Title: Emerald Interlude: Over the Moon (1/1)
Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link. Plus, archived at .net/u/62966 or .net/~cyclone
Rating: Just a little bad language.
Spoilers: Anything and everything.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other people. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: An interlude within the Emerald Flame universe.
Author's Note: Nothing much to say here.
Xander rubbed his temples. His elbows rested on the dining table he was sitting at, across from his newest headache, one Colonel Cameron Mitchell, United States Air Force. Setsuna stood close by on his right. Very close. Within his personal space close.
"So... he's from a world in which the US Air Force runs the stargate program?" he asked Setsuna.
"Well, actually," interjected Cam, "the IOA is in charge now." He paused and frowned. "Or was. Will be. Would have been?"
"We understand," Setsuna said, waving it off. Tense trouble was something she was quite used to. "And yes, he is. However, because of the unique nature of your knowledge, I cannot tell whether the future you remember is before or after he mucked up the timeline."
"Well, sor-RY!" the colonel retorted. "It's not like I asked Ba'al to go back in time and prevent the SGC from being created."
"So, what?" Xander said. "Everything he changed was top secret?"
"Yes, although..." Setsuna hesitated, "...there is one thing. Do you remember zeppelins in Britain in that future you remember?"
"Well, yeah," Xander answered dumbly. "What's that got to do with...?" He paused, then stared at the colonel in disbelief.
"Hey!" Cam protested. "Zeppelins are cool."
"You...? How did you...? Why would you...?" Xander sputtered. He closed his eyes and shook his head. "You know what, on second thought, I don't want to know. What I do want to know is what difference it makes that the stargate's under UN control this early."
"Dunno," Cam shrugged. "Without access to their mission reports, I have no idea."
"How exactly did you manage to pull this off, anyway?"
Cam winced. "Okay, well, I mentioned Ba'al, right? He basically sent the ship with the stargate adrift while it was crossing the Atlantic. I went back to stop him... and... kinda... said a few things I probably shouldn't have."
"Indeed," Setsuna said dryly. "It was your comments that eventually led Winston to decide to keep the astria porta."
Cam gave her an odd look. "Who are you, lady?"
She gave him a serene smile.
"Don't ask," Xander suggested. "You'll sleep better not knowing."
Setsuna gave his arm a backhanded slap. Then stood behind him, looping her arms around his neck, resting her elbows on the back of his chair.
"In any case," Xander said, rubbing his head, "what are you doing here, Colonel Cameron Mitchell, United States Air Force?"
"Frankly, I was looking for you," the colonel shrugged. Folding his arms, he elaborated, "When I saw how weird the future was, I had to find out what caused all the other changes. Everything pointed to you."
"And now you're here to 'fix' things?" Xander asked, cocking an eyebrow. "As it happens, that's already been tried by the lady standing behind me."
"'Fix'?" Cam repeated. He paused to mull that over for a moment, then said, "No, not 'fix,' exactly. But I figure since I'm here, maybe I oughtta stack the deck a little for Earth." He leaned forward. "How would you like to get your hands on a goa'uld starship, right here on Earth?"
Setsuna scoffed. "Goa'uld systems are rather primitive compared to Silver Millenium technology. Technology which I can give you access to."
"Okay," Cam said, "how about an Ancient weapons platform capable of defending the entire planet with enough power, also right here on Earth?"
"Impossible," Setsuna said, leaning forward, over Xander's head, and jabbing an accusatory finger at the colonel. "All the drone platforms in this sector were destroyed, except for-" she broke off suddenly.
"Wanna bet?" Cam paused and frowned. "And how do you even know what I'm talking about?"
"That," she said with a smirk as she straightened up, "is a secret." She paused and added, "Besides, even if you did know where to find a drone platform on Earth, the power draw would make it impractical unless we found a Potentia to power it, and its applications are... limited."
Xander buried his face in his hands. "God, what is with you two? When did this turn into a contest?" He paused. "And when I'm the voice of maturity, you know something's very, very wrong." He shook his head. "Colonel, last question: Why come to me? You want to help Earth, why me? Why not... why not the UNSC or... or whoever ran the stargate project in your timeline?"
