"Wonderful," Jack said sourly. "Maybe we should start looking—quietly. And carrying copies of that thing to give out to anyone who needs it." He shook his head. He wished he had a picture of Rupert Giles, director, IWC, to put on the paper targets in the base range. Bad enough he was screwing with the lives and futures of who knew how many girls here on Earth—now he was interfering across the whole galaxy.
Prompt: Spell/technology gone wrong (depending on the fandom)
Pairing: Stargate/Buffy and Angel: Jack O'Neill and Rupert Giles (gen only)