Chapter 7: Getting to Know You
I'm keeping a close eye on Major Carter, still not knowing what to expect out of her but at the same time knowing that --even though none of us is really looking forward to it-- we are going to have no choice but to tell her some version of the truth... after all, that's kind of why she is here. Yes, our lives would have been much easier if the military had known to leave well enough alone but then again we are talking about the military here... and that is kind of the problem.
Ever since the whole Initiative fiasco went down we've been doing our best to have as little contact with them as we possibly can --or less-- but unfortunately this time around it's not like we have much of a choice. Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to clean up their mess... again.
The thing is that even though I understand that much, there are still a number of things that don't quite add up here, some unanswered questions that are still bugging me, like why was Major Carter looking into Buffy's background in the first place. I mean, the way I see it that doesn't really make much sense, especially considering the fact that she seems to be totally clueless when it comes to the things that go bump in the night. The problem is that right now it looks like everyone is determined to be stubborn and that means that we could end up being here for a very long time. Yes, we all have our secrets --well, the major's secrets are not exactly secrets anymore but she seems determined to ignore that little fact and carry on as if they were-- but the way I see it, trying to hold on to those secrets is just postponing the inevitable. The problem is that neither side can take the first step here without losing face so we are stuck trying to stare each other down and somehow I don't think that's going to get us anywhere.
I'm still wondering what to do when the good major gives me an unexpected opening by asking our names. I can see that Giles is trying to stall her but I decide that --seeing how there's no way this particular encounter is going to end without her getting an answer to that question and quite a few others-- I might as well get things moving.
"Willow," I say, being careful not to provide her with a last name. What can I say, I may be willing to part with some secrets but I haven't completely lost my mind and I certainly don't want the military on my trail if I can possibly avoid it.
"Tara," says Tara and then the others follow suit.
"Hi, I'm Andrew."
"And you already know I'm Buffy."
"So, Mr. Giles, could you please tell me how I got here?" asks the major, turning her attention back to the one she clearly sees as the only adult in the room, the problem is that --going by the Ripperish glare Giles threw me when I volunteered my name-- I'm guessing that right now he is not in a mood to share so he is probably not the best choice.
"That would be because of me," I say, rather reluctantly.
"Willow!"snaps Giles, who is still looking far from resigned to the fact that we are going to have to cooperate with the military on this one... not that I blame him. I too would much rather have dealt with this particular mess the good, old-fashioned, Scooby way but seeing how this mess goes through the Chappa'ai and the Chappa'ai is under military control, well, we are basically stuck... besides, I get the funny feeling that this is not going to be a quick cleanup job either. The military has been messing with things that should have been left alone for more than eight years now and that's plenty of time to make a very big mess.
"What do you mean I'm here because of you?" asks Major Carter, glaring at me. What is it that they say about 'if looks could kill'? I mean, if that were true, between her and Giles I'd be a pretty crispy toast by now.
"Well, it's not like we could just leave you out there snooping around, is it?" I say, rather defensively.
"Big time snooping," I confirm, nodding my head.
"Wait, are you the one who covered Buffy's tracks and the one who broke into our system!?" she asks, glaring at me, and I cringe at her reaction but then I decide that it doesn't really matter, after all she was bound to catch up sooner or later.
"Yups... and by the way, why were you snooping into her background in the first place?"
"I wasn't snooping!" she says, sounding almost offended. "I was just trying to track her down."
"And that's not the same as snooping exactly how?" I ask.
"Okay, maybe it is but..." she admits before being rather rudely interrupted.
"So why were you trying to track me down?" asks Buffy.
"Because of some tests Maggie Walsh ran on you," says the major, looking rather sheepish, and I let out a sigh, waiting for the inevitable explosion.
"I knew it!" all but screams Buffy. "I knew the Initiative had to be behind this!"
"It's not," says the major --who obviously doesn't realize in just how much trouble she is-- trying to appease an angry slayer... as for me, my money is on nuclear Buffy.
"Well, start talking," growls Buffy, tapping her foot on the floor.
"Yes, I admit that I first found out about you because of some information that originated from within the Initiative but I have nothing to do with that project... in fact the project was shut down and all files were supposed to have been destroyed."
"If they were destroyed then how did you find them?" I ask, wanting to know where the leak is so I can plug it ASAP.
"I found out about her because while the Initiative's files were destroyed, some of Maggie Walsh's private files survived," explains the major before turning her attention back to Buffy. "The thing is that those tests show that you have a rather... unique... genetic sequence, one that may well hold the key to the survival of some of our closest allies. That's why we were trying to find you in the first place."