"I would, but, uhh... that didn't go so well last time," he said. "Turns out, the government really doesn't like people messing with the timeline. Spent a year locked away from the project before Ba'al forced our hand."
"So, do you exist here and now?"
"Yeah, I do," Cam answered. "Or at least the birth records checked out. If the timeline played out the same, I should be a captain now, flying Vipers in support of the Kurdish government. So, whaddaya say?"
Xander leaned back. "Cortana, analysis?"
"He's telling the truth." Cam tried very hard not to react. The AI still creeped him out a little.
"I could have told you that," Setsuna purred in his ear, leaning down and draping her arm across his shoulders.
"Her I trust not to tell me what I want to hear in hopes of getting me in bed," Xander replied dryly. "Although... how this situation would get me into your bed, I have no idea."
"You do know a bed isn't strictly necessary?"
This is more fun than watching the General and Carter orbiting each other, Cam thought, shaking his head in amusement.
Xander sighed and tried to ignore the amorous Guardian of Time. Leaning away from her as she nibbled at his ear, he said, "Listen, Colonel, talk to Cortana, tell her what you know. We'll go over it later."
Cam had to give the kid credit: He had good self-control. Of course, considering what he had seen in the future, the weapon the boy wielded, that was only to be expected. He blinked as he noted the glares the two of them were shooting at him.
"Oh! Um, I'll be, uh, in the guest room you set up for me if you need me," he said, quickly making his escape.
"Now, then," Setsuna murmured, "to get down to business. What are you going to do about him?"
He blinked at her, then mock pouted. "Aw, and I thought you really liked me."
"Oh, I do," she said with a chuckle, "but getting into your pants can wait. I'm not an exhibitionist."
"With that fuku? You could have fooled me."
"It's a uniform," she said coolly. "Ceremonial battle armor to be exact. It has much the same energy-absorbent properties as your own rather... form-fitting... uniform."
"Yeah, but I can change mine," he pointed out.
"Which only proves that your uniform says far more about you than mine does about me."
Xander opened his mouth to respond, then froze. After a long moment, his teeth clacked together as he closed his mouth. "Okay, point." He sighed. "As for what I'm going to do with him? I'm not sure. Probably hire him on, feed his intel to the Brig. That time machine of his has me worried, though."
"It should," she said, rubbing his shoulders. "What worries me more is that there should be a duplicate of it out there, and it remains unaccounted for."
"Thanks. Now I know I won't get any sleep tonight."
"I wasn't exactly planning on you sleeping tonight anyway," Setsuna told him, nibbling on his ear. She paused and pulled away. "However, we do actually have some other business to discuss first," she said, sliding into the chair next to him.
"Tease," he complained half-heartedly. At least he knew where he stood with Setsuna. And he didn't feel like an incredible pervert around her, which was definitely a plus. "So, what business are you talking about?"
"Silver Millenium technology," she said. "More specifically... it's time we checked to see how much survived."
"You mean you don't know?"
"There's a lot of... painful memories up there. I can't... face it alone." She gave him a faint smile. "After all, I'm only human."
Great. Xander the sob towel to the rescue again, he thought with a frown as he stood up and pulled the dark-haired woman into a hug. He didn't notice the flare of energy. He did, however, notice her...
Setsuna pulled away and smiled wanly. "We're here."
"Here?" he blinked and looked around the cavernous ruins around them. He held up his ring and willed it to glow. Looking up, he could barely see the ceiling in the distance above. "And here is... where, exactly?"
"This is no moon," Xander said, looking around. "It's a space st- OW!"
"Save the Death Star gags for Mimas," she said, releasing his ear. Xander stared, jaw going slack. Setsuna smirked and tweaked his nose. "Gotcha."
Xander scowled, then changed the subject, "So, where exactly are we?"
"In one of the lower storage rooms," she said. "None of the surface structures survived - the palace, the throne room, the royal quarters - but down here, it's... well protected."
"Cool. Say, what's this button do?" Setsuna smacked Xander's hand away from the pedestal with a sigh. Sometimes it was like dealing with a male Usagi...
She then frowned as she saw him smirk at her.
"Touche," she conceded. "This way," she said, waving her hand at a door. She frowned, then sighed. "I suppose I should have expected this." She pressed a button next to the door, opening a small panel that revealed a hand crank. "There's one on the other side."
Xander nodded, finding the panel in question, and they cranked the door open. The door slowly slid up, grinding to a halt about four and half feet off the ground. Setsuna muttered something distinctly unladylike before ducking her head under and moving down the hallway on the far side.
"Where are we going?" he asked.
"Main dry docks, palace armory, and Mercury's research labs," she answered as they picked their way down the corridor.
"Mercury?" Xander asked. "Isn't she the one in blue?"
"That's her reincarnation," Setsuna corrected. "In her past life, during the Silver Millenium, she headed the Ministry of Science and Magic. Many of her experiments were..." she paused, "...rather volatile in nature."
"A regular mad scientist, huh?"
"You have no idea, but she seems not to have inherited that particular trait from her past self."
"You really think we'll find anything useful in there?"
"Perhaps," Setsuna said. "I preferred to avoid her lab. Volatile experiments, remember?"
"And then there were the tentacles."
"Wha-?" Xander stumbled to a halt.
"Come on," she said, turning a corner. "This way."
The door at the end of the corridor was partially torn off, hanging from one side, and they emerged in a large hangar bay. Xander sucked in a breath at the sheer amount of devastation he could see, disappearing well beyond the range of the light he had his power ring generating. Great huge gouges were torn in the walls, and what he presumed to be ships - green cylindrical things about the size of a small bus, along with more aerodynamic and fanciful designs - filled the area in various states of disrepair or destruction. He could see one of the green cylinder ships embedded halfway into the wall above them.
"Jesus," he murmured. "What happened to this place?"
"There are two things through which nothing survives unscathed," Setsuna said quietly. "War and time. Both have taken their toll."
"Do you really think anything would still be working?"
"Ten million years is a very long time, Alexander," she answered, "and while we built to last, our energy reserves were not infinite. Even in standby, after so long, there would be little to no power left."
"What kind of power did it all run on?"
"Primary power came from Potentia banks, with naquadah reactor backups for critical systems," she answered. "Many of these ships here ran off of naquadah reactors."
"Any chance we could salvage their power supplies?"
"Very likely," she said, "but reprocessing the naquadah would be... difficult, to say the least."
"So this isn't a spit, bubblegum, and duct tape fix. Gotcha," he mumbled, his mind working. "Could a link to one of our power batteries bring the facility online?"
Setsuna considered it. "Depending on the power output, if it's compatible, we should be able to bring at least some sections online."
"I'll have to check with Cortana."
Cameron Mitchell was bored and tired. He had spent the last two hours regurgitating ten years' worth of SG-1 mission reports and SGC history to the AI, a process which would likely take days to finish. Cortana was proving to be very thorough and exhaustive in debriefing him.
He was worried about the Beacon kid. The future he had seen... it worried him, and he could see in Xander the seeds of that future. The boy took his responsibilities seriously. Too seriously, especially for someone who couldn't possibly be out of his teens. He was heading for a major burn out... and worse.
And for the life of him, Cam didn't know what he could do about it.
Xander stared at the wall of rubble that blocked their passage to Mercury's labs.
"So," he said, "now what? I mean... I could try and clear it with my ring..."
"No," Setsuna said, shaking her head. "You'd risk collapsing the entire sector. We'll have to cut through the main command center. This way."
Xander followed her, ducking down a side corridor, then up a ladder, through another hatch that they had to open manually. They crawled down a maintenance tunnel, and Setsuna seemed heedless of the view the trip provided him. Moments later, a blushing Xander dropped down behind her into the command center...
The command center lit up, consoles humming to life, bathing the room in a faint white glow. A holographic display of the solar system appeared above the central console as the far wall viewscreen came to life and showed the Earth.