"A genetic sequence?" I ask, wondering about the implications of that statement because it means that, first, she really wasn't looking for the slayer when she found us --in fact she still doesn't seem to be aware of just what Buffy is-- and second, if that genetic sequence is as 'unique' as the major says it is, is it a coincidence that it is to be found in Buffy --who just happens to be a slayer-- or would that same sequence also be found in Faith and all the others? That's an interesting question, one that could really help us understand what we are dealing with here --what makes a slayer-- especially now that the rules have changed and all the potential slayers have been called.
"Yes, it's a long story but basically, our allies --the Asgard-- clone themselves and then they transfer their memories from one body to the next. The problem is that after tens of thousands of years their genetic material is decaying and decaying fast. That genetic sequence would enable them to reverse that trend," explains Major Carter, still looking at Buffy as if she were the Holly Grail.
"Reverse it how?" asks Buffy, sounding more than a little suspicious, not that I blame her. Somehow I get the feeling that we are not going to like the major's answer.
"Basically --if you were to agree to help them-- they would replace their original genetic material with yours."
"Two words, 'no' and 'way'," says Buffy, crossing her arms and glaring at the major.
"Wait, please. I know it doesn't sound good but I promise you, it's not as bad as it sounds, there would be no real long term consequences for you, I promise... I just wish I could explain it better."
"Oh, I think you are explaining yourself just fine. I mean, you want to use me as the basic pattern to cook a whole new batch of aliens and there's no way that's going to happen."
"It's not so simple!" exclaims Major Carter, sounding more than a little frustrated.
"Buffy, please," says Giles, though it is pretty obvious that he is not pushing for her to agree, just asking her to allow us to find out more about this whole situation before she explodes.
"What does that genetic sequence do? Why is it so important?" I ask, knowing that while Giles knows everything there is to know about demons, well, science just isn't his thing... I mean, I'm still trying to get him to come to terms with the concept of e-mail, even after all these years.
"Basically that genetic sequence makes the memory transfer possible... for anyone else trying such a thing would cause a fatal overload. As I said, no harm would come to you," explains the major, yet again, turning her attention back to Buffy as my mind tries to work out the ramifications of what she just said.
In a way it seems to confirm my suspicions that what she just mentioned is in fact something that can be described as 'the Mark of the Slayer', something that may have made it possible for the Shadowmen to force the essence of a demon into the first slayer all those thousands of years ago. Unfortunately while that sounds like a rather interesting theory, we still need some sort of proof here and there is only one way we can hope to get it: by cooperating with Major Carter. The problem with that approach is that going for it would also leave us dangerously exposed and that would not be of the good, especially not considering that the military would necessarily be involved.
I look at Giles, knowing that we are going to have to make a decision here and that it's not going to be an easy one. If we want to find out more about this gene we are going to need the major's help --that much is obvious-- but in order to get that help we are also going to have to reveal some of our own secrets... or --to be accurate-- we would have to reveal more secrets than I had originally thought we would have to share.
Finally I ask, "just how rare is this sequence?"
"We are not really sure. Our best estimate is one in twenty to thirty million people... and, since the gene itself is associated with the X chromosome, the full sequence can only be found in women," says Major Carter and I work the numbers out in my head. One in twenty to thirty thousand million would lead to a total of a couple of hundred --and that comes a little too close for comfort to the current number of slayers-- and the fact that she said that it is a genetic sequence that is only to be found in women all but confirms my theory... proof, unfortunately, still remains an entirely different matter.
"Could you test someone else for that sequence?" I ask, looking at Faith who nods back at me.
"Not here, of course, but..."
"Good," I cut her off.
"Who do you have in mind?" she asks, looking at me without even trying to disguise her curiosity.
"Faith," I say, knowing that there's no point in putting it off since she is going to find out about that anyway.
"You have a theory, don't you?" she asks, narrowing her eyes.
"Yups," I say.
"And you are not going to tell me anything else, are you?" she growls, glaring at me and looking far from happy.
"Nope," I confirm.
"Are you Buffy's sister?" asks the major, turning her attention to Faith.
"I guess you could call us that, but not by blood," she says, definitely playing along with the cryptic.
"So, how are we going to do this?" asks Major Carter.
"Simple, we go back to your mountain with you, you do your test and after that we destroy the sample. Once that's done we'll see where do we go from there," I say.
"You sound pretty sure she's going to be a positive match."
"Yups, almost positive."
"How? The odds..."
"Are a lot better than you think," I say, cutting her off.
"I'll have to make a call," she warns me." You can't just walk into the mountain."
"No, you don't... and don't worry, there won't be any walking involved. I mean, walking into that mountain of yours would be kind of dumb considering the kind of security you have down there," says Xander, looking at me with a mischievous smile and all I can think is 'boy, this is going to be fun!'