"My God," he murmured. "It's beautiful."
"There's still power," Setsuna said in disbelief.
"Astral pattern match confirmed," a melodic voice echoed. "Welcome back, Sailor Pluto."
Xander heard her breath catch.
"Status, all facilities," she said, her voice wavering.
"Processing. Please wait."
Xander turned to look at Setsuna and saw her waver physically, which spurred him to catch her elbow, helping her sit down before she fell down out of shock.
He wasn't going to ask her something stupid like "Are you all right?"
It was obvious she wasn't.
"Setsuna? What is it?"
Alright, maybe something a little stupid...
Before she could respond, the artificial voice reported, "Atlantis: beyond signal range. Dakara: not responding. Outer system defenses: not responding. Inner system defenses: not responding. Surface defenses: four percent functional: warning, power levels depleted. Royal palace: status unknown, sensors offline. Queen's Own barracks: status unknown, sensors offline. Dry dock: warning, structural damage detected: warning, power levels depleted: warning, life support compromised. Palace armory: status unknown, sensors offline: warning, records indicate unauthorized entry. Main hangar: status unknown, sensors offline. Main research wing: warning, quarantine breach detected: addendum, no viable airborne contaminants detected. Command center: warning, primary power levels depleted, reserve power online: warning, unidentified power source detected."
"Disregard unidentified power source in command center," Setsuna said briskly, rising to her feet again. "Status on reserve power?"
"Secondary power levels at minimum capacity. Status of tertiary power supplies unknown, sensors offline."
Setsuna leaned heavily on the central console, staring hard at the holographic display, which had switched to what Xander assumed was a map of the local facility, most of which was grey or red. She hung her head and trembled.
"Setsuna?" Xander said hesitantly, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"There's... really nothing left," Setsuna said quietly, her voice breaking. "Nothing but... dust and echoes."
"You don't know that," Xander objected. "It said so itself, remember? 'Sensors offline'? Let's get the power squared away, and then-"
"Shut up!" she snapped. "Stop trying to make me feel better. I knew this was coming. I need to deal with it. I've held on to false hope long enough. I... I..."
Xander's hand tightened on her shoulder, and he wordlessly pulled her into a hug. Setsuna crumpled into his arms, shaking silently as she grieved a loss older than Xander could comprehend.
"Thank you," she murmured, her voice harsh and ragged. She pulled away and straightened up. "Let's check the research wing. I know Mercury was busy dealing with a bioweapon when we came under attack. She must have flooded the research wing with it during the attack to deny access."
"An engineered plague," Setsuna elaborated, "developed by certain enemies we left behind in our home galaxy."
"Releasing a WMD... good God. Wasn't she supposed to be the smart one?"
"It was the end of the world."
Setsuna paused, frowning, then realized his concern. "Automatic quarantine procedures would have sealed off the research wing," she explained as they headed down the corridor. "In ten million years, the seals must have failed, hence the quarantine breach warning."
"So, we're safe?"
"You heard the computer," she said. "No airborne contaminants detected."
Through another manually-cranked door, they found themselves in the research wing. They entered a large room, with rows of doors off to either side. Sitting on a table in the center of the room was a large, menacing-looking cannon.
"What the hell is that?"
"Hellbore prototype," Setsuna answered. "Basically, it's a fusion-pumped hypervelocity plasma cannon. Mercury mentioned it to me once."
Xander's mouth worked silently for a long moment as he tried to figure out what to say to that. Finally, he settled on, "Does it work?"
"You'd have to ask Mercury."
"Alright, better question: What the hell was she smoking when she thought this thing up?"
"Mercury was always rather... inventive," Setsuna said politely. "She rarely gave much consideration to the consequences once a project caught her attention, but the hellbore is designed as heavy artillery, for armored unit and anti-starship use."
"...and she built one right under the palace?"
"As I said, she rarely gave much consideration to the consequences," Setsuna said rather defensively. "Mind you, there's a small-scale starship fabricator at the far end of the research wing where it would have been mounted to a ship for field testing. Or so it would be according to standard procedures for shipborne weapon prototypes. Since Mercury's dead, and Ami hasn't recovered enough of her past incarnation's memories to tell me, I can't exactly confirm that."
"All right," Xander conceded, "but... what exactly were you fighting that she felt you needed something like this?"
"There are always threats out there, Alexander," she answered solemnly. "From the depths of space to the heart of the sun, there is always something."
Not wanting to fight her on that bit of logic - one he actually agreed with - he let the matter drop, and they continued their search for resources.
They soon found something of interest.
"Jesus," Xander said, staring with more than little bit of awe. He may be a Green Lantern, but it was still imposing and impressive. "What is it?"
"It" was a hulking humanoid machine, all gleaming metal and hard lines beneath a thin layer of dust, quite unlike what he would have expected, given what he knew of the Senshi. It was gunmetal gray with a yellow visor peering facelessly over them. The left arm ended in an articulated hand, but the right terminated in what was obviously an unoccupied weapon mount, with control connections that were clearly meant to interface with whatever weapon belonged there. On its back was some sort of thruster pack, with more empty weapon mounts adorning the thruster pack's sides near the top, presumably to point over the shoulders. On its hips were what appeared to be additional mounting points, but without control interfaces to give a clue as to their purpose. They could have been for anything from grenades and demolition charges to medical supplies or ammunition.
Setsuna frowned. "I'm not sure. Some sort of exoskeleton, obviously. There wasn't a great deal of research in that field, as magical enhancements were more efficient, easier to deploy, and required less training." She reached over to the computer connected to it and pulled up some data. "Hmm," she muttered, "'Advanced armor defense system, codename Hrunting.'" She looked up. "It's basically a heavily-armored, walking weapons platform. Naquadah power cell, modular weapon systems, adaptive interface, trinium plating, and energy shields."
"Well," Xander said, "I can see where that would come in handy."
"It's also inoperative."
"The software interface is... buggy."
"'Buggy'?" Xander cocked an eyebrow.
"Mercury's words, not mine," Setsuna said with a shrug. "Should be safe to use, just not in combat. The weapon modules weren't completed either. If we're going to use it, we'll have to adapt contemporary weaponry."
There was a long moment of silence as they mulled over that.
"Come on," Setsuna said. "Let's keep moving. We can come back for it later."
It was another hour before Cam realized his hosts had ditched him, when he had headed for the kitchen to see if he could find a snack or something. Another hour after that found him waiting in the time jumper when something pinged on its sensors.
"What the-?" He sat up and brought up the display. Another puddle jumper? He gave a double-take. It was flying in low and uncloaked from off-shore, below the radar line. Probably trying to avoid giving NORAD a heart attack, he thought as he powered up the time jumper's drives.
Suddenly, the time jumper's comm system came to life. "Beacon to Mitchell, do you copy?" Cam stayed silent, mostly due to shock. "Beacon to Mitchell, come in please. Pick up, Cam. I know you're listening."
"Um, Mitchell here," he replied. "Reading you five by five."
"Good. How the hell do you make this thing go invisible?"
Cam heard another voice interject, "I told you how to-"
"Like I know what the hell you're talking about, Setsuna. I don't have any idea how any of this works!"
"You could have let me fly."
"Like I'd trust you with this after you nearly killed us both with that powered armor."
"That wasn't my fault, and you know it!"
"Hey, I was just going to use my ring to carry it over, but nooo..."
Cam tuned out the bickering as he watched the other puddle jumper on the his sensors loop around Sunnydale to approach the estate from the other side. He stepped out as it shakily landed next to the time jumper.
As the other puddle jumper opened, Cam saw Xander stalking out and heard Setsuna continuing the argument, "...and may I point out that I am technically the only person on the planet actually licensed to fly a gateship?"
"Right," Xander retorted, "and that expired how long ago?"
Cam frowned. What did they mean by tha-? His eyes widened, and he stared at Setsuna as he connected the dots.
"Holy... you... Ancient!" he sputtered.
Setsuna turned on Cam, her eyes furious as she spat, "Excuse me? !"
Cam stepped back instantly, his hand going for a zat that wasn't there as he hurriedly said, "Um... that didn't come out right."
"Obviously," Xander deadpanned.
"I meant... uh..." Cam scrambled for the words. "You're one of the Ancients, an Alteran."
"Oh. " Setsuna blinked. "That."
"Yes," Cam said, "'that.' We all thought you were extinct!" He paused, then added, "Well, except for the Lanteans on the Aurora."
Setsuna arched an eyebrow. "I know exactly who and what I am, thank you very much, Colonel. I don't need you to tell me."
Cam's jaw worked for a moment before he decided to cut his losses and shut up before he made an even bigger fool of himself. Instead, he decided to change the topic. "So, where'd you find the jumper?"
The two looked at him quizzically.
Okay, so that plan to avoid looking like a bigger fool didn't work. He waved to the puddle jumper and said, "You know, jumper. Puddle jumper."
Xander looked at it, then chuckled, "'Puddle jumper.' I like it."
For her part, Setsuna looked like she'd bitten into a particularly sour lemon. "That is not what it is called."
"Well, that's what we called it," Cam said. "In fact, I have it on good authority that that is what the name translated to."
"Those translations were... inaccurate," she said frostily. She turned to Xander. "Let's get the prototype out of the gateship."
Xander nodded. "Right." His ring glowed, and Cam's eyes widened as he saw the mechanized warsuit carried out by the energy construct.
"Yes," Xander said.
"Same place we got the jumper."
Cam paused. "So where-?"
"So, what will you-?"
"Study it," Xander said. "Try to finish it, maybe mass-produce it. I figure the UNSC could use something like this, and I know Xanatos Enterprises isn't building heavy-duty suits like this."
"Are you doing that on purpose? !" Cam snarled.
Xander turned and grinned at him. "Yup."
Cam pinched the bridge of his nose and resisted the urge to put his hand to hand training to good use. Was this what the General felt like?
"So," Cam said, "what now? With me, I mean."
"We'll forward your intel to the UNSC," Xander said. "After that..." he shrugged, "...well, you seem to have installed yourself here as our resident straight man."
"See?" Xander said, grinning cheekily. "You're fitting in already."
Setsuna rolled her eyes and tapped her foot.
"Seriously," Xander said, "from here, we're keeping the time machine, for obvious reasons, but what you do is your own business. Still, I'm sure we could find a use for someone of your skills." He paused, then added, "Oh, here. Catch." He tossed something the size of a deck of cards at Cam, who reflexively caught it.
Bringing the device up, Cam's eyes widened. "Hey, now that's what I'm talking about. A personal energy shield."
"You recognize it?"
"Yeah, yeah," Cam said, nodding. "The Atlantis team found a few over in the Pegasus Galaxy. Damned useful."
"Keep it," Xander replied with a shrug. "We found a case full of 'em up there, right next to the plasma rifles."
"Up... where again, exactly?"
"That would be telling."
Both men turned and looked at Setsuna. She gave them both an impassive look back. Xander looked back at Cam and jerked a thumb toward her. "What she said."
Cam scowled and looked away, his gaze finally settling back to the battlesuit standing in the bonus room.
"No," Xander said.
"We need to work out the software glitches before we even think of anyone else trying to use that thing again. And your intel makes you too valuable to risk as a test pilot."
"We'll figure something out," Xander said, waving it off. "We may not have as much resources as the US government, but we'll get there."
"That... does not reassure me."
"All right," Xander said as he eased into his chair, "aside from our new guest, anything else I need to know happen while I was gone, Cortana?"
"There has been an uptick in people admitted to Sunnydale Hospital for barbecue fork incidents."
"So?" Xander shrugged. "This is Sunnydale. Fatal barbecue fork accidents happen all the time."
"That's what's unusual. These people are alive."
"And apparently, they don't remember what happened, except for a message," she added. "'Mummy wants kitten to come by for tea.'"